Speakers at Salesforce.com’s Dreamforce ’11 in San Francisco last week shared stats that continue to reinforce the idea that people are far ahead of companies in their adoption of the social web in their personal and business lives. In their business lives, 84 percent of B2B buyers begin their research for information on the social web, roughly the same as B2C buyers. They are looking for product and service specs and information, performance stats, pricing, and delivery/implementation info in an easy research and purchase experience, same as B2C. And they are actively seeking out objective information (e.g., testimonials/references) from others like them who use the product or service; user-generated content (UGC), same as B2C. There are both similarities and differences between B2B and B2C. B2B marketers can benefit from the B2C learnings on the social web, and cut the time in half to realize tangible, measurable benefit.
As shown below, in the past seven years, B2C has begun generating and displaying UGC in the form of reviews and Q&A; two UGC formats that have now reached ubiquity. Social sharing and Facebook’s “like” button have been adopted much faster, reaching scale in just three years.
I predict B2B will take advantage of these social commerce tools and adopt at scale within three years vs. B2C’s seven-year adoption pace.
I predict B2B will adopt these social commerce tools faster for three reasons:
- B2C is a “good enough” proxy to derive a business case for reviews and Q&A (there was no proxy in 2004 when B2C had to make the same decisions). B2C are realizing SEO benefits (20 to 40 percent more traffic to the product page when Google indexes directly on the product page), conversion (20 to 50 percent conversion lift on 4+ star product/services and when a question is answered quickly), awareness (impressions, reach, and engagement through social network distribution), brand reputation, operational impact (e.g., reduce returns, lower customer service call volume), and insights (real-time, robust product and service feedback).
- Social networks, local and mobile, make distribution and access of UGC so much more prevalent than even 24 months ago. More users are browsing the web through a mobile device than through a PC.
- Google cares about this UGC, and increasingly so in the past three years. Google favors UGC over marketing copy in search engine results pages and in Google properties. To learn more, see these two columns on ClickZ: “Is Google taking your Traffic?” and “SEO: Why 65 Percent of Top 20 E-Commerce Sites Are Missing the Boat.”
It just makes sense: Staples (has UGC) vs. Grainger (no UGC).
Staples, whose target user is a small business employee, sells some products that are similar to those sold by Grainger, another B2B marketer. In this example, with a similar product, Staples is using UGC to its benefit. Grainger is not.
A core difference between B2B and B2C involves the methods to generate UGC. Content generation needs to be at the core of the social effort in B2B. UGC quantity, product/service coverage rate, and distribution matter. Without B2B customers generating the content, there isn’t the same distribution, SEO to the product/service page or product/service coverage. Without product/service coverage (at least one review on the page), there is no conversion impact benefit from a good review.
- Content via reviews in B2C is 95 percent-plus through the post-purchase email. Not all B2B customers get emails, or can respond to them by writing a review.
- Content in B2C is generated by those who use the product (product reviews). In B2B, the purchaser may not be the end user.
- Q&A is very useful for B2B, but very few have implemented Q&A on their site.
B2B marketers need to get started. Here are five tips to generate content in B2B:
- Implement reviews and Q&A and make someone accountable for driving quantity, coverage, distribution, and most importantly, performance. These are the two social tools used most in the research and purchase process, where a business case can be made, borrowing from B2C learnings, and are low risk to implement.
- Just ask. Send post-purchase emails twice; the first within 14 days of the purchase and the second time to non-responders a week later. Incorporate content generation into your satisfaction surveys; a verbatim is UGC. Use all your current customer contact touch points to solicit UGC, including your website. Very, very few B2B companies request and publish testimonials, references, or feedback directly on their site.
- Ask in the language relevant to your purchaser. Request a “testimonial,” a “reference,” or “feedback” vs. a review.
- Make it easy to forward the communication to others who use the product/service.
- Do a historical blast. Ask those who have purchased in the past 12 months to write a testimonial, a reference, or provide feedback.
Test, learn, and improve.
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