Lois Fong Demystification of Social Media with Martin's Notes In BlueAfter my recent post about social media being “so freaking hard”, I’ve had questions from clients and peers who are all struggling with the “mystery” of social media within the B2B context. I agree it is a mystery and even the likes of McKinsey & Company have attempted to demystify social media.
In my post today, I want to try and help this process by setting out a few ground rules that B2B marketers should aim to follow in social media marketing.
- Focus your social media strategy on building relationships and engagement; do this by practicing thought leadership. It does not have to be complex; quite the opposite in fact. Simple is better. As Tim Washer of Cisco Systems says in this interview, “When the environment becomes more complex, the best strategy is to be simpler. Find interesting stories to tell – look to your customers or challenges in your industry. Don’t worry so much about talking about your products. Build an audience first with compelling stories.”
If you only tell you own stories your site will be solipsistic and boring. Your stories are TRUE when they are supported by a cross section of stories from other sources. Tell great stories and curate great stories about you, your products or your business vertical. When you curate you establish leadership and authority.
- ‘Likes’ do not mean love. Forget the meaningless numbers of likes, fans and followers on popular social media channels. If you really want some love from prospects and customers, give them value. Be meaningful in the content that you share, stay relevant to your industry’s situation, and understand the implications of trying to sell instead of being social.
Again, I don't play for random likes, but likes and shares from industry gurus are more valuable than an army of websites without authority. How do you know who has authority? Check their PageRank (PR), the number from 0 to 10 Google assigns every website (use a free tool like Mikes to check PR). When you get a like or a share from a PR7 that is a considerable feat and one worth appreciating and understanding its SEO value. Don't play for Likes and Shares, but be sure to quantify and appreciate them more than Louis understands or values here.
- Rather than a “flavor of the day approach”, use common sense—use social media but not at the expense of tried and true marketing methodology. Supplement, complement, but do not replace proven marketing techniques with social media gimmicks.
- Remember that those social media “gurus” are still learning themselves. They may have mastered a particular social media platform, but in a field that is changing so rapidly and evolving every day, you can’t rely on anyone out there being a real master…not yet.
- Social media is transformational. It is about conversion. As a B2B marketer, you must be careful not to confuse volume of activities with results. Get busy but get smart about social media. Being all over the place without building engagement and relationships is like running blind with no goal in sight…sooner or later you’re going to run out of steam and your competitor will have found roots in the customers’ minds by then.
Internet marketing requires a professional gambler's ability to understand the odds and the courage to exploit them when in your favor. Courage is needed to play too. My rule is if the over, what I stand to gain, exceed the under, the costs, by at least $3 to $1 I experiment, test and probe. I move money from things I KNOW work such as email marketing into something unproven, Facebook ads say.
I create specific "success" metrics and time limit the test. Inevitably we think X is going to happen and something unexpected actually does happen. We fish in the most complex pond man has ever created, so predictions aren't worth much. The good news is things happen FAST and so predictions don't have to matter much. Reality is more valuable than assumption, but every "reality" is stamped conditional by variables such as time and traffic.
Learn to live in an uncertain world and think like a professional gambler and Internet marketing will feel better. No matter how you cut it Internet marketing takes presence, intelligence and courage.
- Social success is natural, organic, word-of-mouth and viral without having to pay to make your content shareable. When you “buy” click throughs on banner ads, run “sponsored” tweets, and place ads on GDN (Google Display Network) as part of the outbound marketing tactics to support your inbound, it is really evidence of getting paid traffic. This is something a large corporation may be able to afford but for a majority of the small and medium sized B2B organizations, not only is this unrealistic, it is a complete waste of time and money.
I often slow or even halt other content if something goes viral. My pattern is to feed what is happening now. I've had 5 pieces go mega-viral out of over 500 so less than 1% of what I've created went mega-viral (gets shared with hundreds of thousands via power Retweeters and Facebookers). When you are in the middle of a mega-viral event be smart. Don't shoot your own foot. Slow down the next wave of content. Here are the steps I've learned to take when it looks like some content is about to go mega-viral:
- Write a piece about how content X blew up thanking the power Retrweeters, sites or Facebookers making it possible for your content to go mega-viral.
- Slow creation of the next wave of content.
- Look for other Phase II articles you can write from the now mega-viral content.
- Supplement with paid to amplify the reach.
- Curate reactions and intelligent responses from the web into your site so your website becomes the hub of the conversation.
- Curate other related content from leading gurus in to help increase the half life of the content.
- You may use the best social media tools available but if your message isn’t resonating with your prospects, you are merely adding more social media “noise” and it won’t be long before they shut you off. As Seth Godin says, “consumers are not waiting for a better mousetrap”. Your social communication needs to reposition your solution so it becomes the only one they want to choose—maybe not the BEST in the market, but the one that will fit their needs.
The Ugly Truth about Social Media—Control in the Traditional Sense is Now A MythIt goes without saying that whether or not a company actively and consciously engages in social media or not, their prospects and customers do.
On the one hand we see reports such as the study by International Data Corp. (IDC) showing that only 18.6% of B2B technology buyers surveyed say their interactions with vendors and purchasing decisions are influenced by social networks—see this article in B2B Magazine. And on the other hand, you have data figures from Forrester that more and more IT decision making is based on feedback and influence from peers via social networks—see this Infographic.
This debate will continue but no matter which side you are on, the reality is that today’s customer wants to and will do everything to get in the driving seat and be in control. As a B2B marketer, you make every effort to plan, strategize and monitor what is being said about your brand and your company, and how. The hard truth about social media, however, is that you simply cannot control these conversations. But does that mean you should jump on to every word and present your point of view? I don’t recommend that. You have to choose your words wisely; listen more and speak less, but speak sense.
The traditional sense of brand control is a lost dream and one that we need to change. The new reality is about letting go; it’s about creating persuasion tools that allow your customers to sell themselves because they are engaged, motivated and see value.
I agree with all of these thoughts. Brand control was always a myth. Brand managers are as much curators as creators now and that can be a hard hat to wear. When I worked at M&M/Mars and P&G I knew the Brand Managers of Snickers and Milky Way.
Freshly minted MBAs are a hard group to teach anything, but I suspect the graduates of the best MBA programs know all about social media marketing now, or think they do (lol). My advice is to listen more than you talk, curate more than you create and always be ready for the fortunate accident. Social media marketing is a little like a David Lynch movie, you never know what is going to happen or why, but it will be cool and fun.
Can we demystify social media marketing? Not even a little bit :).
Link to Louis Fon's original article: Demystification of Social Media Marketing: 7 Ground Rules and One Ugly Truth