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Building a Social Media Strategy in a Large B2B Organisation

Most people in B2B know by now that social media marketing can deliver great value, but in large organisations, actually getting a successful programme off the ground can be easier said than done.


Social media is still perceived as being very different from traditional marketing, and there’s a lot of (often unwarranted) fear about the risks involved. If you want to set off on the right foot, you’ll need a strategy that senior management are comfortable with and that the organisation as a whole is keen to get behind.


Through our work with large technology clients, we have identified four “pillars” of a successful social media marketing strategy for large B2B organisations.


We’re planning to cover these in detail in a white paper for our content library site, but I thought it would be an idea to share the main points with everyone here too, to see what you think and if there’s anything you would add or disagree with.


Pillar One: Get Board-Level Support


Luckily most B2B boards understand the benefits of engaging with audiences through social media – and they know that not engaging can lead to loss of business and lower brand awareness. But in order to get executive buy-in for your proposed programme, you will need to demonstrate how social media engagement will work for your organisation specifically.


The best way to do this is to convene a workshop with relevant senior-level stakeholders. Start by delivering a short but compelling overview of your implementation plan, so that senior management understand what you are proposing and can see how it will benefit the business.


All participants should then work together to define and agree the specific advantages that social media engagement will bring to your organisation. You should also set three or four high-level objectives for a pilot programme or initial phase, so that its impact can be readily measured.


We’ve found that once senior management really grasp the reality of what social media can do, they are much more prepared to support the programme as it rolls out – even if some things don’t go exactly as planned!


Pillar Two: Get Everyone Else On Board Too


You’ll also need to get the buy-in of the rest of the organisation – especially the people and departments who will play an active role in creating content and engaging with external audiences via social media.


The best way to achieve this is to deliver a presentation to relevant parties: a compelling proposal that outlines the rationale of the social media programme, how it will work and the benefits it will bring. This presentation can then be re-used within the wider internal communications programme to ensure that everyone has a chance to see it and find out how they can be involved.


In our experience, when employees understand why the organisation is embarking on a social media strategy and what their own role will be in making it successful, they will be much more enthusiastic about getting on board. 


Pillar Three: The Operational Framework


Once you have support from senior management and other stakeholders, you’ll need to go into planning mode, to make sure your programme is well executed and delivers the intended results.  That means drawing up first an operational framework and then a detailed implementation plan.


The operational framework is the description of how the programme works and how it is managed. It should cover elements such as the programme’s management structure, governance processes, IT systems and integration with other business functions. 


Specifying these details upfront will save a lot of time later on, as it will answer questions such as who’s responsible for what, how a given piece of content will be used in social media, or how the organisation will handle a ‘PR crisis’ occurring on a social media platform.


Pillar Four: The Implementation Plan


The final pillar is the implementation plan, defining how the programme will be rolled out over a given timescale. Typically such a plan would include:


  • Roles and responsibilities:  Set out who will be involved in the program and their roles and responsibilities, including time commitments and any required training or agency support.

  • Messaging platform: The messages that you want to communicate via social media, and how they will help to achieve your organisation’s business and marketing goals.

  • Content calendar: The key business issues you want to cover, set out as a calendar of content you intend to create. (Be aware though that in social media the customer drives the agenda, so your content plan should be tailored to the topics they are discussing.)

  • KPIs and metrics: Your KPIs will depend on your marketing objectives and your organisation’s overall business goals, but may include simple, measurable elements like numbers of mentions and views/downloads of content assets.

In our experience, by building these four pillars, you will be very prepared when you come to roll out your strategy – and your social media programme should become a durable, successful component of your overall marketing strategy, rather than a series of failed or abandoned experiments!