I had the opportunity last week to speak on social media at a couple of B2B conferences. It gave me a chance to get out of the bubble and speak with folks in the trenches. It turned out to be an eye-opener.
Attendees at the conferences were marketers representing original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) heavy industry, and the financial services industries. As a group, they market complex, long sales cycle products to a well-defined B2B audience. As a result, understanding the value of social media is more difficult.
I found that many of the marketers I spoke with to be somewhat exhausted by social media. From trying to stay current to learning the application in their business, they felt like they just couldn’t stay current.
Based on what I experienced, I’ve put together six tips that might be helpful:
1. False Prophets – Combine high employment with a fast-moving space like Web 2.0, and suddenly everyone is an expert. Buyers beware. If you need outside expertise, go with a firm that has experience in this space.
2. Learn How to Listen – Web 1.0 was about business-to-professionals in the business-to-business world. In Web 2.0, it’s about professional to professional. Users of your services/products want to talk with other users of your products/services first, before they hear what you have to say. In Web 2.0, you have to go from dictator to facilitator. Learn how to listen before you begin speaking. It is a subtle and important transition.
3. Keep it simple – I found many marketers were so focused on the tools that they had lost sight of what the tools do and the objectives they are trying to achieve with the tools. Social media tools do basically three things, none of which is new. They just do it better, faster or broader. The three things they do include:
a. Engagement – Social media provides better opportunities to engage with key audiences and capture their feedback.
b. Access to information – Social media allows faster and better distribution of information and, for customers, better access to company information.
c. Greater reach and frequency – With social media, a broader audience can be reached; however, it’s important to decipher where your target audience is and engage in those places. Quantity does not equal quality in this space, which can be of great value.
4. Gain control of your situation – Unless your full-time job is social media, you’re going to have a hard time keeping up. The best way to gain control over your situation (and reduce your stress level) is to define your objectives and ask yourself: “How will the tools help me achieve my objectives?” Keep in mind what they do (see above) and ask yourself how can I use social media to improve engagement with customers and provide greater access and distribution of information on a broader, more frequent basis. Now you’re in control.
5. Upside-Down Funnel – In many industries, social media is commonly used to broadcast to a wide audience, hoping to attract a few people in the end. The marketers I met are in a different situation. They have very finite customer targets whom they know fairly well. They don’t need to broadcast to a wide, unknown audience. They need to deepen or extend existing relationships with a specific audience. As a result, the potential “sweet spot” for social media in these marketers’ industries could be at the bottom of the funnel. Using social media to grow existing accounts while leveraging customer advocates to help win new business might be the killer “app,” and it definitely holds the potential to be more measurable.
6. Experiment – Lastly, do some experimenting (after you’ve learned to listen, of course). Social media is not going away. It’s one thing to be lagging, but it’s another thing to ignore its potential altogether. Pick a few areas and experiment. If it doesn’t do what you want it to do, at least you’ll have the experience to know why. Plus, when the CEO catches on to Web 2.0 and wants to tweet about earnings, you’ll be able to tell him or her why that might not be the best use of the social media tools.
Scott Gillum, Senior Vice President and Practice Leader – Channel Marketing at b2b agency, gyro