According to Duke University’s annual CMO Survey, just 7% of CMOs report that social media is “Very Integrated” into the corporate strategy. This highlights a huge opportunity for improvement in the way social media is addressed, and B2B brands should take note.
Seizing the opportunity to take a strategic approach to B2B brand social media can give your firm a competitive edge. Design an internal structure for social media excellence that reinforces your brand through every interaction, and you’ll be well ahead of the pack.
Business-to-Business organizations take various approaches to implementing social media. The task often falls to the marketing department, but not always. It could land in PR or communications, sales or even HR.
The choice is often not a choice at all, at least not in the beginning. Whoever got there first in the early days of social media may inherit responsibility for an eternity, regardless of whether they have the time, resources or skills to put social to good use.
Some companies have no strategic approach to social media at all, allowing social sandbars to develop in different departments. This “we’ll deal with it later” attitude is a recipe for disaster. Different teams may post conflicting messages, eroding brand positioning. Worse yet, they may compete with each other or deliver erratic service, creating a customer experience that is less than favorable.
Not knowing the best approach to managing social media can be a deterrent to executive support for social efforts. The team at the top wants to know that any risk of damaging the brand from wayward social posts is mitigated before they jump on board and endorse the program.
If you’re tasked with building a new social media structure for your business (or reorganizing a scattered patchwork of accounts), here’s an approach that I find helps build the brand while ensuring a consistent voice for the business.
Establish a Social Core
Whether your organization wants to create a stand-alone department to manage social media or spread the job across departments like peanut butter on a sandwich, a social core team should take the lead on integrating social media into marketing and branding activities, and ensuring that social media supports corporate objectives.
Social media is not an island so even if social media is centralized, you’ll need to facilitate connections with employees in other departments. Ideally, you’ll have a social champion who engages internal constituents, building a cross-functional team to collaborate on strategy, content and communication, with ultimate accountability to the C-suite.
Be sure to get representation from Marketing, Sales, Customer Service, IT, Legal, Human Resources, PR and any other function within your company that may have a hand in social interactions.
Taking this approach enables both a top-down alignment with corporate strategy and a bottoms-up approach to implementation. Team members should understand how social fits your B2B strategy, and how their day-today actions and activities impact the brand.
Social on the Edge
Moving responsibility for social interactions to the edges of an organization puts more staff in direct contact with customers via social media, reducing the chances of missing key opportunities to engage.
At the same time, this does involve some risk. Training becomes critical and sound social media policies are essential. In partnership with human resources, formulate messaging and approaches to the use of social media that support brand strategies, while ensuring that delivery is consistent and cohesive.
Training must extend to everyone in the organization who has a hand in social media, from the front line customer service reps that respond to social media mentions to the sales representatives, pre-sales and sales support.
Social Resource Center
A social media Center of Excellence is a resource center that takes advantage of shared learning across the organization. It serves as a repository for best practices within your organization, helping employees get up to speed quickly.
To create a first class Center of Excellence, gather information from throughout your company and provide services including:
- Offer training and educational resources
- Monitor team performance
- Provide feedback and coaching
- Makes agency / supplier selections & recommendations
- Establish policies and procedures
- Create analytics and reporting models
If your center is virtual, consider offering tutorials or short videos with concise explanations of how to handle common social media concerns. This might incorporate training on different social platforms and tips on how to setup brand-friendly profiles, preferred tone for communications and recommended messaging.
Schedule regular Q&A calls for users to ask questions and get feedback on using social as a business tool. Highlight internal case studies of success and failures, showing users what can be done to build brand awareness, create affinity and build trust with customers.
Once your team is in place and your Center of Excellence is up and running, check progress regularly and share results with executive sponsors. The dividends will appear as increased brand value and more tangible returns like shorter sales cycles and positive customer feedback.