• Facebook Fails as an IT Marketing Medium

    As the de facto leader of the social media revolution, Facebook is the gotta-have marketing medium for consumer products.  But for marketing B2B information technology products?  Not so much. 

    But before I burst the Facebook bubble for many enthusiastic social-savvy IT marketers, let me acknowledge there are some IT companies that do a reasonably good job of recruiting “likes” on Facebook by delivering useful and sometimes entertaining content. 

    Two examples are the deep-pocketed NetApp (NTAP) with 3,800 friends and the up-and-coming security software provider M86 Security with more than 500.  But the content, format and frequency of their posts often seem inconsistent, informal and somewhat desperate, if not downright boring.  Do IT buyers really want to mix Dallas Cowboys trash talk with “Watch how [NetApp] automates the Seattle Retail DR scenario with Opalis, focusing on disaster recovery”?  IT B2B Facebook early adopters would likely reach as many people (or more) with less effort and expense by recruiting subscribers to a monthly electronic newsletter.

    So what is the problem with Facebook as an IT marketing medium?

    First, Facebook is a social peer-to-peer network, not a business-to-business buyer network.  Therefore it is, by definition, fundamentally the wrong tool for the job of IT marketing.  A data center manager who uses Facebook to follow his friends, family, Ultimate Fighting Championship and NASCAR while playing FarmVille during his free time is unlikely to rely on this tool for the latest news, white papers or product training videos from EMC.

    Second, only 24% of B2B firms are currently using social media for marketing according to a September 2010 Forrester survey.  And the majority of these companies are likely using more business-friendly tools like LinkedIn and Twitter, not Facebook.   Although 36% more B2B companies are considering the jump into social media marketing next year, it seems the majority of B2B firms are wisely waiting for a more mature and logical medium.

    Third, the demographics for Facebook do not map well to the IT industry.  According to January 2010 InsideFacebook.com statistics, 63% of U.S. Facebook users are under 35 while 56% are female, a near-reverse demographic to IT professionals.  With 500 million Facebook users worldwide, these statistics become less significant, though it is still challenging to target the relatively small segment of IT buyers and influencers among this broad audience.

    Finally, there are many more productive and cost-effective ways to reach IT buyers.  Although the rapid shift from traditional marketing tactics to digital media has generated some confusion and uncertainty for IT marketers, there are excellent opportunities to expand influence, awareness and demand through blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter, webcasts, SEO and online advertising while continuing to target prospects through traditional eMarketing and live events.

    Eventually, a useful B2B Facebook-type model will emerge.  But today, you can best leverage the social media trend by focusing on creating and delivering meaningful content in the form of blogs, articles, discussions, comments and online ads through channels that are immediately relevant to your business.  Specifically, use your own web site, LinkedIn groups, Twitter followers, email newsletters and the thousands of emerging professional sites like Data Center Professionals Network with its 1,700 highly-influential members (www.datacenterprofessionals.net).

    Is Facebook part of your marketing mix today?  Take the instant survey now (you must be registered on IT Marketing World).

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