Social media gained consistent traction in 2009 with conversation ranging from the wonders of Twitter, measuring return on investment, as well as corporate and consumer adoption. For B2B companies 2009 served as the beginning of real adoption of social media in the marketing and communications mix.
Looking toward 2010 the changes likely to happen will be far less sexy and shiny than the trends and tactics that were the focus of 2009. For B2B companies 2010 will be about more clearly connecting social media to business objectives and better understanding how to measure the direct and indirect return on investment of social media.
From a B2B perspective integrating social media into the sales funnel to support lead generation and transactions will be a top priority. B2B companies are likely also to shift more budgets to inbound marketing strategies, which are likely to include social media. Social CRM systems and integrating social data for sales team decision-making will also begin to happen on a broader scale in 2010.
Here are my 11 B2B Social Media Predictions for 2010.
1. Sales Staff Get Social Media Savvy – Next year social media is getting out of the B2B marketing department and starts creeping into other business functions. One of the departments that is going to begin to realize social media’s impact on its objectives is the sales team. With customers changing their habits and getting information differently, sales professionals will have to adapt. Once they learn about the added edge that social media gives them in terms of client and industry knowledge, they will start to slowly change their habits. This will be a slow process but it starts in 2010.
2. Inbound Marketing Gets Cash – In looking at the marketing mix and budgeting for 2010, forms of inbound marketing like social media and search engine marketing are likely to receive an increase in their share of the budget. While numbers may still remain much smaller than traditional advertising and direct mail, these budget upgrades will give inbound marketers the support they need to demonstrate ROI and increase investment in following years.
3. Location-Based Fills In The Gaps – Right now we live in two worlds: offline and online. The bridge between these two for B2B companies is leveraging devices with GPS functions to make location an important component of business information. Location will be a more important component of CRM data, B2B social networks, as well as other business applications. Knowing when and WHERE leads and clients are will improve relationships. Location is a game changer.
4. Social Media Lead Generation Becomes Common Place – Experimentation comes to an end in 2010. Social media, while being about conversations and great content, is going to get down to directly supporting lead generation. B2B companies realize that social platforms can generate leads, which directly create sales and transactions. Connecting leads from social media to CRM platforms and then closing sales cycle is what will happen in 2010.
5. Social Media Publishing Gets More Multi-Media – Recently I have been talking about video content in the B2B space. Next year will continue a trend that has seen diverse types of media used in B2B. Video both recorded and livestreamed will see an increase in use, but it is likely that B2B companies will start using more images as well, to help better tell their story. While text and audio have been the staples of B2B social media content up to this point, that will change in 2010.
6. Influencer Marketing Gets Even More Important – In the first quarter of 2009, 30 percent of B2B trade magazines closed. Historically, it has been these magazine relationships that B2B companies have leveraged to reach important industry influencers. In 2010 industry influencers are going to take a more active role in social media because of its low cost of entry and declining competition from print publications. As industry influencers use social media to build influence, companies will follow to engage with them and realize the importance of building credibility online.
7. Mobile Can No Longer Be Ignored – B2B companies on the digital front have focused heavily on their Web sites in recent years, but they have focused less on how their Web site works on mobile devices, or more importantly, how their lead generation processes work on mobile. The popularity of devices from RIM and Apple are causing a rising of the tide. These devices are giving users the expectations that all things should work on their mobile device and work as easily as their favorite applications. It is the companies that realize this and focus on simplifying the user experience that will be successful.
8. Corporate Web Sites Get Social – Corporate Web sites that are stagnant, are becoming useless. The next generation of B2B corporate web sites is going to be much more social. As lead generation and branding efforts transition to online, businesses will realize that engagement, relevance, and dynamic content on their corporate Web site is the best way to support these efforts. Things like product reviews, blogs, and content aggregation will begin to become common place as companies fight to be the “portal” for their industry.
9. Social and Real-Time Search Drive B2B Social Media Adoption – Search engines are an important source of inbound marketing leads for many B2B companies. In 2009 the major search engines made a lot of changes. Google’s shift to real-time search was one of the most important. Now that search engines have begun to include data from social networks and have started using online relationships to prioritize results it will become more important than ever that B2B companies participate on the social web in 2010. It is likely that those that don’t will begin to see a drop in online inbound marketing results.
10. B2B Gets Smart About Social Data – The light bulb is going to go off in the heads of many executives across major B2B industries. They are not only going to realize that “social media is here to stay.” Most already know that. The major revelation is going to be that the user generated content created every second on the social web can help them make better and more informed business decisions. Leadership will begin looking for ways to collect and analyze this data and then use it to improve product development, customer service, marketing and other aspects of business.
11. The Firewalls Start To Come Down – Currently the major road block for business to business social media marketing success is the blocking of social content and platforms in the workplace. Many employees and decision makers are restricted from accessing major social platforms and user generated content. This will see a major change in 2010 because organizations will realize that this interaction is important to their bottom line and that employees need to access information to make better choices for the business. The younger generation will help with this by advocating for this type of communication, but leadership will ultimately realize that business communications methods have fundamentally changed.
I am sure that many other changes will occur in 2010, but these are the items I feel are the most important and are likely to change. Do you agree? Have you seen things in your business to suggest otherwise? What did I leave off this list that should be on it?