I came across some interesting peer research on recommended best practices in social media integration for B2B marketers. The study was conducted by the ITSMA (Information Technology Services Marketing Association) in 2011 but is still relevant today.
The research found B2B marketing campaigns are most successful when social media is integrated into the overall marketing strategy; emphasis is placed on customer relationships; and when social media is used to drive traffic to traditional marketing channels such as websites and events.
Read the excellent study findings and suggestions on how marketers can transform B2B marketing and social media within a larger, integrated marketing strategy focused on customer relationships:
“Create Cultural Permission and Engagement”
Social media is all about engagement and two-way conversations. Marketers must ensure their companies are equipped to deal with and respond to negative comments that are visible to the public. A cultural shift needs to take place for this type of openness and transparency. Assigned subject matter experts must be ready to engage in immediate, unencumbered conversations.
So what does this mean? Organizations essentially lose some control of the brand, but at the same time can take advantage of being able to tell their brand stories in their own words. The conversations can in turn be more honest and customer trust is earned.
“Develop a Social Media Participation Plan”
A participation plan is needed for social media by assessing resource capabilities and determining how active a company can be in social media. There is no point participating on many of the social channels if resource constraints are present. Pick the social networks that make the most sense for engaging with your target audiences.
I’m also reminded about social media strategy development. One of the biggest mistakes is to set up your social networks and channels without a clear understanding of your target audience make-up, marketing objectives, key messaging, as well as not defining the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholder participants. Get these defined first before selecting the technology platform.
“Create a Content Engine to Fuel Social Media Conversations”
Content is at the heart of social media interaction. This is where editorial calendars come into play for proper planning and assignment of content generation. The report recommends you need to determine the type of content to be posted, its frequency, and who will produce it. Subject matter experts and external contributors need to be lined up accordingly.
This is no small task. An editorial calendar takes into account web content, company press releases, blogs, videos, white paper launches, as well as a wide array of social media news network postings (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Even your email marketing campaigns can be added to the calendar. Imagine how editorial calendars can become even more complex when incorporating weekly or monthly themes based on new product launches, purchase seasonality, holidays, trade shows and events, and offline activities. Everyone needs to be on the same page, literally!
I believe editorial calendar creation is essential because it builds accountability and commitment across the marketing team, and encourages the creation and delivery of good content aligned with organizational goals. Better still, outcomes can be measured with the likes of Google Analytics and other available tools.
“Set Up Formal Governance”
Companies need to coordinate their activities across departments and geographic regions and share best practices. The study recommends the creation of a social media council to drive the integration of social media into the larger marketing strategy.
I believe this is where social media policies are also helpful and can be incorporated into the formal governance process. Risk mitigation is critical and is always top of mind for all corporate stakeholders. As we know many corporations now feel more exposed in the open world of social media.
“A New Integrated, Relationship-Focused Strategy”
The study recommends a fascinating social media and marketing transformation:
“We see the need to transform marketing as a whole, with social media becoming valuable channels within a new integrated, relationship-focused strategy that encompasses the entire organization, not just marketing.”
Organizations should look at social media engagement as part of customer relationship management. I believe brands that get the importance of this are adept at integrating social media into all of their communication channels, customer touch points, and can amplify social media impact as part of a larger marketing strategy.
This really resonates with me and says social media has an important place within marketing strategy and when blended into one, as the research points out, a new dimension in customer relationship marketing evolves.