The 2013 B2B social media marketing check list

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It is an accepted fact that social networks are here to stay however many companies are still trying to figure out how to use social networks in an effective way. There are many conflicting opinions on how an organisation should deploy the use of social networking, the reason being that each opinion revolves around that particular individual’s area of expertise or comfort zone.

While social networks can be used for research, public relations, branding, marketing or as an extension to your corporate enterprise resource planning systems, I am going to focus on the use of social networks for business-to-business marketing. Here are some things to consider if you are planning on using social networks as part of your B2B Marketing strategy.

Develop your strategy first

Before doing anything, spend a lot of time developing you B2B Social Media Marketing strategy. Too many jump in head first without having a plan in place and then give up because they are not seeing tangible results. B2B Social Media Marketing, just like any other project, is a strategic initiative and should be treated as such. You wouldn’t embark on an enterprise resource planning implementation without a proper strategy, would you?

Get “buy in”

Once your strategy has been developed, ensure that you get an executive sponsor and owner. For the best results get your CEO involved and make sure that the entire board and senior management know that he/she has endorsed the project.

Do your research

With any marketing intervention, it is always a good idea to do your research first. If you plan to use social networks as part of your B2B marketing strategy, find out:

- If your target market actually use social networks
- Which social networks they participate on
- If the business publications your target market reads use social networks
- Which social networks do the business publications participate on
- Who are the potential brand advocates and social media influencers

Resources and budget

If you think you are going to execute your B2B Social Media Marketing strategy with one person and “free” online tools, you are sorely mistaken. A sound B2B Social Media Marketing model requires a number of specialist skills (internal and external) and tools. The important thing is that if you spend wisely, you will reap the benefits.

Measurement is important

The sole purpose of a B2B Marketing plan is to generate sales leads and prospects. Very early in your project, you need to identify what you are going to measure, how it will be measured and how you will report progress to the relevant stakeholders within your business.

Don’t do it on your own

If you are going to deploy a B2B Social Media Marketing model effectively within your organisation, you need participation from a wide audience. I am not saying that every person within your organisation should be participating on the relevant social networks, however there should be a notable online presence from key individuals, especially the relevant thought leaders.

Get help from the right people

If you are going to do it right, make sure you get the right people to help you. The B2B Social Media Marketing specialists are out there, but word of advice, choose wisely! This is all around generating leads and prospects to fill your sales funnel so it is advisable to speak to experts that come from a sales background.

Do you have anything to add to this list? Do you agree or disagree with anything I have mentioned? Do you have any personal experiences or advice? I would love to hear from you!

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About David Graham

I consult on business to business digital marketing strategy for individuals and companies of any size. I have more than 20 years sales and marketing experience and have worked for leading global technology and consulting companies. In recent years I have focussed my energy predominantly on online digital marketing.
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27 Responses to The 2013 B2B social media marketing check list

  1. sdiedericks says:

    I think the following could be included in the “Strategy Step” described above; but I believe it critically important to establish from the on-set, what specific Social Media Persona ones social media engagement wants to communicate. Without this deecision formalized; it’s very easy for a brand’s social media strategy to result in too much information sharing & too little resultant social engagement.

  2. Hi David and I certainly hope that you have had a good festive season. Thanks for this posting, it is a great article.

    On the point of buy in, it is important that you receive the buy in of the CEO and the senior executives, however merely saying they agree and give budget is one thing and it helps. A CEO and the executive team getting involved and using their influence to drive the campaign is something completely different and often is the differentiator between good and great campaigns.

    By using their influence I am suggesting they mention and repost what the company does in their own social networks and blogs, this of course is assuming they are involved in social networks. If they are not involved in social networking and only approve it in principle; the strategy is still in the silo of whichever department owns the strategy.

    The biggest challenge in social business is still getting senior executives to realise, that they are building their own influence and making themselves more marketable when they are involved and that it is not the company that they are assisting.

    Whenever we think we are doing the company a favour by getting involved, or putting our weight behind a strategy; we have actually missed the purpose of social networking.

    • David Graham says:

      Quite right Richard. Continuous and committed involvement is very important

    • I agree here. Executives really need to incorporate these initiatives into organisation-wide implementations. It isn’t really enough to just give a nod and some funding (unless its an experimental process). If this is meant to benefit the organisation, it should be embedded in the culture if it is really going to evolve effectively.

      • David Graham says:

        Thanks for the comment Paul. Change management may even be required in some organisations because you are introducing a fundamental change in the way you are communicating/interacting with your clients, prospects, media and general public (i.e. “many-to-many”). In some cases, the culture of the organisation can be a barrier.

      • I agree Paul it needs to be embedded into the culture of the organisation. David makes an extremely valid point; change management will in most cases be the most effective as it is no longer just a few interacting as was the case in the past.

        With the old communication models we generally had the face of the company scenario, where one or two key individuals would communicate on behalf of the company, now we could literally have two to three hundred people communicating on behalf of the company with varying degrees of authority.

        Change management will need to take place if the strategy is to be effective in the long term, as the seniors need to understand this process and the juniors need to grasp the fact that they have more responsibility than they were previously allowed.

      • David Graham says:

        Thanks for the validation on the change management score Richard!

  3. Jochem Koole says:

    Another great article, David. Thanks.

    I agree on your point about resources and budget. However, I can imagine that many companies might still be struggling here. How much money should we invest in these relatively new and unfamiliar technologies?

    I believe, turning a company into a social business evolves around three elements: people, tools, and content. In this case, people are those within your company that are tasked with sales and marketing. Mind you, in a social B2B setting this is pretty much every single employee. They are also your (potential) clients and co-workers. These people can communicate with one another using different tools. Might be Twitter combined with a blog, or rather LinkedIn. Regardless of the tool, valuable content should always be the starting point of a conversation. And conversations, is what social business is all about.

    Time is the limiting factor here. Within every company there’s only limited time to change things around (because that’s what you’re trying to do). So, choose wisely: who within your company is already doing great on Twitter or LinkedIn, what group of clients can be reached through these media, and what kind of content interests them. Make sure to develop a few success cases. You’ll definitely need them to convince people within your company to invest more in becoming a social business.

  4. Hi Dave

    These are very real & relevant points, and coming from you people should take note. Two points I’d like to add if I may: ‘Listening’ and ‘Content Strategy’. (Both points can be argued as sub-points to your points on Strategy & Research, but I think they’re relevant enough to be mentioned). I would suggest listening using ORM tools to help inform your research, but at the same time listening provides a more ‘hit-less miss’ approach to building your content strategy. To your point above about people jumping in head first…aside from not fully understanding why they’re getting involved and then quitting due to lack of tangible results, another reason they come to the same cul de sac is because they run out of things to talk about. By listening continously, you not only spot & put out fires, you’ll also find it’s a great way to find out what your target narket talks about, and provides you with the ongoing insights into what you should be planning your content strategy around.

  5. I guess the trick is not only to have the buy in of the Senior Execs, but to have a competent person driving the agenda. It is easy to just put a junior to man the initiative but that can do your business more harm than doing nothing.

  6. connectgen says:

    Great post, David and fantastic follow-up comments too! My only addition is REPEATABILITY. If I had a dollar for every B2B organisation that has set up a Blog-Linkedin-Facebook-Twitter-Youtube presence that has become as old as last week’s Coles grocery catalogue, I’d be a rich man.

    A major step must be a plan to create repeatable and valuable CONTEXT (content is cool but it has to be relevant i.e. contextual to target reader) in a disciplined and regular basis. If presence is not consistently relevant and … changes with the times, formats, platforms, etc. …. don’t even start!

    Cheers, Iggy Pintado
    http://www.iggypintado.com

    • David Graham says:

      Thank you very much for providing this additional and valuable advice Iggy. One of my colleagues, Bernie Borges (@berniebay) says in his “Marketing 2.0 – Bridging the gap between buyer and seller using social media marketing” (http://www.bernieborges.com/book) book that “Content is King” but you are quite correct in stating that it is fundamental to get both right i.e. content and context. Wishing you a prosperous 2013!

  7. B2B Social Media marketing, it does hint at some kind of irony putting the ‘B2B’ and ‘social’ in the same line. One point that will remain critical is the CONTENT and you’re right, Content is King. What, How, Who, When and Why the communication is made, via which channels.

    It’s going to be a stretch for any social media marketing agency to conjure up content that is relevant and pertinent to the audience, especially when your C-level types that you’re targeting will be hunting down solutions, info and stats. Unlike Iggy Pintado above, I believe great relevant content lends itself to formation of pertinent context. Too few companies will plan their content before embarking on B2B social media. Key stakeholders need to be intimately involved with winning content creation process, then allow the interaction and engagement (per chance sales leads) to emanate from it.

    On another note, this function needs to be an internally driven one. Relying on an external agency (no matter how many freaking digital awards they’ve won) is merely going to be shifting the achievement of KPIs outside the organization. The agencies are there to faciliate, NOT to drive the agenda.

    • David Graham says:

      Wow! This is an absolutely superb response Adrian! Thank you!

    • Adrian – Absolutely if companies do not take ownership for their content it will be the flavor of the agency and not the true authentic message from the company.

      In the case of some companies this is exactly what they want, as they are scared of the real authentic messages or the undertones of the truth that will be read by the customers, this of course has roots deeper in the management and ethics of companies, but of course social business exposes this so clearly.

      Social business has meant that everybody needs to be just that little more transparent than we tended to be in the past.

  8. rhowes says:

    Great list. Although you mention it under strategy, I think consistency of effort is worth it’s own heading. Effective social media is about building momentum over time. Too many initiatives fail because of unrealistic expectations of rate of progress.

    Seth Godin talks about ‘the drip’.

  9. Good article David, you have covered the basics well. I agree with some of Adrian comments as well.
    I am assuming that once an organisation has done it’s strategy it will focus on the business objectives which this medium will achieve. There are various ‘softer’ issues which this media has proven to galvanize support around, which includes and not limited to Citizenship, co-sponsorship and thought leadership.
    In short each organisation has to decide how to handle this medium based on its own structure, values and executive involvement.

  10. Craig M. Jamieson says:

    Great article, David! There is quite a bit of discussion about the importance of buy-in, and this article might be about B2B “Marketing” but, we can’t neglect salespeople in this equation. For many reasons, and particularly in B2B, sales has been hesitant to embrace social media. Their question, and the one that must be clearly addressed is … “How will this help me to sell more stuff?”

    I might also add the importance of having a plan for engagement, inclusion, and follow-up. Not much point in generating all of this traffic if we don’t have a plan to direct it:)

    • David Graham says:

      Thanks Craig. Social media is the ideal place for sales people to meet new people and build relationships. By talking knowledgably about specific subject matter, they can use the “blue route” to build credibility, be seen as a trusted adviser and lead prospects to a “buying decision” rather than the “red” hard sale route. i can provide numerous examples of large, strategic, LONG TERM projects that were initiated using a Digital Marketing B2B marketing approach. I used the word “digital” because the model should include ALL digital communication channels (eg website, email, blog, social networks, etc)

  11. Adam GerrardGerrard says:

    Hi David, good fundamental approach, my one comment to add would be don’t be afraid to challenge the perceived normals, rules of thumb and the standard types of approach that were infallible 2-3 years ago. Social is driving revolution not evolution, therefore, many of the things we used to perceive as ‘best practice’ will be consigned to the history books….

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