Before You Start a B2B Social Media Program…

Why get involved with social media in the first place? That’s the question on the mind of a lot of B2B marketers right now. If the answer is “Because my competitors are doing it,” you probably should wait until you have more concrete goals.

These goals can include:

  • Better engaging prospects, customers and others
  • Finding additional avenues to market your views, products and culture
  • Establishing yourself as a thought leader on a subject

Today, large companies such as Microsoft and Sun have heartily embraced blogging as one way to establish themselves as thought leaders and to better engage customers. Other large companies such as Oracle, meanwhile, have used video-sharing sites for promotional and educational purposes. One 2008 Oracle YouTube video on customer relationship management software, for example, has received more than 1,900 views.

Smaller companies are also benefiting from social media marketing. They often have the advantage in the adoption of social media, since their activities are less constrained by the bureaucracies inherent to larger companies. Purewire, for instance, a start-up focusing on social media security, created several pages on Facebook where the company’s “fans” can read corporate news and interact with each other. Purewire, with just a little effort, has attracted more than 100 followers and fans on these pages.

Social media can be a great equalizer, helping fast-growth companies and startups engage in online conversations and build followings. Social media can also offer new channels on which these companies’ voices can be heard.

More Questions to Ask

Implementing a social media strategy requires a commitment over the long haul as word spreads and as audiences begin to engage. Businesses should conduct due diligence, choosing and concentrating on the precise social media activities that best align with their business and communications goals. At the onset of a campaign, companies must realistically assess:

  • How much time and money can be invested?
  • What are your goals?
  • Which social media channels should you use?
  • Who in the company should participate? Who will take a primary role in leading social media campaigns?
  • How will you measure success?

Using Social Media to Build Awareness…and Passion

Social media doesn’t make sense for every B2B company. But many companies have found tremendous success with simple measures. Take computer maker Dell, which sells to both consumers and businesses. Ed Cone of CIOinsight.com in 2008 reported the company had generated $1 million in revenue in a year and a half by publishing “sales alerts” on Twitter. For the investment of tweeting to promote discounted products, Dell essentially reached more prospects in a way that was never before possible.

Companies big and small that effectively execute social marketing campaigns can expect benefits such as:

  • A boost in site traffic
  • Word-of-mouth referrals
  • Increased brand awareness
  • Increased brand loyalty
  • Social Media Trends Can Change Overnight

Social media technologies, platforms and practices are evolving quickly. So much so that what is popular today may be passé in two years.

MySpace, for example, was the most popular and well known social site just a few years ago. In 2006, the network had more than twice as many unique worldwide visitors as Facebook. However, the number of MySpace users has hovered around the same amount since then. In contrast, the number of unique worldwide visitors on Facebook in April 2008 surpassed the number of unique worldwide visitors on MySpace, tech industry blog TechCrunch reports. From March 2008 to March 2009, according to Fortune Magazine, Facebook’s U.S. membership increased a stout 41 percent.

In addition, new sites can appear and gain tremendous popularity in a short time. In 2006, for example, Twitter was just starting out. In November 2008, the site witnessed its billionth tweet.

The moral of the MySpace and Twitter story is that the social media landscape moves fast. B2B companies need to constantly monitor this landscape to keep ahead of the curve…and to stay relevant.

photo_kathy_kabreraAbout Kathy Cabrera

Kathy Cabrera is a guest blogger for Journalistics. Kathy serves as Director of New Media for Carabiner Communications and leads the agency’s social media and video initiative. Kathy helps clients build and integrate social media tools and content into their communications campaigns. To learn more about Carabiner’s social media offerings, please visit http://www.carabinerpr.com or email Kathy directly.

(Image Credit: Twitter Ad for Pancheros via Brood_wich)

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