The Marketing Strategist:

Avoiding the Social Media Silo

March 10, 2010

We’re taking on the unpopular task of trying to defuse all the hype that treats social media marketing in isolation. Social media is another channel (albeit an incredibly exciting one) for making the connection and building the relationship with customers. But let’s not allow that excitement to cloud our vision. Social media is no silver bullet. Other channels are more effective for reaching high-level B2B buyers—and that situation may never change. We’re not saying that because our own research shows that B2B marketers are decidedly skeptical about the effectiveness of social media. It’s clear that social media are still new, and most B2B marketing groups haven’t gotten the hang of them yet. It’s too early to reach any definitive conclusions on effectiveness. It’s tempting to say that because B2B sales depend greatly on relationships, social media will eventually reign supreme. But B2B’s nature makes it harder for companies and customers to have a satisfying relationship that’s entirely virtual than it is for B2C companies. We all know that B2B decisions take a long time and are made by committee and specified criteria rather than by individuals and impulse. It’s hard to imagine that kind of a complex, long-term, multiperson relationship ever happening entirely or even mostly in social media. At the C-level especially, face-to-face remains the killer app for everyone involved. This doesn’t mean we should discount social media, however. Social media can be powerful for “activating” (as my Digital Influence Group co-presenter, Michael Smith, puts it) our content with the C-suite—another way of getting a few minutes of their attention. Looking at social media in isolation distracts us from the real revolutionary trend, which is that marketing strategies must shift to an emphasis on content and relationships. Social media simply makes starkly plain what we’ve known for some time but haven’t had to face yet: We don’t have a lot of content capable of generating trust and relationships. Trust comes from buyers deciding that providers are as interested in their concerns and needs as they are in selling stuff. The only way we can do that is by providing a range of different content—thought leadership, news, education, training, support—in a range of different channels—events, white papers, communities, private meetings—at all phases of the buying cycle. If you look at social media in isolation, you won’t see the larger strategic issues until they slap you in the face: bloggers with nothing to write about; LinkedIn groups with no substantive conversation; Twitter streams that link to nothing but brochures and press releases. That’s why in our briefings, we’ll turn the social media conversation toward integrating social media into the overall marketing mix and arming marketers with the additional skills they need to make it happen. It’s why we left strategy and metrics out of the four components of social media management. The strategy is a marketing one, and the metrics should happen across everything you do. We hope you can join us at our briefings. Please join us at our in-person briefings, Avoiding the Social Media Silo: How to Integrate Social Media into Your Marketing Strategy.

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