A couple of years ago I was skiing with a group of general partners from top Silicon Valley venture firms. At dinner one of them was raving about Facebook. I mentioned it didn’t seem like a good fit for our B2B clients who sold to CIOs and senior IT staff. He assured me that was changing – that Facebook was refocusing on business. Skeptical, I mumbled something like “we’ll see.”
Well, a little earlier this year I followed up on that question. We surveyed 600 IT professionals from 5 different sizes of US companies, from small (5 to 99 employees) to huge (more than 10,000). We asked them 35 questions about where they learned about new technology – not only technology they were specifically looking for, but also technology they ran across that they previously had been unaware of.
How did Facebook fare? Roughly the same as Twitter. We asked whether the respondent would be likely to discover a new business technology or product on 21 different types of media. Facebook and Twitter ranked 16th and 17th respectively. This coming two years after my VC friend gushed about Facebook’s business prospects.
It was worse when we asked about finding a product or technology they knew they were looking for. Twitter ranked 17th and Facebook 20th.
Okay no surprise there, but the more important question is which media ranked the highest. And here was where I did get surprised. Regardless of gender, age, industry or company size, the top five were always the same:
- Traditional media (tech, trade and business)
- Search engine
- Word of Mouth
What’s the surprise? How well traditional media did. I should have known. We still place more than 20,000 articles a year for our clients in traditional media. But when all you hear is “traditional media is dead,” you become jaded.
Search engine was no surprise – that’s the first place anyone goes these days to find something. And then there is word of mouth. We didn’t define this term, so it means whatever they thought it meant. But I think we can infer that it involves feedback from their “community” – peers, co-workers, friends and family.
Finally, blogs and forums are what pass for social media for business prospects. Yes, they use Facebook, but not for business.
So, where does this leave us? Well, for starters I can’t what to see my VC friend again! But beyond that, these findings have deep meaning for your marketing efforts. Namely:
- Don’t give up on traditional media just yet – it is still critical to your success.
- Make sure you are focused on good, solid SEO.
- Your social media efforts are critical for the “X-factor,” that elusive “word of mouth” effect.
- Include social media in your mix, but focus on the right social media (blogs and forums).
More on how to do each of this in future posts …