We’re halfway through 2010 and the social space continues to change daily. From a B2B social media strategy perspective, what larger trends are you focusing on to keep your clients top-notch in the space?
The big trend that impacts my work and my clients the most is that there’s no longer a simple or obvious answer to the question, “Who are the influencers?”
Unfortunately, because of financial constraints, traditional media are being forced to lay off staff, leaving the remaining staff spread thinner than ever before. That’s not to say they’re losing credibility or influence, but for many B2B niches especially, social media have allowed passionate experts to help fill in the gaps and build up significant audiences via blogs, podcasts, etc. that we’d be foolish to ignore. Additionally, more and more brands are trying to become their own publisher of valuable content. Suddenly everyone has a voice, which is both exciting and challenging.
So for communicators, I see two lessons here: first, it’s become more important than ever to uncover and build relationships with these new influencers. Second, if we expect to compete and be part of the conversation, we have to go directly to audiences via social channels with our own valuable content. To be sure, traditional media relations isn’t going away, but it’s definitely changing because of the social web.
In your mind, what are the main challenges facing B2B marketers and new tech start-ups in the social space?
There’s still a misconception that social media is only relevant, or even mostly relevant, for B2C companies. I disagree. For example, the lengthy buying cycle for most B2B products and services presents a great opportunity to offer your potential customers all sorts of valuable content and engage in conversations in social channels. Research from firms like Forrester shows that in IT buying, for example, more and more decision makers are starting to use social media for business purposes. That being said, it’s easy to get caught up in the hype, and social media is not a panacea but just one component of a communications strategy.
One of the biggest struggles for any social media strategist is balancing time on the research front.What sites/blogs do you recommend any account manager spend time reading each day?
Way, way too many. Instead of adding more inputs, lately I’ve been adding more filters. For example, for the latest tech news, I’ve largely given up monitoring of dozens of RSS feeds and replaced that with a short list of tech experts I trust on Twitter and the occasional glance over at Techmeme, which can be a little heavy on the Apple/Google stuff but is still a useful aggregator. Their relatively new sister site, Mediagazer, is equally useful for the latest media news. So far, this has saved me time and I don’t feel like I’m missing anything.
We also hold a weekly, hour-long internal call here at Burson-Marsteller where we compile an agenda of the most interesting and relevant social media news and trends from that week and discuss what it means for our clients and our work. It’s an invaluable part of my week and a great way to crowdsource the task of staying up to speed on this stuff.
Finally, as old school as it sounds, I get a lot out of value from once-a-day email newsletters which I rely on to go out and collect the most relevant stories on a given topic and deliver it to my inbox every morning. A few that come to mind include Ragan’s PR Daily and SmartBrief’s newsletters on topics like social media and IT.
Those are just a few examples, and while I still suffer from Google Reader Guilt occasionally, these filters are helping.
You’re a co-founder of Social Media Breakfast Chicago which has turned into a wildly successful group. Who should look to keep tabs on attending these events?
The events are intended for anyone in Chicagoland interested in how to put social media to work for themselves or their organization. We cover everything from search engine optimization to the basics of social media measurement, and our moderators and attendees include folks like me from the agency side, in-house communicators, teachers, students, entrepreneurs, publishers, and more. Anyone interested in finding out more information can do so at www.smbchicago.org.