After my recent post about social media being “so freaking hard”, I’ve had questions from clients and peers who are all struggling with the “mystery” of social media within the B2B context. I agree it is a mystery and even the likes of McKinsey & Company have attempted to demystify social media.
In my post today, I want to try and help this process by setting out a few ground rules that B2B marketers should aim to follow in social media marketing.
- Focus your social media strategy on building relationships and engagement; do this by practicing thought leadership. It does not have to be complex; quite the opposite in fact. Simple is better. As Tim Washer of Cisco Systems says in this interview, “When the environment becomes more complex, the best strategy is to be simpler. Find interesting stories to tell – look to your customers or challenges in your industry. Don’t worry so much about talking about your products. Build an audience first with compelling stories.”
- ‘Likes’ do not mean love. Forget the meaningless numbers of likes, fans and followers on popular social media channels. If you really want some love from prospects and customers, give them value. Be meaningful in the content that you share, stay relevant to your industry’s situation, and understand the implications of trying to sell instead of being social.
- Rather than a “flavor of the day approach”, use common sense—use social media but not at the expense of tried and true marketing methodology. Supplement, complement, but do not replace proven marketing techniques with social media gimmicks.
- Remember that those social media “gurus” are still learning themselves. They may have mastered a particular social media platform, but in a field that is changing so rapidly and evolving every day, you can’t rely on anyone out there being a real master…not yet.
- Social media is transformational. It is about conversion. As a B2B marketer, you must be careful not to confuse volume of activities with results. Get busy but get smart about social media. Being all over the place without building engagement and relationships is like running blind with no goal in sight…sooner or later you’re going to run out of steam and your competitor will have found roots in the customers’ minds by then.
- Social success is natural, organic, word-of-mouth and viral without having to pay to make your content shareable. When you “buy” click throughs on banner ads, run “sponsored” tweets, and place ads on GDN (Google Display Network) as part of the outbound marketing tactics to support your inbound, it is really evidence of getting paid traffic. This is something a large corporation may be able to afford but for a majority of the small and medium sized B2B organizations, not only is this unrealistic, it is a complete waste of time and money.
- You may use the best social media tools available but if your message isn’t resonating with your prospects, you are merely adding more social media “noise” and it won’t be long before they shut you off. As Seth Godin says, “consumers are not waiting for a better mousetrap”. Your social communication needs to reposition your solution so it becomes the only one they want to choose—maybe not the BEST in the market, but the one that will fit their needs.
The Ugly Truth about Social Media—Control in the Traditional Sense is Now A Myth
It goes without saying that whether or not a company actively and consciously engages in social media or not, their prospects and customers do.
On the one hand we see reports such as the study by International Data Corp. (IDC) showing that only 18.6% of B2B technology buyers surveyed say their interactions with vendors and purchasing decisions are influenced by social networks—see this article in B2B Magazine. And on the other hand, you have data figures from Forrester that more and more IT decision making is based on feedback and influence from peers via social networks—see this Infographic.
This debate will continue but no matter which side you are on, the reality is that today’s customer wants to and will do everything to get in the driving seat and be in control. As a B2B marketer, you make every effort to plan, strategize and monitor what is being said about your brand and your company, and how. The hard truth about social media, however, is that you simply cannot control these conversations. But does that mean you should jump on to every word and present your point of view? I don’t recommend that. You have to choose your words wisely; listen more and speak less, but speak sense.
The traditional sense of brand control is a lost dream and one that we need to change. The new reality is about letting go; it’s about creating persuasion tools that allow your customers to sell themselves because they are engaged, motivated and see value.
How does your B2B organization pursue customer engagement through social media? Have you had situations where letting customers believe they are in control of social conversations has actually worked to your benefit? Let’s discuss—email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.