I had a meeting with one of our newest (yet to be announced) clients on Friday. It’s a solid B2B business that’s seeking to leverage the power of social media to connect with senior decision-makers in various industry sectors around the world. It’s becoming a familiar request – and the questions they asked are becoming really familiar. Here are the top social media five questions I get asked by B2B clients:
Who should manage social media?
It is Marketing, Communications, Customer Services, Tech or a separate team? Once you talk through the implications of enabling staff to engage with potential customers on any topic, at any level (i.e. C-level to cleaner), it becomes clear that the traditional business approach won’t work. Engaging in social media has huge implications for all of these departments – so a full strategy needs to cross-cut the organisation. This is easier than it sounds and you won’t get it right first time. I would start by ensuring there is a general understanding of the impacts social media might have for various departments, but focus initially on getting specific results in a specific area (i,e. whichever team is keenest and most likely to succeed). The wider strategy will evolve from the learning and success of the initial project.
Is Social Media Personal or Corporate?
It’s a cliche, but social media is all about people. The reason most corporate blogs fail is because they lack the personality, humour, critical eye, and the failings (even) of a real human being. It’s the same for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Free and unfettered social interaction and discussion is anathema to strict corporate communications – so for social media to work, senior managers need to loosen those strings a little and allow staff to be themselves online. It’s a big ask! The issue is even more delicate when using services like LinkedIn – in which the account is personal (not corporate) and the contacts and reputation each person builds are their own, not their company’s. This personal vs corporate line needs to be drawn clearly and early on in the process.
Where’s the ROI in Social Media?
I’ve written extensively about ROI in social media and, while it’s not always easy to gauge, there are clear methods for measuring the success of your social media campaigns. Measuring is one thing, predicting accurately is quite another. In order to get sign off on a budget you usually need to state the anticipated results in no uncertain terms – and with social media that’s hard. Thankfully, I think we’ve reached a stage in the evolution of social media communications that most CEO’s realise they have to try to understand it and maybe pilot a project to see what results it brings. Demanding immediate, financially measurable, returns is unreasonable when you’re working in a space of such rapid innovation.
How Can we Find the Time for Social Media?
While some aspects of social media – such as posting to a blog, or sharing a video via YouTube – can be scheduled, becoming part of an “online community” on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or across the blogosphere requires regular participation. One of the first things I do with a client is stress that, without a daily investment of time, their social media campaign is likely to fail. Getting the staff responsible to put this time aside and have faith that, six months down the line, their investment will pay off is a tough ask – especially when they are judged on targets. This investment really needs to be written into their job spec and signed off by their Manager.
Are our Customers Really Using Social Media?
I’ve been asked this question since the really early days of online communities, when the big charities I worked with were concerned that 70% of their donors were over 50 and (the perception was) unlikely to be online. That was 10 years ago and the ones that led the charge then are still ahead of the game. The fact is: not all CEO’s are on Twitter. Many aren’t even on LinkedIn (though, these days, I think that’s little short of idiotic) and you won’t find that many using Facebook for business. The point is though, millions of senior businesspeople are on Twitter, interacting in LinkedIn Groups etc. and you can connect and communicate with them really easily and for free. There has never been a more cost-effective way of making global connections and any business person who fails to recognise that now will be behind the game. Even if you are 100% convinced your target market isn’t using social media, in my view you should still use it. Using social media is a learning process and the more you learn now the better equipped you will be to take advantage of it when you do need it.