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B2B and Social Media by byt34827


									B2B and
Social Media:
A need for deeper engagement
                                                                                                                        Interbrand | Pg. 2

B2B Brands and Social Media:
a need for deeper engagement

by Ted Graham

Social media is currently top of mind    While social media promises efficient            2007 from its DellOutlet Twitter feed, and
                                         connection with a new type of engaged            Nike has seen a double-digit market share
for many brand owners. Not a day
                                         stakeholder, it also represents a real risk to   gain in the running category as a result of
goes by without the appearance           companies that come down on the wrong            the Nike community, which encourages
                                         side of the digital mob for a perceived          runners to log in and record their times
of headlines trumpeting new eye-
                                         transgression. Some companies have also          while competing with other users. Lubricant
popping growth stats (Facebook has       been skewered online for trying to use social    maker WD-40 has increased sales volume
                                         media as any other broadcast channel,            to existing customers by creating a site
grown by one million to 200 million
                                         pushing their key messages at a group of         that takes user-generated suggestions for
users in less than five years), huge     people, hoping that they can generate more       further uses of the product. To get a sense
                                         positive impressions about their brand. For      of the scale of participation in social media,
changes in where people go to get
                                         example, Kmart recently sponsored a pay-         consider that Gartner estimates that 60
breaking news (Twitter became the        per-post campaign for influential people on      percent of the Fortune 1000 will experiment
                                         Twitter. This move met much criticism, as        with some sort of brand community
de facto source of information when
                                         it betrayed the spirit of what makes word        in 2010.
Iran expelled all foreign journalists    of mouth so effective—i.e., unprompted,
                                                                                          So what about social media and B2B?
                                         authentic recommendations for a product
during the last election), and massive                                                    Social media encompasses the entire
                                         or service. As a result, many companies have
                                                                                          digital landscape where core content is
shifts in marketing budgets (Forrester   been treading lightly while the medium
                                                                                          user generated and the community often
                                         continues to evolve, with their marketing,
Research predicts U.S. online                                                             dictates the evolution of the space (e.g.,
                                         HR, IT, and legal departments continuing to
                                                                                          brand communities, blogs, podcasts, wikis,
marketing spend to reach US$ 25          slowly weigh the risks.
                                                                                          and social networking). The key success
billion in 2009 and US$ 50 billion       To date, the consumer products sector            factor is a high degree of participation.
                                         has been the most visible participant in
by 2014).                                                                                 Contrary to what one might naturally
                                         the social media realm and, as such, is also
                                                                                          expect, business-to-business (B2B) is a
                                         reaping most of the rewards. Dell reportedly
                                                                                          sector that should be critically reliant on
                                         generated US$ 3 million in revenue since
                                                                                          the key capabilities delivered by social
B2B Brands and Social Media: a need for deeper engagement                                                                           Interbrand | Pg. 3

media participation (content generation,              embarrassing mistakes they’ve seen others         2. Experiment
community building, and decision support).            make in the past involve disguised company        Don’t put all your bets on the latest shiny
Forrester, for example, notes that 91 percent         representatives posting “AdverQuestions”          new social media object. Friendster was
of B2B decision makers participate in social          (thinly veiled advertisements) to forums          usurped by MySpace, which was overtaken
media, and 69 percent use this technology             targeted to a particular set of customers/        by Facebook, which is currently being
for business purposes. B2B customers                  users. Honest peer-to-peer knowledge              overshadowed by Twitter (in the media at
and prospects also tend to maintain much              sharing is extremely valuable in a B2B context    least). Engage with multiple social media
longer relationships, and in sectors such as          (think of industrial engineers finding other      sites and networks. Create a fan page on
enterprise software, ongoing upgrades and             industrial engineers to share innovative          Facebook for recruiting. Develop an alumni
service contracts are often the key                   new uses for an existing product), but this       group on LinkedIn to share news, gain input,
to profitability.                                     can turn frustrating if you have to wade          or generate referrals. Encourage employees
                                                      through questions like “Does anyone know          to use Twitter as a way of sharing ideas and
Somewhat surprisingly, many B2B
                                                      where I can buy that great new product from       generating new ones. Companies should
businesses have already been involved
                                                      Company X?”                                       also syndicate their own digital content by
with social media for years, but out of the
                                                                                                        creating RSS feeds for news, events, and job
public eye and under different names.                 So what can B2B companies learn from
                                                                                                        postings so that it can be easily found and
While B2C companies have been recently                both the positive and negative examples
                                                                                                        shared by the numerous other social
building up very visible external networks,           of businesses trying to engage with social
                                                                                                        media sites.
B2B companies have had a long run with                media? There are three key ways to get
developing internal networks. Employee                started: listen, experiment, and evolve.          3. Evolve
intranets, client extranets, supplier sites,                                                            Try to remove “push” and “broadcast” from
                                                      1. Listen
and customer forums were all early                                                                      your vocabulary. The advantages of social
                                                      A conversation about your company is
precursors of social media in                                                                           media only come when the participants
                                                      already taking place online. Invest the time
terms of community building and                                                                         have a real role to play and are not just
                                                      and money to find out what’s being said and
user-generated content.                                                                                 passive recipients of your corporate key
                                                      understand how that might be influencing
                                                                                                        messages (good examples include Intuit or
While B2B companies understood early on               others. Monitoring software from companies
                                                                                                        Amex OPEN communities). Ask questions
that they needed deeper engagement with               like Sysomos and Radian6 have made it
                                                                                                        that you don’t know the answer to, try to
customers and partners, to avoid risk they            incredibly simple to give you an early warning
                                                                                                        answer other people’s questions, post links
deliberately limited access to these sites            of what is being said about your brands
                                                                                                        from other people and brands that inspire
to a select and carefully controlled group            online. They offer sentiment readings and
                                                                                                        you, be conversational, be honest, and have
that could contribute. But this risk aversion         help you gain valuable insights into what
                                                                                                        a point of view.
has limited the potential that can only be            makes people bond with your brand or reject
achieved by high levels of participation              you outright. You can also see how you’re         Recently a research firm called the Altimeter
and minimal, if any, supervision (e.g.,               doing relative to the competition with tools      Group released a widely cited study called
crowdsourcing, innovations, and                       like Twitalyzer, which ranks brands based on      ENGAGEMENTdb which used the Interbrand
participatory marketing).                             how they score against elements such as the       list of the 100 most valuable global brands
                                                      ratio of positive to negative citations, number   as the basis for examining the level of
Understandably, what most B2B firms
                                                      of unique individuals referencing your brand,     engagement top brands had across social
have been trying to avoid are social media
                                                      and the likelihood that individuals talking       media channels (measuring factors such as
blunders, which can easily occur when
                                                      about your brand will do so repeatedly.           a company’s likelihood to respond to blog
engagement is not done properly. Some

Try to remove “push” and “broadcast” from
your vocabulary. The advantages of social
media only come when participants have a
real role to play.
B2B Brands and Social Media: a need for deeper engagement   Interbrand | Pg. 4

posts). While Interbrand’s methodology for
this particular ranking excludes firms that are
exclusively B2B, it is interesting to see that
two providers of business services (Thomson
Reuters and SAP) found themselves in the top
10 of “engaged” brands (a list that includes
Starbucks, Nike, and Google). The lesson
here is that these firms are committed to
engaging. In other words, once you open the
door to dialogue, you must respond, and
you need the resources to handle
this responsibility.

Much of this advice presupposes that you
have thought carefully about your brand
from creation through to the ongoing
management of its value. This will help you
answer the question “Does a social media
approach make sense for my particular
business at this point in time?” In particular,
you should carefully consider whether you’ve
aligned the promise and delivery of your
brand because, if you haven’t, this massive
online, engaged constituency is sure to tell
you…and the rest of the world. ■
Ted Graham

Ted Graham is the Director of Client Services
at Interbrand Toronto and is responsible for
helping grow the business while making
global heroes out of Canadian brands.
Ted’s areas of expertise include knowledge
management and social network analysis.
A firm believer in the value of networks,
he created a product called “Influencer
Network Analysis,” or INA, which maps the
relationships between the individuals, media,
and organizations that are shaping opinions
across various industries and realms of public
life. INA was nominated for an “innovation of
the year” award by PR Week.

                                                 Creating and managing                                              brand value

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