Does social media work in the business-to-business space? This is a question I get asked daily. There are a lot of stats and case studies that prove and quantify the immense opportunity that social media represents to the B2B market, you just have to do a little digging to find them.
One example is Avaya, a global provider of business collaboration and communications systems. They realized a sale because of actively monitoring Twitter. It was a simple question posted by a potential client wondering which phone system their company should purchase. Two weeks later they wrote a check to Avaya for $250,000 after their social media team tweeted the prospect.
Even though there are many success stories like Avaya’s there are also an equal number of failures. Following are five areas of focus that can help drive results:
1) Become a conversational brand
“It’s not about B2B or B2C anymore, it’s about P2P (person-to-person)” – Jeff Booth, CEO Builddirect.com
The real opportunity is in connecting with others and having relevant meaningful two-way conversations. Your social media use must not be limited to posting content on blogs and pushing links on Twitter and Facebook. If you’re not having conversations it’s really not social media. Conversations build rapport and trust – elements essential in the B2B sales process.
2) Don’t silo or hoard your social communications
Not everyone should be marketing or selling, but everyone can listen and share. Social media has applications in marketing, service, sales, HR and even research and development.
HootSuite, one of Canada’s most successful tech startups, has people at all levels of the company communicating using social media, from its CEO Ryan Holmes to frontline sales staff and even developers. They tweet, blog and interact with the community online daily. Today they have over three million users and their clients include dozens of Fortune 500 companies and even the White House. Most of that growth has come through social media driven word-of-mouth and is a co-ordinated group effort.
3) Socialize your internal communications
A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the implementation and use of enterprise social networks and social media driven collaboration represents a potential global economic benefit of $800 billion to $1.3 trillion per year. Much of this is attributed to a 25-30% increase in productivity for knowledge workers. (The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies, July 2012.)
Tools such as Chatter by Salesforce.com or Yammer by IBM can be used to foster a professional yet collaborative social network within your organization. Effective implementations have seen major reductions in redundant meetings, time spent on email and time spent searching for or retrieving data.
4) Monitor Measure and Act on the Data.
Three hundred million tweets, millions of new blog posts and 500 million people per day logging in and posting content to Facebook represent a lot of data. This data represents the real-time voice of customer.
Social media management tools like HootSuite, Radian6, Tweetreach and ViralHeat can turn social data and social media into true business information that can be sorted, tracked and acted upon. From prospecting for new clients to researching customer behavior and sentiment social data can drive bottom line benefits.
5) Integrate Your Communications
Finally, social media is not a strategy. Social media is a set of tools for communications that should be integrated with traditional marketing, sales, service and HR processes. Don’t write social media plans; write business plans that include social media communications strategies that enhance your existing sales, marketing and business growth objectives.
Social media is here to stay and with the right tools and a solid social business strategy you can reach new markets and grow existing ones with more efficiency.
Shane Gibson of SocializedME, member of VAR Office Suite.