You can no longer segment your business customers into those who use social media for business purposes and those who do not. Why not? Because according to Forrester’s newest B2B Social Technographics® numbers, fully 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work purposes. Other stunningly high numbers: 98% of business decision-makers are Spectators (they read blogs, watch videos, or listen to podcasts), 79% are Joiners (they maintain a profile on social networking sites), and 75% are Critics (they comment on blogs and post ratings and reviews), all in the context of their business activities.

Therefore, it’s no longer a question of whether you should use social, but how. B2B marketing executives no longer need convincing to invest in social. However, social marketing efforts are maturing beyond experimentation — where measuring results is secondary — to science. At this more advanced stage of maturity, marketers need to understand exactly how and when their customers are using social and target them differently in each stage of the customer life cycle.

Your customers don’t make blanket use of “social media,” “social networks,” or “communities” in general. Instead, they use specific social networks and communities for specific goals, both personal and business-related. The communities your customers visit for personal reasons are not always the ones they use for business purposes.

For business purposes, the No. 1 and No. 2 communities aren’t specific public social networks but “niche” communities focused on specific objectives. For example, business technology buyers might visit IT Central Station or Spiceworks to learn more about multiple competing technologies at once; alternatively, they might visit a community managed by a single brand, such as the Cisco Communities or SAP Community Network (SCN).

On the other hand, Facebook is more popular as a consumer community than a business one. While 81% of business decision-makers use Facebook at least monthly, more than half use it exclusively for personal purposes and only 2% use it exclusively for business. So B2B marketers should begin by focusing on more business-centric communities and on LinkedIn.

For more detail on where business decision-makers spend their time, check out this graphic:

Bussiness Decision-Makers Rely on Communities

I encourage you to use this data to understand how your customers and prospects use social media as a part of their professional lives in order to inform the rest of your social marketing decisions as part of Forrester’s POST — People, Objectives, Strategy, and Tactics/Technology — strategy for social marketing.  For more information and insight derived from our new data, I encourage you to read our clients-only report, The Social Behaviors Of Your B2B Customers, which is published today. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter (@ZacharyRD).