Blogs From The Front – III – Social Media & Networks

A "social network" device used during World War II

Here and here I blogged about my survey of Marketers in Eastern Massachusetts during the last two weeks of January 2010.  These are the front line soldiers that are making daily strategic and tactical decisions to reach their goals, and are executing these plans either directly or through their staffs.

As I mentioned, the lack of funding/credit is their number one concern.  Number two is extracting more money out of their installed base. (A broader, more in-depth survey is required to define a causal relationship between #1 and #2.)

Because of the buzz around social media and networking, I asked if they were using it, how, and was it effective.  (For my definition I lumped the following in this bucket; blogging, twittering, Facebook pages/fans, LinkedIn, MySpace, SEO, Google and anything else they wanted to include.)

The responses were all over the board.  Young companies that I thought would be in the forefront aren’t doing it; older, more mature companies are; there is no common pattern or usage to those doing it; measurements/metrics are weak or non-existent, etc.

For those not using any form of social media, the comments were:

  • “We don’t need it, we have a small customer base/market and we know them.”
  • “We don’t have the bandwidth or resources to spend on this…it seems to be a time-suck with no measureable return.”
  • “All our resources in this area are dedicated to our website; our buyers don’t go to Facebook or twitter.”

For those using some form of social media, and no-one is a heavy user, the comments were:

  • “We are using listening tools to track what is being said about us, although we don’t have a good response program established.”
  • “We have found our Facebook page and fans to be interesting and useful, but is hard to track action there to sales.”
  • “Some of the guys in customer service have twitter accounts, but I am not sure how far that is going.”

Based on my limited biased survey, the penetration of social media is relatively low, despite Boston being in one of the more technology advanced sections of the country.  In other words, it seems that in January 2010 and probably extending into the first-half of this year, the buzz around social media and networking is exceeding its usage and influence. However, all the people I talked to said that this is an area that they will be investigating, taking action and/or implementing additional tools in the future.

As Kristin has pointed our in her blogs, here and here, Gen Y’ers have a different view and approach to social media.  It is a fundamental part of their lives and it is carrying over into the work place.

Digital natives and digital immigrants are using the Internet and related social media in B2B situations unheard of a year or two ago.  An example is the recently launched Security Scorecard http://www.securityscoreboard.com/.  This site will aggregate peer information about security vendors’ products, providing the same sort of review that Yelp does for restaurants, bars and cleaners. Within a year, most security vendors can cut all their spending on brochures, catalogs and advertisements.  Placing high in this peer structured review will mean more to sales than any other customer facing medium.   Similar sites will continue to shift the power to the buyer from the seller in a variety of B2B industries.

Advice to CMO’s.  Move up the implementation of social media activities.  Don’t be a laggard in this area.  Part of the evolving situation is that not all tools will work effectively.  Rather than wait for the “right” solution, try them all, discard (for now) the ones that fail, and be prepared to pick up the new ones that come along.  Lack of visibility in this area may cause the need for intensive, expensive corrective actions within the next 18-24 months…activities your successor will enjoy.

Do you have a plan for implementing social media tools between now and the end of the year?  Why not?

RHM  2/25/2010

1 comment to Blogs From The Front – III – Social Media & Networks

  • Hi Bob,

    We got very similar results in our survey.

    What’s interesting is that both your results and ours show that few are unlocking what I see as the real power of social media–listening. By listening, I mean listening for prospects and customers needs, wants, buying preferences, and pet peeves with their solutions or those of the competition. The time to do so is now–before the review sites (such as The Security Scoreboard and Yelp) sprout up in your industry. By then it’s too late, and all you can do is react.

    So, I second your advice and add start with listening–not for the beautiful sound of your own name but for trends that will affect your most promising prospects needs and opportunities. Don’t know where to begin? Search on “listening tools” and find many free resources.

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