Does Facebook Work for B2B Marketing?
Facebook marketing? A must according to many companies. Not worth the trouble to some. But most of the voices you hear are in the business-to-consumer space. After all, people go onto Facebook for fun. But what if you're trying to reach other businesses, making the seemingly reasonable argument that the users don't stop being involved in business just because they're taking a break?
Someone in a technology company selling to other businesses recently argued that Facebook is a social media tool that doesn't work, at least for companies selling computers, networks, and other technology solutions. Bob Hebeisen, former head of partner marketing for a software company, argued that Facebook "is just not gaining widespread traction in the B2B world."
What Facebook Says
That is a "misconception," according to Dan Levy, director of small business at Facebook. "We think marketing for all businesses can work on Facebook and we're starting to see examples of it." Marketing software vendor HubSpot ran a campaign that saw a 71 percent increase in sales during a campaign "with clicking coming off Facebook back to their blogs or websites," Levy says. And VendorShop Social, which offers software services to create e-commerce stores on Facebook, the regular Web, or via mobile, started its business with a Facebook focus.
And yet, those examples are unusual ones. Both sell marketing software and Levy says that Facebook doesn't have general results for the efficacy of B2B marketing campaigns. He did offer some statistics, though they ought to be taken with a big grain of salt.
For example, the number of business pages on Facebook has increased 40 percent year over year and the number of businesses with local pages that have also tried advertising campaigns doubled. And yet, that could be simply due to Facebook's expansion and companies experimenting. It also refers to all businesses, whether B2B or B2C. In the first six months of promoted posts, 300,000 businesses used it with 75 percent being repeat customers. However, according to Facebook, repeat literally means that an advertiser tried it more than once, and two tries could easily be part of a test.
All that said, it is true that Facebook users often are in business, and it is possible to target SMB-affiliations with the self-serve ad tools. According to Levy, the SMB category includes 7.4 million people on the social network. No information on their geographic distribution. That could mean a business that depended on physical proximity to service customers, like a distributor or HVAC firm, would have to see how many prospects might be in their territory.
Can Facebook work for B2B? It appears to be working for some. But you will have to run tests to see if it does for you.
ERIK SHERMAN | Columnist
Erik Sherman's work has appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times Magazine, and Fortune. He also blogs for CBS MoneyWatch.