Michael Della Penna's Conversations: Why B-to-B Companies Are Embracing Social Media
The growth and influence of social media is unprecedented. However, while the need for consumer-facing brands to aggressively pursue a social media presence has been quite evident, many B-to-B companies have been slower to embrace the medium.
Well, now that seems to be changing. A recent Forrester Research study found B-to-B marketers are expected to increase their spending on social media activities by 490 percent between now and 2014. Here are a few examples of why leading B-to-B companies are embracing social media to drive results, and how they're building a competitive advantage:
- Leverage the power of the crowd to drive innovation. Salesforce.com launched IdeaExchange to gather suggestions and new ideas; Oracle incorporated a roadblock on its homepage to solicit and collect customer feedback; and SAP built a massive developer community over the last six years that now numbers 1.7 million users strong. The program includes rewards for participating and an active listening and sharing culture that's helped distinguish SAP as one the leading social media brands in the B-to-B industry. These are just a few of the many examples of how leading B-to-B companies are leveraging the power of social media to interact with clients and prospects, and to generate new ideas to improve product/service offerings in real time.
- Build and grow influential relationships. Social media is less formal than traditional media outlets and outreach. As a result, brands have an enormous opportunity to build more “social” relationships with leading analysts, journalists, bloggers and influencers to get these people to start talking about their companies. More and more companies are increasingly turning to social media outlets such as Twitter to communicate important industry and company developments, and to start conversations with key constituencies. For example, BMC Software sends out live tweets during its earnings calls to communicate salient info — e.g., license bookings, operating income. Brocade uses Twitter to solicit questions for its CEO in advance of its upcoming quarterly calls. And numerous others are actively retweeting key influencers to build these important relationships.
- Become a resource. American Express’ Open shares small business tips and advice like “When is it time to ditch your home office,” “How to master the cold call,” and “The keys to pricing your product right.” By doing so, AmEx’s Open Forum has become a resource for thousands of small business owners, building important word-of-mouth within a key market segment.
- Extend the brand and bring it to life. Earlier this year, Jeremiah Owyang created a list of the top corporate social media strategists. A good portion of those on the list were B-to-B companies, ranging from Oracle, Cisco, IBM, Boeing, Ernst & Young and more. These companies’ fearless executives have embraced social media and added a little personality to the brands they represent. At the same time, their efforts have enabled them to become part of the conversation while extending their brands’ reach and influence through social media.
Having a strong social media presence is critical to protecting and growing your brand on today’s social internet. Companies like those mentioned above and others have clearly demonstrated that social media can be an important medium and asset for both B-to-B as well as B-to-C companies. Have a B-to-B case study you’d like to share? Drop me a line.