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Using social networking for B2B? Not so fast - virtualization matters way more to IT buyers

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy July 31, 2019
The use of social networks in B2B sounds appealing but do IT buyers agree on its importance?


Barb's story about making better, or in some cases, any use of social networks and the media they spawn in B2B hit a nerve with me. I'm convinced that only a very few in the tech world have really thought this one through. Right now, the limits of imagination start and stop at using Twitter Facebook and LinkedIn as free dumping grounds for whatever tech stuff they're flogging. More to the point, do tech buyers even care? Not according to Computer Economics. At least not IT buyers. 

Its 30th Annual Survey of IT Spending and Staffing Benchmarks included this juicy piece:

As an optional bonus question at the end of the survey this year, we asked respondents to pick three items from a list of 12 that they thought had the greatest impact on enterprise IT. The list included agile development, cybercrime, email, improved power in compute and storage, low-end servers, mobile devices, offshoring, open source, search engines, social networking, telecommuting, and virtualization.

The results? Check this graphic:


Of course, you can argue that the technologies chosen represent a subset that reflects the passage of time. For example, on virtualization, the report notes that for all the media noise on this topic, "virtualization dates back to IBM's work in the 1960s." And it's important to note that the question talks to the issue of impact on IT and not the impact on business. 

On the question of search and social networks, the report says:

Both have undoubtedly had giant impacts on society, but it seems our survey group thinks their impacts are larger in the consumer world than the enterprise. An IT manager at a professional services firm confirmed this when he chose not to vote for search engines at all but commented, “I would say that search engines have a huge impact on society at large, but I would have to say email would be the biggest to enterprise IT in that time.”

For all of the media buzz around Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media companies, our survey respondents do not judge social networking to have had a major impact on enterprise IT. Perhaps the impact has been greater on society in general than in business. It only appears as No. 7 on our list.  

I have to agree and it's a topic that we regularly debate internally. For example, it has become clear that unless you are willing to vigorously prune your Twitter follow/follower numbers then your overall feed will become overwhelmed with all manner of random people alongside the inevitable bots. How useful is that in the real world? You might congratulate yourself on the vanity metrics like 'reach' as provided by analytics tools but what do they tell you about engagement? Honestly?  Except on rare occasions, I doubt many (any?) reach folk who are endeavoring to make buying decisions but plenty who want to join the inside baseball clubs that abound. 

LinkedIn I think is different although that's becoming a moshpit of self-promoting/self-congratulatory bullshit. There are a few standout examples where that's not the case but those are places where group moderators are active in passing on useful information and where debate is actively encouraged through the judicious use of questioning. 

Facebook? I really don't know. If our analysis is telling me anything it is that association with a younger, more attuned buyer does work but again only to the extent that group moderators work hard to keep engagement flowing. 

In Barb's piece, she suggested:

On LinkedIn Live, Sangram Vajre does a weekly Q&A live stream called Office Hours that answers people's questions on account-based marketing. Think of the potential of doing something similar with Instagram. Considering LinkedIn Live is restricted to only a few right now, and Instagram is open to everyone, you have the opportunity to get in early and build your audience first.

Maybe. And even though Barb cites good examples where storytelling appears to be working I often find myself struggling to see the authenticity that true storytelling demands. But then Barb is looking more towards technologies that fulfill a business purpose. 

My take

Those of us who focus in the business buyer sometimes forget that IT has significant influence over technology buying decisions. On the other hand, the choices IT made in the CE survey suggest that their priorities are more fundamental to the architecture of IT landscapes than the business buyer might contemplate. 

Does that invalidate Barb's suggestions for the B2B buyer? No, but it does imply the need for IT and the business to achieve a mutuality of understanding that has been historically difficult to overcome. 

Image credit - Shutterstock

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