November 07, 2011

B2B Marketing Executives Missing Out on Social Media Potential Despite Seeing Big Benefits, Accenture Report Shows

NEW YORK; Nov. 7, 2011 – Only eight percent of business-to-business (B2B) companies in the United States are extensively leveraging social media, even though 65 percent of marketing executives surveyed by Accenture identified social media as important to their companies’ business.

This is one of the key findings in a report, Making Social Media Pay: Rethinking Social Media’s Potential to Bolster B2B Interactions, Customer Loyalty, Revenues and Brand Reputation, released today by Accenture. The report is based on a survey of more than 200 marketing executives at business-to-business (B2B) companies about their use of social media.

The survey found that only five percent of marketing executives said they formally integrate social media with their other customer and marketing initiatives, and a full quarter of the respondents (26 percent) said they were only slightly engaged or not engaged at all with the medium.

One apparent reason for the lack of social media integration and engagement is a concern about making the wrong social media investment. Only one-in-four (24 percent) of respondents in companies that had invested in social media felt very confident about their company’s social media investment, while 19 percent had no confidence in those investments at all. One-fifth (23 percent) said their companies’ social media initiatives were delayed because their CEO was not convinced that there would be long-term success in using the medium.

“It’s clear that B2B companies think social media can make a big difference to business; however, few have a social media plan in place that will help them achieve results, and many are still not sure what those results should look like,” said Kevin Quiring, managing director, Customer Relationship Management, North America. “Companies need to be able to make a clear connection between social media and broader customer initiatives while clearly defining and measuring results.”

Accenture’s research suggests that managers must also become more confident in their social media strategies and investments to make social media part of the core, rather than an add-on, to their overall strategy.

“Companies should move from focusing exclusively on social media to pursuing ‘social CRM’ in which social media applications complement other customer strategies and objectives,” said Quiring. “With social CRM, companies can optimize their use of social media by making it part of multi-channel customer engagement strategies that encourage customers, business partners and other key stakeholders to participate in the company’s day-to-day business.”

Limited measurement of ROI

Although measurement of return on investment (ROI) is considered a key factor in a successful social media program, only 11 percent of the marketing executives surveyed said their companies currently have systems in place to measure and track their social media ROI. However, more than one-third (35 percent) of marketing executives surveyed did recognize improvements in measurement as a factor in helping them be more effective users of social media.

While measurement remains an issue among the companies represented in the survey, the results show that the reasons for investing in social media have been clearly defined. In descending order, the motivating factors for investing in social media are: to increase engagement and positive customer experiences (60 percent), influence brand reputation (59 percent), create new revenue opportunities (52 percent), respond to customer demand (40 percent), reduce costs (25 percent) and keep up with what competitors are doing (24 percent).

“Organizations should adopt a holistic social media strategy that integrates digital marketing, cloud technologies and insight-driven analytics capabilities, as well as new metrics, governance models and organizational structures,” said Quiring. “Each component is a vital piece of the social media puzzle and a highly-skilled talent pool is needed to take advantage of those integrated capabilities.”

Accenture suggests that companies focus on six strategic areas when shaping their social media strategy:

About the Survey

Accenture interviewed 213 marketing executives at business-to-business companies with revenues of at least $500 million in North America. Respondents were marketing or other executives responsible for managing marketing efforts for their organization globally.

About Accenture

Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 236,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$25.5 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2011. Its home page is

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Ryan Wells for Accenture


Rachel Frey