John Stepper a blogger whose job is to “change how people work” using collaboration platforms, communities of practice, and public social media channels at Deutsche Bank, recently blogged how your best use of social media may not require a single post. The focus of his post (and most of his blogging on the subject) is on regulated firms, including both financial service firms like Deutsche Bank and other industries that deal with similar requirements such as pharmaceuticals, energy etc.
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time talking to people about the use of social media in a B2B environment, regulated or not. There is, of course, the very well established and vendor-serviced market of social media monitoring and measurement from a PR/Communications/Brand perspective. But increasingly, companies are seeing the value of social media within other functions in their enterprise, and as Stepper points out in his post, value from Social Media can come without the need to actually create and post content by every employee.
I think it goes beyond embracing the 90-9-1 rule that “1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.” This is now a given and as Stepper says, it should be embraced not fought against. Many organizations just can’t afford to have everyone—especially revenue producing functions—creating social media content and listening and learning using either consumer-oriented or professional PR tools. I, however, do encourage every single enterprise employee to use social media to build themselves a brand and engage with their customers and markets—just leave the ‘heavy ‘lifting’ to others.
The conversation about Social Media is very often focused on what I would call the outbound: building the brand, supporting and connecting with consumers, monitoring and measuring marketing campaigns, etc. But there is certainly a shift afloat about using Social Media to get a deeper understanding of customers and markets—especially in the B2B space. Here at FirstRain, we are seeing how our customers who have been early supporters and leaders in ‘outbound’ and ‘customer listening’-focused social media are now looking for targeted and useful ways to provide highly relevant ‘read’ views for specific job functions. International Data Corporation (IDC) analyst Sue Feldman has pointed out that the sheer volume of what users receive sometimes obscures what’s important and relevant, especially as their ‘day-job’ is not to monitor and engage in social media. Our launch of FirstTweets™, where we are extracting business intelligence from the full Twitter feed was driven by these specific needs.
Take, for example, common use cases we are seeing among enterprise sales account managers who are finding daily value in FirstTweets. The typical territory and market intelligence needs for a major accounts sales rep in this kind of role can include:
- Intelligence on a targeted list of key customers and prospects (averages about 10-20 companies for enterprise sales reps, but can be much larger for other sales teams).
- The need to look at very specific business lines and end-markets (For example: Backhaul Technology, Blood Glucose Monitoring Devices, Agro-Chemical Industry Trends)
- The desire to be alerted to event topics that drive opportunity and change (For example: plant openings, product launches, management changes)
- A need to collaborate with an internal sales and marketing support team on strategies, pitches, proposals, etc.
- Integration into the systems they already use such as CRM or social platforms, and live mobile access that is consistent across multiple platforms (mobile, iPad, laptop).
Now imagine, as an end user, trying to cast a net wide enough using keywords to capture relevant information that would cover the requirements above across all the standard social media channels. Without tools like FirstRain—which filters out the non-business content and categorizes it into targeted business topics—it’s effectively impossible, yields a huge amount of additional noise, and just wouldn’t be practical for the sales reps who would benefit from such intelligence.
I think we still are in the very early stages of B2B sales organizations using social media content like Twitter to improve their sales processes by truly understanding their customers and markets. And companies will quickly figure out that, sometimes, the best use case for social media may not require any posting for the majority of their employees—just the right tools to help uncover the highly relevant, contextual information their employees need to accomplish their most important goals, which in case of sales is closing deals!