Generally speaking, B2B organizations are well ahead of the social media curve. Figures show a higher rate of adoption then the B2C market (86% compared to 82% for B2C), and there’s certainly a willingness to innovate within the space.
However, there’s often a long hard slog to integrate and execute a strategy effectively. While ideally, social media should be multi-departmental, B2B’s most commonly place social media within the marketing department.
As marketers, one of the largest problems is still resistance or lack of understanding from senior management.
CEO’s and CFO’s are undeniably busy people, and with limited time on hand there’s a need for quick, bullet-point arguments and proposals. Unfortunately social media is not ideally suited to short sharp PowerPoint synopsis.
Its focus on community and long term engagement mean that genuinely valuable metrics and solid ROI tend to appear slowly, emerging along with your network.
If a CEO is looking at allocating budget for social media, they will instinctively run the simplest, most revealing tests initially. Unfortunately, these can paint a very poor picture of social media.
In order to get your executive branch’s full support, you’ll need to build a compelling business case.
Here are a few points that will help you convince your higher-ups that they should be joining the social media conversation...
Don’t let your CEO do their own research
What do these three have in common?
- Fidel Castro.
- The Princess Diaries.
- Justin Bieber (of course).
Haircuts aside, they are topping the trending topics this afternoon.
Unless your B2B has a particular interest in the fate of the People’s Revolutionary Army or the films of Julie Andrews, it’s understandable that your CEO won’t see the immediate benefits available here.
As mentioned, executives are often pushed for time, so their own research will often be limited to broad statistics.
Social media is primarily filled with entertainment content, so make sure you are showing them where the genuinely relevant conversations are taking place. Make a comprehensive list of industry blogs and forums, and list competitors who are already active there.
OK, that’s a little extreme, but again mainstream coverage gives a very blinkered view of the sphere of social media.
Most people will assume it involves Facebook, Twitter and little else. B2B touchpoints do exist on these networks, but again the bulk of the conversation will be found on blogs and industry forums.
You need to construct a solid list of recent conversation and sentiment in order to convince.
You can construct a quick, clear picture by using bespoke software like BrandWatch or InfluenceFinder, but if you don’t have the budget available run your site URL through Yahoo (type linkdomain:yournamehere.com/into the Yahoo search page) to grab a quick list of backlinks and mentions.
Think like a customer
For B2Bs network building is important, but their networks can function in a slightly different way than those of B2Cs.
A core group of important, personal relationships with major clients will often require most of your attention, so in order to define the most important touchpoints, behave like a client. A vast majority of B2B buyers will begin their research with a simple look at Google, and so should you.
Forum comments, blogs and Tweets will rank highly here, so make sure you communicate this to senior management. It’s incredibly important that they understand who is talking about them and exactly how it’s likely to affect business.
If negative comments are ranking highly in Google, then it’s important to address them quickly. Likewise, if competitors are doing well here, then they will be gaining a large slice of your potential business.
Make the case for visibility
While most marketers are now convinced of the benefits of social media, the broad reach and low costs it can offer, it’s easy to see why these don’t immediately leap out to others.
Take time to list relevant figures and provide examples. Without adequate support your social media strategy could be doomed from the start, so plan ahead and make sure you have a solid footing when you set out.