Social media in the B2B environment
What do IT services have to do with social media? When looking for successful social media campaigns, you first of all find the standard lifestyle brands. But for companies in the B2B environment, social media activities are today part of a successful marketing campaign. Social networks can be used to start up a dialog with relevant target groups – not only quickly and directly but also in real-time. The B2B world is still fairly sceptical about social media and interaction in social networks is still a little in its infancy. However, if those responsible observe the key points when joining in with Web 2.0, there will be new ways of communication opening up for them.
The reasons for the reluctance so far of B2B companies within social networks is often a high degree of uncertainty and the worry of losing control as well as suffering from incorrect social communication. However, open interaction, real-time and its speed offer more opportunities than risks. Current figures from the branch association Bitkom confirm the scope of social media platforms: 40 million Germans are already members of social networks. In other words, 76% of Internet users are active in online communities – and that figure also includes company decision-takers. The increasing relevance of social media is changing the manner and direction of corporate communications. That is why it is necessary to observe a number of rules.
Rule 1: Simply being there is not enough
If companies want to market their products or services via social media channels, it is important to open up to customers, competitors and colleagues. Even before a company is present in the social web, it should ask itself the following questions: How and where are the target groups in social networks to be accessed? What messages are to be there and by whom? What are the short-term and long-term targets? A lack of clear-cut answers means that the presence in social networks ends quickly with a monolog that misses out on the customers. Consequently, every company needs an individual social media strategy as the basis for all the activities in Web 2.0.
An analysis of social media platforms initially provides information about which channels regularly use the required target group. If we are dealing with specialist topics and potential business partners, then the relevant decision makers increasingly inform themselves in blogs, forums, communities or in business networks. In addition to Xing, LinkedIn or specialist forums, such as The Competence-Site, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr as well as SlideShare are eligible for companies from the B2B environment.
Rule No. 2: Find the way to the target group
It goes without saying that it is essential for the community to be of a specific size. Contacts have to be established particularly in the early stages, because a group of experts in a network is not automatically a guaranteed success. People interested in the topic, existing and potential customers, analysts as well as employees from your own company can push this interaction forward. It is important here to also make the social media activities appropriately known via internal communications.
Companies with a comprehensive portfolio that is possibly in need of explanation should set up groups or Twitter accounts for individual areas and target groups respectively. In this way, experts can be tied in quite selectively and interested parties can be offered value added in niche topics. And remember it is “quality and not quantity” regarding the number of contacts, especially in the B2B environment.
Rule No. 3: Social media guidelines provide orientation
It’s not enough to deal with social media activities as an afterthought. Professional content is indispensible for interaction. Specialist know-how of the right experts from the relevant specialist departments is required to identify good content. You also need a communications manager to control and accompany the process.
Binding social media guidelines are therefore vital in every company. They define precisely how a company presents itself globally in the various Web 2.0 channels and who may publish what in which channel. Supplemented by background information on the various communications channels, a system of rules can be used to make optimum use of the potential of social media and specific uncertainties or reduce employees’ fear of contact with social media.
To be continued…