Yesterday, I wrote about an event I’d attended as part of Social Media Week London, hosted by MEC Global, looking at thought leadership and B2B social media. For reasons of brevity, I skipped over much of LinkedIn‘s presentation in my original post but it provided a lot of insights that I would like to share… so here’s the follow-up!
LinkedIn’s Colin Smith was talking about the role of social in a digital ecosystem and he started out by saying that social media in 2011 was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to an emerging audience, with organisations testing campaigns and activity, predicting that 2012 will be the year when social gets down to business.
Brands are now what people say they are, and:
“The impact of social media is far-reaching,well beyond how we connect with our friends.It has changed how we work. It is changing how we make markets. It has, critically, re-leveled the playing field.”
[George Gallate, Global Chairman, Euro RSCG 4D]
Citing various statistics from a recent CIM/Ipsos ASI study (Social Media Benchmark), Colin Smith highlighted that:
- Consumers want to be engaged in a conversation – not sold to.
- Brands are now what people say they are.
- Business is evolving – moving from transactional to relational. This affects the speed to close deals, the size of those deals and the length of the relationship.
- Liking, sharing and commenting are all emotions – we need to build an emotional relationship with our customers [I agree: people buy from people – not brands, although there are some brands that will always be considered “safe bets”].
- Decision cycles in B2B take longer than in B2C – longevity makes a difference in the relationship.
- People will, on average, follow just 2.8 companies in a given sector, but 50% will follow a company in perpetuity – so you want to your brand to be in that 2.8!
- Don’t forget that your staff have profiles, engage with, and are probably connected to competitors and customers – people will check what your staff profiles look like.
- Sometimes you’ll know that someone is talking about you, sometimes you don’t – some reactions will be negative and some positive.
It’s important to consider that customers have [LinkedIn – and other social network] profiles too. Before they come to meetings they will check out yours, your staff, your company page, what people are saying and come armed – you need to do the same. They follow, like, share, comment – and expect engagement. They connect to your staff and communicate with them. And they will trust you if communicate and share useful information.
- Social hygiene is about the ways in which people [your audience: customers; staff; business partners] expect you to engage. It’s about having an authentic voice and sharing. Businesses have a challenge to be open, authentic, honest, engaging.
- Don’t just ask an agency to do this – it needs to go to the core of the business – the CEO, or others who are senior enough and have the credibility [and charisma] to speak on behalf of a brand.
- Think about social media in the context of employment – it reflects your brand (even if you don’t employ someone they may make buying decisions elsewhere).
Colin gave some advice for engaging on LinkedIn:
- Engagement starts with creating a presence, for example, a company page built out on LinkedIn. Many of these are generated through algorithms so claim yours and make it say what you need it to.
- Once you have the presence right, think about who want to attract (think about a specific audience – CEOs, CIOs, procurement advisors, etc.) – LinkedIn can target specific audiences. Samsung ran a LinkedIn campaign and gained 20000 followers in 3 days. Mercedes were looking at just the C-suite and gained 12000 followers in 5 weeks. These are not just big numbers, they are highly targetted and therefore the reach is potentially significant.
- Continue to engage through company status updates – provide value at scale. LinkedIn has found that 45% would like weekly updates.
- Amplify – as with engagement, think who followers are connected to (LinkedIn average is 151 connections per person).
- The only cost is building a content strategy, the hard bit is acquiring followers.
- Groups can be used to position a company as a thought leader in an existing conversation or a topic that’s important. For example, Statoil is facilitating a conversation for people to talk about energy innovation. A strategy for content will be required when the group is first started (initial 3-6 months) after which it should take on a life of its own.
Finally, Colin gave some tips for better use of LinkedIn [although many of these could equally be applied to other channels]:
- Improve your company page to attract a more relevant audience.
- Consider engagement with followers – questions and topics to seed into a group.
- Members expect insights and news from companies they follow: 66% expect industry insight; 65% expect upcoming company news (advance information before it hits the press); 45% expect the opportunity to join a group; 45% expect sneak peeks of upcoming products and services; and 43% desire inclusion in a community with similar interests.
- Interrogate the social hygiene of your company.
- Work across departments so that all customer-facing departments have profiles that are relevant to your company – make sure your brand is represented across the board with links to company pages, blogs, etc. Think about whether modifying a LinkedIn profile is part of the induction process for new employees – and, equally, what people say when they leave.
As an individual, I don’t use LinkedIn as a daily destination – it’s still about professional networking for me. For daily conversations, I prefer the immediacy of Twitter (besides, some of my tweets are more suitable for that audience – and the frequency would just be too high for LinkedIn) but I took a lot away from this presentation about how brands might better engage on the platform.
One thing’s for sure, as MEC’s Shane O’Byrne highlighted at yesterday’s event, B2B social media requires effort on the part of the company, and cannot just be left to an agency. That means applying resource, possibly dedicated, but certainly as part of their work (not as an add-on to do “in their spare time”) to generate content that makes an audience want to engage. That’s been the challenge that I’ve struggled with in my own work on corporate blogs and other B2B social media activities over the last couple of years – and making a B2B brand become “social” is a lot more work than simply setting up a few accounts on major platforms…