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Thought Leadership

by Jon Russo Jon Russo 2 Comments

Should B2B CEOs and CMOs care about Social Media?

Why social media is relevant to B2B CEOs and CMOs

What an interesting week.  I met with a CEO of an established B2B software firm interested in having his company more involved in social media, met with a B2B CMO colleague dabbling in social media on behalf of his company, and listened to Scott Monty of Ford Automotive present at DigiDays on Ford’s innovative B2C social media strategy (which I’m quite impressed with to say the least–B2B marketers, this is a case study worth observing).  From those discussions, here are 3 Reasons why I believe social media has become more relevant for the C level audience based on actual B2B data on sales and customer experiences.

1.   Branding opportunity:  I recently met with a software company specializing in helping CMOs do their job more effectively.  Ironically, they are  unable to use their company name and identity in social media tool Twitter because someone else took their unique name ahead of them (maybe a competitor?)   What happens if malicious or false information is disseminated via this new identity owner, think of the brand risk and damage control.  Better to play a strong offense NOW rather than waiting to play a defense.   Grab those ever important product or service line extension names BEFORE you go to market if posible–either your PR agency and/or marketing communications head should be leaning into this at the CMOs direction.

2. Given the current economic climate, some buyers are grouchy yet every customer connection counts.  As an example, a CMO colleague of a successful SMB  $50M+ company personally contacted every disgruntled customer he found complaining on Twitter and used the tool as more for understanding customer issues and did not use it selfishly for demand/pipeline advancement (defense instead of offense!).   This was a great case of observing, listening, then responding and an engaged two way dialogue like I mentioned in my last post.  The risk in pushing a product or view ahead of engaging customers is tuning out an audience.  This CMO effectively built a rapport.

3.  Now that the financial Q4 surprises are behind us and fiscal 09 planning is either in progress or behind us, CEOs have now got permission from their board of directors that  financially speaking, ’09 will look nothing like ’08.  Consequently, now is the time for smart companies to take prudent risks with social media (see my earlier post on how B2B companies were using Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook) to further their business objectives.  Each company will need to prudently invest as it is likely to cost internal cycles of people to create the right content or do the right monitoring of social networks to get the maximum benefit from these networks–this work should be done internally, not externally, though one has to weigh the cost/benefit analysis relative to other priorities.

comScore posted a note that Twitter’s February traffic was up 55% over January.  This other link is an excellent analysis of the growth trajectory of Twitter and reinforces the importance of why CEOs and CMOs must take social media tools like this in consideration in the next generation of marketing to their customers and prospects.



by Jon Russo Jon Russo 3 Comments

B2B, Social Media, and ‘old school’ CEOs

In the last few weeks, I’ve carefully studied best practices of business to business companies leveraging social media, and have also studied B2C social media successes to use as a framework to evaluate B2B companies. My analysis includes studying Forrester analysts who seem to ‘get it’ (current and past), reading Groundswell (and meeting Josh face to face when his book came out), and doing one heck of alot of observing online and offline of leading global ‘Tweeters’. I’ve recently tracked metrics of 6 companies over the last few weeks to see how their social media strategy has evolved over time and have found some interesting results. These results are of companies that help marketers market (keeping names out to protect the innocent), so I am starting with a unique subset of companies but ones that should have a vested interest in seeing social media succeed in the long run in the B2B segment.

I have a premise and ask that you challenge my thought process (it’s all about continuous improvement!). I believe in today’s marketing world, business to business marketers are woefully unprepared for the tsunami of digital marketing techniques and do not know how to effectively market in this new, one to one marketing environment. This social media approach, when integrated with other aspects of marketing, absolutely change the game on how businesses interact with customers, prospects, analysts, and employees, yet the game changer is mired down for a variety of reasons.

Over the last four weeks, I analyzed 6 B2B companies specializing in marketing–4 of 6 had blogs, 4 of 6 were actively using Twitter via their brands vs. their employees, 2 of 6 used Facebook effectively, and 3 of 6 had some mention on linkedin. Here are the tools they used:

1. Blogs–the savvy are realizing these are ‘must haves’ to successfully compete in organic google search optimization and to maximize the amplification other social media tools like twitter provide.

2. Twitter–in B2B companies that leverage the brand of the company, Twitter is the fastest growing medium to amplify blog content; on average, the companies I studied are seeing 20% growth week over week for 4 weeks in their followership base. Average user 31 years old, with North American and Europe demographic.

3. LinkedIn–in B2B companies, very little growth within the specialized ‘Groups’ function, under 2% growth week over week. It was very easy to join ‘exclusive’ groups on Twitter, the owners rarely screened me out (what if i were a competitor?) That said, the average user is 41 years old and likely a decision maker.

4. Facebook–varying popularity, no conclusion of data exists based on sample set. The question in my mind that remains is how effective is Facebook, generally thought of as a way to reach former high school and/or college colleagues, to reach a business level decision making audience with average user age of 26 years old.

That said, as I survey other B2B companies outside this subset of 6, I see a couple major factors slowing social media business adoption down:

1. ‘Old School’ CEO mentality… While very good CMOs take risks and put themselves out there, CEOs are not rewarding innovation without a clear ROI–and consequently have not placed any value on a newly emerging communications medium (Sun Micro, Apple, and Zappos the exception). CEOs are typically not ‘digital natives’ (ie born into an environment where they think online) unless they have a technical proclivity, and it is a rare CEO who has that bent and can also talk financials. Social media, while new, has not yet proven and demonstrable ROI in the B2B world (I’ve found very little information on this topic, please educate me if you see differently), but it has promise when integrated with other aspects of marketing.

2. Time: with marketing budget cuts galore, everyone being asked to do more with less, no one has the right time to pick their heads up and see how effective social media really is to market on a one on one basis vs. traditional alternatives. Consequently, an agency, like a PR agency, might get the extra bandwidth to help out with blog content population and blog amplification through Twitter, but that agency is likely responsible for other things for that same company.

3. Lack of two way dialogue or meaningful conversation. Are customers actually acknowledged and heard or is it more of two sets of one way dialogue–vendor pushing product, customer complaining about the product, and the two never cross? I see the latter.

4. Disparate strategies–some leveraging blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, but the strategies are islands, not tied together with search engine optimization, so therefore ineffective at days end.
We live in exciting times!

The b2b company that can overcome the CEO objections to keep trying something new, the CMO who can convince his/her channel partners and head of sales the value of this level of interaction, and the companies that can integrate social media will be the winners.

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