These days, the first question I’m always asked, when meeting a fellow marketing director, is, have you had much experience with social media…do you think it’s effective for B2B? The herd instinct is hard to ignore, surely, with everyone, whose anyone doing it, there must be merit in this medium, so, lets just get going with the leap of faith.
Yet, mindful of Lord Leverhulme’s old adage of wasting 50% of marketing spend, is social media really just a trap for directing limited resources, into a corporate image badge of I’m up with the times, “me to-ism”? In assessing technology based opportunities, I like Gartner’s Hype-cycle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hype_cycle), that suggests before mass adoption, new technologies go through a peak of inflated expectations, followed by a trough of disillusionment, before hitting a slope of enlightenment.
So, have we marketers, found the slope of enlightenment, with a dream come true new medium – low cost with a network effect that can instantly reach thousands of followers, and with built in tools for measurement ? The many reported success stories out there in the various blog/twitter spheres (http://www.spotlightideas.co.uk/?p=2670 lists some good global & UK examples), suggest many of us have found our way to the light….but, I still struggle with a couple of issues.
Firstly, the flip side of Web 2.0 power is the low entry barriers for publishing content. It makes for a very cluttered and noisy medium. Clearly some time and effort is required to use the medium effectively and that’s an opportunity cost for limited, squeezed budgets. Secondly, at this moment in time, I’m sceptical that you will reach many of your time pressed influencers and decision makers, who are unlikely to be reading your blogs and tweets. You may have thousands/millions of views of your YouTube video and many tweet followers but is this audience, really your target and does this effort really translate into new sales, that wouldn’t have come about through traditional, outbound marketing anyway?
Before all you social media converts assign me heretic status, I do see some obvious benefits, for complementing traditional marketing activities, e.g. in promoting events, new content and breaking news. But, as the smart guys over at Velocity Partners point out, having yet another medium, isn’t valuable, unless you have good ideas and content to communicate (see the forth of their five imperatives in their new B2B marketing manifesto http://www.velocitypartners.co.uk/2010/09/20/b2b-marketing-manifesto-ebook)
So, next time, when I’m asked if an organisation should be investing in the use of social media for marketing, on balance, my answer will be, yes absolutely, but to what degree depends – on your context, solution, target market segments, etc. I would advocate a pragmatic marketing approach – try it, with clear objectives, then measure, review and learn. There’s certainly plenty of resources around to help the journey (http://www.constantcontact.com/social-media-for-small-business/resources.jsp). Let me know how you get on.