[Note from Lee: Social Business is everybody's business when it comes to modern internet marketing. IBM's social business efforts are really at the forefront of this trend. Ben Edwards is the VP of Digital Strategy at IBM and leads the strategy, design and development of IBM's marketing and communications in the digital realm. Ben joins us today to share his insights into the journey of not only embracing the social web for external marketing, but to adapt and adopt social media tools internally to empower socialized marketing.]
Companies of all shapes and sizes, in every industry, are increasingly adopting social media strategies and technologies for their marketing efforts, using Facebook to reach out to customers or YouTube to demonstrate new products. These are good first steps, but there is so much more that “social” has to offer. The era of social business is here and it is becoming clear just how transformative it will be for B2B marketers.
In order to fully realize the power of social business as a marketer, you must be willing to embrace the transition from outbound marketing to social media and digitally enabled inbound marketing. Here are several ways to start socializing your marketing efforts on your journey to becoming a social business marketer.
Expertise Location — Connecting experts with customers, prospects, and the knowledge seeking public
The days of businesses limiting or even entirely restricting employees’ access to the Internet and social media platforms are gone. Today, organizations are realizing the power of their employees’ activity on social media platforms. If the average employee has 150 connections on LinkedIn, that’s millions of connections with customers, prospects, business partners and the knowledge seeking public.
The challenges of communicating through these channels is first, educating your employees on how to get involved in social computing and then, connecting the right employee with the right customer through social, digital experiences. Remember communication through social channels is about engaging in conversation. It’s about helping those prospects that might be interested in your products and services, making sure they are speaking with employees who have expertise in that area.
Today’s social business marketer must work behind the scenes to create a system for internal expertise location to ensure that the right employee is participating in the right social experience at the right time with the right audience. As a B2B organization, your brand is experienced through its people— not through the products— you want to make sure that your very best people are well equipped to interact with the ecosystem of customers, prospects, partners and more. Once experts are identified, marketers can help them prepare for being surfaced in digital experiences over social media platforms and even the corporate website. That’s what an expertise location system is all about. It can aid you in supporting and growing your organization’s brand and eminence in the marketplace and twofold, will help your employees to further extend their personal eminence and reputation in the markets which your organization serves.
Crowdsourcing – Encouraging participation through open social technologies
Many brands today want to embrace social, but are wary of quality control and the risk of disruptive crowdslapping over social media platforms, open communities and forums. Carefully managed crowdsourcing can provide a safe solution to these concerns and can help with increasing brand awareness, harnessing ideas and innovation, and taking your next step towards becoming a social business.
Crowdsourcing is not a new concept for marketers, but social business marketers today are pushing the envelope through the use of open social technologies to engage with their communities. Today’s crowdsourcing is about inviting clients, consultants, and employees to contribute in the pursuit of new ideas, to evaluate and enter new markets, to gain customer feedback, and to understand market trends.
Crowdsourcing through the use of open social technologies allows organizations to mobilize the passionate special-interest groups to not only carry a brand message but also to lead and take part in activities on behalf of the brand. This is a unique opportunity for marketers who believe in the power of social collaboration to contribute to innovative ideas and viewpoints, to learn from others with common interests and to influence the future of the business landscape.
Community Creation – Creating social and digital experiences to collaborate, listen and engage
Similar to the idea of crowdsourcing, building online communities where your prospects and constituencies can gather to share ideas and collaborate can be a powerful social marketing tool. But, community building isn’t easy. You need to understand the market view and niche you’re looking to target. What does the market want? Are they looking for an objective approach or one that’s vendor-driven? Once your market is defined and a community created, you as a marketer have the opportunity to listen to the needs and concerns of potential customers, while also engaging and bouncing ideas back and forth, collaboratively.
For example, developerWorks is an online social network and technical resource center created by IBM for software developers, IT professionals, and students worldwide. The community site attracts 4 million unique visitors per month in 195 countries and is designed to help users develop skills, solve problems, collaborate with peers, and stay ahead of the latest trends in open standards. In addition to the technical information available, IBM created a MydeveloperWorks community to help users build relationships with technical professionals who have similar interests and debate and collaborate for ideal solutions to tough technical questions. Within the community, users can take advantage of groups and activities for easier collaboration, profiles and blogs to gain personal recognition, and a personalized landing page that brings them content matched to their interests for increased productivity.
Creating a community like developerWorks not only provides the marketer with insights into what the technical software developer is interested in, what they need to be satisfied in the market, but also provides a level of trust between the organization and its constituencies. It’s not about pushing marketing content out to the public, it’s about creating a community that encourages collaboration and innovation while driving brand awareness.
Leading edge companies recognize that they can’t afford to relegate social technologies to people’s personal lives and are instead implementing social tools and concepts to drive the brand and ultimately, their organization’s bottom line. Likewise marketers are embracing the social tools are their disposal and implementing them in creative ways like expertise location, open crowdsourcing and community involvement to engage customers and prospects, to build brand loyalty, and to gain market insight. This is what makes a social business marketer – embracing the networks of people and expertise you have internally and engaging your external communities through social, digital interactions to create new business value and opportunities.