The brilliant and helpful team at Business.com have just released a phenomenal, must read research report, the 2009 B2B Social Media Benchmarking Study. The report covers responses from a wide range of company sizes and industries, and breaks the data down by those attributes as well as title and department. Among the most interesting findings:
Webinars and podcasts topped the list of most popular social media resources for business information, followed closely by user ratings (good news for b2b-focused social media sites like FYIndOut.com), company/product profile pages on social media sites, and company blogs. Social bookmarking sites (e.g. Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon) were viewed as least important, though they are still used by 28% of respondents.
Those figures hold as well specifically for senior management, with 77% listening to podcasts or webinars, 61% visiting company blogs and more than half participating in online business communities or forums.
Large companies (defined in the study as having 100 or more employees) are somewhat more likely to actively used social media than smaller enterprises, though the difference varied considerably by specific activities. For example, employees at large companies were considerably more likely (84% vs. 67%) to spend time on webinars and podcasts, but only slightly more inclined (64% vs. 54%) to read company blogs for information.
Not surprisingly, marketing and communications professionals are the heaviest users of b2b social media. This group is followed however by senior management, then sales, then—who would have thought it—accounting and finance.
60% of respondents report spending less than 20% of their work time using social media, with the largest single group (37%) saying they spend 10-20% of their day with it. Only one out of five employees spend 30% or more of their working hours with social media.
Most b2b social media users are relative newbies. 30% have used social media for less than a year, two-thirds have been active for less than two years, and more than 80% have four years of less of social media experience.
Even more pronounced, on a company level, nearly 40% of enterprises have been using social media as a b2b business resource for less than a year; 72% for less than two years; and almost 90% for less than four years.
Among the most popular activities for “outbound” (as opposed to research) social media activities for b2b companies, 81% maintain company accounts/profiles on social media sites, 75% are on Twitter, 74% maintain company blogs, and 73% monitor social media mentions of their companies. At the other end of the scale, only 42% advertise on social media sites and just 36% use social media for employee recruiting.
76% of b2b companies report that their social media initiatives are driven by marketing, with 13% saying customer service is the driver. In contrast, the figures for b2c companies are 63% and 26%, respectively.
Finally, there is the matter of social media measurement. Among the top social media success metrics, 68% of b2b companies use website traffic as a key measurement of success, 61% brand awareness, and 60% engagement with prospects. At the other end of the scale, only 37% use prospect lead volume as a success metric (likely because social media is far more effective at brand building than lead generation) and 26% say it provides useful product feedback.
The only findings that seem somewhat questionable are that 60% of respondents claimed they can demonstrate the revenue impact of social media activities and 57% said they can measure prospect lead volume. This is suspect because ROI metrics for social media are notoriously difficult to measure accurately, and because, if these measures were true, one would have expected different answers to the question above regarding success metrics.
Overall, this report from Business.com is fascinating reading and a valuable resource for anyone involved in b2b social media use. Again, you can download the b2b social media benchmark study here.