Social Media for B2B vs. B2C Brands

an interview with

DN: Do you have any thoughts on why large B2C companies are more “socially fit” than large B2b companies?
Social media began in the hands of consumers like music enthusiasts looking to promote their tunes on MySpace, students using Facebook to connect with classmates, retail customers looking to get deals on their favorite brand through Twitter etc. It hasn’t been until very recently that businesses who serve other businesses have started to realize the benefits of social, but it’s quickly moving into the enterprise. The stuff that has sprung up on the consumer side is just the tip of the iceberg. The real mass, the real power to transform, is on the business side.

DN: Do you think there is still skepticism among B2B marketers that social can help them achieve their business goals?
In conversations I’ve had with peers in the industry I think there’s broad agreement that social marketing can be effective in business to business. However, there’s still a major shift underway in terms of the resources aligned to social and to digital approaches in general (beyond banner advertising and search term marketing.)

DN: Are there any risks in terms of pushing messaging or ignoring customer service by having social run out of the marketing department?
Yes. More importantly, it is risky to look at “social” as somehow separate from business processes and create distinct “social” teams. I feel the same way about “digital.” The more sophisticated or mature approach is to see both social and digital as modes of interaction that can affect any business process. Our Social Business Management council has representation from sales, supply chain, product development, HR, security, legal etc in addition to marketing and communications.

I know I seem to interview folks from IBM a lot but that is only because I think they are doing so many things right especially in the area of social media.  (And oh by the way, I’m going to be interviewing another IBM’er May 3rd: Real-world B2B Social Media Marketing Success: CTAM Conversation with Ed Abrams of IBM so you can expect more to come on these pages).  This is my second interview with Ethan McCarty who holds the title of Digital and Social Strategy at IBM. As you will quickly see, Ethan gets it and as such requires little introduction.  Thanks Ethan.

DN: Most companies especially B2B struggle to develop engaging content. What’s your trick?
At IBM we are focused on quality standards for everything from videos to info-graphics to social network landing pages and tweets. We have a strong understanding of our brand that we can rely on and extend to our teams globally and even our agency partners.

DN: You mentioned  that IBM is in the process of auditing all of your social channels” — what do hope to learn from this audit?
As I mentioned, we are focused on quality standards — but also improving the signal to noise ratio on social networks. For example, reducing the number of IBM community pages on Facebook that were started with the best of intentions by IBMers around the world but then became stagnant. We’ve had really good success with this already — and it just means that someone looking to connect with IBM can find us easily and get a better experience at the end of the day.

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