Social Branding Lessons for B2B Leaders
B2B CEOs and their senior leadership teams may still be a little reluctant to embrace social media for themselves, but that’s no reason to shy away from it altogether. In fact, comments by Google exec Mike Miller, Director of Business and Industrial Markets, affirm what I’ve been saying for years: digital is critical for B2B brand strategy.
Miller was recently interviewed by eMarketer, where he explained, “We did some research last year with Compete, and we saw a sea change in terms of internet usage within the B2B space.”
The research showed an increase in search activity related to B2B purchases from 71% in 2011 to 88% in 2012. For B2B marketers, the increase was even higher – a 23% jump from 67% in 2011 to 90% in 2012 reporting using the internet to research B2B purchases.
Why the Drastic Change?
Social media has been the driving force behind a flood of new content and new channels to deliver that content. Last month I wrote about video for example, of which Miller says, “The C-suite indexes very high on using video. So if you’re a B2B marketer and you’re trying to reach the C-suite, video is a great way to go.”
With more content on the web, B2B buyers can fuel their need for a self-directed buying process. Buyers now set requirements, research solutions, rank options and compare pricing without even engaging a sales rep.
And where do they get their information?
Through social channels, of course.
This is a trend that can’t be ignored. The social conversation is about the brand in both the B2C and business-to-business space. The social community owns the brand message, controlling dialogue about everything from features and functions to service and support.
In their 2013 CEO, Social Media and Leadership Survey, BrandFog found that…
“80.6% of respondents believe that social media is an important communication channel for CEOs to engage with customers and investors, and 83.9% believe that CEO social media engagement is an effective tool to increase brand loyalty.”
As a B2B executive, you can choose to lead your organization forward into the mix, following companies like Caterpillar that set an excellent example for best practices in B2B branding, or you can try to sit it out. (The latter option is a dangerous choice, by the way.)
Executives at companies that effectively harness social media to amplify the brand conversation are in tune with factors such as:
- What people are saying – listening to online conversations and responding appropriately.
- Buyer needs – leading with content that answers questions before they are asked (How to videos, Twitter tips, etc.)
- The power of influence – serving as brand champions and authentic messengers to shape the discussion without trying to dominate it.
The Leader’s Role
You may think that social media belongs to the young or tech savvy, and you’re not alone. You may be too busy to tweet or worry about your company page on LinkedIn, and that’s OK. But remember this:
Your brand is too valuable to simply delegate social media and forget about it.
It’s time to start having conversations in the C-suite around social media and your brand. Is your company building brand equity with strategies that support your corporate vision? Or are you on the brink of disaster because your social strategy is haphazard or non-existent?
Here are few questions to ask your executive team:
- Do you know what your corporate reputation is online and do you actively seek to manage perceptions?
- Does your digital customer experience support your offline experience? Does it accurately reflect your brand message?
- Are you using social channels to reduce costs, increase loyalty and build brand equity?
- Can you mine online conversations for potential product problems, new feature opportunities and market trends?
- If you are on social media yourself, does your online presence help or hurt your brand?
If your leadership team has already started the conversation, kudos to you. I’d love to hear your lessons learned. If not, start talking and I’m confident you’ll quickly see the value of bringing social media branding into the C-suite.