January 23, 2018

Eight reasons to monitor social media and a list of tools for doing it

If you read this blog regularly, you know that I think that monitoring social media is one of four key aspects of a social media engagement strategy.

Social media monitoring is a way to figure out what’s being said about your brand and reveals opportunities for engaging in conversations with customers and influencers. At its most basic, social media monitoring starts with what is known as the “vanity search.” Through one of the popular search engines, you set up a recurring search on key terms that will alert you to relevant online discussions of your brand, your competitors, and influencers.

But things can quickly get complicated from there. For example, what if your brand or offering uses a generic term like “Service Oriented Architecture”? How do you separate the specific discussions about your offering from the general conversation?

Furthermore, a vanity search cannot distinguish whether what’s being said about your brand is coming from a blogger with 2000 readers that include your most important customers or from a grad student whose RSS feed goes to his Mom.

The good news is that online conversation is captured forever within the bowels of a server somewhere, just waiting to be analyzed to death. The bad news is that gaining real insight from that data is difficult—though a horde of software developers is working on it.

Social media monitoring software is a fast-growing category of tools designed to slice up online conversations to try to determine things like where conversations about your brand occur most often, or how much you are being talked about versus your competitors.

Since many of the monitoring tools are new, most are available as Software as a Service (SaaS) over the internet, which makes it easy for marketers to try them out. Yet this same newness means that few are integrated with the software that marketers already have, such as CRM.

Here are some of the ways that these tools give marketers more insight into online conversations:

  • Determine tone and sentiment. Some developers are using algorithms and analysis to determine whether conversations are positive or negative and whether the individuals within the conversation are supporters or detractors. But the developers acknowledge that using computers to determine the tone of human conversation is still a work in progress at this point. For example, the tools can’t distinguish between tongue-in-cheek sarcasm and criticism.
  • Assign a response. Some of the tools let you define the types of comments or conversations that deserve a response, flag them, and route them to a designated person for action.
  • See the distribution of conversation. Most of the tools let you segment the different types of social media to determine where conversations are happening—such as blogs vs. Facebook.
  • Trend the conversation. Some of the tools let you analyze the direction and popularity of conversations over time. This is helpful during important periods like new offering launches or in the aftermath of a crisis.
  • Determine share of attention. You can track the amount of conversation about you versus your competitors.
  • Identify influential sources. The tools can determine the popularity of conversations and the sources of those conversations. This helps you decide which blogs you’d like to do outreach with, for example.
  • Locate the conversations. Some of the tools let you see the geographic locations of people involved in the conversation.
  • Track propagation. Track a comment from a blog post all the way through to mainstream media.

Here is a list of companies that do some form of social media monitoring, by category:

Search tools:

Microblogging search:

Discussion Forum Search

Comprehensive (so they say) tools:

Sources: ITSMA research, Ben Barren, Murray Newlands, pier314, socialmediamonitoring.ca, social media monitoring wiki.

What have I left out? Please let me know in the comments.

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Social media strategy for B2B: what’s required and what’s optional

Despite all the breathless hype about social media these days, what I hear most from B2B marketers is frustration. Most of the marketers I talk to are trying to reach a few top executives in big organizations who make buying decisions about big, complex products and services. For these marketers, the pool of customers and prospects is small and many of them do not want to engage publicly in social media or are simply ignoring it altogether.

ITSMA research shows that there are other ways to reach these people that are much more effective than social media, such as small, thought leadership-based events, content-rich websites that are optimized for search, and robust reference programs, to name a few. For these target executives, peer relationships are everything, but for now anyway, most of those relationships are happening offline.

For many companies, this translates into a wait-and-see approach to social media.

I think that’s the right decision—up to a point.

For these companies, there is little reason to twitter into the wind. If you’re strapped for resources (who isn’t?) and you can invest in other things that are more effective for reaching your target audience.

But the mistake I think many companies make is assuming that if there is no reason for actively marketing the company through social media then there is no reason to invest in a social media strategy.

I think that’s short sighted.

Here’s why: In marketing, we have a traditional bias towards being active. After all, that’s how we’ve always done it. We push messages out and try to stir up attention. We could control the public conversation because our audience had few public outlets for giving or receiving information. But social media is a vast public platform where eventually the conversation is going to get around to our companies—if it hasn’t already.

So even if there is no reason to have an active social media strategy, there is every reason to have a passive one. By that, I mean monitoring the cacophony of public conversation on the web to determine whether any of it is applicable to your company—and if it is, what you should do about it. This is why every B2B marketing leader needs a social media participation strategy even if he or she does not intend to actively market through social media.

I divide participation strategy into three pieces (I go into each in more detail in this post):

  1. Monitor. Listen for conversation about your company or about relevant issues for you and your customers.
  2. Engage. Develop a strategy for responding to customers and influencers who talk about your company or relevant business issues.
  3. Manage. Decide whether to take an active role in creating conversations and fostering a community.

Though I will probably get some arguments about this, I think the participation strategy is a linear process—i.e., you need to know how to monitor well before you can engage well, and you certainly need to know how to engage well before you can start building community.

We have reached the point where monitoring is an absolute requirement in any B2B marketing strategy. Even if it doesn’t seem that your customers and prospects are actively conversing on the social web, you need to confirm that fact. And even they aren’t talking, there’s no doubt that someone is having a relevant conversation about business issues that are important to your customers—and that you should be monitoring.

This week, Jeremiah Owyang published a great framework of things that marketers have to do to listen well—including a list of vendors who help marketers listen. The only disagreement I have with his framework is that it is about more than listening. Stages 1-3 of his framework are true passive listening and every B2B marketing group should be doing them—regardless of whether they decide to actively market through social media.

But moving from stage 3 to 4 is moving from passive to active participation. There’s a chasm there that many B2B marketers are unwilling to cross. It seems companies are comfortable (in theory if not yet always in practice) up to Stage 3 but beyond that they are terrified. They see the resource commitment ramping up and the potential for mistakes (risk) amplified because now they have to actively engage with people in social rather than just track and listen.

And there’s good reason to be terrified. As effort increases, resource allocation and ROI become issues. Larger companies can shift budget from dying categories like advertising and trade shows into social media without affecting other programs, but many smaller companies never had much budget in those areas to begin with. So social media becomes a larger strategic decision that some would just rather not make right now—so they don’t do anything.

I think we need to parse that decision more. Listening is a requirement, but active participation remains optional.

What do you think?

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Want proof that the C-suite is into social media? Here it is.

There are two rivers of content at conferences. One is the river of planned content—the conference theme, the presentations, etc.; the other is the river of conversation that flows through the event at breaks, meals and receptions. This is where you get the dope on the shared challenges of the attendees.

We just wrapped up our ITSMA Annual Marketing Conference this week and the strongest current driving the river of conversation was social media. Specifically, frustration over how to use social media to reach the C-suite. Most of ITSMA’s clients are B2B marketers from big technology companies that sell big, complex products, services, and solutions. That means that the people buying those services—or at least playing a key role in the decision—tend to be high up on the corporate food chain—the C-suite or just below.

These are not the people we imagine Twittering about their need for complex enterprise IT services. In fact, it’s hard for most of us to imagine these people using social media at all.

CEOs Use Social Media More than Other Buyers
And yet our latest annual survey of 355 buyers of complex IT solutions, How Customers Choose Solution Providers, 2009: The Importance of Personalization, Epiphanies, and Social Media, shows that the door to the C-suite is opening up. (You can download an abbreviated summary here.)

We found that usage of social media among IT and business buyers of technology rose 50% over last year and finally pushed to majority status—55% said they use social media as part of the technology buying process in 2009 versus just 37% in 2008. More importantly, we found that executives in large organizations use social media more than in smaller organizations, and that C-suite executives actually use social media more than their lower-level buying peers. Just 15% of CEOs and directors said they did not use any form of social media at all, while 34% of manager/directors and 26% of VPs/Assistant vice presidents said they ignore the stuff.

This has big implications for marketers. It means that social media is taking hold within your biggest, most valuable accounts at the highest levels. Sounds like a business case for investment to me.

Another surprise was that the big shots use all of the different social media tools pretty evenly. However, CEOs did show a specific preference for the range of social networking sites—LinkedIn, Facebook, and Plaxo—over Twitter or blogs.

Use Social Media to Drive Peer Connections
This makes sense when you consider what our IT buyers have been telling us for years: that their peers are by far their most preferred and trusted choice for information during the buying process. This year, our research showed that most buyers go to colleagues inside their own companies for referrals of people to talk to about a purchase. No doubt, they would like to expand that circle beyond the company—30% say they rely on peers from councils and communities they belong to, and 29% say they speak to colleagues at other companies for referrals.

Right now, I have to believe that the biggest potential for social media within this elite audience is as a tool for expanding the circle of trusted peers that they can call upon when they’re about to make a big purchasing decision.

What do you think?

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Where should your corporate blogs live?

Earlier this year I surveyed B2B marketers about their approaches to corporate blogging. Their strategies take two basic approaches.

Onsite. These marketers take a direct role in finding and supporting internal bloggers and in helping them develop content. The blogs are an integrated part of the corporate marketing strategy and are usually hosted on the corporate website. Most say that they try to suggest topic areas that fit with the company’s overall thought leadership strategy.

Offsite. Whether through choice or through necessity, these marketers take a more hands-off approach—the “let a thousand flowers bloom” approach. They encourage subject matter experts to blog, track what they write about, and offer blogging guidelines and help when needed. They do not set up or tend corporate blogs. The subject matter experts have independent blogs or speak through third-party platforms like Linked-In, etc.

I don’t think that one approach is necessarily better than the other. But I’d like to hear your opinions. Here are some strengths and weaknesses of both approaches.

Onsite advantages:

  • Built-in traffic. It can takes years to build enough word-of-mouth to build a marketing worthy audience for a blog. The corporate homepage can direct a fire hose of traffic to the blog from the start.
  • Integration with other marketing. Blogs are only part of a thought leadership marketing program. Surrounding the blog with links to other sections of the site gives the blog credibility and helps build interest.
  • Brand respect. Impress visitors by having a summary page of your blogs set against the corporate backdrop.
  • Incentives for bloggers. Being on the corporate site is a good way for bloggers to raise their visibility inside the company and promote their careers. It’s also easier for marketers to justify spending their time supporting bloggers when the blogs are on the corporate site.

Onsite disadvantages:

  • Suspicion. You can’t have a disclaimer on your corporate-hosted blogs. Readers will assume that corporate bloggers will sanitize their opinions and do what they can to promote their companies. That runs counter to the spirit of the best blogs. Of course, a good blogger can break through that suspicion with content that is interesting, unbiased and altruistic.
  • Content inflexibility. Bloggers will feel more irresponsible taking flights of fancy on their corporate-sponsored blogs than on their own personal blogs. And visitors will frame their expectations of the blogs through the expectations they have of the company. For example, visitors may not feel that an executive from a computer networking company should be writing about tangential topics, even if he or she is qualified to do so.
  • Technology inflexibility. Corporate websites are complex beasts that are difficult and expensive to change and require going to another department, IT. Meanwhile, social media technology is changing constantly. Corporate-hosted blogs won’t be able to take advantage of the latest social tools that complement blogs without going to IT and getting some custom coding.
  • Life sentence. It looks bad when corporate-hosted blogs shut down unless there are others to take their place.
  • Failure runs deep. A bad blog with little traffic and no comments reflects badly not just on the blog but on the corporation hosting it.

Offsite advantages:

  • Resource savings. Letting bloggers do their own thing requires little support from marketing. A blogging policy is generally enough.
  • A degree of separation from mistakes. Gaffes by independent bloggers generally don’t lead back to their employers.
  • Thought leadership farm team. Marketers can spot and encourage budding subject matter experts and re-purpose their content as thought leadership.
  • Half-life is less important. Independent blogs can appear and disappear without reflecting badly on the blogger’s company.
  • Technology flexibility. Independent blogs can take advantage of new technology quickly and easily, because most independent platforms are built on standard internet technologies.

Offsite disadvantages:

  • Building traffic takes longer. The search engines don’t pay much attention to blogs with little content. Building up that foundation of content takes time.
  • No integration with marketing goals. You take what you get with independent bloggers. You can’t pick the topics.
  • Limited incentives. Marketers won’t be able to do much for their independent bloggers.

What do you think? How are you handling your corporate blogging strategy?

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We’re missing the real social media revolution

We’ve all heard a lot of debate lately about whether social media is an evolution or a revolution. Lots of statistical analysis about the relative growth rates of Facebook and Twitter and the slowing of uptake for both.

Look at it this way and social media inevitably becomes evolution, as social media researcher Josh Chasin convincingly argues here.

But I think we lose sight of the revolution by looking at social media in isolation. Social media is tightly tied to something that is undergoing a revolution right now: media. We’re all looking for the revolution to happen within the tools, but where the revolution is occurring is in the content that feeds those tools. We all like to share relevant, credible content through social media, and until now, most of that content has come through traditional media sources—mostly print publications that are pretending to have a viable business model online.

The destructive side of revolutions
We like to look for constructive creation from our revolutions. As Americans, we think back to the American Revolution as a constructive spark that led to a powerful nation instead of focusing on the decades of weak, chaotic, violent, and ineffective government that actually followed it—and that nearly collapsed many times.

Today’s real media revolution is in its destructive and chaotic period. Our traditional business model for media is imploding. Advertising-supported media is becoming an unsustainable business. There won’t be nearly as much to link to through Twitter in the coming years, and that’s the revolutionary subtext that’s going on behind the evolution of Web 2.0. What happens as thousands of small and medium-sized newspapers and magazines disappear? How does social media fill that void? Will it be replaced by spending our time reading Shaq’s tweets?

The five percent of Twitterers who actively use it are probably the only ones who are going to try to fill this void with something useful. In tracking B2B marketing through Twitter, I find a ton of great content being shared through blogs whose creators have already swamped the output of trade magazines. But what about the rest of social media’s audience?

Social media tools are imperfect for informing people
This is where the constructive part of the revolution will come. What thoughtful readers like about a good publication is that it filters out all the noise and it tells readers when they know enough to move on. You reach the last page of the newspaper and you’re done for the day. You realize that you don’t know everything, but you can walk away knowing that the day’s events haven’t totally escaped you. Social media doesn’t do that for us right now. Twitter is literally an endless stream of information, much of it repetitive. The tools are imperfect for informing us.

But as the traditional tools for informing us disappear, we need social media to play a role in rebuilding the channel of informed public opinion that is being destroyed right now. This is no evolution.

But social media tools can alter relationships
I keep coming back to how social media tools have the power to reshape relationships, much as the American Revolution (eventually, many years later) reshaped the relationship between a government and its people. That’s why I’m so intrigued by the viral relationship model invented by Twitter.  The ability to follow someone (offline I think we call it stalking) is perhaps Twitter’s most powerful feature. This idea of viral relationship building (following followers of others) is what Facebook and MySpace look at and get really jealous about. They’re stuck in the model of making relationships the old fashioned way: through permission-based trust and experience. Twitter has created a sandbox where those rules are mitigated by technology and people are liking it because they know everyone else is (or should be) playing by the same rules.

In this sense, I think the comparisons between Twitter and Facebook are less valid than those between Twitter and another phenomenon that changed the way we relate to each other: eBay. You can’t deny that eBay is a revolution. Tens of thousands of people make their primary living from it now on a global basis. Twitter has all sorts of options for expanding based on the viral relationship model it has created. Sure, now it’s 140-character updates, but the viral social model has potential for other things, too, including content creation (not just sharing).

When does social media take on a social responsibility?
So at what point do we begin ascribing the same responsibility to social media that we have to traditional print and TV media: that of educating and informing the public? It sounds crazy, but at some point (if not already) many people are getting most of their information through these social media channels. At what point does Twitter stop Twittering about its latest features and start offering public service announcements? Probably not anytime soon, because Twitter’s business model isn’t any more certain that traditional media’s is right now. Someone else may come up with a way to make money from the viral relationship model that Twitter pioneered and we may not even remember the name in a few years. Sounds like a revolution to me.

Meanwhile, a new revenue giant has emerged in social media for the same reason that the old media empires emerged back in the 19th and 20th centuries: it can charge a tax. Of course, I’m talking about Google, which sucks cash out of businesses just like the newspapers and magazines used to. Businesses believe they have nowhere else to go to get their messages out other than through Google paid search, so they pay through the nose for it, just like advertisers used to with newspapers and magazines. So when do we stop viewing Google as a software company and start viewing it as a media titan with a responsibility to the public? When does Google stop linking to the New York Times (and sucking all of the paid search revenue that the Times would get if people just went to the site instead) and start building its own news division, just like the TV networks did in the 50s?

Sounds nuts, right? But if you’re going to be the source where everyone gets their information, you have some responsibility to those people at some point don’t you? As a people (and as a government) we’ve certainly had that expectation of media empires in the past.

What’s happening here is that we are completely altering the relationship between media consumers and media producers. Social media is part of that because it is altering the relationships that people have with each other online. Put those two things together and you have a revolution. We are in the chaotic period where the walls have come down and no one’s quite sure where or how the new ones will go up. Sure sounds like a revolution to me.

What do you think?

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Want to know which social media tool to bet on? Look at their relationship models.

We’ve all been reading a lot about the social media horse race. Will it be Facebook or MySpace? Or will it be Twitter by a nose?

For marketers trying to figure out where to put their resources into social media marketing, the horse race looks more like a crapshoot. These brands all start to sound the same and there are so many variables at play—the usual business stuff like VC funding, marketing, strategy, management, funding, M&A, etc.—that it’s hard to know where to place your bets.

We need to dig deeper to start to make meaningful comparisons. Analysis that looks at the concept of the different social media tools as “technology platforms” adds a little more clarity—as in, Facebook could win because it has the largest number of users and therefore, like Microsoft Windows, it could emerge as the de facto monopoly in social media.

But even this way of looking at it is suspect. People are fickle—especially young people—and all it takes is a shiny new technology or good branding to make an end run around the incumbent technology platform in social media. That’s because unlike Microsoft Windows, all the different social media tools are based on universal technology standards—i.e., the internet—and so linking different tools together or switching outright from one to another is simple and easy. Just look at how quickly MySpace has become uncool vs. a nearly identical competitor, Facebook.

What is a relationship model?
If you want to be able to place your bets more reliably—and I think marketers need to do this, given that social media marketing can be an incredible time sink—I think you need to consider the underlying social models of the different tools. The big question to ask is: How are relationships formed through this tool? I call this the relationship model of social media—it’s the underlying driver that attracts people to use it.

Right now, I think there are two primary relationship models in social media, the permission model, and the viral model.

  • Permission model. This is the model of most relationship-based social media tools today, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Plaxo. You search for people you know and you ask their permission to start a relationship. Then, and only then, can you begin to figure out their networks of relationships—the people they know that you would like to know (and market to). Then you need to get those people’s permission to build your network further.
    For marketers trying to build relationships with influencers and customers, this is a fundamental roadblock, because the permission model tries to replicate the way we form relationships in real life: Trust needs to be established before we enter into a relationship. For marketers, it’s a Catch-22. How can we establish trust with influencers if we can’t get to them?
    The recent growth of permission-based groups on these sites helps a little bit, but so much of what gets posted on group pages is noise—blatant advertising, desperate job seeking—that it can be difficult for marketers to cut through all that crap and establish trusting relationships based solely on being in the same group as someone else. Only if marketers are starting and participating in meaningful discussions in the groups can they take the next step and try to form a relationship. And that kind of participation takes time—and subject matter expertise.
    Thus, I’m growing increasingly convinced that the permission model is of limited use to marketers. It’s a way to broadcast messages for sure, but you can do that better through your own channels. And the opportunity for real relationship building—which is what social media is supposed to be all about—in this model is limited.
  • Viral model. This model differs from the permission model in that it does not try to mimic the way we form relationships in real life. In fact, in real life we might call it something else: stalking. This model was popularized by the folks at Twitter (others are also using the model, such as Yammer, which is a social network for use inside large organizations), who realized that technology could be an effective substitute for trust—up to a point.
    Of course, by now you know that on Twitter, you can follow whomever you choose and listen in on what they are saying—one of the key benefits of social media for marketers, as I explain in more detail in this post. Because Twitter has written its own rules for relationships and because by signing up for Twitter we all agree to play by those (new) relationship rules, the trust barrier is effectively removed. The brilliance of the people at Twitter was to realize (or at least hope) that we wouldn’t mind if they changed the rules of relationships on us. And we don’t mind. In fact, the dizzying growth of Twitter shows that many of us have been waiting for someone to change the rules of online relationships for some time.
    We are tribal creatures, so we respect group opinions and authority. We tend to accept rules that the majority of those around us follow. Of course, that has good implications and bad implications. But in the case of the viral model, it’s all good—at least for marketers.
    The reason I call this model viral is that following someone is just one piece of the equation. The openness of the model means that once you discover and follow someone, you can then use one of a number of free tools such as TwiPing to discover their followers and add those people to your network. By finding and following just a few key influencers who have well established relationships on Twitter, you can grow your network of relationships exponentially (though not too exponentially, otherwise Twitter may throw you out).
    The nice thing about the viral model for marketers is that we don’t need permission, or even reciprocity, to get benefit from the relationship. It’d be great if your target influencers follow you back (so you can engage them with your messages and begin to build a deeper relationship), but if they don’t, you can still gather valuable information. And because the model is so open, if you post good, useful information (think education, not promotion) then you will inevitably build relationships and at some point, those reluctant to reciprocate will see your stuff being passed along by others that they follow, and they will have cause to reconsider their decision. Content is also viral in this model, passed on and on by people to their various networks of followers, which means that good content producers have another avenue to grow their relationships exponentially.
    And the viral model acts as a nice front end for building a deeper relationship through the permission model. For example, if you start to exchange messages with an influencer, it’s a logical next step to enter into a permission-based relationship on something like LinkedIn.
    Now the openness of this viral model has already led to some problems. Spammers and hackers are slamming away at it, trying to find cracks to exploit. Public figures like football players say things they shouldn’t and are banned. But for now anyway, the model seems to be hanging on.

If you start to look at social media based on the relationship model, I think it becomes a little easier to make decisions about where to spend your limited marketing time. Right now, given that B2B buyers are just beginning to adopt social media, I think the viral model clearly gives us the most bang for the buck. It gives us a shot at accomplishing the three aspects of social media marketing:

  • Monitor. You can follow all conversation.
  • Engage. There is the potential to develop a closer relationship.
  • Manage. Though you can’t control your Twitter community like you would say, a user group, the network of relationships does form a loose sort of community that you can speak to and interact with as a group (e.g., ask a poll question, etc.).

In B2B, there are broad caveats to investing too much in any social media marketing—the major obstacles are outlined in a good post by B2B blogger Kip Bodnar here—and anything you do should be integrated with your other marketing activities. But assuming some of the people you’d like to reach are out there—and ITSMA’s recent survey of 300+ technology buyers says that they are (even senior executives) then the evidence seems to suggest that you should be emphasizing the viral model in your marketing.

What do you think? Is this the right way to place your bets? Have I left out any other relationship models?

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Three steps for B2B marketers to build a personal social media presence

In my last post, I hope I convinced you why you should establish a personal presence in social media even if your company hasn’t done so yet. That was the why of social media.

This time, I’d like to concentrate on the how. I’m going to attempt to explain it by humbly offering my own initiation into social media as a guide. When I despair at ever mastering all the social media tools that exist out there, I remind myself (as I hope you will) that at its core social media is all about communication and that marketers are all expert communicators. We’ve already mastered the hardest part; the tools are something that anyone can learn.

In pursuing a personal presence in social media, I had it easier than you will. My job is to learn about how to become a better B2B marketer and to share what I learn with others. You may have to adopt a more split business personality (and do more work). You shouldn’t just get involved in social media to the extent necessary to do your day job. To get better, you should think of yourself as part of the emerging guild of B2B marketers in social media. You stand a better chance of learning more about how to accomplish your goals at work if you can engage with a community of people that face all the same challenges you face.

I think of Paul Dunay as one of the model citizens of this online B2B guild. Paul has been a B2B marketer for years for companies like BearingPoint and Avaya and has accomplished quite a bit with social media in those jobs. But his personal presence in social media is based on sharing best practices in B2B and social media generally—there’s nary a mention of his company or his day job.

So now that we have established your personal social media goal—to be a valued member of the online B2B marketing guild—let’s talk about how you go about building your presence.

I approached my initiation by thinking of it broadly in terms of communications rather than specific tools—because the sheer number of social media tools is overwhelming. There are three broad ways that marketers use social media (I go into these in more detail in this post):

Step 1. Monitor

Monitoring is finding and tracking the conversations that are occurring about B2B marketing online. Monitoring is the foundation of your personal presence. Before you can begin talking, you have to listen. You need to identify the most important influencers in you market and track those conversations.

Pick an RSS tool. One of the best ways to start is with RSS. There are a million tools out there for doing this, and you can integrate RSS feeds into your browser but I find that cluttered and distracting. I use SharpReader, which is free and open source and lets you scroll through headlines without having to read individual items, which saves a lot of time.

Now, I have to admit that I’m not a diligent RSS follower. I mostly use it as a platform for determining the blogs I like best and then follow them through good old-fashioned e-mail (the tool that most bloggers use to do this is Feedburner). SharpReader is more a reference database for the blogs that I like rather than a day-to-day tool. But it’s nice to have them all in one place.

Pick blogs to follow. Here are some important B2B blogs that I track:

Here are some important social media blogs that I track:

There are tons more blogs out there, but I’m picky. I’m interested in good guild members who think and are willing to share.

Use Twitter for monitoring. Another way to monitor the online B2B marketing guild is through Twitter. Twitter is a fantastic tool for learning and sharing, as I explain in this post. “Following” is a non-threatening way to build up your network of contacts without having to know any of them. To me, it’s the missing link between monitoring blogs and connecting with people through social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook. I’d like to be able to connect with more B2B colleagues through LinkedIn and Facebook, but sending invites to people who I only know through their blog posts or their professional credentials seems incredibly presumptuous. I won’t do it. And the few times I’ve accepted invites from people on this basis I’ve usually lived to regret it. Either we turn out to have nothing in common or they try to hit me up for work.

But Twitter lets you start to build a professional relationship without getting in each other’s face. It’s like being at a cocktail party where you see a circle of people having an interesting conversation that you can just break into—without having to know any of them or having to say something interesting. You can just listen. Even better, you’re able to send those people a signal that you think that what they have to say is interesting enough to follow. And that can be a nice ego stroke for them (if they don’t already have 40,000 followers). If they follow you, then you can start to build ties through re-tweeting and direct messages.

Pick a tool for managing Twitter. As soon as you join Twitter, however, you’ll realize how poor the site is for managing your Twitter presence. You’re better off getting a dedicated tool that lets you manage the flow of information. Here again, there are a bunch of tools available, but the one that works for most people is Tweetdeck. It’s a nicely designed dashboard that lets you create columns for different categories of tweets. For example, I have a column that does a running search for “B2B.” It’s a great source of content and for people that I may want to follow. By default, Tweetdeck has columns for tweets by the people you follow and for any direct messages (messages that only the two of you can see, not your followers) that you receive from people. The best way to figure out how to use Tweetdeck is to hover your mouse over the image that comes with each tweet you receive. You’ll see options for reply (send a message to the twitterer that everyone following you can see), re-tweet (you think the tweet you’ve received is cool so you’re sending it out to all of your followers), or send a direct message.

I started by following the bloggers I like, as well as friends and colleagues. You will find that as you start tweeting (make sure your Twitter bio mentions B2B and marketing somewhere so that people can find you through Twitter search) people will just start following you. You can accept their follows or reject them (there are many spammers out there). But finding people is tedious and time consuming.

Tools for figuring out whom to follow. Of course, there are tools for making searching for people to follow on Twitter less painful. I use a free tool called TwiPing that lets you see who is following others in your network. So for example, if you decide to follow me (@ckochster—Twitter names always have the @ in front of them), you can use TwiPing to show you all the people who follow me. You can “mass follow” my followers to instantly build up your network, or pick through the contacts individually (their bio information is included). Other good tools for bulking up your network include:

  • MrTweet—Recommends people based on direct interactions that your followers have had with others outside your network.
  • WeFollow
  • Twitseeker—Find people based on the subjects they twitter about the most.

For more Twitter tools than you could ever possibly use, check out The Ultimate List of Twitter Tools.

I don’t believe a bigger network is necessarily better. And don’t go nuts with following others. If you follow many more people than follow you, everyone might start to think you’re a spammer. I think following between 100-200 quality B2B twitterers should give you enough to think about. (For more on Twitter etiquette, see Twitter Bible: Everything You Need To Know About Twitter.)

Step 2. Engage

When you are ready to move beyond reading others’ blogs and tweets, you can start to engage as an active member of the online B2B guild.

Use Twitter to engage through linking. Twitter is a great way to engage because the 140-character limit means that Twitter is for linking, not thinking. As you dig through the blogs, newsletters, online publications and other things you read regularly, twitter the stuff you find interesting and add a line or two of commentary. The quality of your followers will go up, because they can see what you’re interested in through your tweets, and you’ll be able to engage in more direct dialog with the members of your Twitter community. Be sure to get an account at Ping.fm so that when you twitter, you can automatically have your tweets show up on the other social networks of your choosing.

Transfer Twitter relationships to LinkedIn and Facebook. After you’ve created a link with someone on Twitter (they follow you, too) and you’ve exchanged a few direct messages, you have an excuse to invite them to connect on LinkedIn or Facebook so that you can getting to know one another better. There are all sorts of opinions about whether LinkedIn or Facebook is better for business contacts. Facebook is quickly crossing over to business from its beginnings as a personal network. But for now, LinkedIn is still considered more appropriate for business networking.

Join LinkedIn and Facebook groups and answer questions. Perhaps more important than building up the number of your connections on LinkedIn and Facebook is joining groups of like-minded professionals and engaging in conversations and answering questions. For example, we just happen to have an ITSMA group on LinkedIn that you can join. You can post news articles, ask questions, and answer other peoples’ questions. Other B2B-oriented groups on LinkedIn include:

Step 3. Manage

Managing means that you take an active role in creating conversations and fostering a community. Here are some ways to do it:

Decide whether to do a blog. I’d recommend against it unless you write regularly as part of your day job. Obviously, writing is hard. Worse, there are a million marketing blogs out there already. To stand out, you really have to think and contribute unique ideas. I’ve been blogging for years, beginning when I was at CIO magazine, and I still find it difficult after all these years.

But there really is no better way to serve the guild than to start a blog. If you’re worried about having enough to say, create a blog designed to be a service to your readers. Some blogs thrive by being filters rather than thought leaders. They summarize content from other blogs and thread multiple external posts on a topic together to add more context and meaning. They also assemble subject-specific lists of content and update them as needed. A good example of this kind of blogging is Junta42, which has a post called 42+ Social Media Tools that is regularly updated with contributions from readers. These lists are great traffic drivers and make their creators very popular among guild members (who often do most of the work in the end!).

If you decide to take the plunge and start a blog, WordPress is the way to go. It’s free, open source, and incredibly rich. It has blossomed from a blogging tool into a full-blown website content management system (in fact, it is now the content management system for ITSMA.com)—though it’s still incredibly easy to use for newbies. WordPress also has a great support community. I was able to get this blog up and running in less than one hour.

Start your own online group. Besides creating online communities in business-oriented third-party hosted social media venues like LinkedIn, you can also start guild-related wikis. Wetpaint offers a nice free wiki.

Regardless of where or how you start your own group, be prepared to invest a lot of time and content. Research shows that even in vibrant online communities, fewer than 10% of members contribute any content and fewer than 2% take an active role in starting and leading discussions. For now, you’re better off taking advantage of the scale of a LinkedIn or Facebook to draw attention to your group and build it than trying to create a community on your own.

If you work in a big company and would like to be a good guild leader for your internal marketing colleagues, you should check out Yammer. Many companies are having great success using Yammer as a kind of guerilla knowledge management system.

I hope this post is helpful. It is offered in the spirit of the guild. I hope you will comment and add in your suggestions to help B2B marketers build their personal presences online. I will update the post with new links as I get them.

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Why Twitter is for old people

Like many, I’m a late convert to Twitter. I avoided it for defensive reasons. I’m one of those boring people that eats the same thing for lunch almost every day. So I figured I wouldn’t have much to twitter about. I also figured that Twitter would appeal mostly to young people interested in flirting with one another in 140 characters or less.

But then I tried it and I realized that the hidden power of Twitter is in another kind of human appetite: learning.

Twitter doesn’t just add another one of those annoying Web 2.0 verbs to the English vocabulary (by the way, the co-founder of Twitter, Biz Stone, says the correct form is “to twitter”) it adds new meaning to an oldie: to follow.

Now for an old fart like me, the concept of following someone in Twitter has a much different context and meaning than it might for, say, my daughter, who is a tween and is not on Twitter. To someone her age, the concept of following immediately conjures up the issue of personal relationships—who you hate and who you like—and status—who is popular and who isn’t.

Viewed in that context, my reaction to Twitter is the same as her’s: “Yuck.”

Follow to learn
Thankfully, adults have another context for developing relationships: communities of learning. And it’s in this sense that Twitter is a goldmine for B2B marketers. Think about it. You can seek out the best thinkers in marketing—people that you’ve paid money to go see at conferences—and listen to what they have to say anytime, for free. I quickly discovered that I didn’t have to twitter about my lunch (PB&Js most days—hey, I’ve loved them since I was 5 (see how boring this is?)) and that the people I want to hear from aren’t doing that either (though the air travel tweets get a little old—travel twittering seems to be one of the few “what I’m doing now” things that people feel is worth telling everyone about, perhaps because people generally think that traveling demonstrates importance and coolness and also because its something that some people just do an awful lot of).

The two subject areas I’m most interested in in my role at ITSMA are B2B marketing in general and social media in particular. I started following people whose blogs I like in those areas and things took off from there.

An entrée to the cocktail party
The wonderful thing about following (in the business context) on Twitter is that it’s like being at a cocktail party where you see a circle of people having an interesting conversation that you can just break into—without having to know any of them or having to say something interesting. You can just listen. Even better, you’re able to send those people a signal that you think that what they have to say is interesting enough to follow. And that can be a nice ego stroke for them (if they don’t already have 40,000 followers).

Indeed, I was surprised to see that some well-known social media and marketing experts who I think have interesting things to say followed me back after I followed them. Very cool. It gives me a way to gradually get to know them and for them to get to know me—and it’s an ego stroke to think that they might actually think I have something to teach them (or they could have their Twitter accounts set up to automatically follow those who follow them). But if they don’t follow me, who cares—it doesn’t have the same social weight attached to it as getting snubbed by the popular kids in middle school (not that that ever happened to me). Nobody knows but me. And I still get what I want most out of the relationship, which is to learn.

And I’m learning a lot. Twitter for business fills a learning gap that blogging used to fill but from which most good blogs graduated from early on: linking. I don’t think much of blogs that just post links to other stuff, unless the links are organized into useful lists, which take time. I think blogs are for thinking, not linking.

But Twitter is limited to 140 characters, so linking is pretty much the only way to add real value. And now when I do my morning research and find something interesting—but not interesting enough to spark a full blog post—I can twitter it so that others can learn what I’m learning.

Create your own ad hoc community
And to my relief, that’s exactly what others are doing with Twitter, too. Like any good social media tool, Twitter’s foundation is conversation and community through sharing. I’ve already developed what I think is a powerful network of B2B and social media thinkers that is in essence an ad hoc online community.And I have lots of people working to build that community for me. As I follow more people and more people follow me, I get constant suggestions for new people to follow who I’ve never heard of before but who have interesting things to say.

There is a nice spirit of sharing among the people I follow that is self-perpetuating and contagious. For example, after shamelessly sucking content from the people I was following for a few days, I started to feel an obligation–and a challenge–to start contributing. There’s an element of competition driving this, too. You start thinking, hey, I can find some cool stuff too, you know!

Linking to learn
I immediately started to feel a responsibility to start Twittering links that I think could help others in my position. The news, advice, and references I get each day from my Twitter “friends” is better than any Google news or blog feed. Furthermore, by seeing the occasional comments about the links, I can start to develop a point of view about the content.

Every B2B marketer interested in learning more about their profession should have a Twitter account. It’s the first step to creating a personal social media platform. More about that next time.

Have you tried Twitter yet? Tell me about your experiences so far.

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Getting Started in Social Media: An Interview and Podcast with SAP's Steve Mann

Podcast: Getting Started with Social Media with SAP’s Steve Mann Part 1

Podcast: Getting Started with Social Media with SAP’s Steve Mann Part 2

Here’s my edited interview with SAP’s Steve Mann, who is creating and implementing a social media strategy for the B2B software giant. With his personal interest in science and sociology, Steve has some insightful views on the human side of implementing a social media strategy. I’ve also included a two-part, edited Kochcast with Steve if you’d rather listen than read.

Chris Koch: Steve, what do you think should be driving B2B companies’ strategies in social media today?

Steve Mann: The dynamics of most markets have changed dramatically over the last few years. We have gone from being a supplier-centric economy where the supplier is in control to a buyer-centric economy where the buyer is in control. And these buyers are demanding transparency from their suppliers.

One of the best ways to drive that transparency is through the use of social media. It has become a conversational economy where customers expect to be able to talk to suppliers and they get really turned off when suppliers talk at them. Social media is what enables that conversation between the suppliers and buyers to happen.

Chris Koch: We’re getting a lot of questions from ITSMA members asking, Where do I start with a social media strategy? There are so many different things that they could be doing, that many don’t end up doing anything. What’s the first thing that people should do to get started?

Steve Mann: It’s been our experience that there are a lot of things happening in companies around social media which organizations don’t even know about. So, one of the first places to start is actually to take an audit of what’s happening in your organization.

Through our audit at SAP, we found that there are a number of grassroots initiatives around social media that we are really happy that we know about for two reasons: Number one, we can take advantage of synergies in those efforts and number two, we can use the enthusiasm and the passion around these grassroots initiatives to drive an overall social media strategy.

So, for example, SAP has an internal social networking project that launched a couple of months ago called “Harmony,” which has over five thousand SAP employees involved.

And another good opportunity is our SAP Developer Network and Business Process Expert community platforms, which, combined, have over one million community members already.

Chris Koch: Can you talk a little bit more about Harmony? How did that get started, and what are the goals of that?

Steve Mann: Well, it got started because there was a realization that we needed a better way to connect individuals with one another inside SAP. The informal networks that people create at SAP are very powerful in helping you perform your daily business tasks and so we wanted to create tools that enable individuals to make those connections easier and to collaborate more effectively.

But Harmony also comes from the realization that our employee base is changing rapidly. There are 76 million millennials—people born after 1977—that are now entering the workforce, and one of their expectations is that they have the tools and the technology that enable them to easily collaborate across functional groups. Harmony does that.

Chris Koch: What are some of the highlights of Harmony’s functionality?

Steve Mann: Well, for us it’s the ability to profile ourselves and to develop expertise roles and a behavior-based profile of an individual. Say somebody is looking for a person who has social media skills and customer experience skills. They can do a search on Harmony and my name will pop up. So it enables you to easily identify those individuals who you could need on any given project.

Number two, it will also allow integration into SAP’s transactional systems—obviously, we use our own transactional systems. Harmony enables you to run the workflow and the processes that support any given project at SAP.

Chris Koch: What prerequisites do you need to have internally in terms of social media before going externally?

Steve Mann: Number one, do you have a culture where you allow experimentation and have a high tolerance for failure? Because frankly, failure is big part of social media and social networking initiatives because we are still so early in the evolution of strategies and technologies.

For example, if you are a very strong command-and-control type of organization, it may be much more difficult for you to implement either an internal or external social media strategy. It’s difficult to maintain that traditional sense of control in an organization that truly implements a 360-degree social media strategy for both internal collaboration as well as for external collaboration with the market.

Secondly, do you also have tolerance for negative commentary in the market about your organization? If not, you should stay away from social media because customers will see through any efforts to control them or their messages.

The third assessment factor is to discover the real pain points that can be addressed with a social media strategy. Is it my communication strategy? Do I need to be closer to the market? Is it around co-innovation? Am I not being innovative enough in my products and services or is there not enough uptake of my products and services and if so, why?

Well, to answer those questions, I need to get closer to the market and one of the best ways to get closer to the market is to co-create with customers and partners.

Chris Koch: Can you give us an example of how you would use social media to do co-creation with customers?

Steve Mann: Let’s say that I am planning SAP’s next-generation CRM system. We go out and solicit “voice of the customer” input into the product development cycle. We ask customers what they need in terms of capability that we should be delivering into the solution. So the customers are actively influencing what the product does from generation to generation of that product.

We also do that on the content side. We have many plans to develop user-generated content. Many times customers and prospects do not necessarily want to speak to a supplier. They would rather speak to another customer.

And so by enabling a prospect to talk to an existing SAP customer, there is a user-generated content component. For example, the content that a prospect is getting about SAP solutions could potentially come from another customer and not SAP. That is in fact what happens today on SDN, the SAP Developer Network.

Chris Koch: How do you know whether your existing customer service infrastructure is ready to handle all the communications that occur in social media? For example, let’s say a customer posts a complaint on a blog. There is an expectation in the back of his or her mind that somehow everyone across the company is reading this and that someone is going to get back to him.

Steve Mann: The first issue is don’t do social media if you are not willing to hear negative things about your company. It’s a conversation and in any conversation there are positives and negatives and you have to take the good with the bad.

Secondly, when an individual gives feedback to a company—no matter whether that feedback is negative or positive—that individual deserves to be engaged with. And so the people, the processes and tools need to in place to engage with that individual and not only say, hey, we heard you, but here is what we are going to do about it.

It’s critical that organizations realize that social media drives a greater degree of customer intimacy than ever before. You are much closer to your customers and they are much closer to you, which is a good thing and a bad thing.

It’s a bad thing in that if you don’t manage it well, it can hurt your brand. It’s a great thing in that customer intimacy promotes greater customer loyalty, customer loyalty promotes more repeat business, which in turn promotes greater satisfaction with the brand.

Chris Koch: Let’s talk about content. Marketers hear over and over—and ITSMA research shows—that customers want to talk to each other and get peer recommendations. But then marketers set up an online community and nothing happens. Nobody says anything; it just dies. What content should marketers provide so that you can generate some real good discussion?

Steve Mann: Well, again it goes back to this notion of co-creation. I would never just create a forum for a customers to talk without first figuring out what customers want to talk about.

And the way you do that is you need to interview a lot of customers and really understand what’s on their minds, what issues they would want to talk about and then you build the community of interest that will focus on those issues.

You then have to market these capabilities just like you market anything else. People need to know that they exist. People need to understand what the value would be to them and what the benefits are to them for becoming members and taking time out of their day to participate.

Then, finally once you get those folks in there, yes these discussions need to be moderated so that they stay on track. But my advice to companies that are looking to do this is to stay out of the way and let the customers talk to one another.

Great things will happen when they have the opportunity to talk to one another, but you have to provide the forum, you have to provide the right topics and you have to provide the right moderation.

Another equally important strategy is to go to where our customers are and listen and participate in their communities. SAP has other communities like ASUG, SDN, BPX, and Diamond where we engage customers directly. Through participation in these communities we not only hear what our customers are telling us but we begin to understand what they are saying.

Chris Koch: Should you create communities around fairly narrow topic areas? Is that more likely to get them talking?

Steve Mann: Well, I think that’s a very good point, Chris. As a matter of fact, my prediction for 2008 is that you will see a lot more closed and proprietary social networks developing rather than these large, broad, open social networks like Facebook and MySpace.

Chris Koch: And why is that?

Steve Mann: Because I think people want to coalesce around specific interests and talk to people who have expertise and capability in their particular area. It goes back to this notion of compelling content. If you are a lawyer and you want to find compelling content, you should go to a social network that focuses on lawyers—same thing for physicians, or engineers, or high-tech guys like me.

Chris Koch: People come to us all the time and ask, what technology should I start with in social media? Blogs? Podcasts? Second Life? I don’t think this is the right way to approach it, but people always seem to want to lead with the technology. What do you think?

Steve Mann: I get the same questions all the time. Chris, it’s an impossible question to answer because there are hundreds of different solutions out there. When people ask me this question I ask what business problem they are trying to solve. Once they have told me what the business problem is then I will recommend a solution.

Chris Koch: Okay, let’s talk about the future. In our research people say that the most bang for they get for their marketing buck comes from in-person meetings around a topic or thought leadership. Should the goal of social media marketing be to create an online version of those in person meetings?

Steve Mann: That’s an interesting question. I can tell you what’s happening in SAP. One of the things we are doing is exploring virtual events and bringing people together online in virtual event spaces to really interact and collaborate with one another.

We’re building out some tools to do that now and we are going to be holding one of our first virtual events shortly and the goal is not necessarily to replace real time events because there is nothing like networking in real time with other individuals.

But the goal is to provide alternative methods of communication and collaboration. There will always be other opportunities to do that real time networking and we will never move away from those, but it allows us in a cost-effective manner to really bring people together for collaboration and knowledge transfer and that’s what it’s all about as far as SAP is concerned.

Chris Koch: Let’s talk about other ways social media will impact existing marketing tactics. For example, how do you see the traditional case study changing?

Steve Mann: First, I would move away from static customer stories and replace them with live reference stories—such as videos that tell the story.

Barring that, I would want to try to get the customer to blog about his experiences, or allow me to record video about his experience or his company—to make communications and entertainment merge into something of real “communitainment” value. In that way I think you drive a level of stickiness around the content that you could not possibly achieve in a standard, static case study.

Chris Koch: You talked about the rise of the Millennials before. Can you say more about the generational issues that will impact social media?

Steve Mann: There are going to be and continue to be generational differences in the way people consume content and information and you need to take a multi-generational approach to how you communicate with your market. I actually recommend that companies hire inter-generational experts.

Chris Koch: What do you mean when you say that?

Steve Mann: Individuals that have expertise in understanding generation differences both in your workforce as well as in your market and can help you attune your strategies to those generational differences.

Chris Koch: So would that be like a change management consultant?

Steve Mann: Well, these individuals really will do a number of things for you. First, they will educate you on the intricacies of intergenerational differences between Millennials and Gen Xers and Boomers. They will help you construct your appropriate plans to inform and educate not only your executives, but the people who have to tell the stories to the market. And they can help guide you on tone, process and policy for each specific generational segment.

For example, Boomers may not care if your IT department blocks access to Facebook from inside the firewall, but the Millenials will. They have an expectation that those tools will be available there for their life, both professional and personal. Social media is not some passing fad with them. They are digital natives. They have grown up with the Internet and they expect to be able to access it whenever, wherever, and however they want. It’s really important to understand that their individual values are not going to change over time. So if companies want to attract, retain, manage and motivate young employees and customers over the next generation of workers, it’s the companies that need to adapt—not the workers. That’s the big one.

Finally, you need to train your leaders to lead differently. The leader almost has to be a little bit of a therapist, because the individuals that you are working with to deploy social media are very self-sufficient individuals who are highly networked and highly collaborative to begin with. They require more passive listening and a teaching management style. You need to set expectations carefully with them. I know I am focusing a lot on the human side here, but I really believe that it’s the human side that makes a technology implementation effective.

Chris Koch: Meanwhile, all we keep hearing about is RSS and other technologies.

Steve Mann: Yeah, I mean if you think about it, if the goal of SAP’s social media strategy is to create increased collaboration and intimacy between individuals, well, what I am asking of these individuals?

I am asking them to become more social and frankly you either are social, or you are a little bit social, or you are not social at all…it is who you are. So all you can do is give them the tools and techniques to be social in the workforce, but that means you need to manage them differently, you need to lead them differently and you need to set expectations differently.

Chris Koch: Can existing communities and social media tools like Facebook be substitutes for building your own tools?

Steve Mann: Well, I think that if you are a brand that will resonate well with the demographics of Facebook, then you can go ahead and generate a Facebook page and you should try to use the social ads and infrastructure that Facebook or MySpace provides to do that.

Marketing has gone from a mass volume broadcast one side suite or a message platform to a one-on-one, word of mouth, referral based marketing model. We have actually gone back in time to the 1600s and the 1700s, as Seth Godin characterizes it. Facebook and MySpace provide excellent environments for trusted referral marketing and that is why we have talked so much today about this notion of creating compelling content in communities where the supplier can step out of the way and connect prospects to the customer. Because at end of the day that is trusted referral marketing, it’s one-on-one marketing, and there is no more powerful type of marketing than that.

Chris Koch: What lessons would you recommend that B2B marketers take to heart from what the B2C is doing in social media these days?

Steve Mann: Oh! Good question. All I would say is that it goes to that notion of trusted referral marking and that B2C marketers and B2C tactics in general have infiltrated the B2B space.

So those customers who used to do a search on Google and used to talk to other people and check out the reputations of folks recommending a book or a soft drink, well you know what, those same people are using those same tactics in a B2B environment. And so those same environments where powerful B2C communication takes place are also ripe and right for B2Bs.

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Ten Rules for Getting Started in Social Media from SAP's Steve Mann

Steve Mann is creating and implementing a social media strategy for B2B software giant SAP. He agreed to talk to me about what he’s doing for SAP and how B2B marketers should approach getting started in social media. With his personal interest in science and sociology, Steve also has some insightful views on the human side of implementing a social media strategy. I’ve summarized Steve’s top-ten ideas below. I first discovered Steve through this excellent interview that Mike Moran did with Steve on Mike’s blog.

To read my full interview with Steve, see my next post.

10 Rules for Getting Started in Social Media from SAP’s Steve Mann

  1. Audit your organization to find social media efforts that already exist within your company.
  2. Assess your culture: Are you a command-and-control culture? Can you tolerate negative customer feedback? If not, then start small with external social media—or stay away from it altogether.
  3. Examine your organizational structure: Highly stovepiped or diversified companies should use social media internally first to build collaboration capability before going external.
  4. Don’t strategize in a vacuum. Ask customers what they want to talk about.
  5. Build the internal processes and infrastructure necessary to follow-up on social media interactions with customers.
  6. Don’t pick a social media technology, pick a business goal and use social media to pursue it.
  7. Learn how different generations like to consume online content. Consider hiring an “inter-generational expert.”
  8. Talk to your IT department about restrictive social media policies. Millenials and other digital natives will not tolerate being barred from using social media.
  9. Examine your leadership style. Social media, as a means to support collaboration among your Millenial workers, requires an implementation that supports coaching and listening, not rules and edicts.
  10. Steal tactics from B2C marketers. They have a head start on social media and many of their their tactics are applicable in B2B.

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