David Meerman Scott wrote a post awhile back that I just discovered a couple days ago, thanks to twitter. I am going to quote it here, since it started a cool discussion with a colleague over on linkedIn (don’t you just love the social web?). This is one of the best explanations of social media marketing I have seen:
“You can buy attention (advertising)
You can beg for attention from the media (PR)
You can bug people one at a time to get attention (sales)
Or you can earn attention by creating something interesting and valuable and then publishing it online for free: a YouTube video, a blog, a research report, photos, a Twitter stream, an ebook, a Facebook page.”
Now, I have tried to stay away from the marketing side of social media in this blog, because I think it adds a bit of confusion around how people get into Social Media. But if you have ever sold something, or want to market you business (or yourself!), go back and read the paragraph above again. Seth Godin talks about permission marketing, people get too many interruptions, and there are too many media channels vying for their attention. If I need something, I am going to ask Google where I can find it, and if I find a source that has earned my attention (like David Meerman Scott or Seth Godin) I am going to be pulled back to their sites again and again to read their latest blog. They don’t have to try and get my attention, they have my permission.
The discussion my colleague and I got into over on linkedIn was essentially the B2B vs B2C debate. Business to Consumer marketing using social media tools to target consumers. Consumers of goods are more likely to be on Facebook, and probably have more connections to their peers to share recommendations, so if you are a B2C company you better have a social media strategy that encompasses Facebook, Twitter, and blogging. Consumers will value the recommendations of there peers over traditional marketing every time.
Business to Business companies, like my colleague and I both represent, are different. The transactions business make are bigger, the relationships involved are much deeper, and the risk involved is much higher. Of course there is also the air of competition, and not wanting to put too much out there, for fear your competition will pick up on something you are doing, or steal your ideas. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for B2B companies and social media, after all, a business transaction still involves a person - you are still a person selling to a person. Social media tools give B2B companies the ability to personalize themselves. Facebook is not the right tool for B2B marketing, look at the audience on Facebook, it is not who B2B companies are selling to.
Staying with B2B let’s use an example close to home. I work for JMP Engineering. We sell engineered controls, automation, and information solutions. We have a huge CRM database, and we could bug these contacts one at a time, interrupting them at a time when they are not looking for automation solutions. We could buy advertising and spend lots of money trying to get more attention, and we could beg the media to try and get press time. That is the traditional approach, but these days it is too easy for people to ignore those channels. Obviously our best business comes from our existing relationships with known customers, we have built up these relationships and have earned their business over the years.
So how do we earn the attention of people looking for information on solutions we can offer? How do we come out on top in Google search results? Forget search engine optimization, content is king, and it has to be current. To start, we need blogs written by our line of business directors, like www.robotshift.com, we need contribution to sites like www.controlsoverload.com by our technical staff, and we should be sharing case studies, and videos on YouTube of our solutions. I am not talking about giving away our core business, I am talking about giving away just enough to earn the attention of a prospective buyer. Social Media Marketing lets us do this easily for next to no cost. And anyone or any business can do this.
Todd Youngblood has written some great articles on this topic, and of course Seth Godin and David Meerman Scott blog frequently on the value of social media and selling (2 of my favourite blogs). The only thing I know for sure, is that if you still don’t understand the value of social media, and you don’t “get it”, then you are not trying hard enough. You will be successful if you can do it right, and the definition of doing it right is not necessarily the same for everyone.