Building the B2B Social Media Machine: Tactical Advice & Insight From #SESNY

Posted in SES New York, Social Media

aimClear’s #SESNY 2013 live coverage continues right here with a full recap of Building the B2B Social Media Machine, a topic relevant to many based on the crowd at today’s session. This session featured Jasmine Sandler, CEO of Agent-cy, Adriel Sanchez, Senior Director-Demand Generation of SAP and moderated by Lee Odden, CEO of Top Rank Online Marketing.

The road to a successful social media campaign is often paved with good intentions, but are they the right intentions? Without a thoughtful strategy in place, marketers can sometimes cause more harm than good, while key stakeholders within the company don’t understand how social media works. This session covered key takeaways on how to best overcome the challenges brought on by the large and overwhelming world of social and how to effectively build your B2B brand online both from an agency perspective and client-based case study.

In the words of the session’s moderator, Lee, “Let’s get this party started!” And we couldn’t agree more. Read on for the full recap.

First up was Jasmine from an agency POV, who assured us: “When it comes to social media, the educational level is all over the place…” hence, a presentation filled with best practices from A to Z on how to best manage a B2B social media strategy. Social media changes every second and with over 5 billion users on social media it is important to get a handle on it and your on brand within it. Social used to be brands shouting: “Buy from us!” Now, the roles are reversed – and it is consumers who are leading the way.

So, how do you build this B2B social media machine? According to Jasmine, “It is definitely a process.” Here’s some tips:

Understand the social media landscape. Be sure to look at the trends affecting your social media marketing. Social media has proven to be another year of highly engaging consumers on a global level; you need to have a global perspective.

Understand that SEO and social have become partners in crime. Keep in mind authorship of content and how this will affect personalized search results when working with social media. “Any email opt-ins you receive through social need to be dealt like GOLD, because they could be your next client.”

Understand the importance of developing relevant content. Invest into content contributors and writers that have your business’ social voice. Remember to optimize your content – if properly optimized it can drive back to search.

Develop a protection policy. A lot of times B2B brands are slower to adopt a social strategy because there are many doubts and fears with how it will affect the brand. Because of this you need to have a protection plan/policy in place so not only are executives protected but also employees. Have a full-on social review – what this means is, gather any and all key stakeholders that affect your brand (PR team, sales, marketing, etc.). Also, talk to your customer service team to understand how they handle calls that come in and determine how you can incorporate them into social.

Assess the messaging because social voice is VERY important. It’s all about having a voice that is authentic to you and your brand(s).

If you are a CEO or key executive, most likely you are doing some form of personal branding online… so keep in mind it is important you are also protecting your personal brand, in addition to your professional.

Bottom line: A social review = success in social. To have a social policy in place is truly essential. Make sure all folks are onboard; the policy is distributed and known to all relevant parties.

Build a social team. So, what does this social team look like and how do you build it? Jasmine noted that this team can consist of internal and/or external experts including an editorial team, a social media manager, someone that manages client services, creative staff and an agency. You need people that truly understand your brand.

  • Editorial team: There are opportunities out there that are changing everyday, having a team in place along with quality content (hey, by the way, did you know content is king?), and a strong policy can help you measure your overall social media strategy.
  • Social media manager: Whatever your team might look like make sure you manage the tone of the messaging and carry out the work. Hold folks accountable for putting out that message. Make sure your social media manager is holding bi-weekly or monthly meetings with key stakeholders that support and protect your brand.
  • Client services: Use social media for client service (as mentioned earlier in this post – talk with your customer service reps); understand how they are managing communication with fellow and potential customers. Then think, what can you do through social?
  • Creative: Your creative team is important! Just like you have a strategy for content, you need a strategy for graphics (videos, infographics, etc.)
  • Agency: A social media agency needs to BE the client. They can help develop the plan, they can help train your people, assess roles – Jasmine helps to hire people for her client’s social team which we thought was a pretty cool and useful way to use an agency. After all, they know what it takes!

Once you have all that, the last (but most important) thing you need is the executive buy-in. While you work to protect your company brand online it is crucial to have the important reigns around it. Remember: the reason social is so crucial to your brand is because it leads to marketing which in-turn leads to sales.

What Are The Social Media Goals?
Obviously, engagement is a big one. But what are the other benefits that can lead to successful B2B social media campaigns? Data mining, market research, customer service satisfaction, e-mail acquisition, content downloads/sharing, improved targeting, to name a few…

Jasmine recommended LinkedIn as a great social resource that can be used to do live market research – which isn’t traditionally thought of for this channel. You can see what your competitors are doing, what your customers are saying, what your target audience is interested in, and so on. The research you conduct can help create solid marketing programs.

Content sharing and downloading in the B2B space can be left gated or open – ask yourself, what content should I create? Content created that is educational and provokes thought leadership could be turned into short podcasts, webinars, articles, white papers, etc. and left open to help spread the word. First, think about getting your content out there, and then determine what is shared public and what should be kept closed in order to target a specific customer. A good point to remember that Jasmine carried with her: “We want our clients/customers to be our best marketing team.” This is what makes the social space great. Understanding social behavior can lead to improved targeting.

Monitor and Measure!
Monitoring what people are saying about your brand on the social channels is super important! This helps to enhance your overall social media practice. Measurement should be done on a routine basis! And if you aren’t doing it, then get going! According to Jasmine, continuous monitoring and measuring is the single most important thing to do as a social media director.

Look at the channels themselves:

  • Facebook and fan involvement for example. Don’t be afraid of Facebook as a B2B organization. There are many things you can do on there (drive opt-in emails, event promotions, and so on).
  • Twitter – Look at retweets, followers, tweet chat engagement, etc.
  • LinkedIn – Sharing, likes, emails and clients (NOTE: 99 percent of Jasmine’s clients have come through LinkedIn – THIS is pretty impressive!)
  • You Tube – Subscribers

Just to name a few ways :) .

Okay, here’s some more tips:

  • Use all of the tools available to you.
  • Understand your goals and what channels make sense for your brand. You need to know what people are saying about your brand so you can set up the B2B social media machine.
  • Understand what channels work and what channels do not.
  • Research and play with the tools available out there and determine what ones work best for your brand.
  • Some examples Jasmine provided include: Viralheat, HootSuite, Facebook Insights, Radian6, HubSpot, GA, NetVibes, Wildfire, Social Mention and/or Google Alerts.

If you haven’t checked these out, do it!

What else you might ask?

Make A Content Marketing Calendar!
Content planning, people! Without this, forget about social media planning. To get going, ask yourself: What are you doing today? What does your email marketing plan look like? Where is your CEO speaking next? And so on. Write it out and put it in a marketing plan and from there, develop and deliver a content plan.

Think about your content in terms of themes. What is my theme this month? (i.e. Productivity). Now, how can I make this theme social, engaging and fun? After all, this is what social SHOULD be, right? Develop content surrounding that theme including articles, infographics, videos, PDFs, e-newsletters, the works.

Email and social go hand-in-hand – this can complete the marketing cycle. Some ways to use email with social is to engage opt-ins in social, serve e-mail blasts in social, support event announcements – drive e-mail to social event, etc.

So, Where Do You Sit In Social?
Where will you influence and visa versa – who will influence you? Figure out where your brand sits in certain channels and determine how you can influence others with your content. The key to this is having a plan that influences across all platforms that is monitored and managed so you can understand who is influencing your brand online.

Jasmine was kind enough to highlight her presentation’s key takeaways. Take note!

  • Assess where you have been in social
  • Align a social team to specific goals and responsibilities
  • Be wary of mobile’s influence on SMM
  • Assess tools that work for you
  • Create a position in your ecosystem
  • Content planning and execution is crucial
  • Continuous monitoring, measurement and action.

Next up was Adriel for an inside look at how he took his company, SAP’s Latin American division, to the next level with a successful social re-vamp. (Please note Adriel’s presentation is practical advice that can be implanted across any region not just necessarily for Latin America). Ready? OK, here we go!

What A Crazy Difference One Year Makes!
First, we took a look at where this case study began and where it is now. As of February 2012, SAP’s Latin American division’s social space had less than 10K followers, no content framework, no centralized governance and no clear strategy on community management. Today, this same division has more than 100K followers, 17 percent interaction/engagement rate, explosive growth compared to competitors in the same region, 190K visits to SAP’s Innovation Blog, more than $300K opportunities identified, is the exporter of best practices to the rest of SAP, @SAPBrasil is the #10 account worldwide and the Facebook Latin America account is #4 worldwide. Quite impressive!

Next, Adriel went into the different social media tactics he used in order to get to this point and how you can apply to your own business. Pay attention to this!

Social media OBJECTIVES support business objectives. It is important not to separate these two and make sure they are aligned. What does he mean by this? Take a look.

  • Business Objective = Discover – How can SAP help you do what you do, better? Social Objective = Growth – Create, launch and maintain social media channels – achieve a critical mass.
  • Business Objective = Explore – How SAP solutions can help solve your business problems? Social Objective = Engagement – Relevant and engaging content to position SAP as a thought leader and drive the conversation.
  • Business Objective = Evaluate – Whether SAP is the right fit to help your business run better? Social Objective = Evolution – Listen, analyze and adapt based on community feedback.

Forget Social. Think CONTENT MARKETING!
Who did SAP hire to manage their content marketing? A journalist. Adriel made a point to hire someone that not only knew how to write but that was also “pungent.” Hire a content person NOT a social media person (they can learn this). This person has to do these three things in order to really be successful:

  • Content strategy and advocacy
    • Orchestrate the conversation
    • Registration/gating strategy
    • Training, education, enablement
  • Social media marketing
    • Agency management
    • Internal and external communities
  • Content monitoring and insights
    • Sentiment analysis
    • How’s content being consumed?
    • Inform content development

“Shift from helping the field sell, to helping the customer buy.”

List, Offer, Creative, CONTEXT
The fourth, sometimes forgotten element of success. What works in one channel will not work in another! You need to adapt to what is considered appropriate in each of these social channels. Ninety percent of content does NOT include a specific promotion, offer, call-to-action or registration requirement. 10 percent of offers include a specific call-to-action. Exceptions, however, are made for highly valuable 3rd party offers, large events, highly strategic events and webinars. Guidelines can help control this.

“Think like a publisher, not like a marketer” – David Meerman Scott, best-selling author and speaker.

METRICS Must Vary By Funnel Stage
Recognize that it is a continuum. People who follow you will hopefully turn into advocates. People who consider your products will hopefully end up purchasing your product or service. Don’t think anyone has this figured out yet. Because they don’t. And this can be tough because you have to get in front and answer to people like the sales team who only care about the dollar amount. Tying what you are doing in social to a dollar value with leave you with an incomplete report.

“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that be counted counts.” – Albert Einstein

Build An INFRASTRUCTURE That Scales
External help can and will help you. If you don’t have time to look at everything – hire someone like Jasmine’s organization (an agency) to help put together a scope. This is a good way to align stakeholders.

An agency scope can look like this:

  • Strategy coordination – dedicated team and guidance.
  • Community management – dedicated managers for primary communities, daily postings and engagement with users.
  • Monitoring – listening.
  • Content – Support in content creation and curation.
  • Reporting – Measurement and insights/analysis.

Out of scope a.k.a. requires additional funding, can include special infographics, apps, tweet chats, on-site event coverage/support, etc.

Keep in mind for you to teach an agency to do community management is not that easy. You need a lot of support form internal expert sources. Remember it’s a process. You DO need to invest time in it depending on how complicated the scope.

GOVERNANCE, Transparency, & Processes Are Key
What this really means per Adriel,“LOCK IT DOWN.” Social belongs and impacts everyone (marketing, PR, sales, stakeholders, etc.). Define clear processes and guidelines to make sure everyone understands how their objectives and content are represented, and regularly report results. Make sure it is shared with everyone.

If not documented you will fail because you will be chasing around people all day, explaining why.

Get CONTROL Over Account Proliferation
Use a tool, for all accounts. Map against engagement and the audience. How actively is account being managed? 30 days to either improve it/create an action plan to fix it or else close the account.

LISTEN, Learn, Adapt
Adriel said it before and he said it again: Remember to listen, before you do anything else. Adriel uses Netbase, a tool that tracks social including: Net sentiment – how to people perceive my brand? Buzz – How many people feel this way? Passion Intensity – How strong are their feelings? Conversation Drivers – What factors are influencing it?

If you remember anything from Adriel’s presentation, remember this: 

  • Forget social media, think content marketing
  • Context is the 4th dimension of success – what is appropriate in one channel is intolerable to another.
  • Social media objectives aligned to business objectives
  • No silver bullet metric; they vary by funnel stage – ask yourself what is the objective of the metric?
  • Don’t confuse social media advertising tactics with social media overall
  • Build for scale
  • Clear governance is key.
  • Listen, learn and adapt (there it is again;)

WAIT! There is more. A lot of great questions transpired from this session. Take a glimpse at some of the highlights below.

Question: If you had an outside agency doing content for you, how do you maintain the integrity of good authorship?

  • Jasmine: From an agency perspective, we have one person on the team that works closely with the client. A strategy is developed first. If there isn’t someone in-house they will help the client find people for their team.
  • Adriel: Depends on the content. You won’t get an agency to write a white paper but they will be more antonymous and help manage day-to-day. One thing we do is bring subject matter experts in to make a deal with them (promise to make you a star!).

Question: Have you found a good mix of when to introduce social ads to give your brand a lift?

  • Jasmine: A lot of time with smaller businesses, once a quarter we will run an ad and test it – typically based on a product launch or event.
  • Adriel: This is not a regular tactic for us but part of a larger campaign, like promoting an event. If you are not including social with big events than you are looking at a loss opportunity. There is an incredible amount of traffic and buzz that revolves events that you should be taking advantage of.

Question: What tends to be the highest engagement rate of content?

  • Adriel: Timely content – people’s attention spans are going down.
  • Jasmine: There are two types of content for B2B brands that are a must. Client testimonials and/or anything related to thought leadership (short videos, podcasts, blogs, etc.)

Question: Do you see different challenges with selling products versus services?

  • Jasmine: Products are different because you are dealing with data sheets, etc. But it doesn’t differ in the way of a tradeshow calendar. You can still create an ad or an email campaign for the event – maybe tie into a giveaway. Just remember pre-, during and post- any event is important.
  • Adriel: Find your story. Most important thing. Look through the eyes of your customer and develop stories that not only make sense for your brand but that are compelling. Regardless of your company, it is how you tell your story.

AND I think we will leave it at that.

Thank you to Jasmine, Adriel and Lee for a great, energetic, informative and may we add tangible and useful track! Stay tuned for more #SESNY live coverage via the aimClear blog, @beebow and yours truly, @MollyCRyan!

photo credit: duboc on flickr

  • Myles Anderson

    Hi Molly

    Good post – extremely thorough and with some great action points.

    I think this highlights how much time, effort & focus it takes it to do social media really well. This level of attention may be possible for some (not all) bigger brands but is well beyond the reach of SMBs and local businesses. But i think local business owners can still play effectively in the social media game by using just 1-2 social platforms and focusing on quality over quantity in their output.

    I also think getting your employees engaged in your social activities is a great idea. It shares the burden of responsibility amongst many but also gets your team pulling in the same direction.

    I have heard of some smart local businesses crowd sourcing their social activities and deputizing loyal customers to be their spokespeople. It’s a brave move and not for the fainthearted – but if it works then that is WoM (word of mouth) turned on its head right?

    Anyway great post!

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