B2B Tech Marketing and Social Media:
Which Social Media Channels Reach Tech Buyers?
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Where We’ve Come From...................................................................................... 4
First Things First: Are Tech Buyers Using Social Media?....................................... 5
Social Media Use by Tech Purchasers In Different Regions.................................. 6
Blogs: Everyone’s Social Media Fundamental........................................................ 7
LinkedIn: The Secret Lead Generation Tool............................................................ 8
Twitter: A Tech Awareness Engine......................................................................... 9
Facebook: Still More of a Personal Channel........................................................... 10
YouTube: One Part of a Video Strategy................................................................... 11
What Now?............................................................................................................. 12
About the Author...................................................................................................... 13
B2B TECh MArkETiNg ANd SOCiAL MEdiA:
WhAT SOCiAL MEdiA ChANNELS rEACh TECh BuyErS?
By rOSS LEvANTO, SENiOr viCE PrESidENT, SChWArTz COMMuNiCATiONS
• Many B2B technology marketers are still not using social media strategically. They’re either doing just
enough to be able to tell their CEO they’re doing it, or not using it at all because they think their target
audience isn’t using it.
• Many of these same marketers group together all the different forms of social media as one big “stew” and
don’t do enough research into the differences between the various channels.
• The fact is, a good portion of B2B technology target customers are using some mix of the different forms of
social media. However, they use each type of social media in different ways, and so technology marketers
need to take a unique approach for each different form of social media.
Where We’ve Come From:
When I first started in B2B public relations in 1997, the number of ways to reach my clients’ target audiences seemed limitless. There were
technology horizontal publications, vertical outlets, broadcast media and wire services. Many physical events published the infamous
“show dailies,” providing what we thought at the time to be unique ways to reach niche audiences. Right about at this time is also when
most print publications began launching an online presence. Getting a placement in a print publication was a homerun, and the fact that it
also may appear in the online version of the publication was sort of considered gravy.
It’s an understatement to say that things have dramatically changed since then. While print publications and broadcast media outlets are
still very important channels, the focus has clearly shifted towards finding ways to influence target audiences online and, more recently,
through social media channels.
For many tech marketers though, there is a tendency to group all the social media channels together. “Let’s get on Twitter, Facebook,
LinkedIn and YouTube,“ you might hear a company executive say, as if they’re all just different flavors of the same thing. What many neglect
to do is look into whether their target audience is using these channels and how they’re using them differently. Some would say it was
easier in the 90s when you could just find a vertical publication like Government Computer News, and pretty confidently assume that by
advertising or getting coverage within the publication, that you’d logically reach government technology professionals. Assessment of
audiences in today’s social media channels is a little more nuanced.
Last year, I attended a Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council social media cluster event. At the event, I asked the panelists how
they determined whether a social media channel was appropriate for their target audiences. The answer was pretty arbitrary: trial and
error. Almost a year later, and we’re still seeing a lot of B2B tech marketers taking the trial-and-error approach. With this in mind, I set
out to collect some data that could help prevent marketers from going down this path blindly. In this eBook, we’ll layout the facts about
social media use in the B2B technology space, and hopefully help marketers see that there is no one-size-fits-all strategy to communicating
through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube.
First Things First: Are Tech Buyers using Social Media?
I’ve been asked by some tech marketers: “Do we really need to be marketing through social media, or is that something only
consumer companies should do?” Another version of this question is: “I know my teenage daughter uses Facebook, but does
our target audience really use social media?” The simple answer is yes. That said, technology purchasers and other business
executives don’t use all forms of social media equally. In a recent study from IDG Research, we see that technology buyers
worldwide are definitely using the different forms of social media, but are using them at varying degrees.
Frequency of Social Media Use by Tech Buyers
Source: IDG Research Audience Engagement Study (Base: 3,658 technology buyers worldwide)
The interesting thing about this chart is that it shows tech purchasers are more likely to be using Facebook and YouTube than
Twitter and LinkedIn. This does not mean however that those are necessarily the best channels for technology marketers to
use. It’s not a stretch to think that a good portion of their Facebook use is for more personal, rather than business, reasons.
What we hope to explore in this eBook is some of the different ways tech marketers can start to use each of these channels
in the right way.
Key Takeaway: Tech purchasers are indeed using social media and so to ignore it as a channel would be a missed
opportunity. The study went on to show that a full 23% of technology purchasers are not only using social media, but
consider themselves active contributors of content to social media. Going after this active quarter of tech purchasers is
reason enough to develop a good social media strategy.
Social Media use by Tech Purchasers in different regions
The aforementioned IDG study provided some deeper insight into how social media use varies by geographic region. This is
important to us at Schwartz because we work with a lot of companies that are either international (like us), or are trying
to tell their stories around the world. The clear message in this data is that social media usage is not a US-centric activity.
Tech purchasers outside of the US are as likely, if not more likely, to be using Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn. In
fact, a few numbers draw striking contrasts with North America, such as daily Twitter use in Latin America. Nearly 60% of
technology buyers say they use Twitter daily, compared to just 10% in the US. It’s difficult to see how a tech company doing
business in Latin America could afford to ignore this platform.
Source: IDG Research Audience Engagement Study
Base: 1723 (North America), 1566 (Europe), 206 (APAC), and 96 (Latin/South America) qualified respondents
Key Takeaway: If you’re responsible for international marketing, don’t confine your social media strategy to just a US
audience. If your social media handles, fan pages and videos aren’t relevant for all the regions you’re targeting, consider
creating regional programs.
Blogs: Everyone’s Social Media Fundamental
There are many different definitions of what is considered social media and tech marketers sometimes aren’t aware that
a company blog is technically a form of social media. Before you even discuss what your company is doing on Facebook,
LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, you should look at how can you establish a stream of consistent blog content on your site. All
of the other social media channels need a backbone of content behind them, and a blog is just one type of backbone you can
create. The more you blog about the right topics, the more your site will be a magnet for people searching for that topic, and
the more likely you’ll generate new business out of blog readers. This graphic from HubSpot sums it up – more blog content
= more customers acquired through blogs.
HubSpot: The state of inbound marketing 2010 (February 2010)
• Make your blog presence your number one social media priority, and blog frequently.
• Create blog content that is educational not self-promotional. Nobody wants to read about how great you are, especially
technology purchasers. Create content that helps them understand your space.
• No company is too small to blog. At a recent content marketing event at Schwartz, Ann Handley of
MarketingProfs.com pointed to an owner of a small pool business in Virginia who has attracted a lot of attention and
business from his blog.
• If you can’t blog yourself, outsource it – Schwartz helps many clients with blog creation and writing.
Linkedin: The Secret Lead generation Tool
Most tech marketers now understand that social media can be more than just a visibility engine—it can and should
be a direct driver of leads. What some may not realize is that LinkedIn is the channel that has delivered some of the best
results. The graphic below shows that 45% of B2B marketers have acquired a customer directly from LinkedIn – a higher
percentage than any other channel. This doesn’t mean that you should pour all of your social media resources into
LinkedIn. Some of the tactics you can use on LinkedIn can be done with a small investment in time and resources. Also,
because LinkedIn is still set up mainly as a community of individuals, and is only more recently developing ways for
marketers to establish a presence for their business, a lot of the things marketers can do need to be done on the
HubSpot: The state of inbound marketing 2010 (February 2010)
• Make sure your company is listed in the LinkedIn Companies Directory and has the right description, links
• Include your company’s blog RSS feed and Twitter account so they’ll show up on your LinkedIn company page.
• Make sure your key company leaders are on LinkedIn and have joined all of the relevant groups where they can
network with potential customers in your industry.
• When possible, start your own LinkedIn Group to help drive the perception of your company as a thought leader.
Twitter: A Tech Awareness Engine
As we saw in the previous graphic from HubSpot, 38% of B2B companies surveyed have acquired a customer through
Twitter. This could be reason enough for a tech marketer to want to establish a presence on Twitter if they haven’t already,
but there are other good reasons. Twitter has become a forum for discussions around technology topics. According to
Pew Research, 43% of the tweets in a given time frame are related to technology. Compare this to the 1% of YouTube
videos, 1% of stories in traditional media and 8% of blogs that are related to technology, and it’s clear that Twitter is a
hotbed for technology content. While a lot of this content involves consumer technology discussions, such as about Facebook
or the iPad, the fact is that it’s an appropriate place for tech marketers to participate. If there’s any doubt, you can check out
the growing use of Twitter by CIOs.
Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (May 2010)
• Tech marketers need to start a Twitter handle for their company to establish a voice in this space.
• You should follow leaders, journalists, customers and others tweeting on the topic, and tweet multiple times a day
minimum, about items of interest in the industry. Like with blogging, try not to be overly self-promotional.
• You need to be patient because establishing a presence on Twitter requires a lot of effort, and not always a direct
payoff. A recent Pew Research study showed that 21% of Twitter users don’t ever check tweets, and even those who do
won’t necessarily see yours in a sea of tweets.
Facebook: Still More of a Personal Channel
In 2010, the most visited site on the Internet was no longer Google, it was Facebook. From a horizontal perspective, no social
media channel reaches a broader audience than Facebook. The key word here is “broad,” however. Even though we’ve seen
from previous charts that tech buyers are indeed on Facebok (29% visit daily), and B2B companies are driving customer
acquisition through Facebook, there is still a huge personal, rather than business, element to why people go on Facebook.
That said, every B2B tech company should have a presence on Facebook, it just shouldn’t be the focus of their social media
efforts…yet. Most technology companies on Facebook are trying to drive increased followers by making interesting content
available only to those who “Like” them. Microsoft is currently using this tactic on their Facebook page.
• Every B2B technology company should have a Facebook presence, but they shouldn’t make Facebook their number one
Social Media priority.
• Share links to your blog posts, pictures of events, links to major announcements, but always try to strike the balance
between sharing good news and not going too far in the direction of self-promotion.
• Take compelling content (video, eBooks etc.) and make it accessible only to those who “Like” your company on
Facebook, in the same way that you might put it behind a registration wall on your site.
youTube: One Part of a video Strategy
One of my early PR mentors once told me that the higher you go within a company, the more pictures, graphics and videos you
should put in a presentation to that audience. Although he was half-kidding, it is true that high-level executives appreciate video
as a condensed, appealing way to consume content. A December 2010 Forbes Insight report revealed that 75% of senior
executives view work-related videos on business websites at least once a week while 52% watch work-related videos on YouTube
once a week. What this means is that all tech companies should develop a video content strategy, but they shouldn’t focus on
YouTube as the only channel for that content. Ideally, a good piece of video content would be deployed on their YouTube channel,
on their site, syndicated on other business sites and, most importantly, be tracked and measured.
• When thinking about your video strategy, don’t only ask yourself “what can we do on YouTube?” Think about the types of
video content pieces that would be most valuable to tech purchasers, and then deploy that content in multiple places.
• Our Digital team at Schwartz advises our clients on types of video content they should create themselves versus when to
seek outside help to produce. This of course depends on your resources, but for quick impromptu pieces to share through
social media, get yourself a flip cam and get busy. For anything that needs to appear prominently on your site or at events,
get some help.
If the data and insights in this eBook made you think you need to take your social media strategy to the next level, or even
to square one, your next question may be: “How do I do that?” While the answer varies greatly based on situation, there are
some simple things that every company should do. One important to-do is to understand more about your current mindshare
in social media. Schwartz uses Radian6 to measure social media mindshare and many other metrics. Even if your company
has not created a social media presence, people may be discussing your products/services in social media forums. If the
quantity of discussions is low compared to that of your competitors, you can use the data as a way to lobby for more
resources to put toward social media.
Even without this type of analysis, every tech B2B company should have reason enough to create some presence in all of the
channels we’ve mentioned. We do caution companies to go into it knowing that just creating a Twitter handle and Facebook
page doesn’t mean you’ll magically get tons of followers. The real key to followers in any channel is content and coverage.
You need to have content to tweet about, or you’re just left with self-promotional product tweets or random observations.
As we mentioned, having a good blog is one essential form of content, but you also need to have video content, eBooks,
whitepapers, infographics, podcasts and other forms of content that will serve as the backbone for your social media efforts.
It also helps to have coverage—mentions of your company in third party media or blogs. A company without coverage would
likely tweet about a new product of theirs and point people to the description of the product on the website—blatant self
promotion. A company with coverage can tweet about a great article in ZDNet that talks about their product and how it
helps business - still somewhat self-promotional, but with third-party validation.
The Final Takeaway
If you’re a tech marketer, you should know that your target audience IS using social media. In order to create social media
programs that really have impact, you need to have a backbone of great blog, video and written content that is informational
and not overly self-promotional. With this content in hand, you can create a unique strategy for each social media channel,
and with the right tools, measure a real impact on your business.
About the Author
Since 1997, Ross Levanto has participated in the PR and communications programs for some of
the most innovative technologies across the IT security, data center, web services, open source
and application development markets. He has managed efforts that led to more than two dozen
acquisitions, with his clients both the acquirer and the acquired.
Levanto was on the Schwartz PR team that drove the IPO process for webMethods in one of the
most successful offerings ever. He has seen the evolution of B2B integration and web services
with webMethods and IONA, led SpringSource’s PR as it rose to become a driving force for Java,
and publicly launched the open source Mono project while crafting messaging for open source
desktop vendor Ximian during the Microsoft anti-trust case.
One of the key vice presidents within the Schwartz IT security practice, Levanto has led programs within email management
for CipherTrust through its acquisition by Secure Computing and for iLumin until it was acquired by Computer Associates, in
the web application testing space for Watchfire up to and beyond its acquisition by IBM, and for identity and access
management leader Netegrity through its acquisition by Computer Associates.
Levanto is among the leaders at the Agency who is defining emerging PR services that are aligning PR and communications
to marketing in innovative ways. He is a thought leader for innovative content marketing, web lead generation and web lead
Prior to Schwartz, Levanto worked as the first webmaster at WHDH Channel 7, the NBC affiliate in Boston. He graduated
with a bachelor’s degree in communications, summa cum laude, from Boston University. In the fall of 1996, he worked in Vice
President Al Gore’s communications office in Washington, where among other duties he performed background research for
the Clinton administration’s export encryption policies.
Levanto is also an active volunteer in the local technology scene. He has served as vice president, press and public affairs for
the New England Business and Technology Association, which later merged with the Massachusetts Software Council. He is
the originator of the Association’s annual awards ceremony, which is still in existence.
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