Oct 27, 2010

Social Media for B2B Companies – A Report from SocialTech 2010

Social media and audience engagement strategies for technology-sector B2B companies were front and center at yesterday’s SocialTech 2010 conference. Hosted by MarketingProfs and IDG, the event featured some of social media’s heaviest hitters and in-depth looks how some big technology brands like SAP, Intel and Adobe have integrated social media deeply into their communications strategies.

Even in the B2B context, social media has changed communications practices, strategies and tactics for some savvy players.  These organizations have essentially made social interaction a pillar of their marketing programs.  We’re not talking about merely bolting-on a Facebook page or sticking a few videos up on Youtube.

This sort of sea-change has developed some new truths in its wake that run counter to traditional marketing and PR practices.  These include:

  • Communicators need to trade information (such as that gleaned from a registration page) for interaction.
  • Interactions with engaged audiences have a high value – higher, even, than contact information.
  • Marketing is shifting from a series of campaigns to ongoing trusted conversations in which brands are included, as interaction is developed and relationships are cultivated.
  • Allocation of resources will be quite different.

Jeremiah Owyang of the Altimeter Group made as strong case for full integration of the social network into the corporate web site, noting that conversations are happening with or without the brands, and that there is opportunity around creating a space for those conversations on the corporate web site.  What can truly happen at that point, Owyang noted, is a form of marketing Nirvana that occurs when your online visitors show up at your web site, sign on with some sort of third party authentication (e.g. FaceBook Connect, Twitter, OAuth, OpenID), and then interact and spread info to their networks, triggering a viral loop that has an exponential effect.   Current examples of this approach in practice include Dell’s IdeaStorm and the Pepsi Refresh project.

Intel’s Kathleen Malone offered a deep dive into the chipmaker’s social media strategy, noting that the company has more than 1000 social media practitioners.  Echoing what was said earlier in the day by SAP’s Brian Ellefritz, she noted that the company has developed a “Center for Excellence” in social media that trains employees to manage social interactions for the company, offering guidelines and policies.  She (and several other speakers) also noted that with respect to policies, however, the focus is on enabling social interaction by employees – not shutting it down.

The case for using social media at Intel is broad in scope, and is focused on developing interactions with the audience, not solely upon building following on a particular network, or generating leads.  Key goals and desired outcomes for Intel include:

  • Going beyond traditional marketing, creating brand advocates
  • Creating communities reaching audiences on and off domain
  • Humanizing the technology and brand
  • Communicating directly and build long lasting relationships
  • Sharing  our passion and let others share with us
  • Engaging the influencers and social “celebrities”
  • Closing the feedback loop by extending customer service
  • Increasing SEO and harness keywords and linking

The audience – and the individuals comprising the audience – were at the center of the discussions at SocialTech, and everyone recognized the value one person within the social graph can have.   Developing trust and interaction with individuals within social networks takes resource and diligence – but it is being done, and it’s delivering measurable benefits for some of the world’s biggest B2B players.

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