Australian B2Bs: the Social Media Challenge

Last month, a government-funded study entitled Australia’s Social Media Presence in 2012: The Roadmap for 2013, revealed some surprising news: Australian B2B businesses are struggling with their online profiles, electing not to use social media to its full advantage because of a mistaken belief that social media is all about the individual and not the company. The most influential B2B companies in the social media sphere include The Commonwealth Bank, Telstra, Vodafone and BMW, yet the majority of companies are falling behind because they feel that online marketing is mainly a B2C company strategy.

Sharing content with clients and other businesses (potential clients), is not only intelligent, but cost-effective. As the Content Marketing Institute in the US proclaims, “Consumers have simply shut off the traditional world of marketing. They own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online ‘surfing’ that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant). Smart marketers understand that traditional marketing is becoming less and less effective by the minute, and that there has to be a better way.”

Lessons Gleaned from the US:

In the US, a study published this month revealed that some 87 per cent of US B2Bs who participated in the study utilised social media as part of their strategic weaponry and some 83 per cent also used website content. Additionally, 54 per cent of the most effective content marketers targeted their efforts at a specific profile. The report provides valuable insight into the most effective ways to target social media campaigns.

According to the US survey, the most effective B2B content marketers rely on an average of six social networks to share their content; content marketers who use only three social networks describe their strategy as ineffective. The most popular site is LinkedIn (83 per cent) followed by Twitter (80 per cent), Facebook (80 per cent), YouTube (61 per cent), Pinterest (26 per cent) and SideShare (23 per cent). Other, less popular sites used included Vimeo, Flickr, StumbleUpon, Foursquare, Instagram, Tumblr and Quora.

According to the report, effective social media strategies rest on the following pillars:

* Their content is tailored to the profile of decision makers.

* Content is shared on various social networks – six is the ideal number of sites to use; using any more than this could affect content quality.

* Successful strategies involve the use of a number of different tactics (14 in the case of the most effective strategies, eight in the case of the least effective).

* Successful strategies require resources and talented teams, capable of creating engaging content.

The Overriding Value of Good Content:

Jeff Elder, journalist, social media expert and former Marketing Director of Storify, offers excellent advice on the role of content in successful marketing campaigns: “Unique, original content is the currency of social media. Think of its as money. When you put it in the social stream, it’s exchanged because it has value. Elder identifies the keys of producing good brand content thus: “1. You have to know what a story is. 2. You have to be intimately familiar with the tools of today’s social media – from video equipment to CRMS.” He cites an example of engaging content published by networking equipment company, Cisco: it comprised a video about one of the company’s engineers, who also happened to be training for the triple jump at the Olympics. The video fits Elder’s bill when it comes to making Cisco look good: firstly, while the material can be re-published by other news sources, it stands on its own as a finished product. Secondly, the story is inherently interesting; it is not a means to an end.

Resources for Creating Quality Content:

Creating quality content is arguably much easier for companies like Cisco (which has created an entire newsroom within the company, staffed by trained journalists) than for small and medium B2Bs with smaller marketing budgets. But, as Internet guru, Nicco Mele asserts in his book, The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath, the Internet and ubiquitous connectivity is wresting power from the hands of governments, big corporations, universities and the traditional media in favour of the individual; small B2Bs, like Mele’s ‘Davids’, also have a much greater ability than they did in years past to reinvent business and exert a greater influence on their respective markets.

The first steps in defining a successful strategy lies in information; using both online resources and authoritative books to glean new trends in marketing and sales. A good place to start is with an introductory book like David Meerman Scott’s The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly. Once marketers have got the basics down pat, they can move on to practical advice on creating engaging content, such as Dave Kerpen’s Likeable Social Media: how to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks). Kerpen’s book is interesting both for social media pros and newcomers to the field, who will benefit from sound advice such as the importance of acquiring good listening skills in social media, the right ways to use different media platforms and the importance of approaching content creation like a child – especially when it comes to thinking out of the box. Good online resources include Jeff Elder’s entertaining blog, www.jeffelder.net (we recommend the posts Lessons from Four Years in Social Media) and How I Grew Followers to my @jeffelder Twitter Account 1000% in Three Months).

Useful Online Tips:

B2Bs will find a host of tips online from seasoned social media marketers, who, surprisingly, seem to coincide on concepts like the value of investing in one’s products and services (excellence in the latter is the best marketing tool any business could have); creating a social media strategy that unites a company’s vision and customer experience to their internal business culture; and hiring content writers (not social media experts per se but people who can actually write) to create compelling content. Finally, identifying key influencers in one’s market is key. We recommend this excellent article published on digitalorganics.com.au, which enlightens business on how to use tools like Ripples, to see which of the people re-sharing their content are most influential, and to identify their competitors’ most important ‘influencers’.

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