It staggers me how unbelievably polarised B2B organisations have become when it comes to the maturity of their social media programmes.
Twitter recently celebrated its 9th birthday, and while there are some organisations with a social media strategy mature enough to have fledgling social selling programmes, there are many others that have barely begun to figure out their social tone of voice.
Social media is still a hugely untapped resource in B2B organisations, and for me that’s a missed – or worse, wasted – opportunity. Not convinced of its potential? Then by all means challenge me. I have a case study to prove that social media gets results in every single programme I’ve ever delivered, in every single scenario. In 2015 it’s as essential to your marketing programmes as email or telemarketing. That means you should put as much planning, strategy and thinking behind it as you would behind any other part of your marketing.
And social media requires new ways of thinking. So many brands are still simply broadcasting across their social channels, and completely ignoring one of the biggest opportunities social media presents to them: the participation.
To explain what I mean and where I think the opportunities lie, below is my social media framework. It’s how I like to explain the many facets of social media and how all of them can, and should, be used to benefit the business.
One of the most important, if not the most important element of your social media activity is listening. It’s right at the centre of the image because every social media strategy should have social listening at its heart.
Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos has famously said: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room”
With social media, you get the chance to stay in the room. So take it, and listen.
What people say on social is such a rich source of insight. Not only will you hear what your customers think of your brand, but you can discover the news or the topics that are capturing their attention and imagination; you can see what they’re sharing, why they’re sharing it; you can discover their problems and their pain points… You can learn so much more than if you just rely on traditional research. People are more open, honest and spontaneous on their favourite social platforms, so they’ll talk about your brand in a very different way than they would in a focus group, or bring up issues you may not even think about adding to a survey.
And social listening doesn’t just inform your marketing. It can help in your product development, your customer support, your sales effort – in fact, it informs every part of your business strategy.
I like to think of content as the oil in the social media machine; the lifeblood of the internet. Whether it appears in paid, owned or earned media, good, useful and relevant content can engage audiences at every stage of the customer lifecycle, from brand awareness through to brand evangelism. Social listening informs your content, and your content feeds the four areas in the white circles.
Ever since it came along, social media has been all about establishing and building relationships, and about taking part. In B2B marketing this could mean anything from holding conversations with a handful of customers to creating whole communities, right through to building extended relationships via influencer and outreach programmes.
With so much content on the internet vying for your customers’ attention, and while ever-changing algorithms and ever-smarter platforms make it more and more difficult to grow the organic reach of your content, sometimes the only way to get your brand in front of your target audience is to use paid media. And social, of course, provides both the channel and the insight to inform your paid media content.
The Social Business
When individuals within your organisation use social media as part of their role, the benefits – both internally and externally – are plenty. Silos are broken down, collaboration and ideas-sharing increases, customers get quicker response, sales teams can create more productive relationships, social selling becomes a reality, reach and advocacy are extended and customer engagement strengthened. To name just some of them.
Innovation & Optimisation
Social media is a hotbed for innovation. The brands that stand out are those that find clever ways to use APIs and social data to take advantage of the user’s own social networks and contacts. In B2C, the likes of Nike are great at creating hugely engaging and sharable customer experiences, and LinkedIn stands out for me in B2B.
But don’t turn your back on the tried and trusted. If something is already working for you in your social media marketing, then optimise! Optimisation is about identifying what’s already getting results, then developing and improving what you’re doing to do even better.
As with all marketing activity, you can only measure success if you put metrics in place. Have a set of objectives at the outset, be sure these are aligned with the objectives of the business, build your KPIs accordingly and report on them. For example, you could measure awareness, engagement, response, advocacy or ROI, but if a key business objective is lead generation, then measure leads; if the business objective is awareness, then measure reach.
Social media really isn’t rocket science. Most of the above is common sense and can reap big rewards. So what’s stopping you?