Recently I read the idea that there are only five business-to-business (or B2B) social media strategies being used by the Fortune 500 today. While there are roughly a gazillion social networks in the world, there are but five strategies. It is an idea worthy of praise – and a few ideas to help you make use of the concept.
The Mashable article by Jamie Turner of the 60 Second Marketer correctly points out that goal of each strategy is making profit. “After all, they’re not using social media just to be social. They’re using it to make money.” Turner stresses the importance of real measurements, but what is implied is the reality that you need to invest in tools, wisdom, training and analytics.
When I say invest in wisdom, I mean to invest in a social media director who understands more than how to deal with high profile conversations (and any conversation can become high profile). They must also understand a variety of marketing methods, the business of making money, the legalities of trademark protection and the responsibilities of speaking on behalf of a company. And yes, understands that companies don’t Tweet or post – people do. Oh yes, being able to mentor others isn’t a bad thing either.
The first of Turner’s strategies are using the word-of-mouth platforms as a branding tool. “Typically, this means running a YouTube campaign that (hopefully) gets a lot of buzz around the water cooler. While using social media strictly as a branding tool might be considered “old-school” these days, it can still generate some positive sales growth.”
eCommerce, or driving people to your web site to purchase, is another popular use of social media. While Turner uses the example of Dell’s $25,000 per Tweet income, that is harder than it seems. Dell has many different Twitter users, depending on your need: support, deals, sales advice and the like. If you’re a small store in a rural setting, I suggest sharing what you’re passionate about. If you’re a farmstand, let people know what’s happening like New Hampshire based @MacksApples does: “Mutsu cider is being pressed right now!”
More companies are using social conversations for research. Turner cites MyStarbucksIdea.com where customers are “…asked to provide new ideas to Starbucks on ways to improve the brand. Visitors can share ideas, vote on which ideas they like the best, discuss the ideas that have been submitted, and even see the results of their suggestions in action.” What’s beautiful about this is almost any company can use this idea in some way. Some smaller companies may use tick sheets just to see which product is mentioned, and which are on the rise in addition to polls and web site comments. (Remember the investment part? No tick sheets please).
Customer retention is a huge reason to engage your customers. “A good rule to remember is that it costs three to ﬁve times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to keep an existing one.” With prices as they are, that is pretty conservative but a great reason to show your customers some love. As the Global Director of Digital & Social Media for Pesico, Bonin Bough shared with me, “If you have a community of your consumers, customers [or] partners … that potentially want to have a conversation with you, the value of that is unmatched by anything else. Listen to hear what they are saying… the wealth of information that you get. But if you go one step further and turn it into a feedback loop, wow, how powerful!”
The fifth strategy is lead generation. Knowing that B2B sales are often relationship-based, Turner shares his own experiences: “At my company, we use social media to drive prospects to our online magazine for marketers. When prospects get to the website, they can read a blog post, watch a 60-second video or download a white paper. Once we gather their contact information, we (gently) re-market to them by reminding them of all the great results our partner generates for its clients.”
What they are doing right is they are creating content in a variety of forms and letting the customer interact in their way. Forget about this is being too expensive, or the “we can’t compete with larger companies” whine: they have to do it. They have to use blogs, video, forums, ebooks, webinars (which also helps them in search engine results).
They have selected the strategies that are right for them and ran with it.
Companies who will survive the next ten years have to be content creating, listening and sharing machines. The real question is will you be among them?