Key Considerations for B2B Social Strategy
Define your objectives. Understand your audience. Measure your efforts. Well, duh. Of course we expect to do all that. Surfacing the obvious may indeed be helpful for newbies in our field. But if you're a MarComm professional in a B2B company, you're no longer at the entry level to be chanting these lines the way others echo them in Twitter chats. (Ahem)
Instead, lets turn our heads onto another track and be mindful of the guidance we follow when crafting a fulsome marketing communications strategy that factors in social media:
First, why would you choose to use social media related tactics? Is it a given? "Because everyone else is doing it and we're missing out" is not a well informed reason. Say a good chunk of your revenue generating model involves traditional methods to gain new and/or nurture existing clients. We're talking a lot of face-to-face interactions (luncheon seminars, golf outings, receptions etc.). Does social media still fit?
Well, it may in fact have a place. But don't go throwing the baby out with the bathwater just because you suddenly got hypnotized by flat metrics (e.g., number of Facebook likes). Enhance existing, solid tactics by injecting elements of social media into it (e.g., encourage your invitees to check-in via FourSquare when holding a luncheon seminar or have them tweet a themed hashtag while sharing insights that promote your company's intellectual property). But don’t just tell them to do it: explain what these platforms are, why they are relevant and how they may even help the way they do business.
Fact: social media is a medium not a tactic. There must be clear and quantifiable reasons for using this new medium to strengthen (not compromise) your tactical matrix. If you think redressing a tactic with a veil of creative flair is enough to win your audience’s attention, then you’re underestimating them.
The latest trend in trapping attention involves visual content and video, connecting brands both with loyal customers and prospects. A number of B2C campaigns (especially in the retail sector) have had great success in this. But is your audience part of a demographic who spend a great deal of time on Instagram, Snapchat or Vine? Sure, some of your clients have even produced their own YouTube content. In fact, they even claim to have secured new leads by introducing videos in their own marketing.
Now ideally, your client would be giving you credit for your advice to try promoting via video. But your client’s bread and butter doesn’t and can’t rely on video alone. In fact, they’re wondering what the big picture really is and how they can take full advantage of digital marketing. How will you keep captivating their attention?
B2B thrives on gaining new business through lead generation. The most enduring relationships evolve over time from that one private discussion in a restaurant or golf course (or camping trip, depending on how forward-thinking your client is). When competition is fierce, you always get the urge to outsmart, outsell, ‘out-distinguish’ yourself. Sometimes this works.
But investing in a long-term relationship with your client means more than discounted pricing and unique value propositions (we’re experts in social, trust us!). You must be able to win them over through the unwavering integrity of your brand (one that speaks for itself or is attested by others) and an unsaid genuineness in your long-term commitment to always have their best interest. Only then will you have the privilege of their undivided attention.
Print, desktop, mobile: this common knowledge mix is self-explanatory, right? However, what you need to keep in mind goes beyond the 'consistency in messaging' meme. You must (and always first) consider: where is my audience consuming my content? Why do they choose one method or channel over another?
B2B companies closely in tune with the changing landscape are smart enough to research and select marketing tools (or engage the services of consultants) that help automate a portion of their sales and marketing machine (some call this funnel; but does the ‘funnel’ analogy still work?). Social media is borne of the web, an uncontrolled diaspora of platforms where tracking becomes a ubiquitous, multi-pronged effort. To some extent, sales and marketing can manage and monitor lead generation and content tracking through automation, but what if you don’t have these tools?
When embedding social media elements in your strategy, always earmark the platforms where your audience is most receptive and responsive (e.g., Quora for Q&A, Twitter for chats, Hangouts for collaborative piloting etc). Are you attentive enough to where they are in order to select the social platforms that give your strategy tangible results?
Finally, how repurposable is your sales and marketing strategy? Typically, you’ll start reassessing your game plan to do a complete reset during budgeting period for the next fiscal year. You’ll want to recycle the tried-tested-n-true tactics for each product, practice, service or line of business. While you do, you'll probably look back at all the campaigns where social media tactics actually worked.
Then you’ll need to determine if a particular tactic is better off with or without a social media dimension (e.g., did we get increased subscriptions with the #smartsocial hashtag tactic? can we really gain new audiences by posting content on LinkedIn? did our brand visibility significantly increase after launching our monthly Twitter chat about Topic X).
Just as most commercial products are governed by a lifecycle framework, think of your social media options in a similar way: are some more single-purposed than others? to what extent can you make certain campaigns modular to adjust to different markets (helpful for multinationals)? how easily can you retain some social media wild cards without compromising budget (the promise of cost-efficiency doesn’t always apply to some social endeavours)?
Sensing how emerging technologies have potential impacts to the way you currently do business is critical to the modern marketer. Train yourself to identify the patterns until it becomes second nature.
What key things do you consider when drafting your marketing master plan that involves social media? Do share your thoughts.
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