Social Media is doomed to die! … at least according to some of the countless self-proclaimed digital gurus who still like to crawl out from the infinite vastness of the interwebs, only to disappear back into it equally as fast: data kraken Google, big brother Facebook – sounds all too familiar, and has kind of lost its sting too.
I guess we simply have to accept it as a fact; social media will remain with us for a while whether we like it or not. I would even go so far as to say that we are still at the beginning. But why is social media so successful? Plain vanilla: it is social, and humans are social beings. We love to communicate with each other, exchange views, share our thoughts, and receive feedback on our ideas.
Marketers from all over the world have already realised this, and often implement this knowledge very successfully. A brilliant example of how social media can be used in this context, and one of my favourite campaigns of all times, is the extremely successful and probably even more entertaining Old Spice man: aside from getting a fine piece of eye candy on board (sigh…!), they also managed to create a buzz which no one until then had thought possible.
But what was the reason for such a tremendous success? Well, apart from being genuinely funny and original, its implementation was similarly flawless. Another contributing factor was the use of a variety of different channels, connecting them seamlessly with each other and actively involving customers in their communications. Who doesn’t remember those hilarious video responses on YouTube where Mr Old Spice replied to Tweets and Facebook comments from fans and followers, cleverly including such illustrious names as Demi Moore (the late @mrskutcher) and Alyssa Milano (@alyssa_milano)?
With this campaign having stirred up quite a bit of dust – and along the way also revolutionised the world of customer communications – it didn’t last long until the glad tidings of the joys and potential business benefits of social media marketing( and the fact that it’s totally amazeballs when trying to sell hitherto dull products to new potent customer groups) spread across marketingland. They even made it into the dark and dusty dungeons where B2B marketers are usually hiding, including the guys from Avanade, who cheekily adopted principle similar approach to handle their customer queries: #AskAvanade.
Instead of simply replying with an impersonal email or private message, their employees answer questions in video clips. Admittedly less fancy and slightly less sexy (no hot guys in towels, sorry ladies… and gents!), but without any doubt hugely effective when bonding with your clients and building long term trusted relationships with them – well done, Avanade!
In view of the infinite arsenal of flashy new gimmicks and tools, one could be led to think that marketing communications are experiencing a new revolution; however, it seems the opposite is the case – at least in B2B. While their peers in the B2C world have already arrived in the 21st century, most B2B companies remain stuck in the Pleistocene of the digital age. But why is that? What makes adoption so difficult for them?
Well, the reason for this could be that its relevance and value are not quite as obvious to them in their business context. B2B isn’t fancy; it’s about facts and figures, about tough negotiations without the usual fuss, right? Wrong! It’s about people (and businesses are usually full of them!).
It’s about building long term relationships and maintaining them. And the best way to do so – and only very few people will answer me back – is to interact on a social level with your business partners. You see where I am coming from? So wouldn’t social media be an excellent tool to accomplish exactly that? The answer is: YES! A million per cent yes!! (If I may quote David Walliams)
This digital sluggishness can probably also be explained by another characteristic of the B2B environment: extreme risk averseness and fear of failure. I admit, there is always a certain risk, but isn’t that true for most things? However, it can be reduced dramatically if one follows a few guiding principles:
Honesty and Transparency – Stick to the facts and stay there. Always disclose your identity when you interact with others in social media channels and make it clear whether you are speaking for yourself, or on behalf of your organisation.
Value through relationships – Try to enter into a dialogue with your partners, value their input and make sure you’re always providing feedback. Make them feel special!
Dipping your toe - There is no need to rush things. Take your time and go at the speed you feel comfortable with; try to understand the mechanics of a tool before you dive into it. Once you know how the land lies you can take a more active approach, join the conversation and even prompt new discussions.
Know your challenges – Obtain internal buy-in first and try to get the appropriate people on your team right from the start (ideally a highly motivated bunch of tech-savvy super-users, or at least someone who remembers their LinkedIn password); also make sure all key stakeholders are part of your circle of ‘friends’ and ‘followers’, and that you are communicating a consistent message to everyone involved across all channels – internally, as well as externally.
Ultimately, the biggest challenge may well be your own concerns – and your weaker self, of course. Trying out something new always feels slightly daunting at the beginning. But rest assured, your courage will pay off – often much quicker than you may even have expected!
So, go on then – the future is waiting for you! (And it won’t be forever…)