Labcast: Utilizing Social Media as a B2B Marketing Tactic

In this week’s Labcast, OpenView Senior Associate Amanda Maksymiw shares techniques for implementing social media as a B2B marketing tactic, and discusses how several companies included in OpenView’s recent report, “Above and B2B-eyond: A Look at the Creative Marketing Tactics Leading B2B Technology Companies Are Using Online” are utilizing it to innovative results.

Kevin: Hello and welcome to the OpenView LabCast. I’m Kevin Cain. Today I’m joined by my colleague, Amanda Maksymiw, one of our senior associates here at OpenView. She is in charge of our social media program, among other things. Amanda, thanks for joining me today.

Amanda: Absolutely, Kevin. It’s funny; this is the first time we’ve done a podcast together. Usually we have external guests. I’m glad to participate.

Kevin: I’m glad to have you be a part of it. What we’re talking about today, obviously, since I’ve got Amanda here, is social media, and why social media and having a social media strategy is so important for expansion-stage companies.

I want to start off by asking Amanda a little bit about her view on why it’s important to have a social media strategy in place as an expansion-stage company.

Amanda: I think it’s important to have a social media strategy in place because it’s a great opportunity to reach your audience and ultimately build great, meaningful relationships with them.

Kevin: What’s the right time to start that? Is that something you do on day one or do you need to reach a certain threshold before you develop a social media platform?

Amanda: It’s funny that you ask if it’s important to start on day one. When I think about social media and when to get started, it’s like the chicken and egg scenario. Do you get started with a social media strategy right away without having a solid understanding of your audience, your story message or even your content strategy in place?

I think it’s important to always take a step back and ensure that you really have a good understanding of the types of people that you want to target on social media. Ultimately, you need to know what your story messages are. As an example, if your audience that you’re targeting could care less about anything visual or infographics, things of that nature, it wouldn’t make sense to engage Pinterest as part of your social media strategy.

On the other hand, if your audience is on the more professional side and lives and breathes on LinkedIn, you better be participating on that channel, whether it’s in the form of the discussion sections or even if you start your own group there.

Kevin: Part of the genesis for our conversation today is the fact that OpenView recently came up with a report. I don’t know if everyone in our audience has heard of this report yet. It’s called “Above and B2B-eyond,” which is a little play on words, “A Look at the Creative Marketing Tactics Leading B2B Technology Companies are Using Online.”

This report, which you can find on our OpenView Labs site, looks at leading tactics that a variety of companies are using in the online space. It does so across three main areas. The first is social media, next is promotional offers, and the third is online tools and assessments.

Since Amanda is here today and we’re talking about social media, I want to hone in on those social media companies that are highlighted in our report. Those three are Marketo, salesforce.com, and VMware.

Amanda, you’re familiar with this report. You certainly had your hand in it. I’m curious to know what was a surprise finding for you in this report on how those companies are using social media.

Amanda: First, I thought all three companies were doing a fantastic job, experimenting both with Facebook and Twitter in the cases of Marketo and Salesforce.com. VMware is a unique example because it has really built up a whole community tying in all the social networks.

At the end of the day, your customers and prospect customers are talking about your company on a variety of different channels. The really cool thing that VMware is doing is they’re essentially pulling in all of those conversations. You can go to this one community site or hub and really engage with the brands there and start seeing a lot of different information, a lot of different content being shared.

Kevin: I definitely thought that was interesting, too. Just to point out for our listeners, it’s important to note that the three companies that are highlighted in this report, in terms of social media, they do have Facebook pages and they use Twitter, but they do a lot more than just that. They’re really going above and beyond.

The way that they’ve built out their Facebook presence is really impressive. The amount of detail and effort they put into that, or the way that they’re using Twitter, is more than just a megaphone. They are really customizing it and personalizing it. It makes them stand out.

Amanda: Absolutely. It’s great you mentioned bringing everything together on Facebook or Twitter. As an example, in the report we feature Marketo’s Facebook. We connected with Jason Miller of Marketo most recently in our Twitter chat which we held last week. One of the things that he mentioned as being the great driver of success for the page is having a combination of fun, interactive content that you’re sharing in order to make your brand stand out, engaging your audience, and showing a little bit of personality, but at the end of the day ensuring that you’re always adding value.

I think that’s really an important part. You don’t want to just push out a lot of noise or share a lot of random content. Ultimately that’s not the best way to build a true social network or a following on these sites.

Kevin: Was there anything that were key takeaways for you that you would recommend to our listeners as to what they could be doing to help them get above and beyond when it comes to social media?

Amanda: Absolutely. In addition to what I already mentioned on Facebook, another highlight that we saw from Marketo’s page is really building in the opportunity to do different promotions, whether it’s in the form of a contest or just experimenting with the new promotions that you’re able to do on Facebook. As you’re posting content on a brand page, you could spend as little as $5.00 to extend the reach. We’ve played around with that a little bit on OpenView and we’ve already seen some good results.

Shifting gears to focus on Twitter, a few lessons that we highlighted from the Salesforce.com example is to humanize the brand. Salesforce.com is a large company. As a matter of fact, quite a few of their employees who are active on their Twitter feed. What it does, essentially, is people sign off their tweets by putting a little caret in their initials or even sometimes putting their whole Twitter handle in there. That’s important to couple with photos of these community managers. Again, you’re just giving a face to the brand, a face to the company. It’s a small, little tweak that you can do, ultimately, if you have a few people managing the network.

Kevin: Great. Obviously, all the things that we’re talking about here are big companies that have done a lot. They’ve come a long way. We talked a little bit at the beginning of this podcast about what happens when you’re just starting out and you’re trying to identify who your audience is and understand what’s going to resonate with them. If we assume that a company has already done that, what’s the best way to get started, then, once that step is already taken? What would you recommend?

Amanda: So you know the audience, you know what they like and where they hang out on line. As you’re pointing out, those are critical. Once you can answer those questions, once that is really on the books, the next step is to really figure out your voice and what you want to do with these social networks.

Your voice can be customized for each of the networks. As an example, I’ll speak about OpenView’s social media strategy. Our Facebook page is really light and fun. Our take is to show that we’re a different type of VC, whereas the content and the strategy that we have for LinkedIn is a little different. Tailor your voice and your story to each of the social media networks because people want that. They’re going to Facebook, as an example, to have that type of experience.

The next thing is I would encourage expansion-stage companies to think about documenting some social media guidelines. It’s not a huge process to do so. As a matter of fact, if you Google it you can see a lot of great examples that already exist. Something like that is important to share with your employees. At the end of the day, your employees are already acting on social media, and if they are sharing any of your company’s content you want to make sure that they’re doing so in a way that is in line with your messaging. Also, keep people from the gray zone; what’s okay to post, what’s not okay to post, since they’re being associated with your company or brand.

From there, I would definitely select the sites that you want to start and start small. If you have a small marketing team and can’t commit to updating 7 to 10 different sites, then start on the one that really makes sense. Start on LinkedIn and get active in the discussion groups and the forums there to start building a presence. Once you have more time and get that process as part of your daily routine, then go to another network.

It’s most important to have consistency with these types of things and maintain a regular schedule. Find something that’s manageable that you can actually get started with, rather than biting off the entire world of social media.

Kevin: Good words to live by. The name of the report again is “Above and B2B-eyond: A Look at the Creative Marketing Tactics Leading B2B Technology Companies Are Using Online.” If you want to find the report, go to [email protected] and click on Reports in the upper right-hand corner.

Amanda, thanks so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.

Amanda: Absolutely.

photo by: webtreats

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