Heidi Taylor, director of public sector marketing at PwC explains how B2B businesses can better use social media. See her present at Marketing Week Live on 25 June.
We all know by now that social media has been a real game-changer for marketers. Both the B2C and B2B buying journey has fundamentally changed and the vast majority of our customers are now being influenced and making their buying decisions through the conversations they are having online, engaging directly with others in the marketplace. This is giving our customers unprecedented control of the conversations we might want to have with them and is profoundly changing what we do as marketers.
But many of us in B2B – and especially in professional services – are having a tough time getting to grips with social media in a really meaningful way. The majority of us are still using social media as simply another channel through which to push out our sales and marketing messages. That’s why I’m not happy with the term of the moment ‘content marketing’; it implies something we do ‘to’ our customers, not with them. Content marketing is too much about us and what we think, and not enough about our customers and what matters to them.
In addition, there’s such pressure to be ‘on’ social media that I worry we are not giving enough thought to what we’re actually doing there and why. So I’ve come up with my 7 ‘rules’ for creating a better all-round social engagement experience:
I liken social media conversations to those you might have at a party. And just like at a party, you wouldn’t join a group already having a discussion and jump in with what you wanted to talk about. Instead, you’d spend time listening to the conversation going on around you before joining in. Social media conversations are not very different – in order to understand what’s important to our customers and thus enable conversations that are meaningful to them, we really need to actively listen.
2. Don’t push (share)
Social media isn’t a 1-way broadcast channel; it’s a 2-way (and often multi-way) conversation. Continually pushing out your own content does not necessarily stimulate a discussion; in fact, pushing can often be a conversation-stopper. Share what’s appropriate for the discussion, even if it’s someone else’s content. Others will also be more likely to share your content if you are generous in sharing theirs.
3. Add value (the ‘so-what’ factor)
In order to build credibility, businesses must add value to the conversation. And this doesn’t mean what we value, it must be of value to our customers. We need to stop thinking about what we want to tell our customers and think more about what’s meaningful and relevant to them. If you can’t answer the ‘so-what’ question from a customer perspective, then it’s unlikely there is any real value being added.
Building relationships is core to the social media experience, so never ignore anyone who reaches out to you or discount what they have to say. We must remember that we are no longer in control of our marketing messages, our customers are.
5. Be Visible and Patient
Relationship-building takes time and effort, and effort doesn’t always translate into immediate results. All these conversations are already taking place out there – with or without us – and we must participate if we want to visible, and participate consistently.
For me, it’s quality over quantity every time. I think we’ve gotten too caught up in the social media numbers themselves as equating to effectiveness. I would rather have fewer online connections who actually follow, read, share and talk about my content in meaningful ways than thousands upon thousands who connect once and then disappear. In addition, there’s quality of the content to think about. Creating compelling, high quality content that keeps your customers engaged and coming back for more is about informing, educating and even entertaining in relevant and inspiring ways. But we also need to get the basics right; there’s no excuse for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes or poorly conceived marketing material.
7. Measure and Evaluate
I’m not talking about marketing ROI here, which I believe has disintegrated into a numbers tally, rather than a value calculation. It’s critical to really take a look at what you’re doing and what kind of impact it’s having. Who is engaging with you and why? Who is responding, sharing, commenting, and questioning what you have to say? There are a lot of so-called experts and tools out there, and many of them add value to understanding your social media activity. But you need to evaluate for yourself what’s working and what’s not. This is the only way to learn and become more effective with your social engagement.