My “billboard” last week got a fair share of attention—it caught the eye of some readers who had assumed I am a social media skeptic. It also found the interest of social media consultants wondering if there was a job for them in my offices. So I want to clarify on both counts—
I am not a social media skeptic; I only question what experts tout as “best practice” when a lot of it is actually just platform-based tactics, number-chasing and B2C strategies that don’t necessarily apply to the B2B marketing world.
Secondly, I am not looking to hire a social media consultant because…hold your breath…I already have one. I believe in engaging the best B2B marketing professionals who understand the difference between social media optimization and social media engagement.
BUT, if I were looking to hire a social media consultant for B2B, here are 5 key questions I would ask. Hope you find this useful. I am also going a step further to caution you about the kind of answers you do not want to hear.
5 Questions You Must Ask Your Social Media Consultant
Question #1: How should we communicate using social media? Your question pertains to engagement mechanisms, key messages, positioning, and the overall social marketing approach. But what kind of response are you most likely to hear? “We can talk about some interesting themes and industry-specific topics.” Hold on a second—you don’t want to start with “talking about” this, that and the other. You want to start by “listening” first before you talk. What is your target audience most concerned about? What are their pain points? What are some questions they are raising and discussing on relevant social media channels?
Question #2: What business goals should our social media activities focus on? Business goals are often misconstrued by social media consultants as being online conversion goals. Yes, of course you want your online activities to convert more qualified traffic into paying customers, but social media platforms are not your CRM database. A rational business goal for social media to focus on is building brand awareness and enhanced customer engagement. It is not the same thing as more sales. Let’s remember that social media is not a silver bullet for demand generation. If your social media consultant says building more followers on social media will align with your organization’s goal to make more sales, repeat your question with emphasis on “business goals”, not “sales targets”.
Question #3: How should we budget for social media initiatives?Expect to hear things like “reallocate some of your marketing budget to social media”, “determine a percentage of new sales to be funneled into social media marketing”, “you need to match what your competitors are spending on social media”, and so on. Red flag! Anyone who tells you that you can afford to drop some traditional, proven marketing methods to make budget allowances for social media is definitely ignorant about the importance of integrating social media into your marketing plan. And as for matching what your competitors spend, you absolutely don’t need to. If at all, you may want to consider what your closest competitor is spending and on what—then find a more cost-effective way to get even better results than they do.
Reminds me of that joke about the two guys being chased by a bear while on a hike—they start to climb up a tree, but the bear follows them up. One guy takes out his running shoes from his backpack and starts to put them on. The other guy asks why. “Well”, says the man, “as soon as the bear gets to us and we can’t go any higher on this tree, we’ll have to jump down and start running, right?” His friend calls him crazy to think he can outrun a bear. “Oh I won’t need to”, says the man with his shoes on and ready to jump now; “I only need to outrun you!
Question #4: ”What do we need to do in social media to support our sales team? The straightforward, simple answer to that should be “keep your eyes and ears open; talk less and listen more”. But I can bet you will be given strong recommendations to add social media icons to your website—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Digg, Pinterest, Delicious, and what have you. Eye-candy! That’s what those icons are and you don’t need all of them. Pick the few that you know you can utilize to deliver value to your customers and prospects. Your social media platform specialist may not be very happy, but you need to stay in the driving seat and control how your brand is perceived across social media channels—you need to be seen as the composed, informative, engaging thought leader, not the trendy, flashy, loud, social media chatterbox. You are a B2B marketer, not a restaurant or retail store—your sales team needs a social showcase of your company’s industry prowess that they can point prospects to, not a creative collage of your social frenzy.
Question #5: How will we measure our social media success? Watch your consultant hold up fingers and count, Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers, LinkedIn Connections, Pinterest Re-Pins, YouTube shared videos, number of views, reads and so on. And that is “success”? I don’t agree. You want to hear about number of comments, discussions, questions being asked, conversations revolving around the topics you have shared your thoughts and opinions about—doesn’t matter if your Facebook update isn’t “Liked”; if it starts a discussion that goes viral, you are getting closer to meeting your goals of gauging audience sentiment and finding a spot in their mind space. That is when you can hope to garner ROI from social media marketing.
What questions or concerns have you raised with your B2B company’s social media consultant? Were you satisfied with the answers? Or are you still battling over what your consultant wants you to do and what you believe will drive value to customers and prospects? Email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.