The Three I’s of Social Business Media

While we continue to hear more about social media and the ways companies are leveraging these tools, I want to point out the significance of the business purpose for using them. As these tools have evolved from communication experiments to integrated marketing tools the next phase we need to watch will be the transition to how Twitter, LinkedIn and other tools become part of an organizations’ business processes. As we expand the use of new technologies and how to integrate them into communications, the emergence of social media on such a broad scale is making it more attractive to use them in the mainstream operations of management and business.

Influence, Information, Interpretation
Influence, Information, Interpretation

Part of this transition will cause frustrations. We fought early on to prove how useful these tools are to the business (“Social media is nice to know, but my kids only use it”), and now the business function is realizing the potential (“Thanks for getting this started for marketing, but I’ll take it from here.”). But businesses will need to evolve with the growing use of social media among customers and the rise in data — how will you play a part in that change?

I believe this transition over the coming years can be successful through following what I call the three I’s of social business media: Influence, Information, Insight, Interpretation.

Influence: If you want social media to “have a seat at the table” or to be taken seriously by management, you’re going to have to focus on developing influence with key internal stakeholders. Your number of followers that you’ve built up are great. The Google analytics looks strong. The feedback from your community is positive. But none of that matters if you aren’t talking to the right people and communicating what this means. You need be able to actively participate with the people who matter internally and get them to understand why social media is making a difference; to the company, the brand and to them. The bottom line is that if you want social media to have more of an influence than you need to spend time with the people that are important to the business. How do you get there if you are not already? You can focus on two other I’s.

Information: Business leaders thrive on information from customers, about competitors, on legal matters and trends. We continue to be awash in data from social media and how we use that data is important. If you are not getting closer to the data and the people and tools that help you track what is happening than I suggest you change that now. Successful business leaders know that information is key. A quote I often reference is, “The most valuable commodity I know of is information.” Information allows business leaders to sort and sift through data in order to find out what’s happening in their world. And good data can you answer the question, “What are we trying to achieve?” But information alone won’t get you there. You also need the next I.

Insight: I do believe that having unique insights is extremely useful for someone to be successful in business. That means over time you need to continue to work on developing your analytical skills in order to answer questions and provide ideas. In addition, you need to get really good at asking the right questions. Being able to look at data, understand the trends you are seeing, and then provide interesting thoughts on how to help the business will help you stand out. From my experience, really good business managers like working with and using people who can help them read into trends and what those trends mean for the company’s future. In addition, they value unique viewpoints that may actually differ from what they are seeing. Having the communication skills to interpret the economic value of what you are seeing from social media activities can be a powerful opportunity for you.

There is no doubt in my mind that social media can and will play an important role in the business function of a company. I continue to see examples from large and small companies alike that are leveraging these technologies and their ability to connect with people to create unique advantages. Taking it to the next level requires time and resources, which I know not everyone has these days. I challenge you take some time to think about what it is that can help you make a difference, learn from the many best practices and examples that exist, and then see if the three I’s make a difference for you.


If you liked this post you may also enjoy the following:

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Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

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Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

What drives your b2b strategy?

Tuning into your industry

B2B Social Media: A View From Asia

Last week while in Hong Kong I was invited by Walter Jennings to speak on a panel about my experiences during the last five years of developing a social media strategy. It was a great opportunity for me to learn the various challenges and opportunities that face communicators in the region. As we’ve started to build our content in China using Weibo, we are learing day by day of the nuances of pushing content east.

Social media, like Hong Kong's vast markets, is a busy landscape in Asia

In the discussions following my panel it was no surprise that the questions are similar to what I still hear from people in the US and Europe: How do you measure success? How do you gain compliance? Where do you find content?

The appetite for using social media in Asia is growing fast. The rising influence of Weibo, RenRen and video services (YouKou and Toou) are hard to ignore. If you want to read more about what is happening in Asia you should follow Walter’s blog (Facing China). In addition,  last year Edelman published its study and infographic of Asia’s key digital and social media markets. And over at The d Infographics they break down social media statistics in a large infographic for Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Around the world in social media

Other Voices: Julie Meredith, Radian6

Do most online communities fail?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Still pitching to use social media?

What drives your b2b strategy?


Do Most Online Communities Fail?

This is an interesting question. Fortune magazine seems to think they are failing. But the answer is never as easy as the question.

For instance, if you build a community targeting CFOs from the Fortune 100 companies what would determine your success?

  • Would it be 100 percent participation? Probably not since we know most people watch and listen online and getting 100 percent is unrealistic.
  • Would it be an increase in sales from the companies respresented in your online community during the year? Maybe, but they may do that regardless of your online community.
  • How about if you focused on just three CFOs in the group whom you know would receive value from doing more business with you? Bringing in increased sales from two of them could potentially be linked to your efforts.

So determining what you want to get out of a community from the start may not be what you actually get out of it in the end, but that depends on what your objectives are for your community. Adjusting your strategy along the way may help you achieve the results you want, but you may also need to adjust your strategy because the results you desired have changed (You are getting results just not the ones you expected). Yes, communities are complicated, ever changing and complex.

The trading floor community in Chicago

I’ve been lucky that even before the rapid growth in social media I was part of working with a large community — the trading floors.  To get a feel for that you can read some of Jeff Carter’s posts on social media and trading and why he likes Twitter better than Facebook for building his social media trading community.

So what can you do to be successful? One key part of building a good community is letting the community run it. As PR20/20 reminds us, it’s the conversations that make good communities function.  And running a community takes a number of skills – from adaptability to empathy — as the Business 2 Community points out.  Whether you are an experienced community manager or new to it, I would definitely recommend you read Community Spark from Martin Reed.

Having the right resources in place can make a difference in a number of ways for you and your team. Here are some thoughts on what you need to build your success:

  • My suggestion to you is not to spend an overwhelming amount of time choosing what you need. You should have a list of important criteria (e.g., does it have mobile capability, what are the metrics you will receive, etc.) and focus on those. In addition, there are numerous blog posting and online reviews of platforms that can help you speed up your decision process.
  • Not only should you focus on your own content to share, which should be unique, interesting and offer helpful insight, but you should also be a resource to find and distribute third party content that your community may find useful. A good mix of content is challenging but will make you more trustworthy; it also can spark conversations around the topic of choice and should lead you to develop more of your own content. Here were some thoughts on content curation and dealing with social clutter.
  • Have a vision. It’s easy to get bogged down in what you are doing today — posting stories, answering questions, finding new members, etc, but don’t forget to keep thinking forward. Not only will you need to understand changes to social platforms, but you will also need to understand the trends and issues of your business.
  • While not something you can create or build, you will need to enlist the people who believe in what you are doing. I wrote about this concept and motivation as a driver of success earlier. For instance, we’ve found that some people really understand and enjoy LinkedIn vs using another social platform. In this case, we are cultivating the “believers” and getting them to best utilize the platform to meet their needs. Here’s some help about how we use LinkedIn: Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Community management is not simple nor is it easy. It takes a lot of hard work, making personal sacrifices and a constant flow of ideas and conversations. In fact the worst thing a community manager can receive is silence. But if done right, a community will grow, network and provide you with valuable insights and relationships.

So what do you think? Are more communities failing? Or are we measuring them wrong? What do you think makes a community successful that I missed?

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Content Curation: What Does it Take To Be Successful?

Social Clutter or Social Clarity?

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples

I’d like to use this blog post to spark a discussion on the idea of “success.”  It was brought on when Arik, fellow B2B Voices writer, brought the following blog post to our team’s attention.  The post, entitled Finally! A B2B social media success story, describes a humorous use of video by a printer manufacturer in Massachusetts.  The “Destroy Your Printer Video Contest” allowed for submission of user-generated content that shows the best-ever destruction of their printer, which, as Office Space taught us all, is the bane of the office-place existence.

[Short pause to insert Office Space clip… can’t let that opportunity pass]

The winning submission of the Destroy your Printer Video Contest was Cottage Revolution, seen below:

I’m not disputing the success of this contest, in fact, it’s pretty darn good (full list of videos is on the ELS blog…).  I would probably want to learn more about how many people called back etc, and might agree that the sale reported on the blog post was probably luck, but it was definitely a great way to engage people and bring eyes to the company.

What I’d like to talk about is what “success” means.  Was it the sale in this case?  That seems to be so for the author of this post.  However, Nathan Dube from Expert Laser Services, had his goals laid out from the get-go, as quoted:

“The focus of the contest  was not ‘let’s get customers’,” he said. ” The focus was to drive more traffic to the website, build inbound links, and create good content.  The fact that we landed a new service and repair customer was not our goal, but it happened.”

By all counts, this was a success.  But there have been numerous, numerous, counts of this sort of success for B2B social media use.  It wasn’t the first.

Look at HubSpot, for instance.  They are strictly B2B with their product offering, but through an incredible content production program, they have significantly increased the awareness of their product, their website traffic has grown exponentially, and their inbound links/SEO have benefited enormously (although, that last part better be true, since that’s their entire business!).  I would also add that if you asked them for their conversion rates, they do find a good amount of actual revenue opportunities from this program.

Another example that I always like is Kinaxis, which offers supply chain management solutions.  To the average consumer, this is not only just B2B, but could be perhaps….a bit dry.  However, their blog is one I use often as a great example of building customer and industry relations and positioning them at the top of their space.  In my opinion, it’s also a great example of following blogging best-practices quite well.  I don’t know the numbers behind the Kinaxis blog, but I would guess that their brand awareness in an industry where most players aren’t thinking about social media or SEO has benefited from their program.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if they too had actual conversion result.

A few months ago we posted a case study on ShipServ. John Watton, VP of Marketing, seemed to think that the program was successful according to the goals he set forth.

You can also check out Social Media B2B for a load of what many consider to be “successful” B2B social media efforts.

So this brings me to my question.  What is success? My answer is that success first of all depends on your goals.  I talked about 4 reasons a B2B company should start a social media program back in April, and many of those weren’t directly sales-related.  The most important process is to decide what you want to achieve and build a strategic plan around that set of goals.

If your goals are much like Nathan’s at ELS, then success is seen with an increase in website traffic, producing great content, and increasing inbound links.  Landing a sale wasn’t on that list.  But that’s ok, because ELS sat down and they identified what they wanted out of a social media program.  There is tremendous value in increasing hits to your website.

Additionally, the entire concept of brand equity originated because there is inherent value in the amount of reach your brand has, and what it’s level of awareness is, as well as whether that image is positive or negative.  So much so that it can be a line item in accounting and is part of valuation.

But I digress.  The most successful programs are the ones that go through that process of goal-setting, and their success is dependent on the decision points of that process.  It’s sometimes difficult from an outside perspective to know what those internal goals are, and we assume success – or lack thereof.  It’s also a lot less clear what the various uses for B2B social media use are from an external standpoint than it is for B2C.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Does success mean a sale?  What does success depend upon?  Are companies that focus on non-sales related goals wasting their resources with the program?  Is their really enough value in things like driving more website traffic or creating a body of content?Do you have other examples of successful programs in the B2B space?

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