Social media - a bogus journey or an excellent adventure?

21 November 2012

This morning’s social media breakfast briefing at CentrePoint got off to a good start. The array of pastries, muffins, bacon butties and fresh fruit was enough to raise anyone’s spirits after coming in from the dreary weather outside. And how often do you get to scoff breakfast looking out over a panoramic view of central London? It may not be as glam or quaint as other city rooftop scenes (a discussion had between myself and B2B’s Marketing’s well-travelled membership manager) but nevertheless, the venue provided an impressive backdrop to the morning’s event.

Once bellies were full and mouths quenched, it was down to the business of social media’s role in B2B. While eyes may roll at the topic – yes we know it’s been covered umpteen times before – it’s still a massive topic among B2B marketers regardless of where they sit in their social media journey.

Is social really that special?
As echoed throughout the briefing by various panel speakers, we’re all on a learning curve with regards to social channels – and this means there will always be as many questions as there are answers. But then, do we ever really know all the answers when it comes to most effectively leveraging other channels? Probably not – and we’ve had decades to grapple with some of those. This sentiment was partly expressed by Eloqua’s Sylvia Jensen, who suggested social is just like any other channel in the sense that all channels have unique qualities about them. In particular, she said, social media is just an extension of a digital trail.

Speaking of trails, Waggener Edstrom’s Dan Street discussed the importance of influencer analytics and mapping a social graph, suggesting B2B brands don’t quite grasp social yet because they’re not able to map customer profiles back to the channel. He too believed social is a channel like all others; it requires research and integration to make it work successfully, so essentially nothing new.

No fence-sitters here
While Jensen and Street advocated social as being essentially ‘just another channel’ – Independent consultant Neville Hobson was firmly fighting social’s corner as a ‘game changer’ – and ultimately, this demonstration of polar opposite opinions captured delegates’ attitudes throughout the morning. B2B Marketing’s Joel Harrison fired out a quick poll about whether social was indeed a ‘game changer’ – resulting in almost a 50/50 split between the room. 

Another reoccurring theme that seemed to resonate highly among the crowd was whose job remit should social media fall within. Answers were mixed but CA Technologies’ Tariq Ahmed cited some solid-sounding examples of the benefits of allowing all employees to get involved provided guidelines and training were given. On this note, another snap poll by Harrison revealed more of the day's delegates had a social media policy than they did a social media strategy. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions from that...

Sparking debate
The panelists’ social media insight was thought provoking on many levels, which led to some great questions from a number of delegates – for me one of the best parts of the briefing. Here’s a quick roundup of some of those questions you many want to ask yourselves:

  • How do you justify resources for social media as part of your business case?
  • How do you use social media for demand generation? What does it look like? How is it different from just a ‘blended’ approach?
  • Does one social channel ‘fit all’? Can you use a single platform to successfully achieve a number of different objectives? On the flipside, can too many social ‘faces’ bastardise a brand?
  • How do you build a ‘cult’ following on social channels (e.g in the way Apple has)? Should you even try in B2B?
  • How do you manage brand reputation on social channels – and importantly, communicate this approach to the board?
  • How do you get your sales force to use social successfully so that your marketing and sales ‘stories’ align?

    There was much informal chat and networking that followed the end of the panel discussion, and I hope those attending had the chance to bash out ideas and pick the brains among fellow delegates. There were strong opinions today and there lies the value in events about topics like this. No one knows all the answers, as the old saying goes, “Two heads are better than one,” and surely that’s the point of being social.








Anonymous help

Great summary. It sounded

Great summary. It sounded like an exciting morning. Interesting to see that there was still some healthy debate.

I think the fact you and I

I think the fact you and I have both posted questions in this blog Tariq proves how stimulating the debate was yesterday.

I'd be really interested if anyone has any thoughts on the questions we've raised and think they can turn it into a solid best practice article to share with the B2B Marketing community.

This was one of the best

This was one of the best social media gatherings I have attending. Not only was it a full house, but the level and depth of discussion between the panel, moderator and audience was super stimulating and thought provoking. Well done B2B Marketing, Waggener Edstrom and all who participated.

It was also incredibly nostalgic for me – being on the top of Centre Point, an iconic British venue. In fact a milestone for me since it marks the start of my working life – a long, long time ago when I joined Thomson Financial whose offices were also on the top floor! How times, technology and the views of the West End from up in the sky have changed?

What are your predictions on the future of social media – perhaps during the course of the next 10 or 20 years? Will some people see it as just another channel or will it really be woven into the DNA of almost everything we do at work and play? To what extent will B2B and consumer social be blurred into one? Will channels, platforms and tools get consolidated and what can we expect from our devices? What about the impact of social on our behaviour – is it all good or could it go too far? Does it mark the end of a real conversation and genuine ‘physical’ human interaction? What will happen to the English language?

obviously I'm slightly biased

obviously I'm slightly biased :-) but it was a great event, very interesting debate. For me the key is social should be an integral part of the marketing mix, it can definitely be a 'game changer' but you've got to think carefully about what your business objective is, who you're targeting and what content you're going to use to engage target audiences.

In that sense I don't think it's any different to 'traditional' marketing.

The opportunity is that social has broken down barriers to reaching niche audiences. The key - and something Tariq and I discussed yesterday - is being authentic in how you engage via social. Open up to frank discussion, don't just sell and above all be prepared to listen first. From recent experience with clients I'm confident, that if used properly, you can measure social's impact on demand generation, as long as you consider the above first.

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