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4 October 2011

PwC reveals B2B companies failing in managing social media

Tim Gibbon, director Elemental By Tim Gibbon

Findings from a PwC social maturity survey (conducted from a online poll during July to September 2011 included feedback from 70 organisations from various industries) produced its new paper entitled ‘Uncovering B2B social media: Value, innovation and engagement’ reveals that although B2B companies were investing between $416,000 (£269,615) and $1.85 (£1.19) million in social media, the infrastructure to manage it was not in place, nor were systems to measure its return on investment (ROI). The paper states that CEOs are still thinking how to best implement social media and two-thirds of company cultures don’t support or provide basic rules and education that can expose them reputational risk.PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) logo


PwC also highlights to companies in the B2B arena how it thinks social media could have an impact upon their businesses with some sage advice for CEOs and businesses that are unaware of its potential impact.


Sean Mahdi, director in PwC’s digital transformation practice comments, “Social media is changing the way people work, shop, receive service and relate to one another. Businesses also need to change the way they engage with customers, whose trust is increasingly invested in their peers, rather than in the brands with which they interact. Business audience and buyers are people influenced by the same forces that influence retail consumers. In fact, they are those consumers.”

Mahdi goes on to reveal, “The results of our survey demonstrate that, although B2B is investing in social media, they appear to be doing so with limited strategies that don’t fully exploit social media in the way that B2C is doing. There is evidence that sectors you might expect to be proficient in this area such as Technology and Entertainment and Media have much better tools and processes in place, but the majority of B2B organisations have much work to do to effectively use this ‘new’ medium to interact with their clients and customers.”


In its press release PwC does say that businesses should ‘exploit’ social media, which is a negative mindset. Perhaps this is where the issues for CEOs and the businesses they operate fester - there is too much emphasis on exploiting social media and its channels, instead of working with them. It maybe an innocent use of a buzzword, but it’s also an insight into the warped and incorrect mindset that can be damaging for businesses if strategy and activity is implemented with negative connotations that accompany such out-of-date phrases.


Uncovering B2B social media: Value, innovation and engagement whitepaper image

The report raises as many questions as findings it uncovers in which the authors strive to address. Many of these questions that have been circulating for many years, even before the term social media was coined, especially for individuals that have worked within both digital and direct environments (particularly digital), so isn’t ‘new’ (as PwC described it) for those working in this space for a while.


There are many challenges that are similar to those raised several years ago, with the common denominators including, how skills and expertise can be implemented amongst teams and ensuring they’re transferable. As for the emphasis in creating social teams, it’s pretty much the same views formulated in building digital teams in the early 00s. There were plenty of successes, but many more failures as the gold rush produced a vacuum of specialists that are at times better at pushing their own services, rather than
that of their clients.


There’s no surprise that the B2B industry as a whole may contain slower adopters, and there is plenty of case history with other digital channels that supports this (and the report and press release does mention this). However, this is not to say that there are exceptions to the rule because there are plenty, and it’s obvious in which areas with entertainment, media and technology leading the way - again highlighted within the press release.


The press release and report compared B2B social media to that of B2C several times, saying there are many lessons yet to be learnt for the business arena. Whilst this is certainly true, there are many in the B2B realm getting it right, and many in B2C getting it wrong. It’s not the case, as the report may lead you to believe, that the B2C social media arena is, across the board, by no means a shining example.


For many B2B companies the findings may be news to them, for others a wake up call in areas in which they need to improve. Perhaps a 2012 report may reveal if there is deeper understanding by CEOs of how the digital landscape is evolving whether it’s social media or otherwise. Hopefully, it will help CEOs realise that they need to be backed with right teams and people that are allowed to implement expertise, advising them how to navigate a digital landscape that develops at an incredible rate.


Surely, CEOs need to be presented with the right facts, statistics and strategy for them to make more informed decisions, rather than expecting to be experts across all areas of communications, some that may appear niche to them. If CEOs and other senior management are able to admit and accept this advice from quarters that are probably foreign to them, and then act upon and feedback sharing what they learn, is certainly a report I’d like to read.


Report highlights

  • 12% of organisations have full time social media teams in place
  • Companies are investing between $416,00 and $1.65 on media, but are not measuring ROI
  • Two-thirds of company culture to support the use of social media or support its development, growth and/or management
  • 50% of B2B respondents to PwC’s social maturity survey are not undertaking any measurement on their ROI, or only using basis qualitative measures


A full copy of the report can be downloaded at

Categories: Technology, Social media, Research, News, Marketing

Tags: B2B, business-to-business, social media, PwC, Social Media ROI, social media measurement, CEO, CEOs, businesses, business, b2b marketing, B2B marketers

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