So much buzz about social media marketing (Facebook, Ning, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, LinkedIn), it’s almost tough to separate practical information from the hype.

In reading dozens of blogposts on the topic, I recently came across a post by Mac MacIntosh who writes the Sales Lead Insights blog that made me go “hmmm….” His post looked at the study done by Forrester that was in response to the question, Which of the following sources of information impact your decision making process?

And here are the answers:

  • Peers and colleagues – 84%
  • Vendor, industry and trade Web sites – 69%
  • Your direct vendor salesperson – 69%
  • Technology or business magazines – 66%
  • Consultants, VARs and SIs – 65%
  • Industry trade shows or conferences (in person) – 59%
  • Forums, online communities and social networks – 45%
  • Industry analyst firms – 45%
  • E-mail or electronic newsletters – 41%
  • Web events or virtual trade shows – 40%
  • Interactive media: podcasts, video, online demos – 30%
  • Blogs – 24%

From that, he says a story in eWeek about this research states, “…while business buyers may be using social networks and other tools in their enterprise and personal lives, Web 2.0 social technology isn’t affecting their decisions when it comes to purchasing business solutions.

Mac doesn’t offer his own conclusion, but instead asks if we agree, so here’s my take—

People do business with those they know, like, and trust. I know, it’s an old, overused statement, but it still holds true. I believe this is the major reason why social media for B2B (or even B2C) has so much value. It started with relationship selling and has now been expanded into “relationship marketing” through social media. And, given nearly half those asked said their decisions were impacted by social media, really the newest entrant on the list, how can that be ignored?

Using a B2C example, the Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, Twitters constantly about his customers, vendors, and employees.  One of his latest tweets said, “Busy busy day! Didn’t notice any @Zappos employees doing the robot dance at the office today.” That got me curious, so I checked out the link. Pretty funny and I got to see some of the employees and their reactions. Looks like a fun place to work and fun to do business with.

For a B2B example, look to Lucidera, a software company specializing in business intelligence. They leverage LinkedIn, Ning, YouTube, and Twitter. Lucidera takes the opportunity to share information and product examples, and also maintains a BI community forum. Look these guys up and see how broadly they’ve used social media.

I’ll bet you’re seeing some good B2B examples as well. If the same survey is taken again in the next couple years, I think you’ll see social media rise, possibly to as high as second place. It’s hard to top those we already know, like, and trust!