Monday night in my Social Media Marketing MBA class at Chapman University, we were joined by Neal Schaffer, a Forbes Top 30 Social Media Influencer and Award-winning author for his books on using LinkedIn in a B2B (Business-to-Business) context for sales and social media marketing. Neal generously shared his views extemporaneously in a rapid fire fashion honoring his parents' New York origins. In so doing, he painted a very hopeful picture for B2B companies that embrace social media and offered a roadmap for doing so.
For many of his clients, Facebook is not the ideal platform even if many senior decision-makers do have accounts there. The problem is that they tend to keep a very low profile on Facebook with high levels of privacy settings and many of them are only there to spy on the activities of their kids.
LinkedIn, on the other hand, offers plenty of information for lead generation and prospecting and Neal Schaffer rank-ordered the most useful features of the LinkedIn functions as follows:
- Advanced people search. In a few minutes, one can identify the Senior VP Marketing of Fortune 50 corporations and most anyone professionally active can be found there. He pointed out that this stands in stark contrast to Facebook with its poor search capabilities and also as compared to Twitter search given how litte info fits in a Twitter bio. Interestingly, Neal Schaffer advocates a hybrid online/offline use of media as he suggests that you can use LinkedIn to find out who in your network is connected to someone you would like to get in touch with. He would not use LinkedIn's referral feature, though, but instead he would pick up the phone and call the friend who potentially could provide an introduction. But again, it would be LinkedIn that best identifies the best access path to people.
- LinkedIn Groups, a fantastic way to connect with like-minded people with similar interests and potentially also as a way to identify prospects.
- LinkedIn Answers, where you can go and ask questions to get solutions to your problems or to answer questions to establish your credibility and possibly generate some leads.
Blogging is another social media activity that Neal Schaffer strongly endorses for B2B marketers and its main value lies in the long term as you over time build up a database of content which enables prospective customers to find you. Even if you are starting out from scratch and it may take some time until you have a following, building a blog bit by bit will build traffic over time and even blogs with no followers will be indexed by search engines already from the beginning.
Twitter is yet another social network that could pay great dividends for B2B marketers. By being so easily searchable and accessible, tweets could be a great source of new leads. Many B2B marketers do not have that many prospective clients to keep track of and won't necessarily need powerful social media monitoring tools such as Radian6 but can get away with a few search queries instead.
Other social media platform that Neal Schaffer had found effective for B2B marketers included YouTube, Slideshare, Scribd, Google+, and, perhaps surprisingly, Pinterest. He has found a lot of traffic to his own blog from Pinterest and while Pinterest currently is a network dominated by females over males with an 80/20 ratio, he also see that evening out to a 50/50 ratio over time just as he does with Google+, only that there it is the men who dominates at the moment.
Interestingly, influenced by his time working in Japan, Neal Schaffer connected the practice of social media in a B2B context to Ed Deming, my old quality guru from my time as a quality engineering major at Linköping University. Dr. W. Edwards Deming who taught the Japanese the Toyota Production method and Total Quality Management espoused the work process of Plan, Do, Check, Act and suggested that improvements only come from iterative experimentations over time. The same thing is true for social media according to Neal Schaffer. Plan and try a few different platforms, perhaps not 8 or 9 but certainly more than 1, and then assess where you find traction. Social media is not rocket science but you should also be ready to change your relative emphasis on various social media platforms over time to reflect the changing behaviors and preferences of your target markets.
If Social Media in B2B interests you, you should consider Neal Schaffer's LinkedIn books. While I have not read them myself yet, I cannot imagine them being anything other than dense with valuable information based on tonight's talk! Any blog readers with opinions on the effectiveness of social media in B2B?