In this Q&A, I asked two of our brightest “edge-workers” to share their insights and opinions on using social media tactics and tools for B2B and B2C clients and programs. Michael Moeschler (pictured left) talks about things from a B2B perspective; Ryan Lack (pictured right) from a B2C one. It’s interesting to see/read that the dichotomy of their day jobs really isn’t that great. Enjoy!
Question #1: Is blogger relations a must-have element in consumer communications programs?
Ryan (B2C): It can certainly depend on the company or product the program is designed for, but generally speaking, yes. What I’ve come to find over time, as have many, is that blogger relations provides great value as an addendum to traditional media relations. Today, many people get their news online and discussion is taking place there, in a number of forms, whether it be in comments sections of blogs or in forums, talk like this is happening online – the question then becomes: how do you insert your client into those conversations? Blogger relations is one tactic for achieving that, at reaching the new water cooler, the place where people are congregating online to talk about topics they care about.
Michael (B2B): “Must-have” is a strong word. If the company has something valuable and relevant to say or contribute to a conversation, then, yes. Blogger relations or whatever you want to call it is valuable for many enterprise companies playing in niche and/or “techie” markets. Keep in mind your audience before diving in head first. Bottom line, companies should think about their motives behind wanting to start an “influencer” or blogger relations program. Just because it works for one company doesn’t mean it’ll work for another. It’s important to push back on your clients when it comes to this.
Question #2: Do you think corporate blogs, videocasts and the like are an effective way of reaching and engaging consumers?
Ryan (B2C): Short answer, yes. However, I don’t think there are enough companies out there that give credence to social media concepts like these. Many are still scared of them. Corporate blogs serve as great hubs for sourcing information – the reliability of the information received from them is at its highest level, which can prove beneficial/helpful for a range of people from journalists to the everyday consumer. Videocasts, if created and distributed in a smart way, are great tools for not only *telling* but *showing* the utility of a product or the expertise of a person within an organization.
Michael (B2B): Who are these business people you speak of? Employees? Investors? Potential customers? That’s a pretty broad term. Short answer – yes. I think Cisco’s newsroom is a great example of a company that’s used the above tools to reach a broad “business” audience.
Question #3: How challenging is it to discover and track online conversations for your clients?
Ryan (B2C): With the various Web services available right now, discovery is the easy part. Tracking, on the other hand, is more difficult because conversations in the blogosphere are not all happening in one place – the disbursement of discussions makes keeping up with them a tricky proposition for any company, but there are tools available, and new ones cropping up continuously that help. Related to tracking is qualification. This is a tedious process, not necessarily a difficult one. It’s like attending a tradeshow, not everyone at the show will have something qualitative to say, but the quantity of opinions is still high – there is a filtering, or qualification, step that needs to happen in order to separate the value from the nonsense.
Michael (B2B): In my experience, it’s not too hard. There are a lot of great free online tools out there that I use to keep up to speed on things. For the most part, the companies I work with, their conversations are more focused to a few pieces of technology and competitors. I imagine if you’re a Fortune 500 (or bigger) company in the B2B space, things can get a bit more tricky, tracking…Once a company hits a certain size (revenues, products, size, etc.) the line between “discovering and tracking online conversations” for B2B and B2C clients blurs.
Question #4: Is it difficult to pinpoint who the influential sources/people/places are online for consumer brands?
Ryan (B2C): Not at all. Again, there are a number of Web services out there that enable an individual trying to do this to discover sources and track influence, although the latter takes a little work and some creativity. This, too, demands time, a critical eye, and a solid definition of what makes up an “influential” source. Consumer brands have a leg up on enterprises because, for the most part, the volume of talk/coverage is higher about the brand.
Michael (B2B): For any enterprise or consumer brand, it takes time to get to know your audience and find the influential sources/people. If you’re an impatient person, then I guess it could be deemed difficult.
Question #5: Do you think social media is equally important for small and large consumer companies?
Ryan (B2C): I think social media should be a part of most consumer communications programs. Those who choose to exclude social media strategies and tactics are missing the boat. Is it equally important? I think the answer is contextual, but it can be beneficial for all companies. Obviously, brand recognition can play a huge role in the success or failure of any communications program, so I’d tend to say large companies have an advantage on some levels at the outset, but social media can be just as important to, say, an internet based start-up looking to connect with their key audiences where they spend the most time – online. There are some great examples of big companies executing social media tactics, though: Yahoo!, GM, and Southwest come to mind, but beyond that there aren’t many big companies doing anything notable with various social media. There should be, but unfortunately we (as a collective) are still going through the growing pains associated with such change.
Michael (B2B): See my response to question #1 above.