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@Tom - there are also considerations like the novelty factor and networking. Not everyone signed up on LinkedIn when it first came out, for example. That was years ago and the employment situation has worsened even at the top. When I talk to the c-suite in companies, I know they are also looking to develop their own digital footprint. So staying relevant means learning (thus research online) and being known in their circles (some industries are more online than others).

@Gavin - indeed, I should have a qualifying statement somewhere to put on every post, because as a strategist my answer is always -- it depends :) Thank you for the reminder.

@Sean - that's why there are smart folks like the ones I quoted who work with companies to understand what those groups are. It sounds like you have a post all written out already from this comment. In B2B often decisions are made by committee and influencers are a moving target, depending on the kind of decision. How do I know that? Years of talking with customers directly. Of course, our conversation also depends on whether I am a "shiny object" marketer by your definition or if I actually did the things I write about (I did). And, by the way, these dynamics that the tools engage are not a flavor of the month. They have been around for centuries. In fact, business practices learned in MBA school are much more recent. And lest we think I'm shooting from the hip, I do coach international MBA students and have delved quite heavily in sociology, psychology, and anthropology. People often say one thing, and do another. I have ample stats on that just from observation. Finally, we all see the world as we are, so people will go to any lengths to prove they are right ;-)

It is critical for marketers to not just bucket customers and prospects as groups to get these rising stats for on-line participation. The first line in the article mentions “user groups” on how to engage customers. These tools and social media tools are extremely effective in engaging “users” in the B2B world. The difference is that in a B2C arena the user is the decision maker, but that’s not our world.
The reality is that most executives/decision makers don’t like taking customer surveys, and they don’t like participating in online discussions. I find the “executives under 40 stat” interesting in that it seems we’ll go to any lengths to prove that social media is the answer for everything…even when 70% of executives of Fortune 500 firms are over 50 (source: Spencer Stuart).
Executives, still favor face to face conversations over webinars and online communities. In fact in this same study only 6% of the over 50 executives found value in on-line communities.
I believe there are three distinctive audiences: user, influencers and decision makers. Marketers must develop programs and leverage tools that are appropriate to each audience to have predictable and sustainable success. Marketers should be aware of all options, but not trying to apply the new hot tool (currently web 2.0) just because it’s marketing’s flavor of the month.

I guess it depends on who you are targeting and why. Perhaps your decision makers are active on social media. Perhaps your gatekeepers or influencers are. Once you have identified the relevant folks, determining an engagement or content strategy that works effectively for them may include social as either lead generation or amplification/follow-up for other communications.

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