Editor’s Note: The B2B social media conversation everyone should be having

B2B social
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I may not have been super-qualified, but when one of my content marketing clients asked me to lead a social selling workshop for their team several years ago, I did my best to prepare.

I walked in with ideas about a layered approach to sharing content, strategic use of hashtags and a lot more. Almost instantly, I realized I wouldn’t be using any of it.

Instead, I found myself literally saying things like, “. . . and so this is where you take the web site link from THIS tab and copy and paste it into this field on Twitter HERE, and THEN you press THIS button here.”

When I discussed my experience with some friends whose job titles had included “social media,” they said it was all too familiar. “It’s not just a matter of doing Social Media 101 with these guys,” one said. “It’s more like Social Media 0.001.”

Maybe things have changed a bit since then, especially among the next generation of sales and marketing professionals. What I suspect hasn’t changed, however, are some of the unique challenges to using social media in a B2B environment. These include:

1. Internal Community Management Is Complete And Utter Hell

In a consumer company you’ve got to spend a fair bit of time being present on various platforms, interacting with customers and so on. In B2B it’s getting subject matter experts to give a damn. This has spawned a number of SaaS tools to help employees easily find their company’s content (or related content) and easy ways to send it to Twitter and LinkedIn in a sometimes-gamified dashboard. This leads to either a lot of context-free shares from people, or, more often, a lot of shares from the senior managers who are pretty much obligated to lead by example. You’d have better luck trying to get more people on your team to fill out their employee engagement surveys truthfully.

2. The Boss Is A Less-Than-Ideal Social Media Spokesperson

Your CEO may be great when he or she gives prepared remarks at the Economic Club, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into platforms geared towards everyday people. Worse, most platforms were designed for individual people rather than organizations, so even if your firm has a team who can craft social content on their behalf, you face the awkward situation of asking for access to the boss’s account AND making sure they have a large enough following that they don’t look completely pathetic.

3. Nobody ‘Likes’ Or ‘Hearts’ Your Transparent Attempts At Lead Gen

We’ve all seen the viral cat videos. The cloud computing white paper link? Suffice it to say it didn’t get as many clicks.

Social media is supposed to be a fun. Or at least, not work. So many enterprise brands struggle, however, to avoid defaulting to some kind of shop talk when they begin conversations on various platforms. Even on LinkedIn, the supposedly B2B-est one of all, users are more interested in career advancement than helping someone fast-track a deal to buy some software.

None of these things are insurmountable, of course, and as social media has matured we’re beginning to see expectations reset and real progress being made. That’s why we’re calling March “The Social Issue” on B2B News Network. We’re going to look at some of the places where social media has become an indispensable tool. We’ll provide some examples of how organizations are getting better educated about what works, and what doesn’t. Finally, we’ll look at some of the technologies that are changing what social media can offer, and how to take advantage of it immediately.

If I was running that social selling workshop today, I’d do everything differently. I wouldn’t show any slides. I would ask everyone to take out their phones. I would make everyone set up an account on a platform they’ve never tried before. And then I’d ask them to talk to me via that platform with their questions.

The conversation that transpired would be impossible to predict, and they might go into it hating the idea of using social media professionally — but by the end, I can guarantee you I’d have them sold.

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Shane Schick

Shane Schick

Shane Schick is the Editor-in-Chief of B2B News Network. He is the former Editor-in-Chief of Marketing magazine and has also been Vice-President, Content & Community (Editor-in-Chief), at IT World Canada, a technology columnist with the Globe and Mail and was the founding editor of ITBusiness.ca. Shane has been recognized for journalistic excellence by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance and the Canadian Online Publishing Awards.