Social media isn’t the right fit for every company. But all too often, companies give in to the temptation to engage in social media simply because everyone else is doing it. For companies and B2B marketers, social media should be viewed as a sales tool — a lead gen mechanism — that can help build the relationships that drive sales. Thinking of social media with this more narrow sales orientation can help companies gauge whether or not social media truly is right for them.
I was reminded of this fact recently while revisiting a few chapters from The B2B Social Media Book by Jeff Cohen and Kipp Bodnar. Just like the book’s title, Cohen and Bodnar offer a no-frills, pragmatic take on the (valuable) role of social media in the B2B world. Early in the book, they offer up the five point litmus test below to help companies assess their true social media needs.
1) Does your company have fewer than five potential customers?
Niche markets or those with a small number of partner-driven return customers might not benefit from social media. Social media is intended to scale your communications to a wider prospective audience. If that audience doesn’t exist, social media may not be the best use of resources.
2) Do purchasing decision makers spend all of their time behind a highly secure firewall?
Many industries restrict web access at work, and social media sites often end up on the blocked list. If you can’t engage with your audience in the digital space, that avenue should be downplayed in your communications.
3) Is your company missing an internal advocate for social media?
Social media management takes time and commitment — and not just from the individual(s) responsible for its daily upkeep. If a social media campaign does not have support from key internal advocates (all the way up to the CEO), it will falter.
4) Does your company need to generate a high volume of short term sales?
If the answer is “yes,” then social media is likely not going to help achieve your sales goals. The key to every relationship is trust — especially in a transactional relationship. And trust takes a longer time to establish in the digital space.
5) Does your company have the resources to be successful?
Basically, social media isn’t free and it isn’t cheap. A successful social media campaign is built on a team that deeply understands your customers and their industry complete with the capacity to nurture and grow relationships daily.
I’m not saying that any one of these questions should disqualify a potential social media campaign. I am saying that these questions can help evaluate the relative importance of social media in the marketing mix. Social media is just one component of a sales strategy — it’s up to you to decide how big of a component it should be.