Social media in B2B marketing is a fascinating place to be at the moment. The temptation to chase after the latest shiny object and figure out it can be used in social media marketing is just too easy...not to mention distracting. I am fascinated with how social media infiltrates every corner of the organisation to make it more efficient, productive and engaged. Whilst blasting out marketing messages to the masses seems like a great idea, it's not about that. Social media is about conversations and engaging your community.
But engaging in conversations can't just be the job of the social media team which would probably stretch the resource capability of a marketing department. To be truly social and fully engaged with your customers you need to mobilise the biggest and most valuable megaphone your company can access quickly. Your employees.
Web Strategist expert Jeremiah Owyang from Altimeter is calling 2011 "The Year Of Social Integration". The year when social media will not just be a function within the marketing or communications department. It will be a culture. Training your workforce to be social within boundaries and guidelines will be crucial.
For now, most organisations are experimenting with social media within the boundaries of marketing and more often than not I see these channels being used as an opportunity to promote, push and advertise content. Absolutely, social media needs to be integrated into existing marketing methods. However, it's more than simply adding a Twitter icon to the bottom of an email campaign. The core value of social media is the fact that you meet, greet, chat and interact with PEOPLE.
Here are my Tribal Tips for engaging your community in your social network:
Listen Then Leap
If you went to a dinner party, sat in the hosts chair, talked about yourself all night and then left you probably wouldn't be invited back. Networking online is similar to networking the "old fashioned way". Listen first, gain insight, find something you have in common and then connect. Use tools such as Social Mention, Twitter Search and Google Alerts.
Be a person - Not a logo
When running corporate social channels you often need to brand your channel accordingly. However, the person feeding the channel doesn't have to be a corporate robot. I know there are many social publishing tools, such as Compendium, around these days but most of the time there's a human being behind tweets and posts. It's okay to let some personality filter out every once in a while.
If someone has taken the time to comment on your Facebook post or send you a message over Twitter...respond. Tools such as Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Radian6 (for the large corporations) all offer functionality to help you monitor who is starting a conversation with you. You can also easily engage from these interfaces. No excuses.
Ask And You Shall Receive
Welcome to the world of crowdsourcing opinions - The ability to ask your customers, prospects and employees what they think about something before you do it. Don't just use social channels as a way to push content. Use them to gather intelligence, insight and opinions. Ask them to feedback on your latest brand, product release or the event agenda you're putting together.
Act Within Social Media Guidelines
It goes without saying that you should always act within the social media guidelines set by your organisation. If you haven't got any, here are some good examples.
I don't know everything (unless I'm talking with my husband) so I'd like learn from your experience. Do you have any "engaging" tips to share? What's worked for you and your business?