The latest BuyerSphere research report on business to business (B2B) buying decisions reveals key insights into the role of social media in the B2B buying process. These include the most influential social media channels and the best content formats.

The research covered over 500 B2B Buyers in Europe and asked them how they researched information in the buying process and which information sources were the most influential in their buying decisions. Social media was only used by 20% of buyers, however, there are some interesting lessons and insights from the research.

1. Industry Forums Are The Most Used Social Channels

Where social media was used by B2B buyers, the social channel they used most frequently was industry forums as shown below. They also ranked industry forums as the most influential source of information in the buying process.

Social Media Channels - Usage V Influence

social media channel influence on b2b buying

2. Google Plus Is The Most Influential Social Media Channel

Interestingly whilst Google Plus and LinkedIn were used equally, Google Plus was rated as much more influential in buying decisions. Channels such as Pinterest were used very little and had very little influence.

3. Websites Are The Most Used Source Of Information

When researching companies most B2B buyers start with the company website and use this more than any other source of information as seen below. In the sample few people used social media as a source of information although they did seek and receive advice from friends.

Information Sources - Usage v Influence

b2b buyer information sources

4. Advice from friends is the most influential information source

Whilst company websites were the most used source of information, it can be seen from the above chart that advice from friends was the most influential. This advice appears to have been sought and received outside of social media channels but this is likely to change as the nature of work networks change and social media networks grow. The importance of advice from people you know is reinforced further when the researchers looked at the influence of information formats below.

Information Formats - Usage v Influence

content marketing b2b formats

Interestingly the most used information source was a PDF document downloaded from a website. Formats such as mobile apps and infographics being used little and having little influence. Video was used much less than the popular PDF documents but video was ranked as more influential in buying decisions.

Still Early Days

It is still early days for social media in the B2B buying process with only 20% of buyers using social media of any form in the buying process. Over 50% of those surveyed had not used any social media channel and usage declined with age. The B2B buyers surveyed had an older age profile as follows:

  • 33% aged over 51
  • 43% aged 41-50
  • 24% aged 40 or under

This emphasises the importance of buyer personas and knowing your buyer audience.

On the positive side social media usage is growing and its influence is likely to grow further, not least as the younger generation moves through. It may also grow as it potentially has an important role to play in recommendations from peers and friends which are clearly an important part of the buying process. This could be a key role for social media in the B2B buying process in the future.

5 Key Lessons

  1. Your company website remains the most used source of information by B2B buyers. Your website must therefore demonstrate authority and credibility and provide the key information that B2B buyers require. See six ways to ensure your B2B website has authority.
  2. Industry forums are the most used and most influential social sources of information. You need to participate and build positive relationships by being helpful in these forums. Remember love is the killer app in B2B marketing.
  3. Google Plus is the most influential social media channel, hence, you should have a strong presence on Google Plus and contribute to Google Plus communities.
  4. Know your buyers. Build buyer personas and make sure you understand the information sources they use and which ones have most influence.
  5. Friends and networks are the most influential source of information in B2B buying decisions. Thus building your social networks and relationships must be an essential part of your strategy.

The research was commissioned by Base One and B2B Marketing to explore the behaviours and attitudes of B2B buyers during the buying process. The research covered 516 people across UK, France & Germany. Download the full report