Tag Archives: social media

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!

Advertisements

Trust and empowerment are key

From a great post about the ESPN and USMC social media rules / bans:

You might not expect a corporate juggernaut like IBM to lead the way when it comes to creating effective social media guidelines for its employees, yet here we are: IBM was one of the first enterprise-size companies to not only recognize the need for such a document, but also to deliver an adequate set of guidelines within it that made sense and allowed its culture to spread. IBM recognized that treating its employees like responsible adults rather than dangerous little children might yield pretty good results.

Indeed. I’ve written about IBM’s Social Computing Guidelines before, and I’ve spoken about them at conferences. I’ve also repeatedly opined that blocking access is counterproductive. It’s important to note that the guidelines were written collaboratively, and they are linked to IBM’s existing standards of professional conduct (the Business Conduct Guidelines) which employees agree to annually. Folks at the leading edge of technology continue to inform and educate the rest of the organisation on good practices and behaviours in these online social spaces.

Let’s end with another of the many quotable extracts from Olivier Blanchard’s post today:

The risk here is not the medium, it is the behavior. Ban access to the medium and you solve nothing: The behavior is still there, only now, you are blind to it. Double-fail.

Oh, in case you’re new around here: I’m an IBMer. My opinions may differ from IBM’s official line from time to time, but that’s OK. My employer trusts me, and I appreciate that.

Social Media adoption, and Community Building

Just a short post today. Euan Semple was recently interviewed by GuruOnline and the result was a great series of short videos in which he discusses how and why businesses should get involved in social media, how it can affect the way they work, and some of the tools that can be used. I liked his response to the thorny ROI question, and in particular his final statement in the last of the 15 segments – “corporations don’t tweet, people do”. Check it out.

In a related thought, I really enjoyed Matt Simpson’s blog entry yesterday about community building in corporations: The Manager Who Thought He Could Create a Community. It’s so true that it takes more than just a few clicks of a mouse to create a community of any kind – it takes work, participation, nurturing, and most importantly, conversation.

Help @wonderwebby change the world!

There’s only one week left for YOU to support my friend Jasmin in meeting her target of raising AU$10,000 to help change the lives of a community of 30 women in the Philippines. The goal is a microfinance project providing loans to help them set up their own businesses and build themselves up out of poverty.

Jazz is absolutely inspirational to me. It’s staggering that she has spoken of me as a blogging buddy and mentor when she started out, and to see where she is now. For the past 6 months Jasmin has been using social media (blogs, podcasts, photos, videos) to raise awareness of poverty as an ambassador for Women’s Opportunity International. She even organised an event in support of the cause in Melbourne, using social tools.

Ask yourself right now – can you spare $10, $20, to contribute to her target? (AU$5,000/$4,000 US to go this week) It’s a worthy cause and you WILL be making a difference. It’s simple to donate, particularly if you have a PayPal account set up… really, it won’t take any time at all. If you read this post and donate just $20 right now, she will hit that target in no time.

I know many of my friends and blog readers have already helped her – thanks for your support! If you haven’t had an opportunity to contribute so far, just do it – a few clicks and a few dollars and you and @wonderwebby can use social media to change one corner of the world.

SOMESSO summary

The nice folks from AudioBoo caught me for a quick interview after my presentation yesterday and you can hear the short summary of what I talked about on their site, or by playing the embedded audio here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I was also interviewed on camera by Daniel and Eduardo Vidal (hope you feel better soon, Eduardo!)… and my whole presentation was recorded as well, so those should appear over the next couple of weeks.

Oddly I seemed to spend a lot of time discussing Poken after the talk! I guess my use of Poken as a prop at the start of the presentation raised a lot of interest. My mention of Home Camp and sustainability also generated some additional conversations. I also detected a lot of interest as to how IBM had achieved the cultural changes required to adapt to a social web (answer: I’d argue that openness has been in our corporate DNA for some time now), and also in how we put together our Social Computing Guidelines. Again, I would draw attention to one paragraph in the guidelines which I think sums up the approach and background:

In 1997, IBM recommended that its employees get out onto the Internet—at a time when many companies were seeking to restrict their employees’ Internet access. In 2005, the company made a strategic decision to embrace the blogosphere and to encourage IBMers to participate. We continue to advocate IBMers’ responsible involvement today in this rapidly growing space of relationship, learning and collaboration.

I thought the SOMESSO London event was just superb. A series of short (15-20 minute) presentations from some smart people who I was quite frankly honoured to be on the same bill as; and I really didn’t think that there was anything superfluous, it was just great content and information. The Emirates Stadium was a great venue, too… once I’d found my way into the conference centre in the morning, avoiding the queue of contestants lining up for X-Factor auditions! If my camera battery had lasted I would have posted a lot more to Flickr, but I’m afraid there are only a few shots up there.

Thanks to Arjen Strijker, Mary Harrington, Susan Kish and others for putting the day together. On the basis of yesterday’s conference, I highly recommend future events in the series, and would also encourage you to get involved in the SOMESSO community if you are at all interested in social media in the enterprise. I’m really looking forward to following up all of the new connections I made yesterday.

Finally, some links to some of the books I referenced in my talk or during the backchannel conversation: