This post comes with an apology: to all the tech readers of this blog, I’mÂ sorry for including a marketing post.Â Don’t worry – I’m still a geek at heart but I’m also getting involved in some marketing-related activities around social media, which meant that I spent a really interesting day in the company of senior communicators and marketing professionals at the Dell B2B Social Media Huddle earlier this week.
The event was hosted by Microsoft Advertising, and organised by For Immediate Release and Dell, with speakers from a number of organisations.Â It was the second B2B Social Media Huddle – the first was back in December 2009 and these events aim to plug a gap as there are many people looking at the use of social media for Business to Consumer (B2C) communications, but there seems to be less focus in the Business to Business (B2B) space.Â
The day includedÂ a B2B Social Media OverviewÂ from Neville Hobson (@jangles), Benjamin Ellis (@benjaminellis) talking about building a business case for B2B social media and a panel discussion with representatives fromÂ Dell, Intel and Microsoft, before a networking lunch, an unconference with several social-media-related topics (e.g. why CEOs don’t tweet, how to become an Internet private eye) and a number of roundtable sessions to mop up at the end of the day (before retiring for another form of socialising in the pub).
Rather than duplicate the content here, I’ll link out to the slide decks (they were all on Slideshare before the event was finished – several large technology companies could benefit from following a similar approach. Yes, I mean you: Microsoft, VMware, Citrix…).Â I’ll also include some of the tweets on the #dellb2b hashtag along with some notes I made in order to summarise the key messages from the main presentations [hashtags and presenter names have beenÂ removed for clarity, spelling mistakes corrected]:
A quick tweet from during Kerry Bridge’s (@kerryatdell) introduction:
My notes, followed byÂ others’ comments onÂ Twitter during Neville Hobson’s talk onÂ B2B Social Media Overview:
- Social media is not about Facebook, Twitter, YouTube (or any other site) – it’s about the connections made with people (if you forget that, it adds to the perception that it’s all a waste of time with no ROI).
- It’s a seismic shift, and very disruptive in some organisations – hence the reason to be clear about what you are setting out to achieve.
- It matters because of the increasing importance of word of mouth on purchasing behaviours – social media amplifies and accelerates word of mouth, rapidly shaping and influencing opinion and can help foster a genuine connection between a company and it’s customers, partners and employees.
- Understand where and when people talk about your brand, with who (precisely) and aim to take this from awareness to acting as an ambassador (if that’s your goal) – the connections made might help her to bring your brand into their peer network (informal, highly social) and form a trusted partnership.Â Other engagement methods are formal – the unstructured informality of social media jars against this.
- Formula for success involves knowledge (understand your marketplace), clarity (listen and learn with precision), influence (identify locations of influence and influencers) and content (focus on syndication and conversation).
Biggest comms challenge facing businesses today: Authenticity and transparency. Employees need to be able to speak freely [@guy1067]
What is B2B social media? Important to define it or understand what you want to achieve with it [@guy1067]
It’s about the connections you make with people it’s not about Twitter Facebook etc. Relationships not channels that matter [@guy1067]
Why social media matters – increasing importance of word-of-mouth recommendations in purchasing decisions [@joiningdots]
AmÂ I the only person who doesn’t see the point of foursquare? [@sukhysukhy]
[She wasn’t… but…]
“This is just the start of location services” Too true [@ciaranj]
Formula for success in Social Media = Knowledge + Clarity + Influence + Content [@msadvertising]
3 key steps toÂ B2B social media: 1) Listen 2) Plan 3) Engage [@tbush]
My notes, followed byÂ others’ comments onÂ Twitter during Benjamin Ellis’ talk on building a business case for B2B social media:
- The Social Media business case is often expressed asÂ “believe” (together with some “stats porn”) but “believe” is not a business case!
- “Buy my stuff” is not marketing – everyone wants to buy – no-one wants to be sold to.
- Failure is a learning experience – whatever you do in social media will have an element of failure.Â Allows us to learn.
- Social media is a new set of tools – and it’s an input (tell you where things are not quite right).Â If business thinks everything is perfect, then you have a problem.
- You can’t buy attention any more.
- Move from me =Â brand, you =Â customer (adult/child relationship)Â to a partnership.
- When marketing, we speak “vendorese” – if customers/audience are advocating a company, brand, product or service, they write in a language that’s understood.
- An audience is not a community – if you spend the social media budget on audience, it will not return business value – a community sticks together.
- To create a community there are three options: build one (inexpensive, but how to you get people to go there), buy one (e.g. fund a user group – but be careful about how you do it), or borrow one (join and existing community, or pool resources with competitors to build an ecosystem).
- For resources, you’ll need everything you can lay your hands on – not just money (social media platforms are free, time is expensive).Â Understand who there is within the organisation that you can work with (some CEOs areÂ charismatic – others are not) – and don’t forget the “engineers” (they may mumble, but can produce technical videos that areÂ passionate and engaging).Â Personality is key!
- Tone of voice does not work for social media – understand what the personality of your business is – aspirational branding is fine, but what is your business actually like? Social media may not bring transparency but it does bring directness.
- Slip social media under theÂ research and developmentÂ budget – what is your marketing R&D strategy?!
- Experimental becomes core – look for return on innovation.Â What was the business case for a B2B website a few years ago?Â Social media channels are a new form of this.
- It’s a marathon, not a sprint – be in it for the long run – ROI calculations do not work well for social media (or marketing in general).
- The best strategy is to think big, move fast, act small. Build big strategic plan – think about where you want to be and where social media fits in (in an ideal world), then plan backwards, then plan forwards. Ask, “what’s the smallest next action that I can do?” Start to execute the plan in small steps – and do them quickly.
- The biggest ROI question: are your prospects, competitors, or customers active on Social Media?Â What’s the cost to your business of ignoring social media?
- And think about who you hire: not just what they say in social media whilst they work for you – afterwards too.
Know who the influencers are know what they’re saying about your brand… social media isn’t always about marketing [@guy1067]
Business case aroundÂ B2B social media often revolves around the idea ofÂ ‘believe’. Enthusiasm isn’t a business case [@guy1067]
Most businesses don’t have a ‘discovery’ budget when it comes to social mediaÂ [and] marketing [@arunsudhaman]
Whatever you do in social media will involve an element of #fail …failure however gives the opportunity to learn [@guy1067]
Traditional media = interruption; digital media = engagement; social media = advocacy [@markwilsonit]
An audience is not a community! [@tbush]
Marketers speak “vendorese” – if customers/audience are advocates they speak in a language that’s understood [@markwilsonit]
B2B – to build a community takes 2 to 3 years or you can buy a community (easier) or borrow (take part) [@cofacio]
“Don’t start what you can’t finish” is particularly relevant to social media (and it never finishes…) [@joiningdots]
Understand the personality of your company as that’s your brand [@heatherataylor]
Walk away if your bosses are looking for a fast return on social media investment [@robshimmin]
What was the business case for a B2B website a few years ago? Now switch that thought process to social media [@markwilsonit]
Social media still a marathon not a sprint. If can’t commit for the long-term risky to commit at all [@joiningdots]
Last updated 96 days ago… Don’t be that Twitter account! [@tbush]
Followers mean very little. Engagement is key! [@tbush]
Decide what you want to achieve with social media and work back from there in small steps be flexible [@cofacio]
“The rewards are there including financial. But they’re unpredictable” [@joiningdots]
When building a social media strategy – think big act small move fast [@markwilsonit]
If your prospects/customers are on social media not being there is like not having a telephone [@eepaul]
“Who you hire” is now part of your B2B social media strategy; employees talk about your business [@eepaul]
“Employees have the microphone”; “Think about who you hire”; Nice point[s] [@grahamsm1th]
Great Q: Would Gerald Ratner be a #fail now[?] A: He’d be a hero; and ironic humour would be recognised – 20 years of change! [@markwilsonit]
Comments from Twitter during the panel discussion with WCG’s Neville Hobson interviewing Kerry BridgeÂ from Dell, Microsoft Advertising’s Mel CarsonÂ (@melcarson/@msadvertising) and Laura Conger from Intel (@intelitgalaxyuk):
Dell has now made $6.5m out of Twitter use [@arunsudhaman]
Be transparent [and] give everyone press training: Laura Conger from Intel on “How to keep the lawyers at bay” [@nathanmcdonald]
How do you keep lawyers at bay? Common sense inherent knowledge of what’s right/wrong [together with]Â some guidelines [@guy1067]
Microsoft rep thinks Looking Glass is next big thing? Pity no one knows what it is… [@sukhysukhy]
[To be honest, Mel CarsonÂ had gone against the spirit of the event with this blatant product marketing (although he sees it as evangelism)… whereas Dell and Intel were talking about broader issues… so, in case you were wondering…]
Panel agrees the next big thing in social media will be mobile. Do you have a mobile strategy in place? Are you prepared? [@zoe9]
Within B2B who should be responsible for social media? General answer seems to be cross-functional [although] Intel thinks [social media should have its] own dept [@guy1067]
Another goodÂ Q – personal vs corporate identities online who owns the content and what happens when they leave[?] [@joiningdots]
Who owns social profile if you leave your company? context + relevance but still no definitive answer [@guy1067]
[Kerry Bridge later explained to me that Dell has three types of Twitter account: personal, newsfeeds and business discounts (generally B2C) – also look out for unauthorised accounts – maybe using your logo/brand but often not positive – find out who they are!]
Can social media give biz competitive advantage? That’s a yes across the board; gives open dialogue with people [@guy1067]
1st step in social media? Go where audience are ask ‘why?’ start small and build how you can add value to the conversation [@guy1067]
How do you get social media buy-in across multiple depts? Difficult[.] Dell has leadership team with reps across depts [@guy1067]
Microsoft talk about getting internal commitmentÂ [for] Social Media success. Easy to say but HOW do you do this? [@sukhysukhy]
ROI on Twitter etc… can be reduced costs for call centres etc. [@ciaranj]
DellÂ [and] MS monitor employees social media output but there has to be an element of trust and training [@cofacio]
Interesting IntelÂ [and] MS consider blogs are their most important social media tool [due to] interaction [and] discussions[. Microsoft also] mentions SEO [@cofacio]
Content is king and blogs are best social media tool for your marketing [@shivseo]
That covers most of the conversation from the main sessions: I’ll write some follow-up posts for the two unconference breakouts that I found most useful (so watch this space).
Finally, if anyone is thinking “I wish I’d been there”, then the recorded sessions are available on UStream.Â Mel Carson has also posted his photos from the event on Facebook,Â including yours truly chatting with Sharon RichardsonÂ (@joiningdots).