Companies just don't get it....because execs don't get it
I've written in the past about the generational challenge facing B2B manufacturing businesses that overlook the growing role of social media in their industrial marketing.
And yet companies routinely fail to use B2B social media even to small degrees. The three common failures range in degree of negligence:
- refusing to engage (how many websites have you visited where the template icons for social media accounts remain visible yet only linked to the site homepage rather than active profiles)
- establish accounts which the "social media savvy" intern manages and periodically blast out company news (with no conversation - not even responding to any mentions)
- failure to monitor customer, prospect, competitor and influencer activity for sales/competitive/strategic intelligence
In nearly every case this results from a toxic brew of:
- dismissive/ignorant executive understanding of risks and opportunity
- myopic marketing folks who measure vanity metrics and activity rather than results
- headstrong sales teams who prefer to believe that their charm and cold-calling ability are the basis of their "success"
These failures carry a huge revenue growth opportunity cost...but those costs are simply the most obvious. There are other, possibly larger and certainly more insidious costs.
Inferences & opinions
How many of you continue to invest in trade shows which provide minimal return simply because you're worried what the market will think of you if you stop? (NB - I'm not saying trade shows are dead. They remain important in the B2B industrial space, but some shows are dying while others are growing...and you're probably working your shows wrong anyway! Learn more here)
And you continue to dump tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars into those shows to avoid the potential reputational inferences people will draw...yet you never consider the social media analog.
What do I mean?
In the winter 2017 issue of Sloan Management Review, an article entitled "When Employees Don't 'Like' Their Employers on Social Media" highlighted a consequence of B2B social media mediocrity that's rarely discussed.
What does the market (prospects, customers, competitors, investors, prospective employees, partners, sales channel, etc.) deduce from the fact that not only is your corporate/brand effort lacking, but more importantly that your employees are silent on your company and brand?
In other words, how far do they take the thought process along lines like - why don't:
- execs/sales people have robust LinkedIn profiles? Are they indifferent to the fact that prospects, investors, etc. want to know whom they're working with?
- employees "like" company pages, profiles and accounts? Do they not like them in reality?
- company posts and updates get any promotion (shares, likes, etc) by individual employees? Are they skeptical of the value of their company's insights? What do they know that the rest of us don't?
- employees engage in conversation around company and industry topics as thought leaders? Are they simply laggards?
Employees represent an enormous force multiplier for corporate social media efforts - and as these questions which run through outsiders thoughts indicate, absence of the tacit endorsement of shares & likes, employee social media activity sends powerful signals which are detrimental to business.
It's not a zero sum issue.
Data visualization & automation
Great social media engagement takes time and effort. It's no different than remotely maintaining long-standing friendships. Dialog and conversation are critical (vs. simply blabbing) and a 1:7 rule of thumb (post one item about you for every seven others you share of others) is a decent guideline.
That effort translates to expense - and expense is measured against outcomes. That means that management needs to clearly understand the business results that they derive from social media engagement at the corporate and employee level. Marketers screwed that up years ago by focusing on followers - but there's a basis now to revisit those assumptions.
Data, automatically collected, rigorously manipulated, thoughtfully presented and mobile accessible has the power to change the management perspective as I wrote recently on the DataBox blog in my article "I Can’t Believe Your Company Isn’t Yet Generating Revenue from Social Media Marketing." (I had a great time kicking around ideas with @PC4Media!)
The other piece is automation. Marketing automation holds the potential to substantially reframe the marketing - inside sales - outside sales framework to which most companies assiduously cling. It should not only engage prospects appropriately and reduce low value activity by sales, but it should augment the sales process - and social media offers an area to be mined.
Free guide provides step-by-step guidelines to turn marketing automation from a 'gadget' into a powerful revenue growth tool. Download here
Do you know when someone tweets a link to your competitors' websites? Is anyone alerted? (Note - I didn't say mentions a competitor. This is a subtler signal.)
What if that person is one of your prospects? Or customers? Do you think that might be an important sign that some sales intervention is required?
Wouldn't it be appropriate for an alert to be sent to the assigned sales rep - either by email or text - and to include some contextual suggestions of how they might approach the conversation? (That's the sort of "micro moment" that Hessie Jones talks about here.)
The bottom line is that if management persists in thinking of social media as a tool for blasting out pictures of cats and commenting on the latest hyper hopped IPA that someone's managed to pour down their gullet, then companies will waste the opportunity. And you'll never overcome those three typical social media #fails.
But with understanding (through data) and marketing automation to help (there's no substitute for smart, engaged people) B2B social media can drive results across multiple functions. Revenue is key, but recruiting, branding and PR all stand to benefit as well.