Yes, it's that time of year to look back and reflect. I took some time to see which blog topics garnered the most interest this year. The list does not surprise me. As B2B companies figure out their use of social media, they are facing questions of where and how to leverage social networks and interact with customers. With no further ado, here are the top 5 MAD Perspectives blogs of 2012!
#1 - LinkedIn: Companies are just beginning to realize that LinkedIn is more than a site for networking to find a job. It is THE site for professional networking to find decision makers, engage in group discussion on industry topics and amplify your B2B brand. Of course, it is also the site to represent your personal professional brand. For enlightened companies who empower and value their employees, there is recognition that a powerful LinkedIn profile reflects positively on an employer. Employees can provide links to key corporate sites. A profile reflecting the value an employee provides to customers, reflects the culture embodied by the company.
#2 - Planning: It is difficult to know if you're successful in any effort if you don't have a plan that defines goals, tactics and metrics. Social media evolved from a individual consumer perspective. The very nature of social media is immediate and authentic. How can a company plan to engage socially without losing a sense of unaffected spontaneity? It is a challenge for B2B companies as their messaging will always be related to their brand and products. However, defining your audience and their needs will help in developing a plan to provide the right kind of content via the right communication channel. Know your brand's voice and identify methods to share that voice.
#3 - Strategy: You might find it interesting that strategy lagged slightly behind planning in interest. Strategy and planning are closely related. As we talked about strategy this year, we spoke specifically about how your social media strategy must be closely aligned with your brand strategy. If a company does not understand its identity and does not have clear business goals, it is impossible to develop a social media strategy. Your social strategy must be aligned with and support your company's business goals. These could range from market awareness to customer support to product innovation.
#4 - Social Analytics: This is a hot topic as we move into 2012. This space is expanding beyond the ability to monitor and listen to what your customers are saying. It is taking that data (and there is a LOT of data) and using it to drive planning. Acting upon data collected is often the biggest challenge for any company. The social universe gives companies unprecedented access to honest insight, opinions, and concerns. Through their online activity on both search engines and social networks, customers are revealing their needs, being influenced by the opinions of others, sharing experiences and changing the entire purchasing process. A critical part of any social media strategy, is defining how to monitor, capture and act upon social conversations.
#5 - Corporate Culture: This is a carryover from 2010 and continues to be relevant. Your company's culture directly impacts how employees will participate socially, if at all. Command & control organizations who are leveraging social networks lack the authenticity of empowered organizations. Social updates from hierarchical organization tend to revert to push marketing techniques of notifying customers of events, without inviting interaction. In fact, this likely reflects fear of the unknown at the executive level. Companies who empower their employees are creating strong customer communities through honest, ongoing interaction.
2011 has seen more B2B companies adopting different forms of social media. The pressure is on to show measurable results in 2012. This means that strategy, planning and analyzing will continue to be critical for success in this space. Social media is useful for more than pure marketing, which seems to be the default entry point. I'm curious to see if companies will utilize social networks for other purposes such as recruiting (Facebook and LinkedIn will fight to the death on this topic), customer support (in more than a consumer centric model) or product development (prioritizing roadmaps). Broadening the use of social media may reveal the path to measuring its real success for B2B companies.
What's your perspective?