Celebrities and politicians do it. Heck, even our President does it. That’s right, I’m talking about social networking. It’s great for tracking the status of Apple’s next product release. Ideal for reconnecting or job seeking. Perfect for staying current with Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga.
Many companies today have already jumped on the social networking bandwagon—or plan to soon. But most of those companies aren’t really sure why they did or if they should. Of course you don’t want be left behind or passed by. But is that enough to justify B2B social networking? And, sure, it’s free. But is it effective?
We are constantly coming across B2B companies—our clients—at this crossroad, trying to determine whether or not social media is for them. And so we’d like to share our experience and insights based on ongoing feedback from our clients in case you find yourself in the same quandary.
With this in mind, we’ve compiled our Top 5 factors for you to consider—a starting point in determining (or re-evaluating) whether or not social media really is right for you.
- Community: Leverage what you know about your customers, colleagues and peers to determine whether or not your community is ready to receive you via social media networks. A lack of subscribers means your foray into social media will be a flop. And even if you decide your community is ready for social networking, be sure to set their expectations of how to use social media, what they will find and with what frequency. This will remove any possible misunderstandings or barriers of use.
- Content: Remember, this is B2B. We’re not dealing with shiny new iPads here. So ask yourself, do you have something absolutely gripping to share? Will you continue to have gripping things to share in the future? You need to be sure that what you are plugging is not only compelling but that you will be able to generate enough fresh, compelling content to populate your Facebook, Twitter, blog, etc. regularly. This does not mean quarterly. This means weekly… or maybe even daily! You need to condition your audience that it is actually worth their while to visit not just every once and a while, but with great frequency. This requires not only creativity, but a significant amount of time, as well. Which brings me to…
- Commitment: If you decide to make your presence known across social networks you cannot do so haphazardly. You must be present consistently. Your content must be fresh and compelling. You must keep your community hooked. As I’ve mentioned this takes time. You must have the resources available and be dedicated to reliably generating content that is new, different, exciting, worth reading and following.
- Commentary: Many social forums, like Facebook and blogs, enable and encourage your reader to interact and offer comments. This can really work for you, but it could also work against you. Comments can also turn into another “c”… criticisms. Indeed, constructive critiques help us be better innovators—improve our products and services. But do you want to give a potentially jilted client a platform to air every gripe, whether or not it’s founded? With blogs you do maintain some control over comments posted, but managing comments take time (again, see Factor #3.)
- Conversion: As with any marketing program, you need to be able to yield some form of metrics (quantitative or qualitative) to hold up against what you’d previously deemed markers of success. This allows you to measure and refine programs. Measuring the success of your social media commitments is not necessarily straightforward. What’s important to you? The overall number of subscribers? The number of subscribers who follow you with regularity? The number of “click throughs” to your corporate site? Your community’s level of interaction? Be sure you have a strong sense of what you consider to be important so that you will be able project whether or not you’ll able to meet or exceed your goals… and so you’ll be able to determine if you’ve hit your mark should you decide to proceed/continue with social networking.
No matter where you are in your assessment—deciding whether or not to proceed or continue with social media—use these Top 5 factors as guides to be sure to so you know what you are getting into and why.