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Can Social Media Really Work for B2B?

Right now, social media is right at the fashionable heart of marketing. You can’t move for tips and advice on how to utilize this most exciting of play-things, and all of the time the biggest brands are falling over each other to saturate the likes of Twitter and Facebook with their advertising message.

For the B2B marketer however, it can feel like sitting outside the door of a party that you haven’t been invited to. Sure you can hear the sounds of everybody inside having a great time, but you are left wondering how to score a ticket to this most exciting of marketing experiences.

Social media has always been a tough nut to crack for B2B, with the very nature of individuals sharing their likes and dislikes not always feeling very compatible with the world of marketing databases and corporate gifts.

Social networks are where people go to gush about their favorite brands or show off to their friends about the latest cool thing they have bought, and this can leave the B2B marketer scratching their head and wondering what is in it for them.

So brace yourself for some more advice, as we explore what is in it for the B2B marketer, and how they can reap the benefits of the social media world.

Just One Question

Whoever you market to, whether it’s individual consumers or businesses, you should always ask yourself the most fundamental of questions, why do you want to utilize social media marketing? There is only one correct answer, “because that’s where my audience is”.
The answer to this question will dictate everything for you going forward. It will help you to decide which, if any, of the social networks you should be targeting. It will help to dictate your message, your tone, your strategy, whether you are trying to sell to people, whether you are trying to brand build, everything comes down to where your audience are and what they are doing when they are there.
Don’t get drawn into the “fad” aspect of social media, see it as just one tool in your arsenal of communicating directly to your customer base.

Now What?

Once you have completed this process of identifying which social networks your target audience are using and what they are doing there, it is time for you to draw up some realistic expectations, targets and how you hope to achieve them.

Remember the analogy of social media being a tool in your arsenal? Well change that to it being a tool box. Some social networks won’t be suitable for what you are trying to achieve and it is up to you to root through them and find the best ones for you.

LinkedIn is a popular destination for B2B marketers because it is a natural place for business people to meet and discuss more work related matters, whereas Facebook might not be as appropriate given its informal, more friendship based approach.

If you take to Twitter, will anyone really want to listen to you talk about your products and services? Step away a little and talk around your subject and about issues that your target audience will find interesting. Nobody is going to sign up to a sales spiel, become an authority on your target’s subject.

Make It Work for You

One of the main reasons why B2B marketers complain that social media doesn’t work for them is because they find it hard to use it to sell directly to their customers. It is here where they are making their biggest mistake.

Social media is so full of opportunities and if you look at it purely as a sales outlet you are not making the most of them. More than anything else, it is a gold mine of valuable information.

Are you still sending out mailers addressed to “Buying Manager” rather than using LinkedIn to find out their name, address, office, phone number and direct email? Oh look, there is a list of groups that they participate in, I wonder if my target has asked any questions or started any discussions in there that I might be able to contribute to…

Social media gives you the opportunity to know your targets better than ever before and introduce yourself in a non-buying situation before you approach them in a sales capacity. You can use it to improve your conversion rates for other marketing, build yourself as an authority in your industry and communicate more easily than ever before.

The opportunities available all stem from asking that first question, why do I want to utilise social media marketing. Finding where your audience are and what they use social media for will dictate your whole strategy.

If you are still scratching around looking to use social media as your new shop, you are missing the massive opportunities that are available for the B2B marketer.


Guest Blogger: Alan Grainger is a Web Marketing Specialist at The Corporate Gifts Company, a B2B distributor of executive gifts. Follow them on Twitter @corporategiftco.

Does + always equal more?

Google Plus CartoonThe Internet is buzzing with waves of chatter about Google+. It’s still in beta, with invitations quickly being disseminated among early adopters. Rumors about the Google network are running wild and range from the curious to the hilarious. One insider has it that that the final version will have a time and attendance feature to clock how much time you spend on Plus, then Google actually pays YOU to use it. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

The search (and advertising) behemoth is making its third foray into the world of social networking, after two busted attempts that shall not be mentioned here, for austerity’s sake. Whether Google can topple Facebook is a hot topic that has been addressed on this blog. Google+ is brand new – not even completed, in fact – and Facebook has been around for many productive years, so it’s not really fair to compare the two services at present. We can, however, look at the features of Google+ to see whether it will prove to be a viable social media platform or fall to the same grim fate as W-ve and B-zz.

Pros – The Case For (+)

 G+ is appearing at the right time. People are starting to get bored with Facebook, and the possibility of a similar, improved-upon experience with a known company is attractive. Google has the advertising acumen to make G+ an attractive option, and the coders have the technical know-how to scale the size of the service to whatever it needs to be. Also, one big pro: Google controls the Internet. You don’t do anything without Google knowing about it. This is a scary thought, but also great when you think about sharing; if I’m searching for something on Google anyway, find it and want to share, +1 will always be there, even in rare cases where [Tweet] and [Like] are not.

 Cons – The Case Against (-)

Google lacks social network experience, or at least the kind that competitors have been gaining over the past decade. Google is definitely good at connecting people and integrating services but Wave and Buzz failed for good reason; they just weren’t intuitive. G+ also has a lot to prove. Learning new social networks can be like learning a new language and as it stands, there is not reason for people to switch to G+ aside from curiosity. Google needs to create an engaging, easy to use experience (Like Maps, for example) that can grow with users.

What does Google+ have over Facebook right out of the gate? Well, to start: a potential user base and a more defined, integrated group system.

Anyone with a Gmail address (read: many, many people) will be able to participate when the final version of Google+ arrives, and they won’t even have to sign up; they just activate their Plus account and Boom! G+ automatically has a few hundred million users. Moreover, G+ has room to grow whereas Facebook has hit a cap somewhere around 750M users.

The group system addresses Facebook’s biggest problem: how to share. It’s hard to use potty language or share rugged stories when you know Uncle Ricky is checking your profile every now and again. Facebook allows you to determine what each person sees on your page, but the process is convoluted, labyrinthine and most people just don’t want to deal with it. Google gives you the mystical ‘Circle’ and says, “Share whatever you want with the people in this group [circle].” Ideally, it eliminates potentially embarrassing situations while giving you the freedom to post what you want for whomever you want.

What Does Google+ Need to Succeed?

The creator of MySpace, Tom Anderson, has said that Facebook’s success has hinged on integration of good ideas from other networks at the right time. The status bar was an innovation clearly inspired by Twitter and the ability to add videos in comments is a recent addition pulled straight from the OG competitor: MySpace. Similarly, G+ has pulled some cues from among the many other available social networks: Facebook’s clean design (though G+ is considerably less populated at this point) and Twitter’s ability to “follow” a G+ profile without being “friends”.

Whether G+ will do to Facebook what the Roman Empire did to Greece is unclear. There is speculation as to whether Google is even trying to overtake the social media atmosphere or play an accessory role to the larger, more developed Facebook. At current, it is barely the latter, but again, it is an infant service and will likely come into its own over the next year or two.

What Google+ promises is an integrated social networking experience that pulls from popular sections of the web – Twitter, Foursquare, The Book of Faces – in order to create a more efficient web sharing experience. It’s certainly poised to do that, but we’ll have to check back in a year to see if the third time’s the charm with Google’s social media endeavors.

Can Google + beat FaceBook?

Google Plus

Google+ is challenging Facebook, but will it be enough to take down the giant?

Will Facebook be the last dominant social network? I’m not sure anyone really knows the answer to this. Only time will tell. Looking back at history, I can tell you that FB certainly wasn’t the first. Even before Mark Zuckerberg even got off the ground with there were already online social networks. LinkedIn and MySpace had more than a year on FB. How FB made these two sites obsolete will give us clues regarding how Google + will fair as a social network.

Facebook VS MySpace

When users starting migrating from MySpace to FB, my initial hypothesis was that it was a fad. Similarly to the migration from MSN to AIM, I thought these networks went through cyclical shifts. I figured that within a year we’d be messing with something else. What I now realize is that in the case of social networks, boredom alone won’t cause a mass migration. I figure that for a social network to fall there has to be a big upgrade waiting on the other side. Facebook was far superior to MySpace. Facebook’s interface was far superior. While MySpace was overcrowded, FB was beautifully minimalist.

This interface offered not only something different for users but was also simply a better interface (MySpace pages took forever to load). On top of that FB had game changing features. Features like the newsfeed and picture tagging put interaction on a whole new level. The real game changer though, was something as simple as a relationship status. This innovation basically hit the nail on the head as to why social networks exist in the first place. This feature while technically unimpressive was the greatest addition ever. So, can what happened to MySpace happen to FB.

Google +, Google Buzz, Google Wave (The Threepeat)

Google Plus

Are privacy circles enough to truly challenge Facebook?

Based on the FB MySpace controversy, to beat a dominant social network you need user migration. To do this you need boredom and new features. I myself am quite bored with FB, and wouldn’t mind a change. Unfortunately I won’t be moving till my friends move. As such, boredom will only get the user base half way.

If Google + wants to beat FB it will have to do more than simply matching it. In its current condition Google + doesn’t even quite do that. In their defense, they have some interesting interface ideas with their privacy circles. Unfortunately I just don’t see any groundbreaking reason to change.

What Google needs for success in the social market is a game changer. I am not exactly sure Google has what I t takes to compete. Very rarely are companies able to find second acts. Microsoft and Apple found there’s with Office/Xbox and iPod respectively. Google has had a myriad of side projects over the years while trying to find their second act (Gmail is admittedly pretty cool). Just like Microsoft however, Google is suffering from classic old monopoly symptoms. They no longer know how to compete. Luckily for Google, they have a tremendous long fall to the bottom. Both Google and Microsoft can never innovate again and still make billions for years to come.

Google Buzz

The only buzz Google Buzz generated was for privacy violations

+ isn’t Google’s first attempt at competing with FB after all. Last year Google announced Buzz. Other than making headlines for some severe privacy violations Buzz was a non starter. Google even tried to gain an instant user base by integrating it with Gmail. Google went about Buzz completely the wrong way, and because of that Buzz was a failure.

Google Wave

Google Wave was a complete no-go

Two and a half years ago, Google announced Wave, an innovation that would change the way we interact with computers; the less said about Wave the better.  If things don’t go their way with +, will they simply call another redo?

My last point is that even if + does come out of beta with creative innovations over FB, will it make a difference? Just because certain conditions killed MySpace doesn’t mean the same for FB. FB is now a completely different animal then MySpace. FB now has over half a billion users. It is no longer the case of a bunch of kids getting bored and moving. It is fair to say that FB now has deep roots in our society. It is very well possible that no social network regardless of quality can best it. We will just have to wait and see.


Jonathan Rosen is a business major at Miami University. He is an avid fan of different media and how its covered. His website Call It Like I See It strives to be a source on info about entertainment and technology. You can read more from Jonathan at www.callitlikeiseeit.com

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Higher education and Social Media

Business application and social networking have become synonymous in the current educational system. While Universities and Colleges utilize social media tactics (i.e. Oncourse System used at Indiana University – used for grades, balances, etc.) such tactics are rarely taught. In the Kelley School of Business, social media was barely discussed. The old school methods of marketing and branding were drilled into our minds to the point of ad nauseam, but nothing was EVER said about the trending data which shows the growing dominance of social media marketing. If it had, the new developments in both ecommerce and social media may not have been so blinding.

Proper Definitions

Andreas Kaplan defined social media as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” People and businesses already do this kind of networking on the local level, by attending community events, trade shows, and other face-to-face events. Technology opens the door to online networking, which has a global reach.

The Importance of Social Networking

Students use social networks to stay in touch with friends, family, and classmates. They connect with the community, plan events, and even unwind with games. All the major social networking sites serve a specific purpose, but all can be utilized for social media.

LinkedIn is a social networking tool that helps business persons, freelancers, consultants, and job seekers to develop a network of professional contacts. Facebook allows users to link up with current contacts and make new connections. Twitter is the bridge between the two, feeding back into both in an automatic process of building the user as a brand (Unwritten rule: LinkedIn is for people you know, Twitter is for people you want to know, and Facebook is for people you don’t want to know.)

Marketing research has been the source of investment for decades. It has evolved over time, but is still “results” driven. Focus groups, test markets, surveys, and other methods add up each year and rarely generate the intended (or projected) result. Conversely, methods of social media marketing grant immediate access to the information for which companies would have waited months to receive. Given this fact – and though most companies now tweet and are on Facebook – there is still very little use of the social media outlets by the larger companies (i.e. Proctor and Gamble).

Complications

Saying all of this, the main reason why the assimilation has been slow is directly linked to the lack of understanding associated with social media. People simply don’t know what to do with it. It seems to be the great mountain which even at a distance looks formidable enough to avoid and ignore. (There are ways to climb it however, see my next article).

Despite the apprehension there is a positive trend (though small) for social media use and instruction. Social media processes have redefined the marketing landscape. Simple use by traditional “brick-and-mortar” Universities and online school have lead to the simple discussions by these institutions to include social media tactics into their curriculum. This is a start. As more information surfaces, it is expected that classes associated with social media’s proper use will emerge automatically. After all, the marketing mix was developed after the same successes social media is currently experiencing. The hope, after all, is that the process will brand itself.

The Gift of Gab: Women’s Advantage in Social Media

Lauren MacEwen being social at a partyWomen have the business advantage in social media. We continue to be the majority of social media users. As a driving force behind a lot of the overall internet usage, women are commanding a powerful influence in shopping, B2B, social media, blogging and content driven sites.   But women are not just the consumers of retail, information and social activity, we are also the drivers.

Socially women are taught to communicate. We are taught to express our feelings and thoughts and spread information along to other interested parties. Community interactions teach us the art of gossip and gab. We are known as the purveyors of information, and we are often a vast and varied  storehouse of information.

Another school of thought argues that women are neurologically better communicators. According to The Female Brain women can process 13,000 more communication events than men and have 11% more brain cells in the planum temporale, which has to do with processing language.

“[F]rom a young age, women are conditioned to nurture, communicate, and express their feelings through words; all necessary qualities of a social medialite. Our male counterparts, no matter how accomplished or web savvy, have to work infinitely harder to master the art of casually dishing information and “gossiping” about industry hot topics.”

According to PsychTests, women are more comfortable sharing their thoughts and more willing to discuss issues and take others opinions into consideration. Also, women are better listeners and empathizers and are more skilled at handling “touchy-feely” conversations.  But does this mean that women are better at social media?

Whether or not you believe that women have a neurological or social advantage, many schools of thought support the idea that women are better communicators than men.  Communication is a skill, and like any skill it can be honed and developed.  This skill is culturally, and possibly neurologically, supported for women. For men, however, the cultural idea of masculinity as the “strong and silent” type is working in direct opposition to developing this ability.

The nature of social media is social. It is about community, communication, conversation and sharing information. The way in which women use the internet supports a social media advantage.  Though men and women both use the internet for research, the way women conduct their research is  is different. “Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process – one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support groups and personal email exchanges.”

The business of being social is in interaction and the dissemination of information.

Through our skills in communication and our own user trends, women are becoming a force to be reckoned with in social media. “Women are enthusiastic online communicators.” Social media provides a platform where our natural or socially developed communication skills give us a business edge.

The joke in my house is that if you want to know what is going on ask me, not my husband. In fact, my husband often says how much he dislikes gossip and would rather abstain from a conversation than participate in what he feels is gossipy. Me, on the other hand, I am a collector of information. I collect gossip, news, sociological theory, tech developments, and maintain a repository of generally random information.

I often use this information in my business communication to deepen relationships.  Just like friendships, business relationships are not limited to the topic at hand. The gift of gab can be more than a friendly conversation starter, it can now be an entire business model

Some Facts:

Reposted from a guest post written by Lauren MacEwen for Dr. Shannon Reese

LinkedIn, It’s a Group Thing!

Linked In sign of the linkedin logo

Many people tell me they are on LinkedIn but never really do anything with it.  The pattern seems to be that people get on because they are told it is a good site for business networking.  Often people get on when they are trying to find a job.  They create their profile, upload some pics, maybe install a widget or two, connect with as many people as they know directly and indirectly, search a job board or two, then the affair with LinkedIn is over.

LinkedIn is great for networking, but you have to get beyond the surface to make that happen.  Networking with people is important, but not in the way that it is important for Facebook or basically any other social network.  In most social networks, when you connect with someone you are following their activity.  You pay attention to their updates, look at their pictures and generally keep track of their life as it is displayed socially.  LinkedIn doesn’t work this way.  Yes, you can keep up with people’s lives, but most people do not post updates to LinkedIn the way they do in other networks.

If you look at it from a business perspective, you probably don’t want all your colleagues looking at pictures of your cat or hearing about the party you just went to. Well, neither do any of your LinkedIn network connections.  The updates you see are their advancement or changes in professional positions; professional development, blog postings and sharing of professional information. This last one is the one you need to care about.

The best part of LinkedIn are the groups. There is a plethora of groups of every ilk, specialty and interest.  These groups are like professional associations. People post resources, articles, start discussions, ask for help, advice, connection, etc. LinkedIn groups are the center of LinkedIn’s social activity.

Groups are where you make real connections that will cross over to Facebook and Twitter. You can drive real traffic to your websites. You can promote your product, get feedback, get assistance and feedback on all stages of business development for your business or product. As these groups become a resource for you, you can then become a resource to other people and help establish your authority and expertise.

As always, social networking is about engagement, and LinkedIn is the new business round table!

How have you used LinkedIn?

See tomorrow’s post to find out how Facebook is a group thing!