Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Social Media, Program or Vehicle for B2B?

Social media is only one way to connect to customer and should be treated as a vehicle, not a program.  There, I said it.  I know it is heresy, but it is the truth.

I was talking with a lot of colleagues and friends in the 30 something range and found that social media for them was more effort than it produced.  They were too busy to tweet.  They didn’t get much value from Facebook other than keeping up with a small group of friends they couldn’t see all the time.  The rest of the time Facebook was annoying and they didn’t frequent it, and now the privacy issues made it even less desireable.  LinkedIn was mostly a way to maintain a contact database with professional colleagues.  YouTube was entertainment.  What they did use religiously was email and texting.  Two things I got out of this were:

1) These 30 somethings were successful professionals with decision make authority and spending capacity both personally and professionally.  Social media has only limited value to them.

2) Social media was hype and comprised only a portion of their communication and social time.  It did not fundamentally change the way they were communicating with friends and colleagues.

One of the things I see companies and marketers do when they get the social media bug is to approach social media as a separate program.  This really misses the point.  Marketers have a multitude of communication vehicles available and instead of thinking about the best way to converse with customers, they think about what is the best new shiny method they can use and focus all their energy there.  Teams are even split by vehicle (social media, email, search, web, online display, etc) making marketers experts in a narrow band of communication.  What’s the point in that?  I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be thought of as a great marketer building relationships and business.  I don’t want to be known only for my ability to communicate in 140 characters.

We all know the social media avenues available to us so why over analyze at this point.  Most of us have used them personally and its either become our sole means of touching the world or, on the other hand, we are burnt out or driven out by the social media outlets and the ‘why did I friend this person?’.  In many ways, social media just is and we don’t think about it much anymore.  This is where marketing needs to be.  We shouldn’t think about social media anymore, we should just use it.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are my customers?
  • How do my customers learn about what I provide?
  • Where do my customers go to learn about what I provide?
  • What vehicle provides the best venue to show my value?
  • What level of trust do my customers have with my product and brand?

Notice that there is not one mention of social media or any other marketing vehicle.  It is all about how to market your company and product the best way to get people interested and to purchase.  Social media may just be that venue either as a leading component, an aspect, or not at all.  It may also depend on the research and decision cycle of the customer for your product.  The key is how you position.

The way to make social media work is through discipline and integration with our existing communication vehicles.  Treating it as its own separate effort will not get you the biggest benefits and return on investment and effort you could.  You need a varied tool kit for marketing that includes social media in it.  It provides lift, it doesn’t provide all.

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Filed under: b2b, marketing/advertising, social media, social media marketing, , , ,

B2B Social Media: Got Your Toe Wet, Now It’s Time to Swim

You tweet, blog, have a Facebook page, and created a Ning community.  That’s great.  Nice first step.  Now what?

The great thing about social media is that the barrier to entry is not the platform any longer.  You have the ability to test drive ideas within or outside your online current environment before committing. That just didn’t exist as you built your web presence in the past.  In some cases you can shift existing resources as you phase out old interactive practices, although I wouldn’t bank on this as social media is more content intensive and requires consistent monitoring and responding to increase and maintain value. To take your interactive customer experience to the next level, it will require pulling the learnings you’ve had with Twitter, blogs, social networks, and social bookmarking and begin to sector out those that truly worked to drive sales, reduce churn, and contributed to market influence and leadership.

Many times, we’ve created our social media experience parallel to our overall web strategy.  Marketing campaigns still drive traffic to product and solution offers in landing pages or on a website, or they specifically focus on growing a community.  The website is still a place to become educated about the company, products and solutions, and there may be a link to a social network that has blogs and discussions.  The problem is that your website strategy and your social media strategy now need to become integrated.  You’ve built your communities, now what do you want out of them?  You need to drive qualified leads and incorporate successful practices into an integrated interactive strategy.  Remove the website and social media silo.

Here’s how:

Content Conversion: A key staple of web content and marketing content overall is the white paper and case study.  Marketers covet this content and leverage it as a call to action in direct marketing campaigns.  Typically in PDF format users are required to register to download.  It is used so much because it works well to get qualified leads into the funnel.  However, the missing link is the SEO factor.  In PDF format you don’t have the keyword rich content to attract paid and natural search visitation.  You don’t have the ability to build upon SEO through conversations, linking and authority.  It is time to open up the white paper and case study to a blog format leveraging the reach you get with social media at the same time continuing to require registration to comment, bookmark, or RSS subscription on the content.

Trackbacks: Creating thought leadership and product/solution leadership has always been tightly controlled on our websites.  It is all about what we want you to know.  We’ll through in an industry analyst study that showcases our solution or our perspective to create credibility and plop a sidebar banner in to get to the content.  Although, the content is usually a PDF contained in our CMS system.  There are a number of customer networks and media/analyst networks that have blogs and discussions on our business.  We even have created our own.  It is time to integrate those discussions into our website content through trackbacks.  This allows page content to stay fresh maintaining and improving SEO over time as well as allowing forums for customers researching more avenues to learn about what we have to offer.

Social Bookmarking: Leverage social bookmarking within your website to allow visitors to bring people to your website.  This will do a couple of things.  First, if you want people to bookmark you’ll be forced to produce highly relevant and valuable content on your site moving past the online brochure.  Second, allowing your content to go viral will expand your reach.

Content Commenting: Let people comment or create discussions.  Having customers provide ratings or feedback can be good in helping customers make decisions.  Even if a comment is not glowing but is constructive, it may provide insight for customers to consider when choosing.  You may want to populate comments from support or customer forums that show how the solution solved a problem or configurations necessary for specific customer environments.  Then, open it up to visitors to ask questions or drill into the forum discussions.  This is a cornerstone in online retail and is a proven factor driving conversion.

Forums: Normally a behind the scenes venue in your customer portal or industry networks, take that same venue and apply it in your website experience.  Allow visitors to discussion their needs for a solution and what they are experiencing in their business.  Rather than keeping this separate, by integrating into your website experience it encourages engagement connection with you, your customers, and other prospects.  It could be a similar format as LinkedIn groups or Twitter Twibes.

The point of all this is that stand alone widgets, networks, and branded social media venues in the long run won’t serve your business well.  An integrated and seamless approach will add value to your website experience and improve customer conversion by linking to your marketing funnel strategies.

Filed under: b2b, customer relationship, sales 2.0, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

Social Media Mature or Hype

For 2-3 years the buzz around social media is so heightened that there may not be much more to say, much less be gained  Or, is there?

Marketing Sherpa released it’s findings on barriers to social media adoption.  In December, marketers reported that lack of knowledge and the ability to see ROI from social marketing efforts kept social media from mainstream adoptions.  If social media is so mature, surely adoption rates would be higher.

Barriers to Social Media AdoptionIn a previous post I talked about barriers in B2B due to lack of trust in the medium for personal use, thus translating to lack of trust for business use.  But, I think there may be something more here.  Leveraging social media for marketing is not for the faint at heart.  There are real complexities to creating a customer experience and building relationships.  Companies struggle with this with their own known customers.  Even with emails and reach customer history, it is challenging to engage with relevance and consistency.  Now, try this with a decentralized and dynamic market where you cannot always control the message.

There are certainly ways to try out social media marketing. Nicky Jameson recently provided great 7 Tips to get your feet wet.  But, how do you get your arms around what social media is beyond the buzz and hype?

So, here are some definitions to de-mystify social media.

Social media is…

  1. Another outlet for PR tactics.
  2. A mode to converse with contacts outside of email, events, or your website
  3. A vehicle to hear what you customers think and have to say.
  4. A segmented community with traits that make it easy to align your products and services

ROI is another issue altogether.  It’s the “so what” factor.  With marketing budgets lean and mean, why would you want to take a risk on something that you have no idea it will work? Exactly because you know that other tactics in the social media definition work.  The only issue now is figuring out how to measure it.  But, that isnt’ all that different from any other marketing tactic and PR effort.  You already know how to measure it!

Tips to Align Social Media to Business Outcomes

  1. Compare similarities of traditional actions and outcomes to social media marketing actions.  If you are able to show how press mentions impact business outcomes, you should be able to incorporate blog mentions, re-blogging, etc. into this equation.
  2. Trace social network interactions as they begin to funnel into your lead management processes.  Social media marketing shouldn’t completely stand on its own.  Your social network pages, micro-sites, and other social media assets eventually need strong calls to action to your website and lead generation processes.
  3. Integrate social media marketing tactics with traditional tactics.  If you track emails response then any social media marketing you connect to the email will track.

I’ll pose this on ROI for social media.  Marketing’s responsibility is to drive business strategy and outcomes through market/customer interactions.  The real measure of success is alignment with the C-Suite on what the “return” is on investment.  This may not necessarily be monetary but rather value of marketing’s ability to support business strategy and customer interaction.

  • Can you show through social media that the message you want to get out about your company and position is happening?
  • Do you see a lift in customer interactions through the introduction of social media marketing?
  • Is there a tangible value to social media interactions that is directly/indirectly influencing marketing’s ability to contribute to business outcomes?

Don’t get hung up on the dollar figure.  Investment is as much about reducing customer churn or the marketing adopting your thought leadership position as it is a direct bottom line result.  Your real task is ensure your marketing strategy is aligned to business strategy.  How you get there is through traditional marketing know how and the help and integration of social media marketing.

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Filed under: b2b, metrics, social media, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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