In my consulting work at Socialmedia.biz, I still run into executives and top-tier managers who think of social networking as an employee productivity drain. For anyone who shares a similar point of view, run to your nearest bookstore and pick up a copy of "Social Marketing to the Business Customer" by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman.
The book is chock full of meaty, real-world examples of how to grow your business using B2B and B2C strategies and tactics. The authors show how companies can use social media to forge deep, productive relationships with customers and lure new customers into the fold.
Channeling Shel Israel in "Twitterville," they cite a Dell senior manager Richard Binhammer's admonition: "Don't waste your time trying to convert atheists. Work on the agnostics in the room -- doubters who might be turned into believers through conversation."
The authors explain how a Midwestern distributor of solar panels could use Twitter's advanced search feature to scout out anyone discussing the term "solar panels" within a 100-mile radius of Chicago.
In devoting a chapter to search, the authors reveal some of the tactics that social marketers use to suss out keywords that customers are using to discuss your business -- and where they're discussing it. Sometimes it calls for a shift in the language you use on your own website or blog. "If you're blogging about `solar cells' but your customers are searching for `solar power,' you're speaking two different languages," they write.
Social media platforms and services -- LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, podcasts -- are covered in depth. Businesses' use of Twitter is more robust than you might imagine. By the beginning of 2010, some 70 percent of B2B marketers were using Twitter compared with 46 percent of B2C marketers.
While you can find zillions of "social media gurus" online who can set up a Facebook Page or Twitter account for your business, you're really not going anywhere unless you have a strategy. And Gillin and Schwartzman deliver with a deep dive into identifying business goals and mapping them to metrics. "Setting a goal like `increase sales' is too general because there are far too many ways to attack the task," they write. "A better goal is `increase sales of left-handed finambulators by 50 percent by expanding distribution channels.' "
The authors also offer a timely look at how companies can take advantage of crowdsourcing to improve their products and internal processes. Brands using customer forums include Dell's IdeaStorm, Procter & Gamble's Connect + Develop, BestBuy's IdeaX, Starbucks' MyStarbucks Idea and Salesforce.com's IdeaExchange. UserVoice has developed a number of innovation forums for customers for companies such as Nokia and Sun (now part of Oracle).
Influence, decision-making, lead generation -- it's all here. Whether you're a small business owner looking to get your arms around social media, a senior manager at a Fortune 1000 business or a marketer trying to pick up tips about this dynamic new landscape, "Social Marketing" has something chewy to offer.