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boardroomGenerally 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.

Ignore Facebook

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.

Matt Owen

Published 11 August, 2010 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (10)

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Hey matt - where did you get those adoption stats? Seem very high!

almost 6 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Danny, apologies -on re-reading I realise I was unclear with this figure. This represents total social media adoption, including blogs, twitter etc etc, sorry if it appeared inflated, (these figures come from a report published in May via Bizreport.com).

almost 6 years ago

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Sean Bland

Hi Matt, really liked the article. One question though. When you say ignore Facebook is that because most businesses look at Twitter now??

Thanks Sean @ http://www.frontlinecom.co.uk/

almost 6 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Hi Sean, well, to be fair I was exagerating a little. There are b2b ops on Facebook, but in my experience it can be difficult to find a suitable use for the platform, or engage interested parties there effectively. Ultimately Facebook has value if only because of it's size and ubiquity, but it's reputation is not that of a professional outlet. LinkedIn and industry specific forums are generally better places to find useful contacts and raise awareness (of course I'm sure there will be exceptions who do very well on FB).

almost 6 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Thanks Matt.

The Facebook question is an interesting one too. Most people seem to ignore Facebook for B2B as the perception is users use it for non-work activities, hence the B2C focus. There is evidence out there to suggest this is not necessarily the case and that more and more of us are using Facebook to get professional updates too. Much of this comes down to individual choice. The way I use a particular social network could be very different to the next person and this will affect the brands I'm happy to engage with/hear from.

I wonder if whether as more Gen Y people move into the workforce, this specific use cases might start to change...

almost 6 years ago

Matt Owen

Matt Owen, Head of Social at Econsultancy

Very good point, Facebook is certainly the most familiar network for most users, especially those in their early 20's, so there is scope for major growth. Ultimately you have to go where your buyers are.

almost 6 years ago

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Danny Whatmough, Associate social media and digital director at Ketchum

Yes it does have to be audience centric, but choice is important too as different audience members will use different networks in different ways. There are no rules!

almost 6 years ago

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Rob Drummond

Matt, I think you're right in saying that the value is in the network. Many companies seem to have adopted social media without investing the time in building their networks, or even checking whether their customers and prospects actually use social networking sites.

I then hear comments such as "social media doesn't work.." as toys get thrown out of the pram. The fact is that achieving success with it is bloody hard work!

almost 6 years ago

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ed

Ask yourself what are you going to avail of: the expensive internet advertising methods or the cheap ones? Others will pipe in "expensive!" immediately, but they don't know cheap internet advertising method attracts great benefits as well.

almost 6 years ago

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Arnold

Hi, thanks for this article, we are also thinking about going social media route or not, and i agree with you on facebook, especially B2B nature of the sector we are in. However i'm not sure if we should use linkedin just yet, it is a lot more professional targeted social media source compared to facebook.

Arnold

www.myruby.co.uk

over 5 years ago

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