By Lindsay Taitel, Marketing Communications Program Manager, eCoast
For even the largest global corporations, social media is now an essential part of brand recognition, customer relationship building, employee relations, sophisticated marketing campaigns, and buzz building. Today, social media is being used to sell enterprise IT products and services just as effectively as it is being used to market the latest Lady Gaga Billboard chart-topper.
Channel marketers and VARs should eagerly embrace this new opportunity. Forward-thinkers are already engaging third-party social-media managers — or dedicated in-house personnel — to execute social media setup, strategy, and campaigns.
When talking about marketing within the framework of social media it should be observed that, although social media has yet to realize unanimous acceptance in the realm of traditional marketing schemes, it far surpasses traditional practices due to its richness and unique real-time response capabilities. Companies that are astute enough to recognize its value can use social media to very effectively build a genuine community among customers, employees, and the customers’ identification with a company’s brand and culture.
The acceptance and enterprise use of social media has vastly accelerated over the last three to four years. Interestingly, the reason for social media’s success of springs from traditional marketing truisms: Social media — mainly Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter — has “gone mainstream,” and has proven to be very effective when professionally managed. The mediums are low-cost (largely free, in fact) and they are extremely scalable, popular and fun to use. And that’s to say nothing of the built-in audiences that have wholeheartedly embraced them.
Even as the U.S. Postal Service is curtailing operations and shutting down locations, there is a rising use of social media with user numbers in the hundreds of millions, and the BtoB sector is no exception to these growth trends. Social media marketing spending for BtoB is expected to grow to $54 million in 2014 from $11 million in 2009. According to BtoB Magazine, “93% of all BtoB marketers are engaged in some form of social media marketing, with most putting their focus on the most popular channels (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter)”.
Social media’s effectiveness in BtoB outreach certainly comes as no surprise to marketing professionals who have experienced social media’s power, even if they themselves initially used social media purely as a social networking tool.
“I would have never dreamed of the prevalence of Facebook today when I opened my Facebook account seven years ago to keep up with my college buddies,” said Stephanie Yarborough, Account Manager & eCommerce Director, Herald Office Solutions. “But now, on behalf of Herald Office Solutions, I’m posting as often as possible, even uploading product pictures and Tweeting. It’s become core to building customer relationships.”
Social Media = Positive ROI
Given its rapid path to acceptance, social media has forced an examination of its uses and how its value can be measured, even as most marketers recognize that social media has become essential.
“Your business needs to mold social media to fit the way you do business,” said Brad Hurley, President, Blackhawk Inc. “Social media can — and should — be used differently by every business. The best part is that you can be unique as a business, and be rewarded for that. Moreover, as the younger generation begins to fill more management positions, you will see social media used in ways we haven’t even thought of.”
One part of embracing social media as an effective marketing tool requires recognizing that its value can be felt through a direct and vital exchange with a conscious audience. By comparison, take print ads as an example: Unless an advertiser offers a campaign-specific destination for a print ad campaign, they accept the fact that simply displaying a brand has its own value. With social media, companies are not only building brand recognition; they are rapidly developing a rapport with their current customers and any potential customers who are hanging outside their proverbial wall. Social media can place these prospects within reach.
As for measuring social media campaign effectiveness, a number of ROI calculation methods and sophisticated outreach tools are now being offered by social media leaders such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, as well as third parties. In fact, some of these third-party providers are often bought by the companies they add value to. For instance, Twitter just bought the popular Tweet management service TweetDeck. It will be increasingly easier to calculate the incremental business social media creates.
Though there will always be naysayers in the expansion of any new technology, social media marketing professionals are finding it exponentially easier to educate skeptics about social media’s incurred value, often converting them into viable social media success stories.
“Many established professionals do not follow social media, or they use it only to connect with friends and family,” said Laura Studwell, Director of Recruiting & Marketing, Genesis Technologies. “Educating traditional decision makers on the value of personally following a social media account is difficult. Yet there is so much real value to gain for their companies, in terms of discounted marketing outreach capabilities and promotions. And there is no doubt that these can significantly impact their bottom-lines. Through social media, we have generated interest in our products and services and have closed several deals. That will get anyone’s attention.”
Social media is a platform that will certainly have a learning curve to it — there will be some trial and error. However, with time, one will find with daily usage, that it is fairly easy to navigate. What’s more, upon digging a little deeper, you will find valuable backend tools within each medium’s platform that allow you to track how each of your initiated campaigns are behaving. This will allow you to gather a full understanding of which campaigns are successful, and which ones need tweaking.
It’s a vast world out there on the Internet. There are a lot of places where people can focus their attention. Social media is a contained way to aid in sorting out what’s new, what’s interesting, and what is coming down the pipeline. Tune in. You’ll be excited to have an audience learning from and about you, and you’ll be even more excited from what you’ll learn from them.
eCoast is a business process outsource company specializing in sales and channel marketing programs for the technology industry. eCoast holds numerous technology certifications, and has developed proven methods of increasing pipeline revenue, shortening sales cycles, and building long term relationships with clients. With a best-practices approach to creating and executing customized programs that result in a measurable ROI for technology clients, eCoast has developed a solid reputation for success, and is the primary marketing firm for hundreds of technology manufacturers, partners, and value added resellers. eCoast’s service offerings include appointment setting, marketing outsourcing, channel sales, and inbound marketing.
Alicia Fiorletta is Senior Editor for Channel Marketer Report. Working closely with industry analysts and experts, Alicia reports on the latest news, technologies, case studies and trends coming to forefront in the channel marketing world. With a focus on emerging marketing strategies, including social, mobile and content for demand, Alicia hones in on new ways for organizations to market to and through their partner networks. Through her work with G3 Communications, Alicia also acts as Associate Editor for Retail TouchPoints, a digital publishing network focused on the customer-facing area of the retail industry.