The Marketing Strategist:

How to Sustain the B2B Social Media Conversation

January 26, 2012

When Larry Weber spoke at ITSMA’s Annual Marketing Conference in October 2011 on his book Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era, one theme came through loud and clear: simply being present in social media is not enough to build customer relationships over the long haul. Actively listening and responding to them is what matters. Early in Everywhere, Weber offers a four-step approach to creating social engagement as a model all companies can follow. The steps include setting strategic business goals, aligning the program with those goals, activating and sustaining the program, and finally, measuring and analyzing the program. Throughout each of these steps, the level of customer engagement is a key driver in how marketers should leverage social media.
  • Step one, social media engagement begins with business goals, is the planning step. Weber urges companies to have goals beyond just setting up their social media channels; he writes, “successful social engagement is rooted in business objectives, not in a desire to ‘be on Twitter’ or to ‘build a microsite.’” Marketers need to be clear and specific when setting goals; Weber includes examples of clear goals, such as increasing awareness, providing industry thought leadership, and improving customer service. They also need to fully understand how each social media activity touches the target audience.
  • Step two, align social programs with business objectives, is about designing the social experience. This is where you align your strategy and business objectives with social media tools. Weber emphasizes the need for marketers to understand more than how customers connect emotionally with an offering; they need to know how customers actually behave. The answers to questions such as “what content does my audience want?” and “which channels do they use at each stage of the buying process?” will help determine a social media strategy that, ideally, will engage the customer and influence the purchase decision.
  • Step three, activate your program, highlights where many companies fall short: they build the social media tools, but they don’t nurture the community. Activating the program means reaching out to customers, discovering their hot buttons, identifying key influencers, and inviting and encouraging participation. This is not a one-time step; it is an ongoing process that requires constant attention. This is where Weber’s idea of social sustainment comes into play. He defines this as a “daily and weekly review of program results and identification of new ways to improve the experience.” In other words, to engage with customers in social media, you need to create an ongoing presence. Because content is what drives engagement, you need to focus on generating content in all forms (blogs, tweets, SlideShare, contests, white papers, etc.).
  • It is during the last step, measurement and analytics, that the focus on the customer really gels. Weber suggests measuring not just reach but also engagement. The difference? Reach looks at the number of clicks, visits, page views, and so forth, but engagement takes a deeper dive and tells you how and where customers engage with your content. Do they comment on a blog? Do they rate, share, or retweet it? This is the information marketers need to truly understand their audience’s behavior so they can create content in the future that is more relevant to the customer.
Larry Weber is chairman of W2 Group, a digital ecosystem of marketing services companies that build brands, deepen customer and partner relationships, and drive demand for products and services. He is also the author of four books, including Everywhere: Comprehensive Digital Business Strategy for the Social Media Era.

Want the latest news from ITSMA?

Subscribe to our newsletters and alerts for ITSMA blog posts, research publications, events, and more.

Further reading