MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Get Smart About Social Media

Peggy Dau - Monday, January 28, 2013


There have been a number of blogs (here's one from Harvard Business Review) since the new year reflecting a sentiment that companies should reduce their social media presence. If taken out of context, one could conclude that social media doesn't work and that companies are only just realizing this. This is not the case. BUT, it is evident that companies must integrate their use of social media with existing marketing tools to improve the customer experience. Finding the right balance has forever been the challenge of marketing organizations. It's understanding your company goals (which may shift depending on the maturity of your business), the needs of your customers (which vary depending on where they are in the buying process) and your budget (which sadly is never big enough).

REAL VALUE REQUIRES INVESTMENT

Those companies who have made public statements about shutting down social sites have done so because they did not understand the demands of social media. The value lies in the ability to engage in real time conversations with customers, to extend the interaction beyond face to face meetings and website visits, to gain insight about the issues most important to customers.

Just like the stock market, where understanding the strategy, management team, financials and markets is important to making investment choices, social media requires investment. In this case its understanding how social media complements existing marketing programs. If your goal is to increase sales, then aligning social media to lead generation efforts makes sense. This could mean using LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook to alert customers to a product launch webinar, to meet key executives at an upcoming conference or to trial new software/services using a special code only available through social networks.  

The investment takes the form of both time and budget - and both are related to the human resource required to define the social strategy, create content and manage your social presence. Social media is more than simply posting intriguing 140 character tweets with links to more information. It's about listening to customers who are sharing their needs, concerns and goals. Their thoughts can guide your investment.

FIND THE BALANCE

Social Media will never completely displace traditional marketing programs. Customers still want to read data sheets and white papers, engage with execs to understand product roadmaps, get hands-on product demos, compare competitive offerings. Social media is simply another option for sharing much of this information while assessing customer sentiment. The goals of companies will vary. Early stage businesses must incorporate social media to create market presence, while mature companies use social media to remain relevant. Companies manufacturing infrastructure products such as steel, farm equipment or pipelines use social media to educate and inform while technology companies add lead generation and customer support to the social media mix.

Many companies are using social media to extend their touch points with their customers. With travel budgets under constant attack, any opportunity to maintain contact with clients is welcome. Social networks provide an opportunity for ongoing casual contact, keeping your company's name in front of your customers even if your sales representatives cannot be present.

GET SMART

Social media is not dead - far from it. However, companies are putting more thought into how they can best use social media, in combination with other marketing solutions, to achieve their goals. Managing the programs, understanding which solutions fit best given company goals and customer need and aligning resources (financial, human and time) require teams to get smart. For larger companies, there are integrated marketing platforms to help manage programs. Smaller companies will often align manpower alone. In either case, more time is now spent preparing to use social media.

For some interesting statistics regarding B2B use of social media, check out Penton Marketing Services blog.  It re-affirms the point that social media is not dying!

What's your perspective?