Tag Archives: linkedin

Is Facebook really useful for B2B?

I was struck by the title of Chris Koch‘s recent piece for Social Media Today, 4 Reasons Why Facebook Stinks for B2B Marketing – it’s an eye-catching headline. This topic is something I’ve thought about a lot recently. In my professional space, much of the marketing is in aid of business-to-business product awareness – or sometimes, business-to-employee, or developer relations – but it is rarely a straightforward, business-to-consumer/man-in-the-street model. I read Chris’ article with interest, as well as another article he’d earlier tweeted about, Facebook Can Work for B2B Marketers, and I was surprised to find that both pieces missed out on what I believe are some very important points.

As regular readers will know: I’m not a marketeer, I’m basically a techie who sometimes talks about social stuff. However, since I’m tagged as a “social media guy” within a software development organisation, I’m often asked whether a particular software product or technology should have a Facebook page. What about support information, documentation, introductory videos – surely those kinds of things should be available via Facebook? Isn’t that where all the cool kids are?

My answer is usually tentative and skeptical. Don’t get me wrong, I think the idea of  brands having some presence on Facebook is fundamentally useful for visibility, and more so if an organisation is prepared to spend some time on engagement (NB ephemeral, instead of ongoing engagement is one of the key holes that B2B campaigns can fall into that Chris Koch picks up on in his piece). I follow Starbucks UK and love getting the occasional freebie from them… and I am a fan of many other brands, too. However, considering a B2B relationship, I personally feel that Facebook is a far less useful social space in which to share information and engage with customers than, say, a network like LinkedIn or a standalone site with API hooks to existing social networks.

Here are my own “4 reasons” why Facebook doesn’t hit the mark for B2B:

  1. Facebook is famously a “walled garden”. You put content in, and they keep it there; it’s not indexable or embeddable from the outside. They’ve recently added a tool to export personal profile data, but not product or brand pages, to my knowledge. Facebook has always been about absorbing data, whereas a company like Google has been about indexing it. If you read Jeff Jarvis‘ excellent book What Would Google Do? it quickly becomes clear that Google grew and became successful by building or acquiring tools which made it easy to embed their information and gadgets into your site (whilst of course, recording signals as people visit those sites). That YouTube video you created? Easy to socialise and embed on other websites. Post a Facebook video? it can only be played on Facebook.
  2. It’s ok for Business-to-Consumer products, but not so useful for enterprise software and middleware where the relationship is essentially B2B and less visible. What does it mean for me to “like” WebSphere Middleware (or whatever) on Facebook? Why would I want to make that statement in a personal context? Will my friends and family, many of whom I don’t work with, know what these things are when they show up in their social streams? It makes sense for me to be part of a professional network via e.g. Slideshare or LinkedIn, but the value for B2B / middleware / invisible products is a lot less tangible.
  3. Facebook is blocked by a very large number of companies. I may not like that personally, and in fact I’m a supporter of the Stop Blocking campaign. I happen to work for an organisation where I have a wide degree of freedom in my access to and use of the web. On balance, though, it’s unlikely that users connected to a corporate network will be able to do lot with content that is posted on Facebook, during business hours. Have a presence, but think about whether it’s worth the effort to push a lot of content through that channel (and see point 1, again, too)
  4. It’s not necessarily a useful place to post content if your goal is to attract people in “nascent / emerging markets”, either. I spent some time in China last year, and clearly in countries like that, Facebook is officially inaccessible. Consider how to maximise access and “sociability” of content – Facebook is unlikely to be that channel.

So, having said all of that, and started out declaring myself “not a marketeer”, I end up sounding suspiciously like one, talking about channels, content and effectiveness! I am a page owner and I’ve played around with the advertising tools, so I do know that Facebook offers some very compelling segmentation, reach and analytics tools – but again, I’d argue that you have to consider whether you’re really providing wide access and ongoing value by centralising information inside their network.

What about Google+? I’ve not written about the social network of the hour here on my blog yet (but if you are on G+ feel free to add me to a circle…) but given Google’s interest in making content indexable and easy to locate, it is likely that when business pages arrive, content over there will be more widely accessible than it is inside Facebook. I’m not saying that “social” in general doesn’t work for B2B communications and marketing… I’m just saying that Facebook, to me, doesn’t make the perfect choice.

I’m still not a marketeer, and I don’t think I’d make a very good one – but I try to apply common sense to these spaces. Those are my 4 pennies on this issue… let me know what you think!

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Echoes of Digital Surrey

Leafy, sunny, and sleepy Surrey… it’s a hub of digital excitement and innovation, don’t you know!

On Thursday evening I spoke at the third Digital Surrey meeting over in Guildford. The venue for all of the meetings of the group so far has been the brilliant Bench bar at the new Surrey Sports Park, and as usual it didn’t disappoint. There was a nice crowd, a little smaller than previous months (not entirely surprising due to the sunshine, holiday period, and sporting excitement), but again there were new faces and the group continues to evolve

What is Digital Surrey all about? Well, it’s not my brainchild (that award goes to the tireless @AbigailH), and it doesn’t have a mission statement as such, but if I was to describe it, I’d say that it’s a group of people interested in online and offline, mostly digital… “stuffs”… Web 2.0, publishing, creativity, new technology, communications, community… all kinds, really. It’s a very diverse crowd – from PR, marketing, journalism, web development, from startups to corporations, musicians, academics, researchers, and those into politics. Quite a fascinating group of people to explore from month to month, and the best part is, it has been growing and changing all the time. It all started last year when some wonderful people from a PR and communications company called thebluedoor, based in Farnham, started a series of irregular tweetups in the area… and it sort of snowballed from there, with the excellent folks from iBundle (home of Raffle.it, SocialSafe, etc) helping to get things off the ground with very generous and much appreciated support. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to take part, nor do you have to be from Surrey… so I sneak across the border on the occasional, uh, reconnaissance mission! 🙂

So, fundamentally, it’s a great mixed up, jumbled group of people that meets once a month. Some willing volunteer gets up to say some stuff for half an hour or so somewhere in the early-to-middle section, and then discussions, chat, and networking go on into the evening. See? Surrey really is a hub of digital excitement and innovation!

My theme was essentially all around how organisations need to be more outward-looking… that by blocking off the outside world and constructing an “echo chamber”, they will stagnate and lose touch. I told the story of how I’ve been successful making myself social inside a large corporation, and then talked about how that use of social tools has extended beyond the firewall. I also said some things about how I’m beginning to thoroughly dislike the term “social media” and I don’t believe in the efforts of marketeers to manufacture “viral”, but those are probably rants for another time and place. We had some brilliant conversations about what challenges companies face in enabling their people to go down these paths and enabling a more trusting culture. There’s a brief write-up on the Digital Surrey site, along with some of the lovely tweets that people posted while I was speaking!

Sound interesting? If you want to get involved, there’s a LinkedIn group where we have ongoing discussions, and the website is in the process of being shiny-fied. Next meeting is on July 22nd and I’m assured that Chris Green will have some great thoughts to share on the importance of content. Can’t wait! 🙂

[oh, and if you’re interested in meetups of this nature, I also have to put in a word for the great Thames Valley Social Media Cafe, aka #tvsmc, aka Reading / Thames Valley Tuttle, aka a nice cup of  coffee or tea and a natter about the latest happenings… it is sometimes partly populated by folks you might also meet at Digital Surrey… It’s twice a month, alternating between Reading, Farnborough, or a.n.other venue, in the daytime, also on a Thursday, under the excellent stewardship of @BenjaminEllis, @caalie and @JimAnning. Take a look!]