I loved this anecdote, from Mashable’s round-up of experts discussing the value of social media in the B2B space:
“Many people may not realize this, but B2B is the leading source of social media lessons for me. Whether it’s horizontal, vertical, mainstream, or long tail, social media begins with not only listening, but research and analysis. Every experience in B2B is revealing and educational when research serves as the catalyst for strategy, media programming, engagement, and metrics.
Recently, I was asked to help a major B2B company make the case to engage on Twitter. I worked with the team to compile a list of keywords related to the brand, market, competitors, and partners. After combing through a 30 day window of conversations tied to these keywords, I could only attribute a total of 80?ish conversations for the entire month, including all terms. I presented the findings to the team along with the associated themes that each individual advocated. The response was surprising. According to the company, my research was flawed. They just couldn’t believe that only 80 conversations related to their industry transpired on Twitter in one month. Thus, I was presented with an expanded list of keywords and my research continued. After further investigation, the number jumped to 117. This time however, I decided to search other networks on my own. Obviously, these keywords were too important to not represent any online dialogue whatsoever. Low and behold, forums and discussion boards were alive and active, representing tens of thousands of active questions, answers, and conversations within the same timeframe.
Lesson learned. Go to where people are interacting now. Creating and investing in a presence where a minority of your community shares, discovers, and creates content is buying futures in a market where the present is far more lucrative.”
Brian Solis knows of where he speaks. I call this “fishing where the fish are”—not where you wish them to be. Many individuals and companies alike are being seduced by the popularity of the “big three” social media platforms — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook — and are rushing in to “join the conversation” in a knee-jerk reaction of me-too-ism. “Figure out what we should be doing on Twitter and LinkedIn,” they might ask their PR firm.
The question is not how can my company leverage LinkedIn, or Twitter, or Facebook. Rather, the questions should be:
- Who is my audience?
- Where do they live, work and play?
- What do they need?
- Why would they want to talk to us or hear from us? (What value can we bring?)
- How can we reach them and interact with them?
Notice: The how is last. Starting with the how is a big mistake most business-to-business brands make. And it’s why many of them fail. The answer to the where question might not be Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn. You won’t read about online forums and discussion boards on the cover of Time and Newsweek, but just because something isn’t the sexy fad du jour doesn’t mean that it’s not the best place for your B2B brand to be.