Involve social media in your B2B communication - Part 2
The second part of the article on the advantages of social networks in B2B communication focuses on the integration of this communication channel into the processes of an organization and puts social networks in the context of business goals. It also deals with success evaluation and the role of a web integrator in the integration of social networks into the communication mix.
This text is a continuation of the article:
Answers to questions:
The level of social networks integration into the processes of the organization differs depending on the company's model - that is, whether the administration of the social channels is outsourced to a communications agency, or is managed by internal resources. In any case, a general communication framework and strategy should be established to determine what topics you communicate and how your company handles crisis management.
The communication strategies should be specified in guidelines for using social networks, laying out what outcomes they should meet, what context a logo or other company asset can be used or how to react to the users´ stimuli. Guidelines may also contain a section which regulates the use of social networks by employees. For example, their complaints and comments should be communicated entirely through internal communication channels and not through social networks, where the public can see them and where they can create a negative image of the company. For those who publicly represent the organization, guidelines may also require a statement that the opinions of these people do not necessarily represent the opinions of the company.
In cases where management of social networks has been outsourced, there should be a primary contact person designated in your organization who will be responsible for co-ordinating with the outsourced communications agency, approving content, and handling crisis management if the need arises. Individual competence may be delegated to more members; this applies especially to crisis management and answering questions. In some cases it is necessary to respond outside standard business hours. The Agency should guarantee a maximum response time which reflects the specifics of the sector and the anticipated severity of communication from the users.
If social networks are managed internally, the rules will be very similar. Management must be backed by one person responsible for the use of any social networking in the organization. This person will help shape the strategy and guidelines, approve content (if not directly creating it) and managing communications. When creating content, this person should use internal resources such as the DTP department, and so on.
To approve the created content, "traditional" methods can be used, such as text documents or spreadsheets, into which the relevant person adds specific comments and observations. Specialized solutions which allow the setting of specific workflows, allocating specific roles to the members of the approval process, and may also allow automated content publishing, are also available.
Regarding access to the profiles on social networks, it pays to be doubly cautious. In practice, this means not assigning higher level permissions to individuals than their jobs require. In cases where the social networks do not allow the delegation of access rights for the associated accounts, we recommend that you avoid sharing passwords between multiple people. This can be done by authorizing the client (application) for the social network for the appropriate people directly on their devices.
Setting out the communication strategy must take place prior to setting the goals. Goals can be of two types – defining the metrics to be used in evaluating social networks (number of watchers, engagement rate, outreach, etc.) or defining the business goals. While the objectives defined by these metrics are useful for evaluating the partial success and budget, business goals should fit the overall company strategy.
The common objective should be to create a long-term community of active, relevant users, who can be reached at any time and used for Lead Generation purposes. Lead Generation represents one of the measurable objectives, based on which you can calculate the long-term Return on Investment (ROI).
Further objectives are already definable on the PR level. As noted above, social networks can be used to build brand awareness or to communicate the moral values and social obligations which the organization has established and support. As in any kind of communication, the final image is always a sum of many parts.
Each social network offers its own analytical tool, allowing you to monitor development trends and obtain information such as demographics and user behavior. If your profiles are managed by an agency, you should require regular reports and agree on goals determined by the KPIs to be delivered.
Third-party tools that allow you to measure the performance across various channels are also available for analytics. In the future, it may even be possible to compare industry benchmarks (for now it is a domain of the B2C segment only). With data from social networks, you can also work in CRM systems, some of them already offer connections to social networks.
Having a web integrator as a co-ordinator of a web integration project ensures the implementation of social networks in synergy with the marketing department of any clients or external agencies.
When a project is designed, a web integrator considers the benefits of participating in social network communications, recommends the appropriate channels, and evaluates the potential risks and their severity, all in collaboration with the client. Along with the marketing department, a web integrator proposes the optimal communication strategy for individual channels and specific support activities such as advertising. A web integrator works with either the internal marketing department of the client or the communication agency, and deals with the actual content management and the communication management of the company's social media profiles.
If a client or a self-service zone is a part of the web integration project, a web integrator can recommend using social networks as a secondary channel for customer care and takes this into consideration in both the design and the interface of these systems.
If development of any specific applications for social networks (such as competitions, microsites, etc.) after the completion of the project is needed, a web integrator coordinates the development with a creative agency, DTP department and/or an internal or external development team.
Social networks can also be used for internal company communication. In smaller companies, this is often accomplished by closed or secret Facebook groups. In larger organizations, it seems to be better to use specialized solutions such as Yammer. Be careful as to not discriminate against employees who do not have a Facebook account. On the other hand, do not give your employees a reason to go to Facebook during work hours.
Another possible use may be recruitment posts about current job positions which may be regularly displayed together with other content on the company profile. Open positions can also be promoted by advertising, which in comparison with the employers catalogs is usually much cheaper. From my experience, recruiting technical professionals works well on social media.
After all, social networking sites have become powerful tools for recruiters when reviewing their candidates, especially when reviewing their loyalty to their employer and in uncovering any further risk factors.
Do Not Hesitate, Start Now
If there is a potential for using social networks in your communication, do not hesitate to make the decision. Start using social networks through internal resources or seek an external partner. We will definitely come back to these subjects here at Web Integration.