After wrestling with taxes and Schedule C arcana, it’s a relief to blog. (I’m sure the IRS would prefer my creative energies go elsewhere…!)
While working with a client on initial strategies for social media marketing, I keep being reminded of how much murkier the B2B social media landscape is. Almost all the pundits you talk to have cut their teeth in the consumer marketplace, and all their examples focus on mega brands like the iPhone or Nike. Things just aren’t the same in the enterprise software marketplace.
In my client’s case the conversational volume is quite low: in a 30-day period there are just hundreds of mentions of their product category across the blogosphere, and even fewer of their corporate brand. And only dozens of mentions of their corporate brand in conjunction with the product category. Needless to say, they need more buzz…
Start with a Listening Strategy
A key motivation for my client is to share their “thought leadership” with business leaders and opinion influencers in their marketplace. They’ve got lots to say, the subject matter is complex, and the implications can be mission critical for their customers.
How best to engage is a burning question. With roots deeply entrenched in long-form media (such as books and long articles), they’re trying to envision the right balance of publishing-style approaches and the social media dialog.
Like most technology companies, it’s hard for them to push platform considerations to the background so they can focus on audience, business objectives and communications goals first. They employ lots of smart people, and tend to get tangled up in how to communicate (which blogging tools to use, which platforms to leverage) rather than what to say, to whom, and where. (They’ve even got a cadre of folks who want to create a next-gen social media platform.)
They’re updating corporate policies, eliminating many of the “thou shalt not’s,” and trying to imagine how best to incent the people they’d most like blogging on the company’s behalf.
Fortunately, they’ve been reading Forrester’s social media reports and talking with listening platform vendors (which is how they know how low the conversational volume is at present). Like most B2B marketing organizations, they’re coping with a lean staff and too much on their plate already. They don’t have the manpower to search all the blogs and other social media on a regular basis using brute force methods.
Brute Force, or Automated?
The engineers on board have enthusiastically demonstrated the many tools that can be used to search the blog post aggregators, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, et al. Given capacity constraints the engineers’ suggestions are falling on deaf ears within the marketing organization. (Think: Mars versus Venus.)
The marketers would like to monitor the buzz, see the patterns unfold, and track changes in sentiment and brand perceptions. (They love the conceptual mapping of brand associations.) On the face of it the claims made by the leading listening platform vendors (companies like Nielsen BuzzMetrics and TNS Cymfony) seem pretty appealing.
But with service pricing in the $50–100K range (and up), they’re facing internal resistance and sticker shock. The scientists and bean counters on the staff wonder how they can justify such a big investment to track activity that’s unlikely to be statistically significant. So far the replies by the vendors rely on justifications for volumes that are typical of B2C companies, not B2B specialty players like my client.
It will be interesting to see how this unfolds, to see if the case can be made on the basis of qualitative benefits and the value of “directional indicators.”