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Lee Odden

B2B & Social Media, Not As Different As You Think: Autodesk, Caterpillar at #DF11

By Lee Odden     B2B, Marketing PR Conferences, Online Marketing, Social Media

B2B Social MediaOne of the big questions in the social media marketing space is whether social media is the place for B2B marketing. As companies begin to understand for every B2B company, there’s also a “C” aka people behind the business (@garyvee).

Once B2B companies realize that buyers discover, consume and share information on social channels just like any other “human” they seek to understand how social participation and marketing fits.

The session, “B2B Social Media: Not As Different As You Think” at Dreamforce in San Francisco aimed to help answer that question with presentations from three B2B Social Media Marketing practitioners. The speakers included: Gordon Evans from salesforce.com, Brian Stokoe from Caterpillar, and Maura Ginty from Autodesk.

Godon did introductions and opened things up with an audience poll, asking how many people were on Twitter, blog and have a social strategy.

First up is Maura Ginty from Autodesk, Senior Manager of Strategy and Innovation. Autodesk provides 3D software for architecture, engineering, manufacturing and entertainment industries. Maura has initiated search and social media programs at Autodesk. If you’ve sat in a building, used a product or watched a movie, you’ve probably been touched by Autodesk software.

How did Audodesk start with social media? Starting with individual tactics, they wanted to look at social a bit differently. They use a multiple hub and spoke model. Social Media Vision in the long term is to foster social media innovations.  This isn’t just in marketing, but across the organization.

The focus is social from product to marketing to sales and went experimental with 20 people to over 100 and a more formal social strategy in 2 years.  They added social features into a consumer product, they monitor Twitter for customer service opportunities and engage with a community on Facebook with over 500,000 fans.

Social isn’t about shouting, it’s about “answering the phone” from your customers

Next up is Brian Stokoe from Caterpillar who is responsible for all public facing social media there. Caterpillar has over 100,000 employees and revenues of over $40 billion. They have 24 brands and over 20 customer industry segments, so there is a diversity of considerations for how they participate on the social web.

Caterpillar started by creating a social presence on sites like Facebook and Twitter, which worked well because people familiar with the brand expected them there. But they had to take a step back and start to consider the variety of needs for their different customer segments. Previously, they would promote a message to Facebook, but that wasn’t necessarily relevant to all customer groups.

They look at each customer segment and decide what mix of social presence is appropriate: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Forums, etc. vs. publishing one destination for the whole company. By creating unique social destinations for each segment, Caterpillar better serves it’s customers with relevant information and experience.

Q and A on B2B Social Media:

Neither Brian or Maura are part of PR and Communications departments, which is in contrast with how social media is governed in most organizations. Maura mentioned that Autodesk social media efforts worked with PR from the start.

Brian mentioned one of the customer segments his social media efforts addresses are the the audience for PR and that Caterpillar has embraced PR use of social monitoring and engagement.

Gordon: Are your goals at your company to empower all employees to be ambassadors for your company?

Maura: We want to tap into that enthusiasm. We have guidelines for participation. It helps you

Brian: It goes back to the policy we have for employees regarding social media. We want employees to show their expertise, be smart about disclosure and proprietary information. On centralized sites like Facebook or Twitter, the expectation is that the message of Caterpillar be managed through a company spokesperson. But when it comes to forums, employees can jump in as appropriate.

Gordon: What’s a good listening strategy for B2B?

Maura: The first thing you can list for are brand keywords. What’s happening with the brands and other identifiers like the tasks prospects want to complete. There’s some back and forth between what words customer are using and how you want to be known for. Understanding the how customers see things is important.

Brian: With Caterpillar, there were challenges because of “cat” and “Caterpillar” meaning different things.  As for listening, attention is paid to the differences in customer segments.

Gordon: Do you monitor your competitors?

Brian: Yes

Maura: If you’re going to listen, why not listen to the industry?

Gordon: What are you measuring?

Brian: We have an extensive metrics program. We look at it as a value funnel. We gather info for awareness and put some context to it to identify value. As the interactions get further down the buying funnel, that’s where the rubber hits the road. It’s important to tie social media metrics to business objectives, not just reputation.

Maura: Our social media center of excellence collaborates to determine what we should measure.

Gordon: How important is your video strategy as a B2B company?

Brian: For us yes, much of what we do is very visual. One thing we’ve identified is that there’s no reason to re-create the wheel with video hosting – people watch videos on YouTube, so that’s what we use.

Maura: We determined that YouTube was a great place for use to participate through Net Promoter score. We have almost 14 million views on YouTube so far.

Brian: A lot of organizations come from a world of high video production and we’ve found authenticity is more important. Actual experiences and the rugged reality of using our product better connects with the audience.

Gordon: Can you give advice on how to evolve your channel or dealers through social media propgrams?

Maura: We include them in social media training. There’s more work to do there

Brian: Dealers are a critical part of Caterpillar. They carry their own brand in dealing with customers. It’s important to us that dealers have training and guidelines so customers have a congruent experience.

Audience Q: Do you actively pursue and engage key influencers?

Brian: Yes, especially in forums who help out. Whether it’s tossing them a CAT hat or publicly recognizing them, we strive to keep them involved.

Audience Q: How did you segment social media efforts by customer segment?

Brian: I borrowed somewhat from an Enterprise strategy that had similar considerations for the differences in customer groups.

There was more Q & A but I needed the time to wrap up this post so I’d have time to work on the morning keynote post.  A great session overall and good insights into how B2B companies have actually implemented social strategies in their companies. Along the lines of this topic, here are a few good posts that share specific resources for B2B social media: infographicsreports.


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