We recently carried out a social media benchmarking report comparing how 20 technology vendors* attending the Cloud Expo Europe tradeshow were using social media. We talked with the marketing directors at the show and found that many were experiencing the same problems with social media.
“I don’t know where to start to get value”
The overwhelming feedback from Marketing Directors was that they felt unsure what the value in social was. Most were not regular users of Twitter and LinkedIn themselves, and as such don’t understand how to use the platforms nor the opportunities they bring. The consequence is that they default to using it as a broadcast channel to push out news and blog content. To understand the value, it’s important to put aside the etiquette and technical aspects and start with the marketing basics:
- Who is my target audience?
- Where are they on these platforms?
- How do they behave?
- What are they interested in, who do they follow and what might they want to hear?
- Why are they using the platform and what do they hope to gain?
These will inform what you do with the platforms, what you say and who you talk to both directly and indirectly. Don’t forget that on social platforms, particularly Twitter, it’s possible to help and talk directly to your target audience (best done in that order).
“How can it support lead generation?”
Marketing Directors could see how social platforms are great for brand awareness and as a channel to distribute PR and news, but their core objective was lead generation.
There are several opportunities to generate leads using B2B social. All take thought, effort and a willingness to do things in a new way.
- Listen – Advanced Twitter searches can be used to identify opportunities through keywords and hashtags. As opportunities present themselves, these can be passed to the appropriate sales person who can reach out to them via Twitter.
- Build social into the sales process – Identify the key targets of key accounts, and reach out to them via Twitter using an @mention. This can be used for new lead generation or for deeper customer/partner engagement, and works particularly well as part of an integrated campaign.
- Influencer engagement – Develop relationships with industry influencers to extend your reach and awareness of your products and capabilities. Traffic generated specifically from Twitter can be monitored and tracked into marketing automation systems and into your CRM. This means that we can start to attribute pipeline to activity.
“We have no control over the Twitter account or LinkedIn company page as these are handled by our US head office.”
19 out of 20 technology companies that we compared were in exactly the same boat; all business pages seemed to be managed by the PR agency or PR team – and were being used as channels to distribute the same type of news, blog content and PR.
With Twitter and LinkedIn, it’s not just about brands and the corporate voice. It’s about people, and people do business with people. They’re open to conversation, far more so than through the usual sales channels. What’s more, key people in organisations such as CEOs, CIOs and CTOs are often the public figureheads of the organisation, and use Twitter as a platform to communicate. This means that some of your key prospects are on Twitter, and are much easier to reach than you might think.
All of these technology companies had key sales people, and some had social media accounts themselves. Building relationships via their personal accounts is far more engaging and relevant in social networks, so there’s no need to rely on the corporate headquarters to build relationships with target prospects.
The good news is that almost all of the 20 technology businesses we compared were struggling with these same issues. There is a fantastic opportunity for technology businesses who get this right to stand out, generate leads and reach their audience, because their competitors are not building relationships with them in this way.
*Global IT, software and hardware businesses with 1000-5000 employees.