Sunday, October 31, 2010

High Value Adopters Gone Social

Should the still limited universe of corporate participants in online communities dampen the interest organizations have in adopting social media marketing in their external communications mix?

It's an issue that comes up in nearly every sales presentation I have given during the past 18 months.  And it's a fair one. 

Marketing leaders in business-to-business and public sector oriented companies continue to struggle with the appropriate resource investment for a channel that reaches a fraction of their targeted audience.

Even in vertical markets like government with significant adoption of social media by the customer and partner communities, the non-participants still far outnumber those engaged.  For instance, there are hundreds of thousands of buyers, yet only 35,000 have signed on to Govloop

There are a near equivalent number of prospective teaming partners, however govWin and the Federal Contractor Network combined offer access to only about 40,000 users.

My counsel to clients is two-fold:

1.  Social media should be considered another channel to reach key audiences, yet does not replace traditional communications activities such as advertising, event participation and sponsorship, public relations and direct marketing.

That being said, consistency in messaging, as well as a credible amount of cost efficiency can be gained through the appropriate re-purposing of promotional content for social networks.

2.  Social media participants tend to be early adopters, often vocal in their support of vendor solutions and influential in the buying interests of their peers.  This makes them of great value to organizations seeking a measurable ROI from their marketing communications activities. 

By ROI I'm referring to lead generation, cultivation of prospect relationships and deal capture, rather than merely brand positioning and awareness.

Ultimately, this is the reason why I believe the shift in influence from traditional sources of credibility (i.e. trade press, industry analysts, conferences, etc.) to social networks and online communities will continue to accelerate.  It's the most engaged and opinionated who have gotten social.


Kesher Media said...

Hi Marc-
I posted this response to your LinkedIn question:

I agree. NO, is valid enough for a sound decision to cut off those that only listen in and rarely post.

In regards to the value of an actively engaged convo it does not always matter what the population group/"n" size is. Many people just like to be reader and that too is "engaged" and just as active as those with busy fingers and respond to ever notion posted. Its foolish to force someone to voice an opinion to stay an active member when "responding" (aka posting) is actually a small part of any conversation.

Rule #1 2 eyes, 2 ears, 1 brain (w/ two sides) 1 MOUTH... it's a good design to follow.

Joe Rollins
epicgolivepro (AT)

Stacy Taylor said...

Marc, I think it would be a mistake for companies to invest nothing. If they wait for this channel to grow and take off, they will be behind the curve and their competition will have a leg up. They need to focus on testing the waters and ramping up. Each year social media participation continues to grow. I think many organizations have growing pains and find it challenging to figure out the who, what, where, and how much aspect of it, but it's not something that's going away tomorrow.

Marc Hausman said...

@Stacy - Amen!

Although, I've found it is a professionally risky proposition for a corporate marketing executive to be the first to champion a social media initiative.

If it fails to meet expectations (which are often poorly defined), the result can be an unpleasant one.