December 18, 2014

Does integrity make you a social media loser?

In three plus years of tweeting, I’ve picked up what I perceive to be the general etiquette for engaging on Twitter. I’ve also done research asking B2B marketers how they engage and how they educate their employees and SMEs to engage. I’ve rolled all that up into an approach that I doubt constantly.

I don’t seem to be alone. Lots of people seem to be having Twitter identity crises these days. Social media a-lister Chris Brogan, who had a policy of following back everyone who followed him, deleted everybody before finally settling on a few hundred people to follow and shifting his attention to the new social network on the block, G+. Another popular blogger, Mitch Joel, worries that he sucks at Twitter because he doesn’t follow everyone back.

Meanwhile, we have opportunist sites like Triberr that let you “grow your reach” by automatically tweeting things that people in your “tribes” write about, as explained (exposed really), by Neicole Crepeau in this excellent post. What a ridiculous notion, that someone’s content is worth tweeting every time. I don’t know anyone whose content I would recommend to my followers every time (and I have 135 feeds I follow in Google reader). Do you?

It’s always been clear that the people who invented Twitter don’t really know what to do with it, but up to now, it seemed like the users did. Now I wonder. I’ve invested hundreds, maybe thousands of hours into Twitter and I’m starting to feel like a loser. Integrity is one of my few talents and I’m afraid it’s wasted on Twitter.

Here’s my list of what seem like the right things to do on Twitter so that I feel like I’m being a good member of the B2B marketing guild—i.e., helping my followers learn and discover new people who have smart things to say about marketing. Can you add your recommendations to this list or tell me why I’m wrong? If you feel strongly about this, maybe we can turn it into a Twitter pledge and share it.

  • I read everything I link to in my tweets and everything I re-tweet
  • I don’t tweet my blog posts multiple times unless there have been comments that I want to alert people to
  • I do automatically schedule tweets but I don’t auto-tweet stuff I haven’t read
  • I tweet links to content, not quotes from famous people
  • Follower counts don’t enter into my decision whether to follow someone
  • I tweet at least 5:1 ratio of other people’s content to my own
  • I tweet thank yous to people who mention me in their tweets

That’s my list. What’s yours?

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7 reasons why social media success has nothing to do with social media

This week I was asked to speak on a panel about social media to a group of B2B marketers in financial services. It was great getting the perspective of marketers outside of technology. But they call it “financial services” for a reason: They have all of the same struggles as technology services companies—with the added complication of tons of regulatory requirements.

But when the panel was over, I realized something scary: Most of the success factors we wound up talking about had nothing to do with social media. They had to do with other things that companies have to do before they can successfully engage in social media. Here are some examples:

  • Most C-level executives are not in social media—they’re in search. ITSMA research shows that 66% of buyers seek information themselves rather than waiting to hear from providers. They seek that information through search: 79% of c-level executives do at least three searches per day. They are more likely to encounter our content through search than through the social media channels themselves.
  • Social doesn’t happen in B2B without a culture change. When we surveyed B2B marketers last year, 50% said they do not have a social media policy. It would be easy to say that B2B companies don’t have social media policies because they just don’t get it, or they’re slow and lack resources. But I talk to them all the time and I know that’s not the case for most of them. They hold back because they know that they need the full support, commitment, and participation of the business in social media. Without those things in place, there’s no reason to get into it, because you will fail.
  • Before social media can happen, companies need an idea culture. A lot of B2C social media marketing can come out of the marketing group because consumers are looking for deals, product information, and peer reviews. Marketers can handle all that stuff. But you can’t tweet a 50%-off coupon in B2B. You have to tweet ideas for solving customers’ problems. Marketing can’t do that on its own. Social media is the easy part; idea marketing is the hard part. Top executives and SMEs must commit to making ideas part of employees’ individual expectations. One of the reasons I know that B2B marketers get this is because the number one goal of marketers in our survey was to integrate social media into the larger marketing strategy—to link social media to their idea marketing process and their events—the channels that are proven and where the business has committed to contributing content.
  • The business case doesn’t exist for social media; but it does for idea marketing. When we asked buyers how important good ideas are to the buying decision, 58% of executive-level buyers (people buying more than $500,000 worth of IT services at a pop) say that it is important or critical for making it onto the short list of providers. Let me repeat: More than half of your buyers say that if you can’t demonstrate that you have good ideas for solving their business problems, they won’t buy from you. We asked: If a provider brings you a good idea would you be more likely to buy from them? 30% said yes. Of that 30%, 54% said they’d consider sole sourcing the project. Social media are great for developing those ideas and for making them available to many more people. But first you have to have an engine for creating the ideas.
  • Many B2B companies have already said no to social media. I’ve spoken to marketers who have dipped a toe into social media and pulled it back because they saw that their companies simply weren’t ready. They’ve started blogs where SMEs posted three or four times and then got busy with other things or got bored and the blog went dark. Someone somewhere latched onto that and declared that blogs don’t work. They blame the channel rather than blaming their company’s lack of commitment. Then that gets translated into “social media don’t work for us.” Many B2B companies are just now contemplating getting into social media for the second time.
  • Marketing needs a system of record before it can succeed in social media. Businesspeople don’t care how many Twitter followers you have. They care about the size, speed, and quality of the pipeline. We need a lead management process to act as a place to bring people from social media. In our recent lead management survey, just 53% report consistent definitions of lead tracking that are adopted globally. Only 65% have defined the lead flow process. Without a process for integrating social media into lead management, the ROI of social media in B2B will never move beyond brand awareness and website traffic.
  • Thought leadership is more important than social media. At the earliest stage of the buying process, marketing owns the relationship with buyers. Buyers don’t want to hear from salespeople at this point. We call it the epiphany stage; it’s before buyers have articulated their specific needs. But at this point, buyers are trolling for good ideas, insight into industry trends, and news. Companies must have an engine for providing those ideas in place before they can expect to make waves in social media.

What do you think?

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