In my article in the May-June 2014 issue (Finding your inner B2B), I discussed the mindset B2B marketers should have when approaching social media. More specifically, I encouraged them to think of B2B in the same vein as B2C, i.e. the consumer is the person directing your strategy. In this article, I will share some insights on what makes a good B2B strategy. And it all boils down to the following key building blocks: people, planning and content.
I cannot stress enough the importance of hiring the right team – and the problem is that there are plenty of people out there who consider themselves to be social media ‘gurus’. Unfortunately, many of them adopt the term expert or guru solely on the basis of their having a few thousand plus followers on Twitter or Facebook. As a result, their perceived expertise is really only in being social and not (necessarily) in being able to strategically plan a social media campaign.
Hence, when you start looking for good social media executives or managers for your team, you need to play both the seasoned as well as the rookies. What I mean is that you need to hire someone who understands social media strategy and execution from a business perspective as well as someone who has aptitude, attitude and the potential to be groomed into a future social media leader for your organisation.
For the experienced candidate, monitor their online persona. What are they tweeting about? How many retweets do they get and how many likes on Facebook? How many followers on Quora or LinkedIn? What is their Klout score? (I am not a big fan of Klout, but it does give an indication of the candidate’s sphere of influence.) How do they handle pressure online? How do they react when faced with online criticism or backlash about what they have posted; are they defensive, offensive or assertive? Do they understand the basics of crisis communication? You will easily understand their personality (leader, follower, troublemaker or team worker) based on their online interactions.
When they speak about their experience, ask them for specifics. It is easy to gloss over a campaign you were responsible for by saying ‘we got 10,000 likes in one month’ – the real question however is what was the engagement rate? For example, how many likes or comments did they get on posts after the 10,000 likes?
Finally, ask them about their vision for social media over the next three years. Social media is changing daily, with new platforms slowly turning into online behemoths. Are they someone who can transition the brand into the new platforms with ease?
For the rookie, once again, monitor them online, but also look for other signs, such as their communication skills, their ability to engage with a diverse audience globally, their brand affiliations and how they interact with them. This will give you an indication of whether they have the mindset to manage your brand on a platform. Also look at the people they follow online to get an indication of who they consider influencers. This will play a big role in how they grow within your organisation.
Surprisingly, when it comes to social media, many B2B companies sacrifice long term planning for short term gain. They want the immediate results to showcase to the board (such as likes or followers). While this is well and good in itself, it does not help in the long run. Short term goals only result in short term satisfaction, giving the team and the company nothing sustainable to work with after those goals are met.
Instead, work with your marketing team (social, digital, traditional, strategic) to devise a long term strategy – platforms, goals, messaging style, brand perception, overall success factors relevant to both consumers and your board. Remember, your board pulls the purse strings, so never forget to include what they want out of this.
To start your conversation during the meeting on strategy, you could begin by asking ‘who’. Your target audience is probably spread across a geographic region, with or without a key demographic limitation such as age, spending power or influence. Remember, the people you are engaging on social media are not your customers yet. Your conversations regarding products and purchases will not be relevant until they have taken part in your conversations on why you even exist.
Large B2B brands often make the mistake of assuming that their size is common knowledge. For example, the public knows Panadol, but they don’t necessarily know that GlaxoSmithKline manufactures it. When you start promoting your brand on social media always begin with the assumption that the public does not know you. This will help define what your branding goals are when dealing with audiences prone to skipping a tweet because it holds no value for them.
Although still relatively new on the marketing stage, content marketing has been in existence since the dawn of social media. Think about it: everything you ever posted on Hi5, ICQ, Orkut etc., bought you a certain amount of social cred. In other words, people engaged with what you posted (and continue to post) on social media platforms. This is what content does. Your status, tweets and comments are all pieces of content, only packaged informally.
Content is king; there is a reason this phrase is so common. What do you think is your strongest story? What is your most engaging commentary? What do people want to know about your company or product? Those are the seeds of your content. Everyone loves content when you make them believe their lives can be better after consuming it.
For B2B, your content revolves around helping the person who consumes it to be better at their job. That’s the ground reality. Do a complete content audit in your company, create an inventory (you will be surprised just how many stories there are to share) and start allocating themes to them. Conversation, education and satisfaction, these are three important themes the public consumes through content every day. Align your social media strategy towards these three themes and you are on a winning start. You can hit the ground running.
In conclusion, social media for B2B depends on the following key quote (which I love): Social media for business is exactly like social media for consumers – it depends on what you have to say and who you get to say it for you.
Anthony J. Permal is a digital marketing specialist based in Dubai.