I recently read a blog post that eloquently joined the dots on why social media matters for B2B marketers. What’s interesting about this post, as opposed to many that document how customers are flocking to social media, is that this traces how the marketing goalposts have shifted over the past ten years in response to changing consumer behaviour.
See the full article by Jon Millar, but here are the highlights:

Before Google (more than 10 years ago): The only way a prospect could get information was to engage a sales rep. Mistrust ruled. Customers created RFPs and purchasing centres to level the playing field. Marketers focused primarily on brand building and awareness, mostly using hard-to-measure methods like mass advertising, tradeshows, and PR. Direct mail and cold calling made up the majority of targeted interactions, and marketers passed all new leads to Sales for follow-up.

Before Social Media (2 to 10 years ago): Corporate websites were mature and search became the dominant way to find information. Prospects were willing to share contact information in exchange for information. Marketers began to focus on SEO, PPC and email marketing to drive traffic, and created content such as whitepapers and webinars to convert traffic into leads. These highly measurable channels saw marketers become more accountable for lead generation. The best also invested in lead scoring and lead nurturing to find the hot leads and develop the rest.

Fast forward to today, and it’s back to the future with brand building and awareness going back on the agenda.

Why? As Millar explains it, the age of social media means “more and more information is available off the official corporate website and on social media sites ranging from LinkedIn and Twitter to YouTube and SlideShare. Tired of “marketing speak” and over-aggressive marketing tactics, buyers search social sites as part of their research, and interact with other prospects to get and share word of mouth recommendations. Prospects are less likely to register for early stage content on the corporate website, and typically contact the company only when they are ready to engage in a sales cycle.

In response, marketers will reallocate investments back to brand, buzz, and awareness – but instead of mass advertising and traditional PR, marketers will invest in smart ways to build brand such as social media, search engine optimization, and content marketing. Lead nurturing will evolve to include building relationships with prospects before they ever give you their name by sharing relevant and useful information across a variety of sites and channels.”
So there you have it. Just one answer to the million-dollar question, why does social media matter for B2B?