Your 2015 B2B Social Media Predictions Are Totally Wrong. Or Maybe They Are Totally Right!

b2b-social-media-predictions-2015It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.

But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.

Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.

These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.

It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.

But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.

Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.

But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.

And be right either way. Or wrong.

What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.

Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.

Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.

But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.

It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.

For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.

Photo credit: Flickr

10 B2B Social Media Predictions for 2013

It is that time of year again where we look forward and try to predict the future of social media for B2B companies. This is not a shot-in-the-dark exercise, but one based on observing how B2B companies have adopted social media over the past year. When we look back at 2013, we will not see a banner year with explosive growth in B2B social media. In many areas there will be continued gradual growth started in 2012 or earlier. If you have your own predictions or you disagree with ours, please let us know in the comments below.

1. There will be incremental growth in using social media for lead generation

Social media provides new and lower cost opportunities for B2B companies to generate leads, and the adoption of this continues to be slower than social media advocates would have you believe. Many B2B marketers still struggle to get the mechanics, tools and resources in place to build a robust social media lead generation program. More B2B companies will see success in generating leads with social media, but it will still not be the norm.

2. B2B CEOs will remain skeptical about social media

The disconnect between B2B marketers and their CEO about the value and application of social media will remain. Just like with the adoption of social media lead generation, there will be slight improvement, but it will not be a banner year. Many CMOs have seen the light, but there is not enough evidence from inside and outside the organization to convince the CEO. They will need another year of the pain of higher cost and inefficient lead programs before shifting to more cost effective social media marketing.

3. The chasm between B2B companies creating content and those who don’t will widen

Remarkable content will continue to distinguish B2B companies from their peers and competitors. Marketers who have mastered the art of blogging, ebooks, visual content and video storytelling will forge stronger relationships with prospects, customers and advocates, while those who don’t will get left behind. Customer expectations will drive this disparity even more in 2013.

4. The skills of B2B marketers will expand as content gets more visual

It starts with storytelling and interpreting data, but the new world marketers who will write their own tickets in 2013 are those who have a graphic design or photography background. The smaller explosive platforms like Pinterest and Instagram have driven up the importance of visual content, but Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all continued to incorporate rich media into their platforms. Marketing communication is no longer just about great writing. Look for fewer words from top B2B marketers and eye-catching visuals that promote compelling offers.

5. Data becomes more than a buzzword

Look for more B2B marketers to really understand the data components of their social media efforts in 2013. This is not about better measurement, but about compiling data to gain better insight into customers and prospects. This kind of data mining and interpretation gives marketers a more holistic view of social media profiles and activities, which lead to smarter and more informed actions.

6. The role of marketing automation becomes clearer

Sometimes B2B marketers need to say the name of their tools out loud to understand what they do. “Marketing Automation.” Say it again. “Marketing Automation.” You didn’t just say, “Sent spammy emails.” Expect to see better use of marketing tools in 2013 as B2B marketers do more than set up email drip campaigns, but unleash the full power of these tools to automate repetitive activities or other things that computers do better than people.

7. Mobile Strategies Catch Up to Reality (Again)

Repeat of 2012 Prediction: As each mobile device is released, it sells more than its predecessor. This will continue in [2013] and we will get closer and closer to the day the mobile web dominates B2B site traffic. B2B companies are on course to develop their mobile strategies so they can move forward with their customers. If every B2B marketer took their smart phone out of their pocket and suffered through their own website, this really would drive the creation of mobile-friendly sites.

8. B2B Marketers will determine relevant social media metrics

This is one prediction that I hope exceeds my expectations of how far it goes. Overall social media adoption hinges on better and more appropriate metrics. Lots of B2B marketers are still measuring vanity metrics or optimization metrics and reporting them as results. While the tactics of increasing reach will help you drive more leads, it is the leads themselves that are an indicator of your success, not the increased reach. Without the proper reporting in place that is connected to company business goals, there will be a social media backlash due to soft reporting.

9. B2B Marketers will get addicted to social media ads

B2B marketers will explore additional ways to build their audience and drive traffic to their lead-generation landing pages. Not only do social media ads fit this bill as a new tactic, but these ads will be less competitive and more cost-effective than pay-per-click (PPC) ads throughout 2013. That will change as more marketers start using them, but they will be regular part of the tool set before that happens.

10. Email usage will grow as B2B marketers struggle to generate leads with social media

As customers and prospects continue to click on email offers, B2B marketers will keep sending them, but with diminishing returns. This is still interruptive marketing, while social media acknowledges that the customer or prospect is in charge of the relationship. A tipping point is coming, but it won’t be in 2013.

There is still a tremendous amount of work for B2B marketers to do in 2013, but we know you can do it with planning, remarkable content, marketing and sales alignment and executive buy-in.

Photo Credit: One Way Stock

100 B2B Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2012

We are not the only ones making B2B social media marketing predictions for 2012 this time of year. Plenty of writers are sharing their thoughts on what will happen next year. Below are a variety of predictions related to B2B marketing and marketing in general. See if you can find any common themes. If you have posted your own predictions, please add them in the comments below.

12 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2012 from B2B Digital Marketing blog

Top 3 Predictions for B2B Marketing in 2012 from Marketri blog

10 Predictions for B2B Marketing in 2012 Part 1 and Part 2 from Bliss PR

2012 B2B Marketing Predictions – Will Marketers Leave Sales Behind? from B2B Marketing Insider Blog

8 Tricky B2B Marketing Predictions for 2012 from B2B Appointment Setting Blog

Social Business Predictions for 2012 from the Dachis Group

No Predictions, Just Action from B2B Voices

Top 5 Inbound Marketing Trends for 2012 from Kuno Creative

12 Marketing Predictions for 2012 from MarketingProfs

18 Insightful 2012 Marketing Predictions From the Experts from Hubspot

Five key marketing trends for 2012: Are you being served? from eConsultancy

2012 Social Marketing & New Media Predictions from Brian Solis

Bonus Posts:
How to be great marketer in 2012 – top 10 tips from B2B Marketing Blog

2012 B2B Content Marketing Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends from Content Marketing Institute

12 B2B Social Media Predictions for 2012

2012 is going to be a big year for adoption of social media for B2B companies. We expect that early adopter companies will move even further out in front by becoming social in many areas of their business, while more of the second wave adopters will begin to see value in social media and move forward with planning and execution. This means that there will be a greater spread of B2B social media activities than ever before. More resources are available for B2B marketers, as well as more experienced practitioners, both of which will make the previously steep learning curve more manageable.

The following predictions for 2012 reveal many of the ways B2B companies will leverage social media for their business success.

1. B2B Websites Become the Ultimate Social Destination
In the consumer world, many companies send their visitors directly to Facebook. This strategy seems to be based on the fact that people are already on Facebook and why should companies encourage them to leave the environment. B2B companies will understand this year that it is more productive to drive traffic to their owned property, their website. This is where they control the environment are not subject to the whims of others. Many B2B companies not only need to update their websites, but add social components like Facebook and LinkedIn shares to allow visitors to spread the word about a company’s solutions to industry issues.
Tweet This Prediction

2. Blogging Accepted as Hub of B2B Social Media Success
A blog goes hand in hand with the B2B website as a social destination. Companies that post valuable, educational content to their blogs at least once or twice a week will drive traffic to their blogs (and websites) through a combination of search and social media. Many B2B companies are challenged by the idea of creating content, but there are enough resources and examples of compelling content that marketers running blogs will publish posts that make a difference in their traffic.
Tweet This Prediction

3. Social Media Lead Generation Taken Seriously
Many B2B companies will launch dedicated programs to generate leads through social media, and they will succeed. As more B2B companies take this approach to adding real, measurable results to their social media efforts, the easier it is for C-Suite executive to take social media seriously. This doesn’t just need to apply for direct sales, but companies that have well-established processes for sharing leads in a variety of sales channels can also benefit from social media lead generation. Every stage of the buying process benefits from the kind of better educated customer that results from significant social media content efforts.
Tweet This Prediction

4. Email Grows Despite Its Reported Demise
As the platform that keeps getting called out for its continued expiration is stronger than ever. Email newsletter drive traffic and results and will do more of the same in 2012. Marketers who send email will get better results by sending email more frequently. Email is still a viable content sharing option with your colleagues. And inboxes support growing social networks with both a LinkedIn plug-in for Outlook and one for Gmail by Rapportive.
Tweet This Prediction

5. B2B Marketers Expand Social Media Followers
Traditionally B2B marketers kept their social media follower counts to a minimum, due to their limited customer base and prospect profiles. This coming year they will discover the benefits of building greater reach through their social profiles. Between the benefits of social search, a wider social graph and the necessity of a broader audience in adjacent industries will be apparent.
Tweet This Prediction

6. Social Media Treehuggers Lie Down in Front of Bulldozers
One sign that social media is maturing for B2B companies is that softer social media activities and metrics will no longer be tolerated. Brand awareness through social media is not a sustainable activity. The social media purists, or treehuggers, will lie down in front of the business bulldozers and try to insist on softer approaches to social media execution. Don’t listen to them. Conversation, engagement and sharing are great, but generating leads and sales are okay too. They allow a business to continue to stay in business.
Tweet This Prediction

7. Measurement of ROI Can No Longer Be Ignored
Just because it may be hard doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Measuring the ROI of social media requires you to adequately bucket the expenses required to drive the results. This also means you need to have results that can be measured in dollars. Leads, which is a proxy for sales, can be used for the return portion. These calculations can be different for every B2B company, and you need access to data that you may not have access to now, but in the end it will demonstrate the success of social media, in business terms, in 2012.
Tweet This Prediction

8. Mobile Strategies Catch Up to Reality
As each mobile device is released, it sells more than its predecessor. This will continue in 2012 and we will get closer and closer to the day the mobile web dominates B2B site traffic. B2B companies are on course to develop their mobile strategies so they can move forward with their customers. If every B2B marketer took their smart phone out of their pocket and suffered through their own website, this really would drive the creation of mobile-friendly sites.
Tweet This Prediction

9. It is the Beginning of the End for Twitter as a Social Network
The role of Twitter will change in 2012. This is the beginning of its reduction of importance for B2B companies and their customers and prospects. Partly driven by its limited adoption (8% of US Adults) and partly driven by its new focus as a discovery platform for new users, Twitter will become more a place to go for news and information and less a social network. It’s minimalistic approach and reluctance to add features will ultimately be its undoing.
Tweet This Prediction

10. Social Media Advertising Gets Results
All social platforms have advertising components that let B2B marketers expand their reach and get their content in front of their prospects and customers. As more B2B companies show success with these methods, these auction style bids will get more expensive. They will still be affordable in 2012, and will gain popularity.
Tweet This Prediction

11. Social Media Adoption No Longer Driven by Hobbyists
A funny thing happened on the way to social media adoption for B2B companies. Marketers who were passionate about social media and had fun keeping up with the latest platforms and over-shared with all the other early adopters have moved on. Many work for agencies, technology companies and startups. The irony is that those currently responsible for managing social media at many B2B companies are those who initially didn’t care about this communication revolution. They got left behind by those that did. And in 2012 these are people who will be most responsible for the broad support of social media in their businesses.
Tweet This Prediction

12. Social Media Supports Offline Activities
As social media becomes a key component in the marketing mix in 2012, it will become an important driver for offline activities like trade shows and direct mail. They will not be competing for the same budget resources, but will be part of a coordinated plan to improve results of these traditional tactics.
Tweet This Prediction

Let us know what you think of our predictions, and if you have any of your own. No matter what happens in 2012, it will be an awesome year for B2B marketers who are expanding their use of social media to provide business value.

[PREDICTION] What Will LinkedIn Do for B2B Marketers?

LinkedIn is the dominant social network for many B2B companies. 58% use the platform for marketing, building relationships and lead generation. Since LinkedIn began as a personal networking and job site, everything has revolved around personal profiles. Company features have been slow to roll out, but Mike Gamson, SVP of sales has indicated that more advertising features will be available soon. According to an article in AdWeek, an announcement will come next week during Advertising Week in New York.

Gamson talked about the coming expanded company features, and suggested companies build their followings now, because LinkedIn users are unlikely to follow many companies on the platform. So just for fun, we thought we would predict some of the company-based features that will be announced next week.

1. Business Accounts for Advertising
Currently LinkedIn self-serve ads are connected to personal profiles, which means multiple people at a company cannot share responsibility for ads in one account. Each needs to post ads from their own accounts, which means results data is not centralized in one account. Guess what? This exists now. It apparently was soft-launched in the forum and FAQ Pages and not announced anywhere else. Go to linkedin.com/ads/home and click on your individual profile to create your business account. This means that ads will no longer show up on the site connected with a personal profile as “the advertiser,” but can be from your B2B company.

2. Status Updates on Company Pages

Just like people have begun sharing status updates on LinkedIn, we expect they will allow companies to share updates with their followers. B2B companies will post these update on their pages and they will also appear in all the places you would see other company updates. Those would be the home page updates, mobile app updates and emails of your network updates. Once B2B companies start sharing links, these will most likely be included in the LinkedIn Today aggregation of shared stories by industry. Oh wait, this one exists too. For some companies. It seems that companies that have a premium careers page have the ability to post updates to their page. This may not be the reason, but the pages with status updates have a paid career page. All company pages already include a filter for All Activity that includes Status Updates, so we expect the ability to post updates will come to all pages soon.

3. Targeted Messaging to Followers and their Network
Individuals can already target their ads by industry, seniority, geography, job function, age or gender and companies can show their display ads with the same targeting to highlight jobs and promote recommendations. The recommendation ads are network aware, meaning these ads can be shown with network stats in them (24 people in your network recommended OurCompany). One of the big announcements we expect next week is the ability for companies to be able to target their followers with ads. And their followers’ networks. When you add the demographic targeting already available, you get a pretty good picture of “people like you.” B2B marketers need to promote their company pages now so they can grow their potential target audience on the platform.

“We believe there’s an incredibly important moment right now in the world of online advertising,” Gamson said. “Right now is the moment of acquisition of a follower base.”

If LinkedIn execs have been paying attention to Facebook, some of the most successful ads on the world’s largest social network have been to people already following a company’s page and those people’s friends. Facebook is proving that affinity is a key element to higher response rates to ads. LinkedIn will take that into account in their company updates.

What do you think LinkedIn will announce next week for B2B marketers?

[VIDEO] 11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011

I recently had the opportunity to share the screen with David B. Thomas (@davidbthomas) of New Marketing Labs and discuss my predictions for B2B Social Media for 2011. Even though you may have read the predictions, watch the video to hear us talk about them. Dave brings additional perspective to the conversation with his experience working with enterprise level companies using social media.

11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011
1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
2. Open APIs Support Information Portability
3. Collect, Analyze and Visualize Data
4. Share Compelling Stories
5. Continued Growth of Social Search
6. Expanded Forums of Social Communications
7. The Year of Conversions
8. Customer Service is More Social Than Marketing
9. Daily Deals and Group Buying Change Pricing Models
10. Social Media will be More Accepted in the Enterprise
11. Companies with Limited Results Pull Back from Social Media

The Big List of 2011 B2B Social Media and Marketing Predictions

As 2010 comes to a close, many B2B writers share their thoughts about what they expect the coming year to bring in their respective specialities. The following list of predictions covers many aspects of B2B marketing beyond social media. We present this list, just as we present our 2011 predictions, not to predict the future and keep a scorecard to see who is right and who is wrong, but to help our readers spot trends, provide insight into what may already be happening in their industry and give them the understanding of where they should invest their resources. And not just money, but time to learn about what is likely on the way, or in some cases already here.

Why 2011 will be the year of social-media convergence
Interview with Jay Baer
Jay predicts that social media targeting will occur this coming year. He expects companies will be able to send updates on social platforms to a select, targeted list of their followers.

11 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2011
by Paul Dunay
As Paul is a Facebook Marketing specialist, several of his predictions focus on the platform he knows so well, Facebook. He also addresses mobile and the increased profile and importance of social media throughout an organization.

12 Customer Experience Trends for 2011
by Omar Zaibak
One of the biggest changes that continues to influence the customer experience is the possibility that each and every experience can be shared with a wide network of people using social media.

Predictions for B2B Marketing in 2011
by David Raab
Social media will continue to grow in importance and companies that can find the right tools and integrate it into their businesses will see more success with it. Marketing automation and content marketing will also be major factors in 2011.

B2B Marketing Predictions For 2011
by Michael Brenner
This is a great example of a prediction post that is really of list of reminders of things that B2B marketers should already be focusing: marketing and sales alignment, inbound marketing, customer retention and roi.

Predictions for 2011: The End of B2B Sales & Marketing as We Know It?
by Tom Pisello
Tom provided his own summary, which I will quote directly. Click through for the details. “B2B sales and marketing is fundamentally being shaped in 2011 by the Internet empowered buyer, increased skepticism, information overload and Frugalnomics, driving the need for key investments in content marketing, personalization, interactive tools and sales enablement.”

2011 B2B Marketing Predictions
by Chris McGovern
Chris is predicting more CFO-driven marketing planning, increased importance of tablet computing, more direct targeting and the rise of customer communities in B2B marketing.

Digital marketing predictions for 2011
by B2Bento
Our friends at B2Bento expect to see more B2B mobile apps, continued expansion of company digital footprint to social outposts beyond their website and an expansion of SEO to sites beyond Google.

11 Predictions for 2011: Marketing Agency Execs Look Ahead
from Northeast Ohio Communications Advocates (NOCA) Forum
These are good predictions for agencies of what is to come in 2011, but here’s the most powerful prediction, “Every marketer needs a social media strategy and everyone in a company needs to be able to speak directly with customers, including the CEO.”

6 Demand Generation Predictions For 2011
by Jesse Noyes
Eloqua outsourced their predictions to others, including a couple included here, and they look to context, content, targeting and empowerment to make a difference for companies in 2011.

What is Social Media’s Next Big Thing?
by Mark Schaefer
Social media is coming to the enterprise and Mark tells us why this makes sense.

5 Social Media Predictions for 2011
by Dan Robles
These predictions were made in 2009, so it is interesting to read what the future looks like without the perspective of 2010.

Social media predictions for 2011
by Jason Lipscomb, DDS
And just to show that social media really has filtered down to all small businesses, here are predictions from a dentist in Virginia. That’s right, a dentist who is not only using social media, but understands it enough to predict where it is going in his industry. Now about those cavities.

If you have found any other prediction posts for 2011, please share them in the comments below.

11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011

In 2010 social media made huge advances in B2B companies, but based on our review of our 2010 predictions, the adoption curve was not as steep as we anticpated. There have been lots of surveys indicating that spending on social media will grow, so we will not predict that, because we already know it is happening.

Many of our predictions for 2011 are about the next stage of social media for B2B companies, and those who can incorporate these ideas will be more successful in the coming year. It is unclear what the adoption will be of these next stage strategies, but it is clear that B2B companies that can implement their social media programs with these in mind will be well ahead of the competition.

December 2011 Update: At the end of the year, we have reviewed our predictions and added an updated comment to each. In general it seems that some B2B companies started moving forward with social media initiatives, but many of these conservative-minded companies did not embrace it with the gusto of their B2C cousins. Read on for the details.

1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
With 4.6 billion cell phones in use around the world, this prediction is not too hard to make. The mobile experience will become even more important with the continued growth of smartphones. As people continue to engage on social networks on their mobile phones, companies will need mobile versions of their web sites that are easily shareable with those networks. Company sites must formatted for multiple devices and provide mobile relevant content. Offer customers product reviews, dealer locations and other information that can be useful while on the go.
December 2011 Update: Mobile continued to grow, as expected, and some B2B companies began experimenting with different mobile tactics, including QR codes, but B2B companies did not focus on making their websites mobile friendly.

2. Open APIs Support Information Portability
Information will become more portable and the importance of open APIs will become clear to many B2B companies. Just like Twitter’s early success was based on opening their datastream to developers for their own use, more and more internal applications will offer the ability to pull information together for a clearer picture of the organization. Siloed information is not the future.
December 2011 Update: Some applications provided API access for their customers to use their data in more powerful ways, but this was not fully utilized by B2B companies for better reporting and analysis.

3. Collect, Analyze and Visualize Data
Once APIs are in place (see above), companies will start doing a better job collecting and analyzing data from their social platforms. It will no longer be okay to present long spreadsheets of data or bullet-pointed presentations. These numbers-based approaches exist to justify social media, and that type of reporting has passed. Look for data to be presented in more visual manners, even beyond charts and graphs, but in word clouds, visualizations and infographics. These more compelling reports are easier for all levels of an organization to understand and absorb.
December 2011 Update: With the explosion of infographics as content both on the web and in mainstream publications, you could almost call 2011 the Year of the Infographic. But B2B companies did not take this to heart and incorporate data visualization principles into their business reporting. We still saw lots of line graphs and pie charts on people’s desks.

4. Share Compelling Stories
2011 will see storytelling come into its own. As more companies adopt social media as a way to connect with customers, they will begin developing compelling stories to share that message. This also signals a skill set shift in communication professionals away from those who excel at creating and distributing traditional marketing messages and press releases and focuses on those who can use a variety of multimedia tools to tell memorable and emotional stories. Every message shared on a social media platform is another piece of that larger story.
December 2011 Update: Successful B2B companies who understood the value of storytelling made a bigger connection with their customers, although many companies are still trying to break out of their product-based shells.

5. Continued Growth of Social Search
The importance of search engines, primarily Google and Bing, is already huge for B2B decision makers, and it’s hard to imagine the expansion of that, but in 2011 search and social will come closer together. Look for search engines to do a better and more relevant job of providing results from across our social networks and to add a social sharing component to search results. As companies look to provide value to customers, why not share search results that show the company in the context of the industry and competitors.
December 2011 Update: The growth of social search was huge in 2011 and B2B marketers learned the value of incorporating their social graph into business networks. Google+ is an important part of this growth, but leveraging the large number of connections on Facebook and LinkedIn is key as well.

6. Expanded Forums of Social Communications
While the big three platforms of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to reign supreme for most B2B companies, niche industry sites and forums will become more important this year. Companies are learning to communicate with users in more authentic and transparent ways, and this will pay off as they get more involved in these conversations.
December 2011 Update: It is hard to determine the success of these forums, but some like Focus.com certainly increased their prominence in 2011. This expertise site features more than 1 million members and over 5,000 business and technology experts asking and answering questions.

7. The Year of Conversions
If 2010 was the year of social media interest and adoption for many B2B companies, 2011 will be the year that companies refine their approach to social media, provide clear calls to action on their messaging and drive leads and sales as a measure of success. Online marketing is more trackable than any other paid media approach, and social media is part of that. While tracking growth of reach and other softer metrics has been the common approach, more companies will start to show conversions from social media marketing. Social CRM will play an important role in tracking and achieving these conversions.
December 2011 Update: 2011 was the very early stages of social media conversions for B2B companies. Some began laying the ground work for this to happen in the coming year.

8. Customer Service is More Social Than Marketing
More than even, customer service reps are the front lines of a company and they need to be socially savvy. Reps will understand that every response can be broadcast to a wider audience. Companies watching social media sites for disgruntled customers will have procedures in place to quickly repsond, as many social media complaints occur after no response, or poor response, from using traditional customer service channels. Social CRM will also play a role here too, as saving money is another metric of social media success.
December 2011 Update: This was one of the huge advances in social media for B2B companies. Many companies understood that they needed to listen for and respond to customer service requests on social channels.

9. Daily Deals and Group Buying Change Pricing Models
While 2010 saw the beginnings of daily deals and group buying benefits in the B2B space, the changes this will cause in 2011 are deeper than many realize. Since these deals are all public, and in some cases do not happen unless enough people buy them, which encourages social sharing of these deals, this will cause some shifts in pricing paradigms. Many companies offer multiple discounts that can be so convoluted that no one can figure out what anyone else has paid. Some of that will continue, but in this age of transparency, these social deals will drive more open pricing models.
December 2011 Update: With so much upheaval in the daily deals space, including sustainability questions about Groupon’s business model and copycat offers in the B2B space, it remains to be seen if daily deals will have any effect long term. It did not in 2011.

10. Social Media will be More Accepted in the Enterprise
Large enterprise companies represent the biggest dichotomy in social media. Many tech companies are leading the way with social media initiatives and have really incorporated it into many aspects of the business. But at the same time, other companies of similar size continue to block employee access to social media sites because of productivity and security concerns. We are calling this a stretch prediction, like a stretch goal, but we think continued success of other companies and clearly stated policies will help some of these companies open up access as they begin to explore social media options.
December 2011 Update: Some of the most social B2B enterprise companies, like Dell, Cisco and Intel, continued to make social media an important component of the way they do business, but for many large organizations, there is still some reluctance to “go social.”

11. Companies with Limited Results Pull Back from Social Media
And finally, since it can’t all be positive, there will be B2B companies that prematurely discontinue social media efforts because they are not realizing enough value from them. Success can take time, but if social media is under-resourced and viewed as another marketing channel, no amount of time will help. These companies will go back to the sidelines for a wait and see approach until something demands their social media attention again.
December 2011 Update: For some companies that did not see huge wins with social media, they re-focused their marketing efforts on tactics that have been successful in the past, like pay-per-click (PPC) online advertising and trade shows.

What are your thoughts on these predictions and are there other trends you expect to see in B2B social media in 2011?

Reviewing Our 2010 B2B Social Media Predictions

Before we start looking forward with predictions for 2011 in B2B social media, we thought we would look back at our predictions for 2010. It is worth looking at these predictions not to determine our skill at predicting the future, but to see how quickly or slowly various aspects of social media were adopted or ignored by B2B companies.

1. Sales Staff Get Social Media Savvy
This is something that definitely started to happen in 2010, but not to the extent that we might have thought. The first steps of this occurred, which are the education and awareness of the benefits of social media to a sales force, and a big part of that is through the growing online conversation about sales 2.0 and social CRM.

2. Inbound Marketing Gets Cash
Spending is definitely increasing around areas that bring customers to online destinations, including social media. According to the CMO Survey, social media spend is expected to be around 10% of the marketing budget for B2B companies within one year, and up to 18% within five years.

3. Location-Based Fills In The Gaps
Location did not happen for B2B companies in 2010. The value of the check-in, and even the growth of location-based coupons, did not adapt well to the complex relationship-building process for B2B social media. Even Foursquare, the leader in location-based applications, acknowledges a consumer retail focus and prevents non-retail businesses from claiming their venue on the site by stating “we’re trying to limit foursquare specials to places where people meet, socialize and linger. Think: cafes, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, theaters, etc.” This limits experimentation of non-traditional approaches of checking in.

4. Social Media Lead Generation Becomes Common Place
While social media lead generation is definitely happening across multiple platforms, this is not a common occurrence. Many B2B companies are still challenged how to move beyond engagement to lead generation.

5. Social Media Publishing Gets More Multi-Media
The growth of audio and video content has been huge in 2010. While every successful campaign like the Old Spice Guy encourages clients and bosses to ask for viral videos, causing marketers to cringe (because you don’t make viral, it happens), they do increase the awareness of video as compelling online medium.

6. Influencer Marketing Gets Even More Important
With the decline of traditional media, marketers are looking for other ways to share their messages, and influencer outreach is definitely a growing approach. With sites like Klout to measure online influence, as well as other determinations based on site page rank or offline industry influence, many in the B2B space are learning who to reach out to.

7. Mobile Can No Longer Be Ignored
It is hard to find any statistics that don’t point to the growth of mobile in the US and around the world. Look at growth of smartphones, sales of iPhones, the growing Android platform and even a Gartner report from earlier this year that says the number of mobile phones that can access the web will exceed the number of PCs by 2013. More B2B marketers are understanding the importance of a mobile experience, especially as it relates to communicating on social networks and driving traffic back to their content.

8. Corporate Web Sites Get Social
Some B2B companies who understand the importance of connections through social media have made corporate web sites more social. This is not something that has gotten very pervasive, but there has been a large adoption of social media follow badges and share buttons across many B2B sites.

9. Social and Real-Time Search Drive B2B Social Media Adoption
More B2B communicators became aware of the importance of real-time information and the required response using social media and other outlets. Google, Twitter and even Facebook pushed the notion of real-time to the top of their platforms, which helps B2B companies see the importance of social media adoption.

10. B2B Gets Smart About Social Data
Most B2B companies are still overwhelmed with the amount of user generated content created around their customers, prospects and industries, and there just have not been good solutions for mining this data for actionable information. The beginnings of this are happening with social CRM platforms, but it is very early in that space.

11. The Firewalls Start To Come Down
Many B2B companies started 2010 by blocking access to social sites on their corporate networks. Not much has changed in those instances, but as social media matures, B2B companies will start to understand the business value of employees accessing sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. If companies are worried about employee productivity or inappropriate online comments if employees have access to social media sites, that is an employee problem, not a social media problem. And with the continuing growth of mobile, employees will bypass corporate networks entirely when searching social sites for business recommendations or polling their networks for information.

How does this compare to what you have seen in 2010 in your B2B companies? Let us know in the comments below. And look for our 2011 predictions next month.

Happy New Year from Social Media B2B

We just wanted to wish our readers a very happy New Year and list a few end of the year posts if you are looking to catch up on some reading over the holiday weekend. We are looking forward to a great 2010 and providing ideas, examples and thought-provoking posts to keep this conversation going around social media for B2B organizations.

11 B2B Social Media Predictions For 2010

Most Popular Posts on Social Media B2B in 2009

Big List: 13 B2B Social Media Prediction Blog Posts For 2010

Video: Top Stories of December in Social Media B2B