4 Reasons For B2B Marketers To Explore Pinterest

Pinterest has made a big splash on the social media scene, by quickly earning passionate users who log multiple hours per day on the site. Pinterest saw a 4,000% increase in site traffic from June to December of last year, and many consumer-facing and female-centric brands are already using it well. While Nordstrom pins its latest shoes and fashions by boards organized by department, Whole Foods uses the site to pin kitchen design inspiration and recycling projects in addition to recipes using its foods.

But despite its reputation as a service for brides and decorators, only 58% of the visitors to the site are women. And just like its diversity in users, brands on Pinterest aren’t limited to department and grocery stores. News sites such as Mashable and Time Magazine are also using the site to spread cover art, articles and copy included in its news stories.

Pinterest still has a long way to go in terms of its search capabilities and smartphone and tablet apps, but there is value for B2B marketers to start exploring. Here are four reasons B2B should start to look into using Pinterest.

1. Pinterest’s Push Mentality
Pinterest may be one of the few social media sites that requires little, if any, interaction with others – and although that may seem counter-intuitive, it’s also one of its strengths. While Twitter and Facebook require constant upkeep to stay on top of fan and follower comments, questions and shares, brands are able to push out content on their own time without a brand page to constantly update. Just be sure to tag and categorize pins with keywords that make sense for searchers, and pin them to boards that are similarly well organized. Pinterest’s search abilities are lagging, so making pins easy to find is key.

2. SEO value of inbound links
This one is a no-brainer for marketers looking to drive traffic to their content. Pinterest’s major selling point for users is the way it connects images – whether they’re product shots, infographics, photographs or even websites – with a stored link, making it easy to come back to pins’ original sources in the future. These links are logged as inbound links to these respective websites, boosting SEO. When it comes to determining what is “pinnable” on your B2B website, consider helpful FAQs, blog posts, product images, infographics and videos.

3. Niche Value
As many popular social media sites shift from mass appeal to niche servicing, B2B companies are able to better hone in on the industries and people most important to them. Leverage Pinterest’s “pin what you know and love” mentality by creating industry-specific boards and using specific keyword searches to find like-minded pins, boards and users.

4. Expert Positioning
Not sure if your company’s products or services lend themselves to being pinned? Expand your reach beyond your own products and use Pinterest as a way to show your expertise and experience in your industry, location and relationships. Utilize Pinterest’s open boards, which allow multiple users to pin to one board, to collaborate with your B2B partners and clients. If an important tradeshow is coming up, start and share a Tradeshow Must-Haves board that pins comfortable shoes, hotel and restaurant recommendations, and handy smartphone apps that position your company as a trusted expert and friend.

What would it take for you to begin exploring Pinterest for your B2B company?

Study: 93% of B2B Marketers Use Social Media Marketing

According to a recent study by BtoB Magazine, 93% of all B2B marketers are engaged in some form of social media marketing, with most putting their focus on the most popular channels (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).

The Big Three

B2B marketers overwhelmingly favor “the big 3″ social media channels, with LinkedIn being the most-used channel (72%). Facebook (71%) and Twitter (67%) are close behind, with those three channels forming the core of most B2B social media marketing efforts. Other channels used by B2B marketers include YouTube (48%), blogging (44%) and online communities (22%).

When asked to cite their single most important channel, LinkedIn again rose to the top with 26% favoring it. Most respondents identified lead-generation as the most valuable result of LinkedIn marketing. Facebook was the most important channel for 20%, while blogging (19%), online communities (14%) and Twitter (13%) rounded out the top tools. Facebook was cited as being a channel where users “pay attention”, while blogs and communities were cited for their customer feedback and engagement.

Despite being used by 67% of B2B marketers, Twitter was only the top channel for 13%, perhaps showing that Twitter is an important piece of the overall social marketing picture but not the best channel for B2B marketers to find value. According to survey participants, many marketers only see Twitter as a way to support website traffic and product/event promotions.

Challenges:

When B2B marketers were asked to identify their top three obstacles to adopting social media marketing, 70% identified a lack of resources as being the biggest obstacle. Other challenges faced by marketers include: poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators (57%), lack of knowledge about social media (44%) and management resistance (22%).

Measurement:

One of the most interesting statistic to come out of the report is the lack of measurement by B2B marketers. About 75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of their social marketing programs.

The Study:

This results of BtoB’s exclusive research study Emerging Trends in B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field focuses on how B2B marketers are leveraging social media. Conducted in March 2011 and based on the responses of 577 B2B marketers, this study not only looks at the demand for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but how marketers are using the unique applications to their best advantage across all marketing functions.

Does this data match your social media experience for your B2B company?

Successfull B2B Companies Will Be About Platforms Not Products

Today, I have an important question for you. A question so important that it could change the future of your business, or better transform the path of your industry. This post isn’t as much about marketing as it is about opportunity, though both are closely related.

What is your platform?

This simple question likely holds the answer you need to position your business effectively in this changing economy. Look at some of the most successful companies today, like Apple, Google and Amazon. They don’t succeed because they sell products. They are successful because they provide an infrastructure that supports the work of others. Apple’s gives developers an easy way to make money off their work by making it easy to sell software in their App Store. Google makes it easy for publishers to make money from their content with Ad Sense.

The Social Web Will Commoditize Industries

Today many B2B companies and industries exist because of vacuums. Think about it, most distributors exist because their pricing, service and organizational structure exist in a vacuum that customers and manufacturers can’t completely see and understand.

The Internet and the social web eliminate vacuums.

Think about what your industry would look like if all of the pricing, practices and product/service quality was all public and every potential customer could know it before they made a purchase decision. This is the future. The social web is becoming a catalyst that will force commoditization.

How To Survive In A Commoditized Marketplace

If I could pick one word to describe how the Internet has changed sales, marketing and business in general, it would be: platform. Think about all of the services you use frequently on the web: YouTube, Facebook, eBay, Amazon. These businesses have one thing in common. They are platforms. They serve to enable and create a sustainable economic infrastructure each community they serve. Looking at B2C companies you can see how many of them have begun adopting platforms for marketing and advertising.

In B2B platforms are less evolved, which means the opportunity for success is now. So many organizations are considering how to sell B2B products online that they are missing the bigger opportunity to create a platform.

The way to thrive in a commoditized marketplace is to own the platform.

Marketing As A Platform

Platforms are for more than selling products. Platforms are the next step in marketing on the web. Most B2B companies in their social media marketing are focusing on using platforms created by other people, which include Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The challenge for B2B companies will be to determine what their online marketing platform should be. When I talk about a marketing platform, I am not talking about a way to publish and push information, as much as I am referring to a way that current and potential customers can engage with the business as well as each other.

Questions That Will Guide The Platform Process

When discussing possible platforms for B2B marketing these questions may help to serve as a guide:

What ways do your customers communicate?

What topics drive customer engagement online?

What would help your customers improve their businesses?

What solutions can you provide customers that could generate interest in your products/service?

Platforms are here and they are not going to go away. Can you be successful without them? Maybe. Can you be great without leveraging platforms? No.

Proof B2B Social Networks Work

We started this blog as a way to generate conversation and provide concrete examples. One of the biggest concerns we continue to hear is that social media doesn’t apply to B2B becasue “our customers aren’t online”. Do you sell to restaurants, food distributors, or really anything to the restaurant industry? Then you don’t have that excuse, your customers are online.

fohboh

Recently I came across a niche social network for the restaurant industry called FohBoh which is short for Front of the House, Back of the House. Fohboh is a great example of what a niche B2B social network can and should be. Why? It has over 10,000 members from more than 180 countries, but members don’t make a successful communities, active members do. This network member base is extremely active with more than 1,000 videos posted, 10,000 images, and an average of 300 blog posts per month.

Another thing to note is that a quick look at the source code for Fohboh shows that it is built on Ning a free platform to build niche communities.

source-ning

Fohboh was smart the didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, instead focused on building a strong community instead of getting caught up with technology.

Listening To The Community

Once you know that your customers are online, what is next? Regardless how conservative your organization is, their is no excuse not to listen. Lets use Fohboh has an example, with 10,000 members posting regularly their is most likely a lot of great data that can be mined to help your organization. I would recommend using Google Site Search to search for terms only within Fohboh that relate to your business.

google-site-search

Once you look through relevant search results you should have insight that will help you develop marketing materials, generate sales leads, and aid product development.

Taking The Next Step: Participating

Once you have listened and you realize that their is so much value in a community that you want to take advantage of it and build relationships with its members, what do you do? I recommend having an internal discussion to determine which people in your organization plan to join and participate in the community. Regardless of who decides to do this here are a few tips for participating:

  • Aside from your user profile don’t mention your company unless asked by another member.
  • Comment on posts, images and pictures related to your industry and expertise in a conversational tone, that answers questions instead of selling.
  • Contribute your own posts on relevant industry issues.
  • Help solve people’s problems.

The few suggestions above are the best way to build long-term business relationships that will lead to sales and referrals. If you come in product focused then you will be marked as a spammer and not welcome in the community.

Is their a niche community in your industry? One way to find out is to head over to Ning and do a quick search.