May 25th, 2012
I’ve said repeatedly that corporate social media doesn’t have its own strategy any more than Microsoft Word does. Social media is/are a set of really powerful tools, and therefore tactics, not a strategy. But that doesn’t mean a company shouldn’t be everywhere — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and maybe a couple of other places.
Wayne Gretsky said “skate where the puck’s going, not where it’s been.” The companies that are going to win in social media B2B marketing are skating to everywhere the puck has been, is now, and is going to be. It’s a challenge, but the field is still new enough and dynamic enough that winning companies have to have a culture of awareness of the latest social media trends and a willingness to experiment and get out in front of everyone else.
In 2008, I gave a presentation to a group of Forrester analysts on Twitter as an up-and-coming tool for B2B social customer engagement and support, citing the work of Frank Eliason* (then @ComcastCares on Twitter) as an example of highly effective corporate use of Twitter. At that time, at least half the people sitting at the table were still in the “Twitter is a joke; who cares what you had for breakfast?” stage of skepticism.
Location-based services, like early leader Brightkite and then ubiquitous foursquare were met with a hailstorm of derision and fears of people being burglarized because they had divulged the fact they were leaving home via foursquare. Then foursquare went on to ink deals with Bravo, Starbucks, American Express, Zagat and others. Starbucks for crying out loud! Every marketing exec for every app and service going back to Visicalc has cooked up a Starbucks user scenario, but foursquare actually landed them!
I’ve jumped on the new social media bashing bandwagon several times, because it’s good fun and let’s face it, there are plenty of really lame social sites and services. (Can you say, “Blippy?”)
But I digress. My point is, don’t ignore emerging social media channels. Every one of them might have something useful for you. And every one of them, including Facebook and Twitter, was mocked in its early days.
The surge in Pinterest use earlier this year is a perfect example of the adoption curve of a new social media tool. Pinterest was first thought of as a social network for girls, because its interface lent itself to posting of pretty pictures, and we all know pretty things are only for girls. (Seriously…marketers should know better than to stereotype and subsequently ignore target audiences.) Then interest grew and marketing uses emerged. Did you know that Pinterest is driving significant business to eBay and Amazon through affiliate links? And it’s become a great marketing tool unto its own for airlines, personal care products, clothing, home furnishings and more. So go ahead and make fun of it as the Pottery Barn of social networks while others are generating demand and revenue.
My point is this (mixing up sports metaphors which I rarely use): If you build it, and if you use it correctly on a regular basis, they will come. With the possible exception of Second Life (just sayin’), there is almost no harm or risk, and minimal cost to exploring new social media for B2B marketing. Here are a few tips for doing that:
- Be a personal user first. Learn the interface, the etiquette and how people are using it
- Keep an open mind
- Investigate negative reports you hear about a given tool (Pinterest and potential copyright issues, for example), and factor them in your use, but don’t let them distract you from adopting a potentially awesome marketing tool’
- Be authentic and engaging
- Add value
- Try everything once. Or twice
- Think of unique ways your company can benefit from an environment
Obviously, a marketing strategy that includes social media is a complex thing and cannot be defined in a hundred blog posts. I’m not trying to do that here. What I’m trying to do is suggest a strategy of being open-minded about emerging social media to be sure your company takes advantage of every tool at its disposal. Be assured, your competitors are.
* Be sure to check out Frank’s excellent new book At Your Service: How to Attract New Customers, Increase Sales, and Grow Your Business Using Simple Customer Service Techniques.