For over a year now I’ve been thinking about how marketing has changed due to social media. Back in 2003 or thereabouts, I could see how the Internet was changing everything. By 2005, I was giving talks about SEO, lead generation and why a Website wasn’t an “online brochure” (positively HATE that term!).

Then social media hit and everything changed again.

I could see the effects of social media on my business. What I’ve found somewhat amazing is that I’ve received inquiries and referrals from people who say they learned about me “online” — usually from someone I have never met or even heard of. At some point last year, for example, I began getting newsletter subscribers who said they had heard about me from Marie Forleo. Marie Forleo? Quick search . . . oh wow! That MARIE FORLEO, the way cool, one-woman owner of a multi-million dollar business coaching empire.

Having come from a traditional marketing background, and having been well-steeped in traditional lead generation, I kept wondering if social media had changed the marketing funnel, and if so how? I knew things had changed, but I couldn’t articulate this change — that is, until I read “The Permanent Disruption of Social Media” by Julie Dixon and Denise Keyes in the Stanford Social Review.

Although geared toward nonprofits, the authors posted a graphic depicting today’s new marketing realities. As soon as I saw it, I said, “That’s it! That’s what’s changed!”

peer vortex

Why I now eat organic food

I’ve become good friends with Ilene Ross, the co-founder of {513 Eats}, on Facebook. I met her through a mutual friend. Last year Ilene built a chicken coop because she wanted to source her own eggs. She’d post these great photos of her chickens at feeding time. Due to Ilene and our mutual friend, who also eats locally grown food, I began thinking about my own food choices.

chickens-2

One day, I found myself buying cage-free eggs. I liked reading about how the company lets their chickens roam around (plus they’re not stuffed full of antibiotics and other junk.) Then I moved to grass-fed beef and cage-free chickens. Organic produce and dairy products soon followed.

Here’s the deal: I made these changes because I was positively influenced by Ilene and our mutual friend via social media. This positive influence is what’s known as “social proof.” (I highly recommend you read TechCrunch’s article, “Social Proof is the New Marketing” to learn why social proof is so important.)

Basically, the theory of social proof states we do what other people do. It works in our day-to-day lives and it works for B2B, too. The reason I use Infusionsoft’s marketing automation software is due to social proof.

Social media drives awareness

All of us have our own networks — and we influence / impact those networks no matter how large or small they are. I’m a small fish in a very big marketing ocean and I get emails all the time from people who tell me how much I’ve inspired or helped them.

So yes, social media, with its ability to allow us to communicate easily with our networks, has disrupted marketing. No question.

But, has it replaced the traditional marketing funnel? No. And here’s why.

In the “old days” before the Internet was so huge, marketers used all kinds of tactics to drive awareness (many of which are still in play today):

  • PR
  • Tradeshows
  • Articles in trade publications
  • Direct marketing (email, direct mail)
  • Advertising
  • Newsletters

Today, marketers use social media to drive that same awareness. As you can see in the screenshot below, people on Twitter are letting their networks know about content I created. In the old days, I used to have to do this “manually” through email or direct mail. I can still remember sending out a direct mail letter to get people to subscribe to my e-newsletter (got a 10% response rate, too!).

twitter

Awareness is what gets people into the top of the marketing funnel. Once you attract people to it, whether through social media or other means, you still need to qualify your inquiries (an inquiry is not a lead, by the way), score your leads, move people along the sales cycle and nurture those who aren’t ready to buy.

What has changed is that B2B marketers must now be much more aware of who their “influencers” are. “Influencers” refers to internal people who influence a complex sale. But it also refers to those people who refer your company to others as well as those who aren’t customers but are your fans.

Two weeks ago, for example, Jill Whalen interviewed me for her newsletter. She’s not my customer. I’m not her customer. We’re just good friends and mutual admirers of one another. Due to Jill’s interview, I received a bunch of downloads of my B2B Web Marketing Toolkit and two inquiries, one of which turned into a sale. (I took Jill out for dinner to thank her. 🙂 )

As a B2B small business owner, you simply cannot write off social media any longer.

  • One, it’s here to stay.
  • Two, it drives social proof and awareness — both of which fill the top of your funnel.
  • And three, it allows you to see, with certainty, who are your fans and influencers, and reward them.

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

Dianna Huff is the founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, a full service agency that tackles a host of marketing and communications challenges for manufacturing companies.

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