Social media is on the priority list for many marketers. Most major consumer brands have a social media presence - not necessarily a good one but they've started. B2B brands however have just started to dive into the social waters.
After speaking on a panel at SXSW in Austin titled "Alternative Channels for Content Distribution", much of the conversation turned to social media. Refreshingly there was a lot of social chatter amongst attendees about what we as a panel were speaking about. I will distill the top themes that seemed to resonate with the audience and their implications specifically for B2B marketers.
- The ever waging debate on the ROI of Social Media.
I made a comment on the panel that was echoed significantly online. The comment was that if you're trying to measure ROI to JUSTIFY getting into social then you're wasting your time. You should however measure ROI to optimize social. Social drives a significant portion of online minutes (1 in 5 mins online spent on social), and it's not "just for kids" (the average age of a Canadian in social networks about 40 years of age). If you are going to spend time trying to justify getting into social it's a waste of effort. You need to get over the fact that your audience is already there. A comment that was widely repeated from the session was "the ROI of social media is that your business will still be around in 5 years". Dramatic? Yes, but I hope you get the point. (Next blog post on B2B social media stats.)
- Keeping up with the rate of change.
For B2B marketers, engaging you customers AND employees in social channels is critical. Michelle Edellman from Warner was asked where do you think Facebook will be in 5 years, she jokingly replied she'd like to know where it will be in 5 days. The sentiment is held by many and for good reason. Facebook grows by 100M users in months, not years. MySpace went from hero to zero in a few short years and was sold off for just $35M - and now it may be making a bit of a comeback. 8 months ago no one heard of Pinterest - now you hear it mentioned almost every day. Keeping up is a full time job, and then some. Here's the reality, the pace of change will not slow down. It will not get easier. Waiting to wade into social will not solve the problem. The sooner you begin, the better off you will be. We're going through a major shift in communications history and you need to participate to learn. Learning may be tough, you will probably trip along the way but getting your business into social is something that you need to do for you and your company.
- How to implement.
This is the hardest and one of the most significant reasons getting in the way of organizations pushing social media forward. The fact is that most marketers and agencies are not educated or structured to manage social media. In an Oct 2011 Forrester article titled 'metrics that matter for B2B marketers', mastery of social media tools was rated the top in terms of biggest weaknesses of B2B marketing organizations by their CMOs. A huge challenge with social is the always on reality. In traditional media when your campaign launches your work is done - in social when a campaign launches your work just begins. Effectively managing social has staffing, resourcing, training and education implications. Organizations need to acknowledge the need to invest in resources needed to successfully manage social media programs.
In summary, using social is critical to a business to communicate with existing and new customers. Some B2B marketers have already established a meaningful social presence and are beginning to reap the rewards. Others are just venturing in. Either way, make sure you have an internal (co executive) or external champion (trusted agency) to help guide the way.