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Social media in the B2B world. Important or a waste of time?

The way in which we consume information is changing and therefore, the way we deliver it to our customers and prospects must also change. I witnessed first-hand the rise of e-mail and as a result, the demise of direct mail, once the king direct marketing. Through the years however, I have to say that e-mail has just got a little bit, well… boring. Every day I receive e-shots from a variety of companies vying for my hard earned cash or inviting me to the next big event. What this leads to is not in fact interaction, but rather a negative impact on their products and more importantly, their brand. The very nature of their untargeted communications at unearthly hours can surely only be summed up with one word…UNSUBSCRIBE.

Now not every company gets it wrong, I have also been on the end of good e-marketing campaigns that have both engaged me and led to a ‘conversion’, but in my experience this is rarely the case.

So how can we receive, consume and act on information more effectively? In 2009 I signed up with Twitter, not really sure what I was letting myself in for. Do people really want to know what I had for breakfast? Or what time I got to work? I soon realised that this use of twitter is reserved for two groups of people, celebrities and those that never know when to be quiet, even when we’re they are on their own. As I (hopefully) don’t fall into either of those demographics I decided to use Twitter in a different way. I think of it as a personal news feed. I follow all the things in life that interest me and low and behold, when I am ready for a ‘news dump’ I’ll engage with Twitter on my iPhone, iPad, Laptop, Interactive TV or even my Xbox and be presented with the latest news of all things interesting (to me anyway). And this is what I meant by the way in which we consume information is changing, it’s a lot more personal and a lot more relevant…

So what does that mean in the B2B world? It means we need to consider how we communicate with our customers, our prospects, our partners, in fact anyone that may or should be interested in what we do. We need to promote our Twitter feeds on our website, our blogs, our social profiles and more importantly, let them know why they should be ‘following’. We need to drive it as another form of normal communication that we treat with the same priority as the phone or e-mail. We then need to understand who we should follow ourselves; peers, industry analysts, journalists, partners, customers and some of their personal twitter accounts, it’s about getting under the skin of our target audience and communicating via a platform that is available to anyone, anywhere on pretty much any device.

The power in Twitter for me though is when it forms part of a multi-touch, integrated strategy. Any single form of communication has an increased chance of failure, but a campaign that hits its audience from all angles in environments that blend both work and social time is one that will achieve great things. Imagine receiving an e-mail on a Monday, DM on a Tuesday with a QR code to a campaign specific microsite, Twitter and LinkedIn updates on a Wednesday, Facebook and YouTube links on a Thursday, all wrapped up by an intelligent telemarketing call on the Friday and all supported by consistent brand messaging. We now have the tools to manage this sort of activity from start to finish, all reportable, all measurable and all with a clear ROI. For professional marketing departments, there really is no excuse to not succeed. There is however one thing we must not forget in this process and that is the target audience. It’s about communicating with them how they wish, not how we dictate. Through proper use of CRM this is again, easily achieved.

So there we have it, whilst the main use for Social Networking site is, well, social, it can and should play a major part in delivering campaigns and engaging with our target audiences.

I look forward to your comments.

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About garethcase

Gareth Case has more than 12 years experience of marketing in the B2B technology space and has held senior marketing roles at Intermec Technologies, Arc Solutions, Viglen, Athona and now ONI and has experience of working throughout EMEA, North America and APAC. His broad understanding of the full marketing mix combined with a diverse skill set has contributed to the success and growth of his previous employers. Gareth has proven, successful experience in the following marketing disciplines: Offline: Marketing Strategy, Team Leadership, Direct Mail, Campaign Management, Telemarketing, Print Production, Public Relations, Copywriting, Budget Management, Graphic Design, Collateral Design, Presenting. Online: Website Design, Content Management, iPad Toolkits, Social Media, PPC, SEO, Analytics, CRM, E-Marketing, Video. Gareth has experience of working across many vertical markets including Healthcare, Local Government, Education, Finance, Insurance, Manufacturing, Logistics, Retail, Media, Not for Profit and Legal. He has started this blog ‘Inside a Marketing Mind’ to share his experiences and promote debate around the latest marketing innovations. Follow Gareth on Twitter here – http://twitter.com/gareth_case and subscribe to the blog for all the latest updates. For a more detailed synopsis of Gareth’s skills and experience, please visit his blog or LinkedIn page

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