This is part one of a three-part series on social media for B2B companies
Social media—you can’t move one inch in the modern communications space without tripping over some buzz phrase or other claiming that it’s revolutionizing the world. This is mainly because unless you’ve been living in a cave since 2004, it is—trust me; I’m a publisher and I’ve seen firsthand how disruptive it is. It’s not just publishers though; all forms of communications are affected, from the humble press release to your entire marketing department.
As we enter 2014, I’d argue that it’s almost impossible to hide from the disruption being caused to communications. Sadly, my argument is dead wrong. The vast majority in B2B sectors are: a) terrified of it; and b) hoping it will go away if it’s ignored.
Well, sorry to spoil the party — but it’s only going to get bigger.
I’ve heard every kind of excuse—executives unwilling to engage, etc.—but in all that hand wringing, it boiled down to a simple common misperception: Social media doesn’t affect them or their business. My internal reaction to this was usually an eye-roll of quite epic proportions, as this stance completely ignores the basic concepts of social media — the “social” part.
These days, almost everyone has access to social media, and like it or not, social media has a tremendous impact on how these communities exchange ideas. A conscious decision to not participate in this exchange of ideas does not make you or your company exempt from the discussion. The Ostrich mentality doesn’t get you far when it comes to social media.
Every company I consulted, regardless of whether they took a “we won’t play” stance or not, had multiple Facebook “fan” pages, LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts, YouTube channels and even FourSquare check-ins. This stunned most of the executives I worked with, as they couldn’t understand how these various properties came to exist: “Who puts this stuff up there?” was a common response.
Without exception, employees are responsible for building all the social media properties I discovered. Humans have an intrinsic need to belong to social groups, which is in essence the main reason behind the popularity of today’s social media, and the one group that you spend the greatest amount of time with is, you guessed it, your employer.
It’s not that hard to assume full ownership of your social media properties. Simply follow these four easy steps, and everything will be OK. I promise.
- Set up an engagement plan. This is simpler than it sounds. Define parameters that staff can and cannot discuss in relation to the company. For instance, talking about how a product release could change the world is great. Talking about the seven customer beta site failures in the run-up to launch is not so good.
- Pick your platforms. Facebook is generally speaking more about people’s personal lives than about, say a funky new nanomaterial. Stick to a property—like LinkedIn or Twitter—that suits the message.
- Should you feel the need, set up a simple approval loop. This may be the hardest part in some technical industries, as social media is very much a real-time playground, but it can be done with forethought and prudence.
- Set up your accounts and go. The main advice I’d give is don’t be afraid—take control before someone else does it for you, because cyber-trolling is on the rise, and if YOU’RE not controlling your social presence, someone else can. Be proactive.
Of course, this is a very loose guide, and I’m not going to give you all the keys, as I’m busy building my own social-ish platform (more on that in a later post).