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Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 102
INTRODUCTION
We are living in the midst of a new
communications landscape (Kietzmann,
Hermkens, McCarthy & Silvestre, 2011) as the
roles of customer interaction and user-
generated content are emphasized in marketing
communications facilitated by the digital
environment and social media platforms
(Dennis, Merrilees, Jayawardhena, & Wright,
2009; Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010; Liu,
Karahanna, & Watson, 2011). From the
marketing perspective, the expanding role of
the digital environment has created two
important opportunities for companies of all
kinds: Firstly, firms now have access to a vast
array of new digital tools that can be utilized
for marketing purposes, and secondly, the
digital environment has made marketing more
measureable by improving marketers’ ability to
access, collect, process, and report data on
marketing activities (e.g., Pauwels et al., 2009;
Pickton, 2005; Russell, 2010).
It is often noted that personal face-to-face
selling works best in complex and long-lasting
B2B buying processes, while non-personal
communications channels, such as advertising
and digital channels, play supportive roles by
creating synergies in achieving sales objectives
(e.g., Ballantyne & Aiken, 2007; Long,
Tellefsen, & Lichtenthal, 2007; Rosenbloom,
2007; Singha & Koshyb, 2011). While this
statement is still likely to hold true in the
majority of B2B companies, only a proportion
of communication can happen face-to-face, and
personal selling is not the most suitable tool to
deliver marketing objectives other than those
around generating direct sales, such as
branding. Unquestionably, the role of digital
channels has increased over the years to support
traditional offline marketing in the B2B sector,
but B2B marketers have still encountered
problems in integrating the newly emerged
social media tools as part of a firm’s marketing
efforts. Jussila, Kärkkäinen, and Leino (2011)
state that a great gap remains between the
potential and actual use of social media by B2B
firms, and academic research is limited in terms
of the use of social media in the B2B sector.
The emergence of social media has highlighted
the role of objectives related to enhancing
The Marketing Management Journal
Volume 22, Issue 2, Pages 102-117
Copyright © 2012, The Marketing Management Association
All rights of reproduction in any form reserved
DIGITAL AND SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING
USAGE IN B2B INDUSTRIAL SECTION
JOEL JÄRVINEN, Jyväskylä University
AARNE TOLLINEN, Jyväskylä University
HEIKKI KARJALUOTO, Jyväskylä University
CHANAKA JAYAWARDHENA, Hull University
This study contributes to the emerging B2B digital marketing literature by providing a realistic
overview of the usage, measurement practices, and barriers surrounding digital marketing in the era
of social media. Investigating 145 B2B firms from various industries reveals that despite the interest
in social media, companies continue to focus on one-directional communications with established
digital tools. Furthermore, the results indicate that the advances in digital measurement tools remain
largely unexploited, and the firms lack the human resources and know-how to make the most of
opportunities provided by the developing digital environment. The implications of the study suggest
that B2B companies should update their capabilities with respect to digital marketing usage and
measurement in order to adapt current practices to fit the characteristics of today’s digital media
landscape.
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
103 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
customer relationships, and ideally, social
media tools should be used to generate viral
effects, consumer evangelism and positive word
-of-mouth (WOM) advocacy (Bernoff & Li,
2008; Hanna, Rohm, & Crittenden, 2011;
Mangold & Faulds, 2009; Weinberg &
Pehlivan, 2011). Even though these objectives
might be ideal for social media, they may be
difficult to achieve in the B2B sector, because
B2B firms tend to have fewer customers and
enthusiasts to share WOM or create viral
effects. Consequently, there is a lack of clarity
regarding what the ideal business goals for
social media in the B2B sector may be, and
more importantly, regarding how the
emergence of social media has affected digital
marketing objectives as a whole.
One of digital marketing’s major advantages
over offline marketing is that its impact is more
easily measured. Measurability has been
improved by the advent of visible and traceable
digital communications (Hennig-Thurau et al.,
2010). Moreover, the advances in technology
have largely automated data collection and
distribution within an organization (Pauwels et
al., 2009). Subsequently, marketers are in a
better position to measure the effectiveness of
their marketing activities in the digital
environment. Again, however, there can be no
certainty regarding the extent to which B2B
firms that usually sell their products only
following lengthy negotiations may be able to
exploit digital measurement solutions.
Finally, because many digital marketing
initiatives fail (Weber, 2009), it is vital to
understand the underlying reasons for failure.
Earlier research lists various barriers that have
compromised the benefits expected from digital
marketing in the B2B sector. These barriers
have been related to poorly defined goals and a
lack of expertise, resources, and management
support to complement the use of digital tools
(e.g., Ahearne, Jelinek, & Rapp, 2005;
Avlonitis & Panagopoulos, 2005; Buehrer,
Senecal, & Pullins, 2005). Moreover, since
B2B firms have been slower to adopt digital
tools than B2C firms (Michaelidou, Siamagka,
& Christodoulides, 2011), it is likely that B2B
companies encounter particularly daunting
barriers to the utilization of digital marketing.
To sum up, the literature to date has largely
discussed the opportunities brought by the
digital environment in the era of social media
from the B2C perspective. Consequently, the
extent to which B2B companies have
successfully exploited the advances in digital
media remains unclear. Against this backdrop,
this study attempts to contribute to the
emerging B2B digital marketing literature by
providing an overview of digital marketing
tools, objectives, measurement solutions and
barriers to usage. To achieve the objectives of
the study, the following four research questions
are proposed:
How widely are social media tools used
in the B2B sector as part of the digital
marketing mix? (RQ1); What are the
most important objectives of digital
marketing for B2B firms in the era of
social media? (RQ2); How widely are
digital measurement solutions utilized
by B2B firms? (RQ3); What are the
major barriers to the utilization of
digital marketing in the B2B sector?
(RQ4)
This paper proceeds as follows: In the next
section, we discuss the use of digital and social
media tools and review the literature on the
setting of objectives, the measurement of and
the associated barriers to digital marketing.
This will be followed by a discussion of the
study methodology and presentation of the
results of the empirical study. Finally, we draw
conclusions, present the limitations of the
study, and suggest avenues of future research.
LITERATURE REVIEW
Digital Marketing Tools in the Social Media
Era
Digital marketing and its related terms, such as
Internet/online marketing, are commonly used
to describe the use of technologies in marketing
efforts. However, there is no agreement on
what is encapsulated in each term, and in
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 104
practice the terms are often used
interchangeably. For example, Farrah (2010)
discusses Internet marketing under the topic
“Understanding digital marketing,” whereas
Melewar and Smith (2003) present the barriers
of Internet usage under the topic “The
contentious issues with online marketing.” In
this study, digital marketing is used as an
umbrella term, while admitting that the
concepts are tightly related and intertwined.
The reason for the selection is that the concept
of digital marketing is arguably the most
comprehensive. As Wymbs (2011) notes,
digital marketing is much more than merely
communication through the Internet. Digital
marketing includes a wide range of digital
channels, including the Internet, mobile, and
wireless communications, as well as digital
television (c.f. Li, Li, He, Ward, & Davies,
2011).
In addition to the challenge of differentiating
digital, Internet, and online marketing from
each other, it is difficult to draw a clear line
between digital and social media concepts, as
the social elements are increasingly integrated
into the established interactive digital media
environment (e.g., discussion forums, sharing
buttons, and blogs embedded on websites). In
fact, social elements of digital marketing, such
as growing interactivity and fostering
conversations via the Internet, were discussed
long before the emergence of the term social
media (see, e.g., Sharma, 2002). Therefore, we
consider social media to represent an
enhancement to, rather than a replacement for,
other digital media, and accordingly, we regard
social media as integrated elements, platforms,
and tools of digital marketing that facilitate
social interaction between businesses and
customer networks. Accordingly, digital
marketing refers to the use of all kinds of
digital and social media tools that allow
companies to foster interactions with
customers.
Although B2C firms have been faster adopters
of digital marketing tools, B2B firms’
investments in digital marketing have surpassed
those of B2C firms for some considerable time
(Barwise & Farley, 2005; Sharma, 2002).
Subsequently, it is clear that the longer-
established digital marketing tools, such as e-
mail marketing, digital newsletters, and sales
support materials, have found a place in the
B2B sector. However, B2B companies often
find it difficult to identify tools appropriate to
their digital marketing mix among the host of
newly available social media tools. The well-
documented social media successes of certain
B2C companies (e.g., Blendtec, Dunkin’
Donuts, Ford Motor Company, KLM, Procter
& Gamble, Starbucks) are of limited help to
B2B marketers wondering how they might
exploit social media to support the achievement
of B2B firms’ business goals. In order to
illustrate the potential of social media tools for
marketing purposes in the B2B sector, Table 1
lists a number of examples of social media tools
which B2B firms have utilized successfully in
their digital marketing. It is notable that the
examples do not offer an exhaustive
categorization of B2B social media tools, but
rather an illustration of the platforms that have
attracted attention in the B2B social media
literature (e.g., Bodnar & Cohen, 2012; Gillin
& Schwartzman, 2011; Handley & Chapman,
2011; Powell, Groves, & Dimos, 2011).
Social media tools are utilized for various B2B
marketing objectives (see Table 1). In addition
to the marketing objectives recorded in the
table, B2B companies utilize social media to
deliver search engine optimization benefits and
drive traffic to their homepages and/or landing
pages. In particular, the tools provide novel
ways to attract new customers and to keep the
conversation active with the existing customer
base. For example, Indium Corporation and
Cree have attracted an active reader base for
their blogs, which are interactive and full of
balanced content in different forms (text, video,
and graphics). Once the customers are
comfortable with active interaction, the tools
offer opportunities to improve customer
engagement, customer service, and lead
generation. Besides blogging, the likes of
Salesforce.com, Cisco, and HP utilize
Facebook, Flickr, and open discussion forums/
communities to achieve these objectives. IT
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
105 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
giants, Dell, Intel, and Oracle actively use
Twitter for customer service, PR, and to
generate sales. Many B2B firms use YouTube
as a platform for webpage video integration and
as a channel to boost viral marketing effects.
One good example of viral-oriented usage is
provided by Corning Incorporated and their
video series A Day Made of Glass… Made
Possible by Corning, which, as of October
2012, has attracted more than 20 million views
on YouTube.
As the examples show, B2B firms from various
industries are able to exploit social media tools
as part of their digital marketing mix. However,
it is not clear how widely the tools have been
adopted and how important their role in the
B2B sector is perceived to be. B2B companies,
with a few exceptions such as the IT industry
and professional service providers, are slower
to adopt social media tools (Michaelidou et al.,
2011). We would anticipate that the more
established digital tools, such as newsletters, e-
mail marketing, and digital customer
magazines, are still regarded as more important
than social media tools by B2B firms of all
sizes. However, as large companies are more
likely to have adequate resources to exploit
social media, and the majority of success stories
regarding B2B firms’ social media usage are
linked with them, we presume that company
size affects the use of social media tools. On
this basis, we propose that:
Proposition 1: B2B firms perceive the
use of longer-established digital tools,
such as newsletters, e-mail marketing,
and digital customer magazines, to be
more important than social media tools.
Proposition 2: Social media tools are
more important for large-sized B2B
companies.
Business Objectives of Digital Marketing
Prior research has shown that the digital
environment can be used to achieve a variety of
goals in the B2B sector. First, the digital
environment allows B2B firms to decrease
costs by increasing the efficiency of exchanges
in terms of communications and transactions
(Sharma, 2002; Walters, 2008). Second, digital
tools enable B2B companies to provide brand
and product-related information (Berthon,
Lane, Pitt, & Watson, 1998; Welling & White,
2006), and in that way, digital marketing can be
used to build brands in terms of creating
awareness, improving brand attitude, and
increasing purchase intentions (Drèze &
Hussherr, 2003; Manchanda, Dubé, Goh, &
Chintagunta, 2006). Certainly, increasing sales
is another possible goal of the digital marketing
efforts made by B2B firms. Sales to existing
TABLE 1:
Social Media Tool Usage by B2B Companies
Social media tool Examples of marketing objec-
tives
Company
Blog Increasing awareness, showing
expertise, lead generation
Cree, Indium Corporation, The Switch
Facebook Customer engagement, branding Cisco, Ernst & Young, Neenah Paper,
Salesforce.com, SteelMaster Buildings
Flickr Customer engagement, branding Cisco
Open discussion forums/
communities
Crowdsourcing, customer engage-
ment
Dell, GE, HP
Twitter Customer service, PR, sales gener-
ation
Avaya, Dell, Intel, Oracle
YouTube Increasing awareness, branding Corning Incorporated, Microsoft,
Salesforce.com, Wärtsilä
Webinars Customer service, lead generation,
showing expertise
Professional service providers (Accenture,
eMarketer, Forrester Research, HubSpot)
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 106
customers can be increased, for example, by
facilitating the transaction process (Sharma,
2002), whereas sales to new customers can be
boosted by driving traffic to a website and
thereby generating sales leads (Welling &
White, 2006). Finally, the digital channels have
created new platforms through which to interact
with customers and develop customer
relationships (Bauer, Grether, & Leach 2002).
Recently, literature on B2C marketing has
discussed the role of social media tools in the
marketing mix and the marketing objectives
that these new interactive instruments might
advance. Compared to the other, more
established forms of digital marketing, social
media tools are better for having conversations
with customers and strengthening and
enhancing customer relationships (e.g., Bernoff
& Li, 2008; Mangold & Faulds, 2009;
Weinberg & Pehlivan, 2011). The major
rationale behind this idea is that social media
has induced a new trend in marketing
communications that considers customers
active participants in the communication
process (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010). For this
reason, social media is not regarded as an
effective tool for broadcasting one-directional
messages to wide audiences, but rather is seen
as useful for attracting customers into
interactions around brands and then
maintaining their activity level (Weinberg &
Pehlivan, 2011). Ideally, the interaction would
be prompted by first listening to and
monitoring, and then participating in, relevant
discussions (Bernoff & Li, 2011; Töllinen,
Järvinen, & Karjaluoto, 2012).
With respect to B2B marketing, Kho (2008)
suggests that B2B companies might pursue
many similar objectives to B2C firms.
Specifically, social media can work for B2B
companies in strengthening and enhancing
customer relationships through fostering
meaningful interactions between the company
and its customers. Listening to customer
concerns and responding to them will certainly
intensify customer dialogue, and resolving
customer concerns and problems improves
customer satisfaction and enhances customer
loyalty. Michaelidou et al. (2011) similarly find
that cultivating customer relationships is one of
B2B firms’ key goals in using social
networking sites (others being attracting new
customers and increasing brand awareness).
Furthermore, in contrast to discussion around
social media opportunities, which has been
brand-centered, Bodnar and Cohen (2012) state
that the B2B sector’s social media utilization
should focus more on generating leads and
moving customers along the sales funnel.
In summary, it seems that B2B companies’
objectives for employing digital marketing and
social media are in line with the general
objectives of marketing, namely acquiring new
customers and enhancing current customer
relationships. However, literature regarding
digital marketing objectives has largely been
published either before or in the early phases of
the emerging social media environment, and it
is not clear whether the wider adoption of social
media has altered the main purposes for which
B2B organizations utilize digital marketing.
Social media has instigated a new trend in
marketing communications that focuses more
on developing customer relationships by
engaging them in interactive discussions over
brands and products than on attempting to
directly drive sales (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010;
Kho, 2008; Michaelidou et al., 2011). On this
basis, we propose that the main objectives of
B2B digital marketing in the social media era
are related to the “soft” side of general
marketing objectives, namely creating
awareness and enhancing brand image:
Proposition 3: The main digital
marketing objectives pursued by B2B
firms in the social media era relate
more to enhancing brand image and
creating awareness than to driving
direct sales.
Measurement of Digital Marketing
There is widespread agreement that
performance measurement should always be
based on pre-defined strategic objectives
(Kaplan & Norton, 1996; McCunn, 1998; Neely
& Bourne, 2000). Similarly, marketing
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
107 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
performance measurement must track the
progress of the objectives set for marketing
(Clark, 2001; Clark, Abela, & Ambler, 2006).
With respect to measuring digital marketing
performance against objectives, advances in
technology have provided companies with new
digital solutions which are likely to outstrip
traditional measurement techniques, such as
surveys and interviews. Indeed, as the
importance of digital marketing grows in the
B2B sector and firms shift investment from
traditional marketing communications to digital
channels, they have to update measurement
practices accordingly to be able to measure
digital marketing efforts’ contributions to
meeting objectives.
The measurement of digital marketing
performance can be improved through at least
two distinct digital solutions: Web analytics
(WA) and social media monitoring (SMM)
software. First, WA software can be used to
track visitor behavior on a company website via
click-stream data. Click-stream data enables
firms to track how exposure to a specific digital
marketing action on a particular platform
contributes to website traffic generation and
customer actions, such as a decision to
purchase, downloading a brochure, or
abandoning the visit (Wilson, 2010). In this
way, firms are able to assess the short-term
outcomes of a specific digital marketing
campaign; in addition, by analyzing visitors’
navigation paths, companies are better able to
optimize their website structure and content.
Finally, if firms have the means to couple the
click-stream data with personal information
(e.g., via registration or subscription), they can
follow interactions with a specific visitor over
time, assess his/her engagement and plan
further precise marketing actions directed at the
visitor in question (Phippen, Sheppard, &
Furnell, 2004).
To complete the information generated by WA,
software developers have devised SMM tools
which allow automated tracking and analysis of
digital conversations (eWOM) with regard to
specific keywords (Pang & Lee, 2008; Sponder,
2012). In practical business usage, SMM can be
used for mining and listening to customer
opinions related to relevant themes, such as the
company itself, its products and brands, a
specific marketing campaign, competitors, or
an industry as a whole (Blanchard, 2011; Godes
& Mayzlin, 2004; Thomas & Barlow, 2011).
Opinion mining by SMM has become more
feasible owing to the increasing amount of
company-related eWOM which allows the
tracking and collection of actual exchanges of
information between individuals (Hennig-
Thurau, Gwinner, Walsh, & Gremler, 2004;
Liu, 2006), and the options for monitoring and
analyzing have significantly expanded in the
past few years (Sharma, 2011), leading to firms
reportedly becoming increasingly interested in
opportunities to mine Internet users’ opinions
on a particular company and its products
(Bautin, Vijayarenu, & Skiena, 2008).
The advances in technology offer new effective
ways to measure marketing performance.
Nevertheless, as B2B companies have fewer
customers, fewer transactions, and longer
purchase decision cycles, they have typically
struggled in their attempts to demonstrate the
relationship between marketing and any
resulting impact (Webster, Malter, & Ganesan,
2005). It is unclear if this situation has changed
as a result of the emergence of the most recent
digital measurement solutions. Preliminary
research findings indicate that although the
benefits brought about by WA and SMM are
industry and product-category specific, even
B2B companies from manufacturing industries
have been able to improve their measurement
ability with digital solutions (Järvinen,
Töllinen, Karjaluoto, & Platzer, 2012).
Therefore, we expect digital measurement
solutions to be quite widely used in the B2B
sector. Still, it is evident that firms selling
products online are better able to track the route
from marketing action exposure to transaction,
and consumer products are more likely to be
discussed by a wider audience. Consequently,
even though we presume that usage level of
digital measurement tools is relatively high, we
propose that the ability of firms in the B2B
sector to gain measurable benefits from the use
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 108
of digital marketing is limited. In this light, we
propose that:
Proposition 4: The usage of digital
measurement solutions is relatively high
in the B2B sector. However, the ability
of B2B firms to gain measurable
benefits from the use of digital
marketing is limited.
Barriers to Digital Marketing
A notable number of digital marketing
initiatives fail to reach their objectives and
deliver the benefits expected of them (Weber,
2009). As the emergence of new digital tools
accelerates, it is no wonder that B2B firms need
time to comprehend which tools are apt for
their industries and how they might best be
utilized for marketing purposes. For instance,
Michaelidou et al. (2011) report that a large
portion of B2B firms views the use of social
networking sites as irrelevant to the firm’s
particular industry. This finding indicates that
the benefits derived from at least a part of the
mainstream social media tools in the B2C
sector are still unclear to various B2B firms. In
particular, the difficulty of determining return
on investment (ROI) has been noted as one of
the major barriers to investing in digital
marketing (Marshall, Sor, & McKay, 2000).
Another issue closely related to obscure
benefits derives from the perceived risks. In
particular, the lack of control of marketing
messages and their distribution is considered a
major risk when using social media tools as part
of the digital marketing mix (Cruz & Fill,
2008).
In addition to the risks arising from lack of
control of the social media environment,
companies might perceive risks connected to
the expertise they have available to harness the
new digital tools for marketing. As technology
develops quickly, it is evident that many
employees will have difficulty keeping pace
with it. In fact, research has shown that one
significant barrier to technology adoption is a
lack of general technical knowledge and
personal innovativeness among personnel
(Avlonitis & Panagopoulos, 2005; Frambach &
Schillewaert, 2002; Mehrtens, Cragg, & Mills,
2001; Schillewaert, Ahearne, Frambach, &
Moenaert, 2005). As the use of social media
tools, such as blogs, open discussion forums,
and social networking sites, requires new kinds
of conversational approaches rather than one-
directional marketing messages (Weinberg &
Pehlivan, 2011), it therefore follows that
companies from various industries are likely to
encounter severe challenges in their ability to
create proper content for social media.
When employees have limited capability to use
digital and social media tools, the role of
management is emphasized. Indeed, the lack of
technical or management support has been
highlighted as an important barrier to usage in
several studies (Ahearne et al., 2005; Avlonitis
& Panagopoulos, 2005). Managers need to set
accurate expectations with regard to the use of a
particular technology (Avlonitis &
Panagopoulos, 2005) and clarify the
responsibilities of each individual user to
reduce role overload and stress (Honeycutt,
Thelen, Thelen, & Hodge, 2005). The role
overload and stress are further increased if the
employees are not provided with adequate
resources; research has indicated that the major
barriers to technology use stem from a lack of
resources (e.g., time, money, and workforce) to
fully exploit the new technology (Buehrer et al.,
2005; Mehrtens et al., 2001).
Judging from the wide range of barriers to
digital marketing and technology use
encountered by firms, we expect to find several
important barriers that hinder the use of digital
marketing in the B2B sector. However, since
B2B companies have been reported to be
slower to adopt new digital marketing tools, we
propose that those barriers related to the firm’s
resources, expertise, and the perception that
digital marketing does not drive business
outcomes in the relevant industry are
particularly important:
Proposition 5: The firm’s resources,
expertise, and perception that digital
marketing does not support its business
objectives are the major barriers to
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
109 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
digital marketing utilization in the B2B
sector.
Methodology
Data was collected from a random sample of
Finnish B2B companies drawn from a Finnish
contact information database. A link to the
online survey was sent via e-mail to the general
manager or marketing director of each B2B
firm in the sample. To incentivize participation,
we offered access to the survey results and the
opportunity to participate anonymously in a
lottery.
A total of 145 completed questionnaires were
received, all representing different companies.
To calculate the response rate, we compared the
number of people who had opened the survey
but not completed it to the number who had
completed the survey. This process produced an
incidence rate of 70%. Respondents represented
various industries (e.g., engineering, metal,
pulp and paper, energy, electricity,
construction) and their firms varied in terms of
employee numbers from 1 to 37,000 (median
25; mean 596), with a median turnover of EUR
3.5 million. The characteristics of the sample
are illustrated in Table 2.
TABLE 2:
Sample Characteristics
a Missing values; valid percentages used
Industry n %a
Services 26 18.2
Industrial commodities 25 17.5
Machinery and equipment 50 35.0
Components 42 29.4
Size (number of employees)
Micro (n < 10) 54 37.5
Small (10 < n > 50) 36 25.0
Medium (50 < n > 250) 30 20.8
Large (n > 250) 24 16.7
Size (sales turnover)
<€1 m 50 36.8
€1–10 m 36 26.5
€11–100 m 39 28.7
>€100 m 11 8.1
The questionnaire had three main sections. The
first inquired about the utilization and
objectives of digital marketing in the
respondent’s company. The second part
consisted of questions related to content
development in various digital marketing
applications such as social media tools,
newsletters and e-mail marketing, and sales
support materials. The third section focused on
the barriers and measurement of digital
marketing practices in the respondent’s
company. Thus, the unit of analysis is the
company level. The items measuring the extent
of B2B firms’ digital marketing usage,
objectives, barriers, and measurable benefits
were derived from the literature (e.g., Buehrer
et al., 2005; Michaelidou et al., 2011). A five-
point Likert scale anchored at 1 (not at all
important) and 5 (extremely important) was
used. In measuring the activity of digital
marketing and barriers to utilization, the
anchors were 1 (strongly disagree) and 5
(strongly agree).
Results and Analysis
Almost half of the respondents (43%) worked
in a leading position in their firm (as general
manager/chairman of the board); around a
quarter (23%) were marketing or
communications managers; 18% were
production managers and 10% were sales
managers.
In line with the first proposition, Table 3 shows
that the most important digital marketing tools
for B2B companies remain newsletters and e-
mail marketing. The findings further suggest,
irrespective of firm size, that the use of other
long-established digital marketing tools, such as
sales support materials, e-mail and SMS service
alerts and notifications, and digital customer
magazines, are perceived to be more important
than social media tools. Our second
proposition, that social media tools are more
important for large-sized B2B companies, is
also supported. Larger companies perceive
YouTube, blogs, webinars, Twitter, and Wikis,
in particular, to be more important than SMEs
do.
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 110
In line with our third proposition the two most
important objectives of digital marketing in the
era of social media are related to the soft side of
marketing: creating awareness and enhancing
brand image (Table 4). Both objectives
received a mean score of above 4.1 on a scale
ranging from 1 (not at all important) to 5
(extremely important). Specifically, over 75%
of the respondents regarded creating awareness
and enhancing brand image as “important” or
“extremely important.” Thus, the third
proposition is confirmed.
Our fourth proposition states that the usage of
digital measurement solutions would be
relatively high in the B2B sector, but that the
measurable benefits gained from digital
marketing would be limited. Our results (Tables
5 and 6) partly confirm this. B2B companies
are not actively measuring digital marketing
performance, measurement is not considered to
be important, and the firms’ ability to gain
measurable benefits from the use of digital
marketing is limited in the B2B sector.
However, the results are dependent on firm
TABLE 3:
The Perceived Importance of Digital and Social Media Tools by Firm Size
Note: Scale ranging from 1=not at all important to 5=extremely important
Mean
All Micro Small Medium Large sig.
Newsletters and e-mail marketing 3.18 2.57 3.39 3.40 3.88 .000
Sales support materials (e.g., white papers, digital
product brochure)
2.95 2.32 2.94 3.57 3.54 .000
E-mail/SMS service alerts and notifications 2.89 2.61 2.92 2.77 3.54 .029
Digital customer magazine 2.57 1.89 2.72 3.00 3.33 .000
YouTube (or other video service) 2.15 1.76 1.56 1.77 2.37 .000
Open discussion forums 2.12 1.91 2.08 2.23 2.54 .153
Facebook 2.01 1.89 1.94 1.90 2.50 .115
Blogs 1.97 1.72 1.86 2.00 2.71 .003
Webinars, podcasts and live casts 1.90 1.46 1.75 2.23 2.75 .000
Twitter 1.69 1.44 1.56 1.77 2.38 .000
Flickr (or other photo service) 1.63 1.46 1.56 1.83 1.92 .091
Wikis 1.63 1.44 1.42 1.73 2.29 .000
TABLE 4:
The Main Objectives of Digital Marketing
Note: Scale ranging from 1=not at all important to 5=extremely important
Mean
All Micro Small Medium Large sig.
Creating awareness 4.15 3.96 4.14 4.30 4.42 .167
Enhancing brand image 4.12 3.83 4.17 4.33 4.42 .054
Growing sales/new customers 3.82 3.70 4.06 3.67 3.88 .470
Improving customer service 3.81 3.83 3.58 4.00 3.92 .412
Enhancing customer loyalty 3.78 3.70 3.75 3.73 4.04 .646
Improving customer satisfaction 3.77 3.76 3.64 3.97 3.79 .632
Growing sales/existing customers 3.57 3.35 3.75 3.37 4.00 .081
Decreasing costs 3.46 3.30 3.31 3.70 3.71 .242
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
111 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
size, as large firms are more active users of
digital measurement solutions. Specifically,
using a tool for following online discussions
and news is a more common practice in large
firms than in smaller firms.
In line with the fifth proposition, lack of
resources and expertise were considered major
barriers to the utilization of B2B digital
marketing (Table 7). However, contrary to our
proposition, the data reveal that the proportion
of companies that think digital marketing an
inappropriate means to deliver business
objectives is a great deal smaller than expected.
The only statistically significant difference
between firm sizes is management resistance,
with micro firms perceiving the least
management resistance. Management resistance
is a noticeably more influential barrier in
medium-sized firms than in others.
CONCLUSIONS
The objective of the study was to investigate
B2B firms’ digital marketing tools, objectives,
measurement solutions and barriers of
utilization. A thorough literature review of B2B
digital marketing was conducted to provide
TABLE 5:
The Measurement of Digital Marketing by Firm Size
Note: Scale ranging from 1=not at all important to 5=extremely important
Mean
All Micro Small Medium Large sig.
Measurement of digital marketing is perceived as
important in our firm
2.53 2.37 2.42 2.50 3.13 .060
Our firm measures the results of digital marketing
against objectives
2.40 2.22 2.53 2.23 2.83 .105
The use of digital marketing has changed the meas-
urement practice of our marketing communications
effectiveness
2.12 1.78 2.14 2.07 2.92 .000
Our firm has obtained measurable benefits from the
use of digital marketing
2.01 1.76 2.00 2.03 2.54 .024
TABLE 6:
The Measurement Activities of Digital Marketing by Firm Size
Note: Scale ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree
Mean
All Micro Small Medium Large sig.
We receive useful information from our website visi-
tor analytics
3.16 2.93 3.28 2.80 3.96 .001
We follow online discussions about our industry sec-
tor
2.60 2.48 2.36 2.33 3.54 .001
We follow online discussions about our firm, our
products and services
2.45 2.24 2.31 2.07 3.63 .000
We utilize web analytics (e.g., Google Analytics,
Snoobi) to acquire new customers
2.35 2.30 2.47 2.13 2.58 .535
We use a tool (e.g., GoogleAlerts, Hootsuite, Radian6,
Meltwater, mBrain) to follow online news and discus-
sions
1.97 1.67 1.64 1.77 3.38 .000
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 112
answers to the research questions and meet the
study objective. On the basis of the literature
review, five propositions were developed to
guide the analysis of study data. The
propositions were tested in an empirical
investigation of B2B firms (N=145). The
empirical data provides support for most of the
propositions.
Theoretical Contributions
The first proposition, that traditional digital
marketing tools, such as newsletters and e-mail
marketing, would be considered more important
than social media tools, was confirmed. B2B
marketers prefer to use one-directional and
push-oriented digital channels like e-mail
marketing, white papers, and digital customer
magazines in their marketing communication.
Furthermore, our study confirms the findings of
a recent study (Michaelidou et al., 2011) which
showed that B2B companies are slow to adopt
social media. We did not find much evidence
for collaborative marketing tactics or customers
acting as content creators in the B2B sector, as
the literature had suggested we would (Dennis
et al., 2009; Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010;
Kietzmann et al., 2011; Liu et al., 2011;
Mangold & Faulds, 2009). Marketing
communications in the digital world should
ideally be based on a two-way dialogue and
aimed at creating a presence, relationships, and
mutual value with customers and other
stakeholders (Rowley, 2004; Wertime &
Fenwick, 2008), but our findings imply that
B2B sector is still some way from that ideal.
We were able to find support for our second
proposition arguing that social media tools are
more important for large-sized B2B companies,
this being in line with the success stories of
social media utilization from the B2B sector
(Bodnar & Cohen, 2012; Gillin &
Schwartzman, 2011; Handley & Chapman,
2011; Powell et al., 2011). It is noteworthy that
none of the social media tools were seen as
important, and even the long-established digital
tools were not seen as crucial, regardless of
firm size. This suggests that digital channels
still play a supportive role in lengthy and
complex B2B buying processes (Long et al.,
2007).
We contribute to the literature by showing that
the most important objectives of B2B digital
marketing (Proposition 3) are related to creating
awareness and enhancing brand image (Hennig-
Thurau et al., 2010; Kho, 2008; Michaelidou et
al., 2011). Kho (2008) stated that social media
can work for B2B companies by strengthening
and enhancing customer relationships, through
fostering meaningful interactions between a
TABLE 7:
The Barriers to Digital Marketing Utilization by Firm Size
Note: Scale ranging from 1=strongly disagree to 5=strongly agree
Mean
All Micro Small Medium Large sig.
Lack of human resources 3.70 3.65 3.64 3.80 3.79 .904
Lack of time 3.37 3.54 3.44 2.93 3.42 .240
Lack of know-how 3.34 3.46 3.25 3.67 3.17 .734
Challenges in content creation 3.10 3.00 3.22 3.33 2.88 .415
Unclear ROI 2.95 2.91 2.92 3.03 3.00 .969
Uncontrollability 2.91 3.07 2.86 2.93 2.58 .413
Lack of money 2.83 2.94 2.75 2.77 2.75 .864
Does not support the objectives of our business 2.63 2.74 2.44 2.70 2.54 .771
Lack of technical support 2.58 2.67 2.39 2.57 2.67 .674
Management resistance 2.03 1.74 2.03 2.63 1.96 .007
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
113 Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012
considered important. However, judging from
the limited use of WA and SMM tools, it may
be that the companies have not fully understood
the opportunities offered by digital
measurement solutions and are still seeking
new ways to measure the effectiveness of
digital marketing. Another possible explanation
stems from the notion that B2B firms with
fewer customers, fewer transactions, and longer
purchase decision cycles find it still difficult to
demonstrate the relationship between marketing
and its resulting impact (Webster et al., 2005).
Therefore, B2B firms may not consider
measurement to be worth the effort.
Finally, we show that a lack of resources is seen
as the largest barrier to B2B digital marketing
usage, a finding that partly confirms our fifth
proposition. Resources were seen as inadequate
in terms of human resources, time, and
expertise, which have been noted as major
barriers (Buehrer et al., 2005; Mehrtens et al.,
2001). Contrary to our expectations, however,
remarkably few B2B firms consider that digital
marketing does not support their business
objectives. Together, these findings indicate
that there is a belief that B2B digital marketing
offers opportunities to drive business outcomes,
but a lack of resources restricts the B2B firms’
ability to harness them. Management resistance
and a lack of technical support were not
perceived as significant barriers to digital
marketing usage, a finding that contrasts with
those of several other studies on technology
adoption (Ahearne et al., 2005; Avlonitis &
Panagopoulos, 2005; Marshall et al., 2000).
However, this finding might relate to the fact
that almost half of the respondents occupied
senior management positions in their firms.
Managerial Contributions
Our study offers three suggestions to improve
the use and measurement of B2B digital
marketing. First, as we found that B2B firms
still prefer using one-directional
communications with digital tools, such as e-
mail marketing and newsletters, we argue that
companies should move towards more
collaborative communications in the social
company and its customers. Our study partly
confirms this, but at the same time suggests that
B2B companies are primarily concentrating on
attracting new customers rather than enhancing
existing customer relationships. It seems that
B2B firms have not fully realized and leveraged
the interactive nature of the digital media
environment, which arguably offers great
opportunities for cultivating existing customer
relationships and enhancing customer
engagement (Weinberg & Pehlivan, 2011). As
an aside, one interesting observation was that
the respondents considered decreasing costs the
least important objective. It appears that despite
digital channels offering notable cost
efficiencies (Sharma, 2002; Walters, 2008)
other objectives are perceived to be more
important than cost saving.
In testing our fourth proposition, we add to the
literature on the measurement of the
effectiveness of digital marketing by showing
that digital measurement solutions are not
widely used and the measurable benefits gained
from digital marketing are limited in the B2B
sector. Contrary to our expectations, the usage
of digital measurement solutions was not high.
However, we found that larger firms are
significantly more active in tracking website
visitor behavior and following online
discussions about the company, its products,
and its industry sector. While the majority of
large firms track online discussions and website
visitor behavior, considerably fewer use
specific software (WA and SMM) for this
purpose. This might be due to unfamiliarity
with the software or a lack of resources
available to buy it. Although the digital
environment has offered new opportunities to
measure the effectiveness of marketing (Hennig
-Thurau et al., 2010; Phippen et al., 2004;
Wilson, 2010) and brought new ways to listen
to customer opinions (Blanchard, 2011; Godes
& Mayzlin, 2004; Thomas & Barlow, 2011),
the study results indicate that B2B companies
have not widely exploited these developments.
Indeed, digitalization has not significantly
reformed measurement practices, and
moreover, the measurement of digital
marketing is not set against objectives or even
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
Marketing Management Journal, Fall 2012 114
measurement literature (see, e.g., Kaplan &
Norton, 1996; McCunn, 1998; Neely & Bourne,
2000), we suggest that marketing performance
measurement should always start with the
setting of measurable goals. Subsequently, WA
and SMM can provide ways to evaluate the
effectiveness of different digital marketing
tools at driving traffic, increasing interactivity,
and generating leads. Naturally, the digital
measurement solutions should be linked with
the firm’s CRM system in order to form a
complete picture of digital marketing
effectiveness.
Limitations and Further Research
In any research project, with the benefit of
hindsight, it is prudent to consider limitations
and potential improvements. As the data were
collected at one point in time, common method
bias might be present. While attempts were
made to mitigate the common method variance
problem through our survey design and within
the analysis, its impact could only be
conclusively ruled out if data were collected
from different sources or via longitudinal
methods. Furthermore, although the
respondents were from different firms, the
sample size was relatively small (N=145) and
geographically restricted to a single country.
Future research could focus on international
comparisons of digital marketing usage in B2B
firms and enhance our knowledge by
commissioning longitudinal investigations of
B2B companies’ adoption and actual use of
digital marketing.
In addition, as research in this area is in its
infancy, our scale development relied heavily
on two literature sources, both of which used
single item scales to assess the extent to which
B2B firms use digital marketing and social
media, and related questions. Therefore, future
research should focus on multi-item scale
development and the factor analysis approach
to enhance knowledge in this area.
Attitudes towards technology are constantly
changing in B2B firms due to consumerism and
new generations entering the business. Thus, as
media era. Our suggestion is supported by
literature according to which today’s
communications landscape is better suited to bi-
directional information exchanges and
interactive conversations with customers (e.g.,
Bernoff & Li, 2008; Mangold & Faulds, 2009;
Weinberg & Pehlivan, 2011). Moreover, digital
marketing content must be customer-driven,
responding to customers’ needs and offering
solutions to their problems. For instance,
customer feedback, inquiries, and frequently
asked questions are good sources for the
creation of relevant and interesting content that
supports the customers’ own business. It is
noteworthy that marketing content must be
available when a customer is willing to receive
and respond to it, not when a firm wants to
produce and communicate it. When a company
is able to create relevant content for customer
needs, social media tools can be effective
channels to drive traffic to a company website
and eventually generate leads.
Second, B2B companies should invest in
acquiring human resources with the capability
to utilize digital marketing tools; that might be
through training or recruiting or, indeed, may
involve outsourcing to expert agencies. Our
study clearly shows that B2B firms lack people
with expertise in the effective use of digital
marketing. This is likely to be one important
explanation for the minor role played by social
media tools in the digital marketing mix.
Finally, B2B companies should update their
knowledge with respect to marketing
performance measurement and the
opportunities provided by digital measurement
solutions so as to be able to assess the
effectiveness of digital marketing. As the
findings reveal, companies do not have the
requisite capabilities to measure digital
marketing performance, and advances in digital
measurement solutions, such as WA and SMM
software, are not yet being widely exploited in
B2B firms. Furthermore, it is remarkable that
the findings indicated that companies have set
high-priority goals connected to their digital
marketing, but they do not measure the results
against those goals. In line with performance
Digital and Social Media Marketing. . . . Järvinen, Tollinen, Karjaluoto and Jayawardhena
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