Social Media in Business

Is there room for social media in business?

General industry practices and even semantics would suggest not. And as more and more corporates introduce social media control polices during working hours and on company devices, Social Media’s viability as a professional B2B communication method looks questionable. However, as a marketer I guess I’m pre-determined to answer my own questions with “yes, there is”.

Any brand wants to develop stronger ties with its customers or clients and the ability to reach them on a personal level and directly engage them in online ‘conversation’ can only be a good thing, right? Maybe.

It’s easy for marketers to get carried away with social media. The hype that’s surrounded it for the past few years has firmly placed marketing agencies and departments under its spell. Almost without exception, social media is presented as the new frontier of brand communication and, aside from the domain of celebrity gossip, there have been some impressive B2B examples. However, for every campaign which cuts through, there are at least a dozen which fail to justify the time and expense invested in them.

The truth is that most brands do social media because most other brands are doing social media and B2B corporations are no different. Companies often jump on this band wagon with no real strategy; either wanting to be seen as cool or through paranoid fear of appearing out of touch. But where is the benefit to the client and, ultimately, the bottom line? Sure, Twitter alerts of industry relevant information and insightful commentary are genuinely useful, but do getting thousands of Facebook followers deem a campaign successful?

A common argument we hear for not ‘doing’ Social Media is the inability to control it, but that is really missing the point of the medium. People (clients, prospects, staff) are using Social Media to talk about your company services, their experiences and your competitors whether you like it or not. The choice for businesses is to get involved in that conversation or not – even if it’s simply tuning in to see what people are actually saying. It’s not to control it. The easy part for any business is using Social Media to listen, the hard bit is joining in – and that’s where many recent brand social media mistakes have been made.

As Ricky Gervaise has commented: “I’m slowly realising that Twitter is like a sport – so much easier and less dangerous if you just watch”.

Yes, right now, the key decision makers many companies want to reach probably aren’t involved – research show that the majority of CEOs don’t use Social Media and don’t really get it, but that’s changing. The future is much more open and people are becoming obsessed with ‘over-sharing’ – it’s happening much faster in the States, but there’s nothing to suggest that UK isn’t far behind. Those that think change is slow, easy to predict and stick to well established models of marketing and communication end up being the HMVs / Blockbusters of the world.

Social media is here to stay and B2B companies must figure out how to make it work.  And the definition of that mustn’t just be the number of ‘friends’ they have, it’s how much more profit they can make or stakeholders they can satisfy because of it.

Thanks for reading this Blog entry. See, you’ve made a great start already!

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