Monday, 14 November 2011

Are you on the job with Twitter?

Maybe I'm getting cynical, but I keep seeing a parallel between the mid-nineties Website fervour and today's obsession with social media. Back then, everyone was clamouring for "an Internet presence", but few had a clear idea what to do with it. Cross out "Internet" and insert "Facebook", "LinkedIn" or "Twitter" and that last statement has a disturbing resonance in 2011.

I'm not about to give you yet another list of killer social media techniques; if you have something to say that Tweets well, then go to it.  What I do want to do is put this 21st Century mania in its proper context for B2B companies.

First, here's a new concept for you, I call it On/Off the Job Marketing.

When you're selling B2B, your customers tend to focus on their own daily tasks far more readily than they do on your proposition. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to involve them deeply enough that they come to want your solution. The best way to do that is to help them with their job, not just tell them that you're going to do something splendid for their company. People become involved with your proposition when they can see it making their life easier right now, not producing a corporate benefit sometime in the future.

And right now, they have a job to do.

It's true that social media can encourage involvement, but they're not central to your clients' business.  They'll look at LinkedIn when they've got time.  Are you sure you're talking to them and engaging them effectively when they're actually doing their job?

One of my clients asked me to help with their social media marketing recently. This, with their permission, is an extract from their Website content:

XXXX is a leading supplier of YYYY, with a first-class portfolio of products and services for architects and specifiers. We are pleased to provide detailed information to support your specifications and client proposals. We hope that you'll contact us for help with your next project*.

Excited?  No, nor me.

My question here is: does it make sense to invest energy and expenditure on entertaining potential clients in their spare time, when we're doing little to engage them when they're concentrating on their job?

Instead of trying to think of something witty to say on LinkedIn, or complaining about the M6 traffic on Twitter, the priority for this client is become involved in his customer's actual work, not their social life. So we're putting our energies into creating tools that help those architects and specifiers to create and present their specifications.  That's what I mean by on-the-job marketing.

If you already know what you want to say on social media, as I've said, go to it; I'm not disparaging an unquestionably powerful medium.  But if it's on your list because everyone else is talking about it, think carefully and decide if it's really the next priority.

If, deep down, you feel it's a distraction from your real job, remember that your customers may have exactly the same opinion.

* Don't bother searching for this text - I promise you we killed it very quickly.

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