I had a chance to catch up with Trish Nettleship, the Social Media Lead at AT&T Business Marketing prior to her presentation at the upcoming B2B Corporate Social Media Summit in Philadelphia. Trish discusses their newest social media program and the internal training required to make it happen.
DN: Tell me about the social media program(s) you’ll be presenting at the conference.
We launched a B2B focused blog, the first for AT&T, earlier this year called Networking Exchange Blog. The idea was to bring forth our wealth of expertise, our people, directly to businesses in the industries we serve. We have some of the brightest minds at AT&T, so providing a platform for them to share their thoughts and perspectives on technologies directly to businesses seemed like a great approach to showcasing our thought leadership. We quickly learned that our subject matter experts knew their technologies well, but weren’t as experienced in the ways of social media. We created the Networking Leaders Academy to create an active corps of expert ambassadors who create social proof and digital “trust” in AT&T, it’s people and their points of view on technology. The Academy provides the experts with the incentives, tools, training and support to enable the open and ongoing dialogue with businesses, large and small across the social atmosphere.
DN: What were your goals for this program?
Our initial goal for the blog is about building awareness and credibility in technology spaces not typically associated with AT&T. (i.e. Cloud and Security.) The goal of the Networking Leaders Academy is to build on the foundation of the blog and empower our experts to do more than just create blog posts, but truly engage with businesses whether it be on blog or in external communities, social networks, blogs or forums.
DN: And how did the program(s) achieve these goals?
We have seen growth in overall awareness of the brand across these technologies. We’ve also seen our experts own credibility and awareness increase through their personal networks, guest blog requests and speaking engagement requests.
DN: Do you see any major differences between B2B and B2C approaches to social media?
The buying life cycle for B2B is typically longer and more engaged. The social media strategy in the B2B space has to take this into consideration. We focus a lot of our efforts on engaging with businesses early in the buying lifecycle. So providing content that is more research oriented in nature is key. If the business doesn’t engaged with us early in the buying lifecycle we may never get a chance to be placed in the consideration set of vendors. Timing, relevant content and the right platform are key to success in the B2B environment.
DN: Has social media become a significant part of your marketing mix?
Yes, our customers want to engage with us on their terms and not be forced into an experience solely created by us. So whether they are on social networks or blogs, or any other digital environment, there is an appreciation of that AT&T is coming to them.
DN: Is there a risk that social media could trivialize your product/service in the eyes of your B2B customers?
No, it’s an evolution of how we engage with our customers or prospects. As more and more businesses are becoming more comfortable in social media, it is expected that we will be there to engage with them.
One thought on “The Building of Social Media Programs”
Thanks Drew, nice example of how a big B2B organization can get more engaged. I especially like Trish’s emphasis on training and support for subject matter experts. It’s still the case that most big company experts have little social media experience. Marketers often respond by simply engaging in social media themselves on their companies’ behalf, but customers are much more interested in connecting with the real experts — which means that training and support of the sort Trish describes is critical.