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The B2B social media challenge #dellb2b

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 13th December 2009

At Wildfire, we work with a range of B2B and B2C clients and I genuinely believe there is real potential for both in terms of social media. But, I’m often frustrated by the lack of really good industry insight into using social media for B2B campaigns.

So, when I saw an event – the Dell B2B Huddle – organised by blogger Neville Hobson and Kerry Bridge from Dell, I jumped at the chance to attend.

I went to the event eager to learn more about what other companies focused on B2B marketing were doing in the social media space. And overall, the day delivered.

Rather than a blow by blow account, here is my run down of the key themes and ideas that kept cropping up throughout the day:

A lack of focus on B2B

The event was advertised as focusing on B2B, but much of the day could have been equally talking about B2C. To my mind, this could be for two main reasons; either that social media for B2B and B2C is pretty similar, or there just isn’t as many high-profile examples of B2B social media campaigns.

Personally I think the latter is closer to the truth. Having said this, I saw some great case studies from the likes of Salesforce and Intel in the afternoon, both of whom were using social media in really creative ways to reach a business audience.

There was also a really interesting roundtable session I attended where the differences between B2B and B2C were discussed.

Campaigns are always going to be different from company to company and industry to industry, but I think companies that are B2B-focused face different or unique challenges.

In some ways, these challenges are easier to overcome. As Will McInnes suggested in the roundtable, social media is very powerful for niche groups, so if you are targeting a specific segment of business users (IT managers for example), then it is potentially easier to target them using social media than if your campaign was looking at consumers in general.

Know your audience

I was pleased to see this theme discussed throughout the day as it is central to our approach here at Wildfire. Any campaign must start by truly understanding a target audience and this is even more important with social media and, as I suggested above, with a B2B campaign.

Challenges of running social media campaigns in big organisations

This is a favourite topic at social media conferences; the challenges of getting social media accepted in a business. I’ve seen a real change here in the last year driven in part by the media’s obsession with Twitter and other social networks.

Whereas a year ago, most advocates for social media came from pioneers lower down within an organisation (or from agencies), in the last year there has been a greater awareness from the CEO down that social media is something to try and implement. This brings its own challenges of course, with marketing teams suddenly tasked with the job of implementing social media campaigns, often with a lack of guidance, education or support (or budget).

Risks of social media

Linked in many ways to the last point, are the risks of social media. Those all too familiar ‘social media case studies’ including Dominos and Motrin made an appearance during the day as examples of what can happen when things go wrong online.

As both those examples show, disaster management is much much easier if a company already has a presence on key social media channels and this is equally true for B2B.

Generation Y

Another of those common themes at events like this, is the argument that the next generation to enter the workplace will expect to be using social tools in everything they do.

Two interesting points relating to this came through. Firstly, many of these predictions are overblown; yes, generation Y will want to use social tools, but they will also embrace ‘business tools’ like email, so potential issues or problems are often overstated.

Secondly, the point was made that social media is increasingly being used by older generations, generations that are already in businesses. Don’t forget that Twitter is used mainly by people that are 25 plus.

Tools like Yammer were cited as effective ways of weaving social media into the very fabric of a business.

Overall, this was a great event and I hope Neville and Kerry consider running similar days in the future. Thanks also to the speakers including Steve Lamb and Benjamin Ellis.

Here are some round-ups of the day from some other great people:

Neville Hobson, Neil Denny, Joining Dots and SocialOptic

picture credit