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Do You Really Need to Be on Social Networks?

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Do You Really Need to Be on Social Networks?

The straight-up answer:  Yes and No.

The reason:  Not all social networks are created equally, and what works for one company on one network may not work for another.

Let’s have a look.

Before diving into social media – or perhaps, you’ve already dived in, and now are having that moment of reconnaissance, i.e., ‘Should we keep it going?’ – ask yourself and your team, ‘What are our goals using social media?’

Without clear-cut goals, or without a strategy and evaluation of each platform, then social media marketing or business efforts are futile.  Currently, more than half of all small- and mid-size B2B companies and professional services providers are frustrated with their social media efforts and are considering withdrawing efforts.  Before deleting your Twitter accounts or shutting down Facebook, let’s examine some goals and have a look at how a few social networks can help us in our efforts.

Brand New Day

Social media evangelists – really, the first ones to embrace the medium headfirst – clung to the nebulous concept of ‘brand’ when first trying to convince marketers of the need to quickly jump on the social networks.   Problem is:  brand means different things for different companies in different markets.  For the B2B marketer, a Facebook Page perhaps does little to support or promote a brand; in fact, it may actually backfire, as some may wonder why the company has devoted so many resources to a medium in which a very small percentage of users would see a reason to engage with that company.

Not all is lost, however.  Twitter has begun to be taken seriously by B2B companies and those not traditionally on the bleeding edge of marketing technology.  This is because Twitter – with its hundreds of mobile apps, improved search capabilities, and integration into so many business news sites and blogs – is seen for its ability to reach strangers with small, relevant bits of content.  SlideShare, which was recently purchased by LinkedIn, is the largest content network of PowerPoint presentations and other business documents – a network which plays squarely in the B2B space.  A company can get started on SlideShare by simply ‘repurposing’ marketing decks and uploading them.

Sales Effectiveness
Salespeople and sales organizations are usually left out of social media discussions, but LinkedIn, the largest social network for professional services, currently boasts 161 million members and recently reported Q1 2012 revenues of $188.5 million, an increase of 101 percent over Q1 2011.  We hear it loud and clear:  LinkedIn is for those of us who are serious about social media.

According to recent research from Frost & Sullivan’s Growth Team Membership group, 98 percent of salespeople use social media in the sales cycle.  Twenty-five percent of respondents found social media to be of use in identifying and quantifying leads, 29 percent used social to pinpoint needs and create awareness, and 29 percent found social to be useful in supporting an ongoing relationship with clients.

Are your salespeople prospecting and learning on LinkedIn?

Social Business and Beyond
If you or your team finds success with one social media outlet, continue to make the most of it.  Share results, try different tactics, test what works and what doesn’t, and share across the enterprise.

A trend right now is in companies – and particular software vendors – viewing the distinction between social media and social business.   Social media generally refers to content or material published continuously and dynamically on public social networks for the sole purpose of promotion, messaging, or marketing.  Social business refers to the usage of collaboration technologies and newer social tools or features to share information, foster a more collaborative work environment, improve productivity, and communicate more effectively in the enterprise.

Social business can actually be taken a step further, in which a company can create its own hybrid public-private network, permissioning certain outsiders to join closed groups, for example, so that communications can be more closely tracked and documents can be shared in a secure environment.

Fortunately or unfortunately, we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks to thank for opening our eyes to what is possible as far as content, communications and technology.  How companies create their own unique mix of public and private networks, and how they can make them worth everyone’s while, is the challenge.

For more information, visit www.frost.com.

About the Author:

Jake Wengroff is the Global Director of Social Media Strategy and Research for Frost & Sullivan. Jake evaluates the various technologies, vendors, influencers, vertical markets, and end-users in the social media ecosystem,providing guidance in Frost & Sullivan’s Market Engineering studies, Market Insights, Best Practices research, white papers, and other research.

Jake also advises and consults with clients on social media marketing strategies, as clients commission Frost & Sullivan white papers, license awards packages, participate in webinars, and interact with other research and content. He also oversees the social media strategy for the firm globally.

Jake was most recently Global Director of Corporate Communications for Frost & Sullivan, responsible for branding, media relations, webinar programs, social media, communications training, and internal communications. He joined the firm in July 2008 as director of North American Corporate Communications.

He is a regular contributor to CMO.com, Social Axcess, Social Media Today, and other publications, and has served as chairman of GSMI’s Social Media Strategies Summit.

Prior to joining Frost & Sullivan, Jake managed communications and marketing programs for Paribas, DLJdirect, Chase Manhattan Bank, Bear Stearns, Pitney Bowes, PricewaterhouseCoopers, ABI Research, the American Marketing Association, and Moody’s KMV. A guest lecturer in the department of communication at the University of Texas at San Antonio, Jake holds a B.A. from Brandeis University and an M.B.A. and M.S. from University of Miami.

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