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June 11, 2012


Help, We need a social media strategy!

by Tom De Baere

Yes, that’s the big question in the mind of many B2B marketing executives. Until recently, that included myself.

I did not really understand what to do with this “social media” thing. To put it black and white, I thought

  • Facebook was for children and not for B2B,
  • LinkedIn is for business only and serves to connect with people that I know or do not know,
  • and I had no clue on why a company should use Twitter?

I think that about sums up all the prejudices I had on social media.

The moment I realized what to do with social media

Last year I started reading some great books on social media. I admit, I am a late believer, but around that timeframe it started to become clear to me what I had to do with social media in a B2B context.

As I wrote before in another post on social media, you should be where our buyers are. If your buyers, although they might be there for another reason than doing business (connecting with their friends or relatives), we should be where they are. Your buyers are there joining groups related to your business, and discussing trends, features and products!

My industry doesn’t “do” social media

Maybe you think your customers are not yet on social media today. But you bet they are out there somewhere. I’m sure they are on LinkedIn. And I’m sure they are on Twitter. But you just don’t know it, because you are not there.

Without great effort you can build out a community that can benefit from the content you are offering them. This can be done as easy as starting a group on LinkedIn. Or maybe you can build new communities about topics that buyers find interesting but where no community exists today.

Are you ready for the Y-generation?

Another argument to create a presence on social media networks is that your future employees, managers, influencers and buyers are actually growing up with these social media networks.

Yes, this generation is commonly known as the Y-generation: they have not lived the times without mobile phones and Internet access. They have absolutely no problem with putting their day-to-day aspects of life on the net.

So are they stupid, these Y-generation people?

Absolutely not. They are very conscious of what they put on the net, and that they understand the dangers.

They see social networking as the natural way of communicating, and see it as the new ‘e-mail’ but instead much more practical. There is no need to punch in address lines and subject lines. They share content with people of the same mind-set (groups) and people they trust. So everyone in the group influences everyone.

Social Media is a cocktail party

Social media provide the way people share ideas, content, thoughts, and relationships online. Social media differ from so-called mainstream media in that anyone can create, comment on, and add to social media content. Social media can take the form of text, audio, video, images, and communities.

There are 2 terms that should sound familiar:

  • Social Media: this is the superset and is how we refer to various media that people use to communicate online in a social way, and include blogs, wikis, video and photo sharing, and review sites with user comments.
  • Social Networking: a subset of social media is social networking. These are the websites like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Myspace, etc… On these websites people create a profile and interact to become part of a community.

To quote David Scott Meerman “Social Media is a cocktail party”: as a metaphor in viewing the internet as a city, you can think of social media and the way people interact on blogs, forums and social networking sites as the bars, private clubs, and cocktail parties of the city.

Don’t be an alcoholic on social networks

Now, luckily you do not need to be on every social networking site, as in the previous analogy, you cannot go to every cocktail party, unless you are an alcoholic or a sales manager ;-).

It’s better to be active in a few social networking sites instead of creating profiles on dozens of them and being too busy to spend much time in any one.

Your social media strategy

Don’t make your social media strategy too complicated. This is not about your digital marketing strategy. This is about who you want to be on social media networks, where you want to be, and what you want to offer to your networks :

  • Be where your customers are.
  • Don’t try to be everywhere, but pick your networks carefully.
  • Provide relevant and authentic content on these networks for your buyers, linking back to your main content hub (usually your website).
  • Listen, answers questions, and set-up conversations by asking questions.

Is it that easy? I think so. You’ll learn by doing, and there’s a lot to learn. What’s for sure,  is that you will also make mistakes. But that’s the nice thing about social media: we are all learning. As long as you always keep your customers’ needs in the center of what you are doing on these networks, you’ll be just fine.

That’s it. Now go to your cocktail parties.

Warm regards,

Tom De Baere