What are the Best Social Networks for B2B Marketing? (Research)

August 27, 2013

There’s no question that B2B marketers have embraced social media. According to recent research, more than 80% of b2b marketers now use the “big 3″ social networks—LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook—to distribute content.

But are these efforts paying off in terms of website traffic and leads? And if so, which social networks are most productive?

The short answers are “yes” and “LinkedIn and Twitter.” The longer answer, detailed below, is somewhat more nuanced.

There’s an old church skit called “No Deposit, No Return” which conveys the message that the results you can expect to achieve from any particular effort are generally commensurate with the effort that you put into it. In terms of B2B social media, almost any social network on which your prospective buyers are present can produce results; but some are clearly better than others, and regardless of the site, the level of results will reflect the efforts expended there on building and engaging with your following.

The figures here are based on a small, but presumably representative sample of 10 B2B technology websites. The overall results—that social media drives 1.1% of B2B commercial website traffic and 7% of leads—correlate fairly well with the 1.9% and 5% figures, respectively, reported by eMarketer earlier this year.

How much traffic do social networks drive to B2B websites?

That depends on what type of B2B website one is referring to. We looked at three different types of sites: pure B2B blogs, pure commercial sites, and “hybrid” sites that combined a blog with commercial content. The level of traffic driven by social media varies widely across these different site types. Across these sites, social media accounted for roughly 5% of traffic on average, compared to 39% from organic search, as reported in a previous study.

Not surprisingly, social media drives a much larger proportion of traffic to blogs (nearly 17%) than to purely commercial B2B websites (1.1%). The “most social” blog in this group derived nearly 24% of it’s total visits from social; the highest figure for a commercial site was just 3.2%.

Also likely not a surprise, the “big 3″ social networks drove a disproportionately large share of all social traffic. Smaller social networks and content curation sites like Scoop.it and StumbleUpon are somewhat effective for driving blog or hybrid site traffic, but essentially worthless for commercial sites.

Share of B2B site traffic from social media by site type

Which social media sites drive the most B2B website traffic?

Drilling down into the social traffic segment specifically, the dominance of the big 3 is even more evident, as these sites combined account for 90% of all social traffic. LinkedIn alone accounts for more than half of all social B2B website visits,  and Twitter nearly a third.

What is perhaps surprising though is that more than 20 different social sites drove at least some B2B website visits. This suggests that while few B2B marketers can afford to spread their efforts (effectively, at least) too broadly across social networks, some experimentation at the least is in order well beyond the big 3.

B2B website visits by social network

Which social sites are most effective for B2B lead generation?

While this data set was too limited to supply precise figures, in general LinkedIn produced the largest number of leads across sites, followed by Twitter, with Facebook and YouTube also in the mix.

However, for commercial B2B sites that maintained separate blogs, categorizing blog leads as “social” made the figures significant. Across these sites, social media (blogs—the company’s own and others—plus social networks) accounted on average for 7% of all leads. And while the figures varied considerably among sites, blog-driven traffic generally converted at significantly higher rates than visits from all other sources as a group.

The bottom line:

  • • B2B marketers first need to focus social presence efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter.
  • • Its vital to maintain a presence on Facebook just due to the size of the network; results are generally less than with other sites, though there are B2B Facebook success stories out there.
  • • Finally, experiment selectively with other social sites–but don’t spread efforts too thinly.

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7 Responses


  1. Kenny 

    I would suggest you check out vertical social networks. These are more focused, relevant and engagement is far higher than the big 3


  2. Tom 

    Excellent point Kenny. I recommend b2b companies keep a close eye on their Google Analytics data to see where visits are coming from. In this particular group of sites, that traffic was too small to register – but the experience of other b2b vendors may be very different, particularly for those dealing with an engineering or highly technical audience.

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