When something is past the point of experimentation and is still sticking around as a business tool, it's more than likely here to stay. This video found here shows that. I've heard estimates of nearly 20% of people use social tools like LinkedIn and Twitter over email as their primary communication tool. That's not to say that email is dead (far from it actually) but it is a note that the pendulum is swinging.
So why isn't B2B completely on board? Most haven't even been willing to dip their toe in the water of the social world.
The B2B world should look at social media as social networking and not social media. Media implies a broadcast function. While it can serve as a medium to broadcast a message to many people cost-effectively, it's not where B2B will derive most of its value from the social space.
Mo' Money, Mo' Problems
In this post on Radian6's blog, Teresa Basich talks about how purchasing decisions in the B2B space are typically much more significant and involve a LOT more money than almost any B2C one (real estate excluded). Not only is there more money but there are more complex issues involved that involve more problems and solutions than most B2C products have to deal with. Social media comes into play here with good content marketing. Using a tool like a blog is a way to show off your company's expertise, educate your potential prospect and help offer enough free advice to be genuinely helpful (but not so much that you lose your competitive advantage).
For example, for my company Hinda Incentives, I help blog about the advantage of having an employee recognition programs, which awards work best and how different companies are using rewards to help their businesses succeed. I don't pitch Hinda directly nor do I say why Hinda is the best choice. I simply offer free knowledge to those interested. It's a great way to showcase our expertise, be actively helpful, maintain good PR and build trust with leads along the way.
Networking - A Huge Asset
A lot of business in the B2B world is based a lot of who you know. Interpersonal relationships are king for B2B companies and explain why we spend so much time and energy participating in trade shows, going to dinners and handing out business cards. A lot of B2B transactions happen as the result of a long-term business relationship. There isn't much room for impulse buying in B2B.
Social networks make building your personal network WORLDS easier. It takes a lot of time but you can become connected with so many more people than you may not have over time. Sure you may not do business with those people or generate revenue from them within the month, but nurturing those online relationships will reap beneficial long-term dividends. Finding connections is easy too! All it takes is searching for questions on LinkedIn answers or even search terms on Twitter to jump in on any conversation going on in your area of expertise. Provided you avoid pitching yourself out of the gate, you'll be surprised at what may happen.
I've said before on here that social networking is a marathon. It's something that works after a long period of time of nurturing relationships. B2B sales work the same way.
Doesn't it make sense to combine the two? What do you think?