One of the great parts of conducting the Social Media Fitness Study is that I got to interview a number of really savvy social media practitioners. Among these is Greg Tirico, Senior Social Media Manager for Sage, a big software solution provider for small and medium sized businesses. Greg offers insights into the role social plays in Sage’s marketing mix and of particular note, how they grew their social footprint by 50% in a month with the help of direct mail. Thanks Greg!
DN: Can you speak to the role social media plays in Sage’s overall marketing mix?
The principal marketing focus at Sage is to build brand awareness, particularly around a key differentiator, which is a better customer experience. To that end, social media is one tool of many that supports the objective, including online, print and broadcast advertising, web strategy, PR, employee engagement and fine tuning of every other communication touch-point, all designed to deliver a superior customer experience. With each passing marketing campaign social media becomes more integrated in our overall marketing mix. Like many organizations, our social media activities started out as a silo within the marketing organization. This was important at first as it allowed the social media practitioners at Sage to experiment with their tactics. More recently, we have seen tremendous results when social media is properly integrated with print based marketing campaigns. For example, we increased our overall Like count by 50% in less than a month through a direct mail campaign in which respondents were encouraged to share their business ambitions with us on one of our Facebook product pages. People are still contributing today even though the contest is over!
DN: What are the benefits of having social media in the marketing department?
The clearest benefit to a centralized marketing approach is the ability to quickly adapt to changes coming at us from the social networks themselves. For example, the Facebook Timeline implementation for business pages is a forced change with a tight deadline. With an organized team of Social Media Leads at Sage we are able to easily adapt to this change and make sure the marketing teams have the information they need to be as effective as possible. There are benefits to a cross disciplined team as well. Many of the customer support organizations at Sage have started to participate in our internal conversations about social media and we are strongly encouraging this level of interaction through training programs and a greater level of information sharing.
DN: What triggered the development of a disaster plan at Sage?
There is not a particular instance that drove us to the creation of a disaster plan. We are in the lucky majority of social media participants that have had the opportunity to learn from other’s mistakes. It seems very natural to have a disaster plan much like a company would put a business continuity plan in place. The effort is minimal and you can test the process with minor negative comments on Twitter or Facebook.
DN: Do you have any thoughts on why developing engaging content is so challenging for B2B companies?
Generally speaking, B2B companies are used to talking about features and benefits based on bullet points from a sell sheet. Repurposing this content, verbatim, for a social network is not what most would consider compelling content. At first, we all struggled with this. Now, those social media marketers that have been paying attention to their audience by channel understand what truly resonates.
DN: Few companies have been able to deliver a consistent experience across all social channels. How have you been able to achieve this?
Consistency can be interpreted in terms of visual identity or tone of voice. From an overall brand identity perspective, we do have guidelines for tone of voice – essentially that our tone should be friendly and conversational in support of our role as trusted advisors to our customers. However, there’s leeway to ensure that our people can adapt to their audiences. From a visual identity perspective, we have been working to bring all of our channels together under a Sage master brand. Sage is moving to a master brand from a series of product specific brands and our social media channels will absolutely reflect this. In this case, the visual reinforcement of the Sage brand across all of our social media channels will be clear to the visitor.
DN: Do you think there is still skepticism among B2B marketers that social can help them achieve their business goals?
Initially, there was skepticism in the B2B space regarding social media marketing activities. Today, the medium as a marketing tool is being embraced and many B2B companies are playing catch-up with B2C firms. The mix of individual channels is not always the same across B2B and B2C. For example, LinkedIn is an excellent source of referral traffic for many B2B firms. Conversely, Facebook is the largest source of referral traffic for B2C companies.