Wondering Out Loud

Who should you target with B2B social media activities

In my last post I wrote about setting the proper expectations for your social media efforts. Today, I want to touch on the “who” piece of the equation.

It’s axiomatic, but I’m going to point out the obvious: who you target with your efforts is critical to meeting the objective you set. I’ve seen companies derail their social media strategies because they get hypnotized by the shiny new object that is the latest and greatest social media tool. Rather than determining it if it will help meet their objectives, they figure out a way to use it regardless of the results. Cool new stuff will do that to people.

Stay focused. Keep both eyes on your audience, the message you want to send, and the best way to deliver that message.

Let’s start with the first one: your audience.

I’ve written about it before and I will reiterate it here, the value of social media in the B2B space is primarily in the realm of public relations. Extending and enhancing traditional PR efforts through the use of web-based tools. But the beauty of social media is the ability it gives you to more quickly and easily build relationships with the gatekeepers of information and to reach beyond the gatekeepers directly to the final consumers of your PR messages.

And that brings me to the crux of this post; determining your target audience(s). Audience selection was one of the first decisions we made when launching the social media strategy at SoftBrands. We identified the six listed below:
 
Industry media
It’s true that social media makes it possible to bypass the media gatekeepers and take your message directly to the market, but industry media can as an objective source to corroborate the expertise you showcase in blog posts, podcasts, etc. Any time you are included in the editorial content of a publication your credibility is enhanced

Industry bloggers
Commenting on blog posts, tracking back, referencing a post in one of your own, are all ways to bring the first target down a level to one that is more personal in nature. When you are communicating with an industry blogger – even if he/she also writes for one of the trade publications – you are doing so one on one, person to person. It’s a great way to build a media relations and generate even more editorial activity.

Customers
Current customers are important because you want to continue to remind them they made a great choice in purchasing your product or service. Actively communicating via the several social media methods helps build customer relations and loyalty. Include your customers in your efforts and you can make a friend for life.

Prospects
Why am I including prospects when B2B social media belongs in the PR space? Think back to the objectives I set out in my last post – credibility, thought leadership, etc.  People want to trust the companies they buy from and employing social media tactics is a great way to build that trust long before they are in the market for product or service. The early part of most sales cycles includes a time for getting to know each other. What if the prospect already trusts you, your company and what you’re selling? It would save time and money and give you a better chance of winning the business. Social media can do just that.

Investors
As a publicly traded company, investor relations are very important to us. Now my efforts at social media are not corporate in nature, but investors are interested in the company as a whole; all divisions and products are important to them.

Fellow employees
I trust the importance of this is obvious to everyone.

Each was selected because it could help achieve the social media objectives I gave you in my last post. Fellow employees are the one exception, but if you’re not considering them you have bigger issues to deal with. How we communicate may vary, but everything we do is targeted, directly or indirectly, at each of the six.

Like I stated earlier, it is a PR play for B2B at this time – and times always change – so the list of audiences is heavy toward those who can help me communicate my message to the market at large. And even though the market at large made the list the message is not product focused.

Remember these few tips and your social media strategy will stay on track:

  1. Who you target needs to flow directly from the objectives of your social media strategy
  2. Don’t get distracted by the shiny new social media app. Assess whether it will help you achieve your goals and act accordingly
  3. Stay focused on your audience and let everything you do inform your decisions for what to say and how
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June 25, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , | 1 Comment

Setting objectives in B2B social media

I was digging through old blog posts the other day and came across this one Mark Schaefer’s {grow} blog. A bit more than one month old, it asks a simple question: Can social media be successful in B2B?

Mark’s position can be summed up in the following excerpt:

Demonstrable B2B results are scant unless you define success as “number of mentions” or “number of hits.” How is it driving top line growth?

Mark asks the wrong question because he’s thinking like the marketing professional he is. If I used his definition as a measure of social media success, then the social media program I have managed as SoftBrands for 18 months would be considered a failure. But I know, and management knows, it has been a success.

Before launching our social media initiative, I set very clear objectives. Growth was not among them because this is not a marketing program; it fits much better in the area of public relations. That’s not to say there isn’t any spillover into marketing, but any that does occur is a fringe benefit.

My goals were pretty simple:

  • Increased credibility
  • Thought leadership
  • Promote industry expertise
  • Improve media relations
  • Increased brand awareness

I won’t bore you with the statistics, but eighteen months after launch, I can say definitively we have succeeded all categories. The blog is being read by the people I want – business partners and key industry people –and press inquires for interviews have increased dramatically. In addition, I have access to people that I would not have but for the blog, podcasts, Twitter, etc.

The bottom line is simply this; success is achieved by fulfilling the objectives you set. Objectives are set by the department that owns your strategy and will look very different coming from marketing than from public relations.

June 20, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , | 4 Comments

Show me the How

At the risk of making enemies of all who have weighed in on the subject, I beg all of you to please stop blogging, writing, talking & pontificating on the subject of WHY B2B companies need, should, have to use social media. A search of Google returned 492,000 hits on the keyword “B2B needs social media”. At the top was this one from iMedia Connection. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great post with a lot of sound advice: Conversations are going on become part of them, conversations missed is opportunity lost, improved customer relations, etc., etc. But it is one of 492,000 “Why” columns.

Enough already.

I think it’s time to spread our wings, leave why behind and start talking about the next important step: How.

I’ll grant you there are many, many who haven’t figured out the why and the truth is many of them never will. In the meantime there is a sizable percentage of former Whys that have now moved into the How group. The problem is, too many of us are so passionate about social media and the promise it holds to reshape the practice of B2B communications, we don’t want to move forward until we’ve converted each and every one of those who question our sanity.

If you want to continue evangelizing the Gospel of Social Media, grab a sturdy soapbox and plant yourself at the busiest intersection in the nearest metropolitan area and start preaching to the heathens. If you’re in this game for fun and profit it’s time to focus on the converted and put the convert-ables in second place on your list of priorities.

I’m not saying to ignore those who’ve not yet come around, but to put your skills to use on helping those who have. Show them that social media is more than a concept. Prove the value of exposing their brand to the new world of Web 2.0. Let them see that blogging is not to be feared, but to be embraced and, dare I say, loved for what it can for an organization.

Notice the change in positioning – show, prove, let them see. No more pitching, preaching and pleading. It’s all about making it real. Writing the blog, recording the podcasts, putting the videos on line.

I did the dance at SoftBrands for two years. We talked about social media, we discussed social media, but we didn’t pull the trigger on social media until I grew tired of trying to convert the entire gang. After one last meeting that ended with another meeting scheduled, I pulled my PR agency rep aside and told him we were going to launch a blog with or without unanimous support.

Build it we did and 18 months later we have a thriving social media strategy. Some days we thrive more than others, I”m a small group and other priorities divert my attention. 

Bottom line: I stopped converting, sarted practicing and now have a social media initiative that is the standard for other units within the business.

Time to climb off the soapbox and start executing.

June 18, 2009 Posted by | Social Media | , , , | 1 Comment

   

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