Are B2B companies that refuse to engage in social media facing extinction?


That’s the short answer to a question that was posed to me in Focus (which seems quieter and more manageable than Quora).  It got my attention because it is a question I often hear in my classes too.  Instead of preaching fear and pontificating about social media as the Second Coming of B2B Marketing, let’s look at this another way.

Social media is growing fast, but it’s no longer new. If social media were such a dominating competitive force that non-users would be threatened with extinction, wouldn’t we be seeing some signs of that by now?

In fact, I am struggling to recall one case study where a B2B company used social media to dominate a market and extinguish a competitor … and I watch for these things.

I really like Eric Qualman’s inventive Social Media Revolution videos — I even show them in my classes some times. But there is one phrase in there that makes me cringe: “The ROI of social media is that you will be in business five years from now.”

Oh puhleeeze.  Let’s see.  Eric’s first edition of this video came out in 2009 which means we are less than two years aways from the Social Media Armageddon.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to change my vacation plans just yet.

Social media marketing can undoubtedly be used in very meaningful and powerful ways but I don’t think it is necessarily a “let’s bet the ranch” investment that is going to transform very many B2B marketplaces.  And let’s not forget the powerful applications for HR, PR, and many other parts of the company. I’m an advocate and think every company should make an informed decision about how these tools integrate with current efforts and can create some new ones.

Yes, it’s big, it’s bad, it ain’t going away.  And I’m all over the value selling perspective. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that a ton of business in this world is still won and lost at the end of a negotiation by the company who is prepared to knock off another penny per unit, especially in these economic times. That can kill a business faster than an inactive Twitter account.

I also think it’s difficult to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage based on a social media strategy. The entry barriers are low and it would be pretty easy for competitors to mimic efforts.

If you’re selling ball bearings to Ford you’re probably not going to tweet your way to long-term success, right?

What do you think?  Are you seeing any non-tech B2B businesses storming the fort with social media marketing successes?

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