06 Jan

Social media in B2B – who is reviewing your product?

If there is one thing unique about B2B purchasing, it is the time and resources people devote to evaluating a potential purchase.

Now imagine you are launching a new product. A good launch is one of those rare moments when you can get the media’s attention and a good launch will probably play a significant role in your products’ success. So you target the right media, you write compelling stories hoping they get picked up by those hard to reach technology writers. If you represent a big brand, you’re company may even advertise in the media you are hoping to get favourable reviews from them…

But of course they are not “the media” anymore. There are an increasing number of “other” media outlets. The people that create this “other” media tend to write out of passion or to demonstrate their thought leadership and generally share a couple of important characteristics:

  • They don’t get paid by a media company that relies on advertising
  • They are often very passionate
  • They are often not generalist “technology” writers but people with a very narrow interest/specialization

They are free to write what they like, they are likely to know what they are talking about, and they probably have a narrow group of readers who are equally focused and who are looking for unbiased, knowledgeable critique.

A real world example

Here is an example of such a product review by Stephen Few, from Perceptual Edge, a consultancy assisting companies “design simple information displays for effective analysis and communication.”
The blog post is called “ Xcelsius Present – Fast Track to Nowhere“; a 1,700 word review of the latest version of Excelsius from Business Objects. Now, I have no idea if he is right or wrong, but this is a little piece of the conclusion:

“Business Objects is a leading business intelligence vendor (based on sales), but its products consistently demonstrate that they don’t understand analytics and haven’t a clue about data visualization. A vendor that claims to be the best, which Business Objects unabashedly claims (just like every other major BI vendor), should be ashamed of selling such moronic products.”

Ouch. Not exactly what you’re hoping for. But the difference with traditional media is that it doesn’t stop there. The conversation is about to start.

44 comments and a great discussion
There are 44 comments posted, and it is a lively discussion including an exchange with what appears to be a representative from Business Objects (although not identified as such). Either way, good on them for participating, as it provides potential buyers of the product not just one take on the product, but many.

Now Google “excelsius review, business objects”.

So just before you start to believe that social media is just about Twitter, (and I don’t blame you) it is the fragmentation of media and the increasing number of very narrow, niche blogs, wiki’s etc that increasingly will come to the top of the search results when potential customers do their product evaluation. Search “excelsius review, business objects”  and the review by Stephen Few is on the first search page, just under ZDNet. If I was in the market to buy, I’d probably read it. Rightly or wrongly.

So what can you do?

Without pretending to write a strategy, here are a few simple things you could do.

  1. Know who the people are outside the “traditional media” that publish on your subject.
  2. Engage with them. Maybe give them an opportunity to preview your product and ask questions. It won’t mean you’ll get a positive review, but you might just be able to ensure there is no misunderstanding about your product (which there seems to in this particular example)
  3. Participate in the discussion, using not only the comment section of their blog, but also your own. (What do you mean, you’re company doesn’t have a blog?)

What else would you do?