B2B: The Business Side of Social Media

B2B Social Marketing

  • “You can’t do social media from a standing start.”
  • “You don’t have to pull your kimono completely open.”
  • “Content is the catalyst of the social web.”
  • “Be helpful. That’s the magic pixie dust.”
  • “Where there is no margin, there is no mission.”

One of my favorite things about social media is what I call “serendipitous discovery” — the process where you begin by reading something which leads you to something else , and that leads you to another thing, and so on until you wind up finding some tasty nugget that you hadn’t intended to look for at the start. You just follow the trail.

And so this morning, while checking the Twitter stream of a friend of mine, CK Kerley, whose expertise in B2B digital marketing is second to none, I noticed one of her Tweets thanked someone unknown to me (Allen Silveri) for an “awesome article”. Being a fan of awesome articles on B2B marketing I checked out his Twitter stream hoping to find that link and, not finding a reference to an article, went to his agency’s home page, Schubert.com. That led me to their blog and this entry, Social Media Truths in B2B Marketing by Schubert’s PR Director Brian Courtney, regarding insights gleaned while attending the Social Media @ Work Conference in Harrisburg last October.

Whew! Got that? Brian identified five takeaways from speakers at that conference which I believe make sense for anyone engaging in B2B social media: (click for more) Read more of this post

Food for Thought: Adding Social Media to the Menu

After taking time off for summer adventures, misadventures and mishaps (fodder for future posts, no doubt) I came across an article written earlier this year by confessed social media neophyte Bruce Buscel on his attempts to secure PR services for his relatively new restaurant, Southfork Kitchen, located in New York’s vaunted Hamptons on Long Island’s east end. While restaurant centric in nature, there are  lessons to learn for all businesses, big and small, about how social media has changed the landscape for both marketing and public relations.

After two failed attempts to engage a PR firm to support his restaurant’s launch, first with  traditional PR firm that appeared to just go through the (unsuccessful) motions and another with a “foodie” led boutique firm which (on paper) would seem to have been a good fit but ultimately wanted to change the client rather than support it, Bruce  realized that:

“The old P.R. model is as useless as the fax machines on which press releases used to arrive.”

He decided to turn to media firms with expertise in social media. Surveying six of them, he came up with a digital dozen strategies for social media. From those, here are my top five social media strategies for all businesses (paraphrased):

  1. It’s a dialogue– listen and respond
    The first word in social media is “social”. It’s a dialogue, not a broadcast. Listen always; respond frequently; curate connections.
  2. Keep your social media activity current.
    The only thing worse than not being involved in social media is to allow your participation to go stale.
  3. Know your audience.
    Engage them where they already are participating online. Keep in mind that if your customer base is comprised of several distinct audiences that participate on different social networks you’ll need to tailor your content for each.
  4. Assess your progress regularly.
    Like any other business discipline, you need to plan strategy, execute tactics, assess results,  and then modify your plan as indicated. To do so you need to track KPI (Key Performance Indicators) relevant to your specific business and goals (likes, follows, time spent; service issues handled, sales/conversions, etc.) .
  5. Engage a social media pro to get you started and then plan long-term
    Bruce is not alone in wondering how to get up to speed on social media. my advice is, as always, hire a social media professional (one who has successfully been performing social media as a profession for a number of years) to get you started. Then, plan on who will take over that role long-term. Consider bringing your contracted pro in-house if it makes sense for you both.

Bruce concludes,

“What is the sound of irony? We are all in the P.R. business now.”

Indeed.

Digital Native, Digitally Naive?

Say, for a moment, that you need to hire someone to lead your company’s nascent social media effort. Quick — picture what that individual looks like. Did an image of a young digital dude (or dudette) come to mind? If so, you’re likely making a mistake.

digital native vs digital immigrantYou’re not alone, the majority of the hiring decision-makers (HR talent recruiters and hiring managers alike) whom I’ve come across, with little personal understanding of social media themselves, believe that this type of job is best filled by a digital native — one for whom the Web and social media have been a part of their lives from early on.

Now, consider these job requirements that I read today on an actual position listing (identifying details altered):

  • Develop a comprehensive social media and community management strategy leveraging your background, experience and knowledge of social media trends and emerging technologies
  • Partner with individuals across the company (management, development and research) to strategize and educate the team on relevant social media techniques to drive adoption and increase thought leadership
  • Manage the day-to-day activities for Facebook, Twitter, Company Blog, LinkedIn and other social media sites
  • Research and write content for social media channels
  • Track and analyze performance of social media programs and activities to drive continuous improvement
  • Manage web and Facebook advertisements
  • Help direct a grassroots street team to promote the [product]
  • Interact with our PR team
  • Monitor trends in social media tools and applications and appropriately apply that knowledge to increasing the use of social media at the company

Did that change your thinking? Sounds like a great job with plenty of opportunity to create strategy, implement tactics and lead the social media initiative for this company for years to come, right?

In fact, this is a great spot for someone like me, a social media professional paid to curate communities, engage with customers, build brands,  develop brand ambassadors and promote products via social media as a career (in my case since 1997).  So why didn’t I immediately submit my application and resume? Because of this next line: Career Level: Early Career (1+ yrs experience) 

Whoa, you want to trust this job — and the reputation of your company, its brand and products (the success of which is essential for the future survival of the company itself) — in the hands of an entry-level individual? Really?

The disconnect comes when companies fail to understand that digital natives lack the necessary business acumen and experience to actually get the job done. They instead believe they need to hire young because, you know, when it comes to social media ‘young people get it’.

That’s a fatal flaw that sets up both the individual hired and the company for failure. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to developing a digital roadmap or building consensus among varied internal stakeholders to insinuate social media throughout the enterprise (the long-term goal for success). And do not for a minute discount the institutional knowledge an experienced person brings to the table regarding what’s worked (and failed) in the past to better be able to recognize the next big thing.

If you want a leader; if you use  phrases like “create strategy”; “implement tactics”; “develop policy” or “lead the organization” as part of the job description, set yourself up for success: hire the digital immigrant —  a social media professional. 

Don’t Blame Twitter — Case Study: STRABAG SE

Austrian based STRABAG SE, one of the largest construction companies in Europe with 73,600 employees and annual revenue of € 12.B (both as of fiscal 2010), posted this update on Twitter after 18 months of use —>

In an email to IR Web Report (whose article inspired this blog entry), spokesperson Paula Rhys of STRABAG’s investor relations team said: “We do not see any benefit in using this social media tool for the time being. Stakeholders did not discuss actively with us on Twitter despite our efforts to ask questions.

Now, regular readers of this blog or my Twitter stream know that a recurring theme of mine is that companies need to place the responsibility for its social media initiative in the hands of a social media professional. A quick review of this move by STRABAG underscores this requirement.

The Facts
STRABAG created their Twitter account on August 5, 2009 and issued its first tweet two days later (“Largest construction company in CEE

  • It has issued 146 tweets over the 575 days from inception to the date of this entry (~4/week)
  • It follows 524 people, is followed by 527 and appears on 32 Twitter lists
  • Its bio info is exactly the same as its first tweet (see above)
  • Its profile provides a link to its home page: http://www.strabag.com

The Analysis (aka Why They Were Doomed to Twitter #Fail)
First, let me say that the mistakes STRABAG made are not uncommon when companies apply traditional marketing and communications strategies towards leveraging social media. I do not mean to assign blame to its communications and marketing teams — it’s not their fault — they were simply operating the way they were trained. But, Twitter, and indeed all social media, is a different animal. Here’s what they did wrong: Read more of this post

Twitter: The Not So Angry Bird

I’ve been speaking with a lot of people lately about the role of the social media exec in today’s business world and, of course, the conversation invariably includes Twitter. Even now, almost five years after its launch, many people have misconceptions or negative opinions about Twitter largely based upon a lack of knowledge.

And so when I saw this post on Mediabistro‘s All Twitter blog titled, 3 Things Most People Don’t Understand About Twitter, I thought I’d add a few comments on them as well.

Myth #1: Twitter is a social network: It is not. It is a part of social media, but it is not a social network — it is an information network, backed up by public comments from co-founder Biz Stone. Earlier this month, Twitter finally released its mission statement that stresses that assessment and here’s proof: We all know that Google is the king of the search world, but did you know that the #2 position is held by Twitter? That’s right, more searches are performed on Twitter each month than on Yahoo! and bing, combined.

Myth: It’s just good for one thing: On the contrary, it’s good for many things. Your Twitter is not the same as my Twitter. In fact, my Twitter changes from moment to moment. Sometimes I use it as a communications tool; sometimes a news source; and at others a marketing tool. That’s my Twitter. As we say online, YMMV (your mileage may vary).

Myth: Twitter kills productivity: Is Twitter a time suck? Well, what isn’t? Anything you do takes your time and, as mentioned above, Twitter time can be just as valuable (or not) as any other research or communications activity. The important factor is that it is a customizable experience to be used as little or as much as makes sense. As for banning it, or other social media, from the workplace I’d counsel to tread lightly. Unless you also ban all smartphones from the premises your employees will still spend time on those sites. It is better to make a reasonable social media policy where personal use of social media is akin to personal use of company phones and have supervisors continue to judge their direct reports as they always have: do they get the job done well, on time and with positive influence on their peers.

Connect with me on Twitter @roncasalotti.

10 Plus 10: Twenty Social Media Rules and Tips

Firefly Millward Brown Study on Brand EngagementThis is the time of year when numbered lists abound. Top 5 this… 10 Best that… and it is rare that I agree with all of the points offered.

So when I saw this item from Online Strategic Solutions Richard Meyer (@richardmeyer), where he adds 10 additional tips to Firefly Millward Brown’s social media rules for brand engagement, and I agreed with all 20, I knew I needed to share.

See for yourself: ‘10 Rules of Social Media

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