Social Marketing


A lot of marketers are still intimidated by social media.  There doesn’t seem to be a lot of clear direction out there for how to use it, how to track it and how to make it effective.  It doesn’t have to be that difficult.  Think of social media as just another way to have a conversation with your target base.  These conversations used to happen only in a coffee shop, with the stranger seated beside you on an airplane or in your backyard as you chat with your neighbor.  Social media just provides a way for people to connect with a larger group of people with similar interests or backgrounds and have those conversations more broadly.  If you approach social media as a marketer the same way you would if you just happened to be seated by one of your targets on an airplane, it should be very clear what to do.

First, have a conversation.  A conversation implies give and take, not one-way broadcasting of messages.  And not canned elevator speeches.  A conversation is a two-way communication about something of value or interest to both parties.  Provide some interesting information or valuable stats to your targets.  Ask them for their input or experiences.

Also, it should be obvious, but don’t just sell them.  No one wants to be stuck beside the used car salesman who is trying to sell them a car they don’t want on a 4 hour plane ride.  If I find you have a genuine need for what I can provide and offer up information about it – that’s different.  You would be interested in discussing that.  But to find that out, you first have to find out more about the other person.

Finally, you need to make sure you are being either relevant or entertaining in some way to keep their interest.  How long would I stand and talk to you if you droned on about a topic of no interest to me?  Attention spans online are even shorter, because I don’t feel the need to stand and nod politely while you talk – it’s much easier to walk away.

Hopefully this gives you some food for thought as you continue to navigate the murky waters of social media.

My first real experience with creating web pages was in the mid-90’s with the Purdue University Graduate School.  They knew they needed a web site, as it was the next big communication medium.  So I took their existing application forms, converted them to PDF, and added all the fields so an applicant could fill it out online, print it out and mail it in.  That seems crazy now, but that’s the best we could think of at the time.  They were just doing what everyone else was.  It’s not really a lot different from how most companies use video, social media and other new media today.

Granted, there are a few companies doing great things with these channels.  And we can learn a lot from watching them.  But until you can create something that is really adding value to your clients and prospects, just jumping on the bandwagon is probably not the right answer for you.  As your mother might say, “just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you need to.”

That may seem blasphemous to most marketers today.  You should always be exploring new channels.  But you can waste a lot of time and money doing things just to blend in with the crowd.  What you really want to do is stand out from the crowd.  What if you bucked the trend and creatively used some “older” techniques?  What if you were the only company in your industry sending out hand-written letters?  What if you were the only one taking your product samples door-to-door?  What if you didn’t attend that industry trade show but instead hosted exclusive dinners of your own in cities around the country for those who couldn’t go to the show?

Yes, you need to make sure that you are doing efficient and effective marketing, but you may find that you can stand out more by looking for things that everyone else is not doing.  And if you happen to come up with a creative way to use social media or email to stand out in the meantime, go for it!  Just don’t limit your channel choices to only the latest and greatest trends.

**After a long hiatus to get some work things under control and have a baby, the Chasing Marketing blog is making a comeback!**

When I work with B2B Enterprise companies, I often find that they are very uncomfortable with social media as a marketing tool.  Working with social media is often buried as a PR task if it is used at all.  And when we start talking about using it for marketing purposes, I get a lot of push back.  The reason is often that they don’t think their customers are using social media or they can’t clearly justify the spend with ROI.  The underlying cause, though, is usually always a lack of understanding and therefore comfort with social media and how to use it.

I read a great article in Forbes recently that talked about how social media is becoming more mainstream for Enterprise companies.

It’s no longer about early adoption. The social enterprise is here. You’re now competing with companies that are collaborating on sales opportunities, tracking their brand on Twitter and Facebook and delighting clients through social customer service. They’re also building loyal communities of customers and empowering them as a marketing force. Mobile, social and the cloud are essential business technologies.
The Social Enterprise Becomes a Reality, Forbes 4/23/2012

As your executives become more comfortable with social media, corporate resistance to social marketing tactics should become less of an issue.  And B2B marketers who don’t jump on this bandwagon could miss a big bet.  The window of opportunity is opening up.  Marketing can become the hero for finding successful social marketing tactics that drive awareness, leads and ultimately, business.  And not taking advantage of this opportunity could have some big downsides.  Your competitors could easily jump ahead and make you into a social follower instead of a social leader in your industry.  This can lead to losing more business to the competition which will ultimately make you look like an unsuccessful marketer.

How can you become more comfortable with social media?  For starters, get out there yourself.  Get to know the channels and how they are being used today.  Start monitoring how and where topics related to your company’s products and services are being discussed.  Once you get more comfortable, how to jump in as an active participant to drive awareness and leads for your company will quickly become clearer.