Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Is Social Media a Waste of Time and Money for B2B? – Glenn Gow says No

Glenn Gow is CEO of Crimson Consulting Group, a strategic marketing consultancy focused on B2B clients, with a focus on technology marketing.
In this article, Glenn addresses:
  • Legitimate concerns B2Bs have about investing in social media campaigns
  • Why B2B can’t afford to stay out of social media
Janet, a senior executive at one of our B2B clients, recently said to me, “Social media just doesn’t feel like an important area of investment for us. We’re not selling to consumers, we’re selling to hardcore businesspeople. I think we’d be wasting our time and money.”

I couldn’t blame her for being skeptical. Though no one can deny the explosive popularity of social media, some hard-core justifications for its B2B use have yet to be laid out.

Businesses of all sizes are executing Twitter campaigns, creating Facebook business pages, and producing corporate blogs and YouTube videos they hope will “go viral.” Those things can work when targeting consumers, but do they work when targeting other businesses?

The jury’s still out, but B2B companies are nonetheless rushing to jump on the social media bandwagon for fear of being left behind in an environment full of constant paradigm shifts that occur at lightning speed.

But the concerns Janet expressed are real. Here’s why:
  • “Show me the metrics!” Unless you have a windfall success story, like Avaya’s quarter-million-dollar deal, which came in large part thanks to Twitter, there aren’t a lot of solid B2B examples to site yet, particularly when compared to the plethora of B2C successes.
  • “Show me the money!” Executives understandably want to see solid links between investments in marketing programs and real revenue. Tracking makes it easy to see the number of friends, followers, connections, and comments one is getting, but how does that translate to the bottom line? Does a popular blog result in any measurable dollars? Maybe not. Finding these links can be a nebulous, if not, impossible venture. For some, that’s a deal breaker.
  • “Show me the point!” Janet commented on wasting time. Social media takes time, and lots of it. It’s no small task in time or expense to establish a professional presence in social media. It’s also not something you should start and stop. It’s a commitment to an effort that may not bring much ROI for quite a while. But half-hearted attempts don’t impress and can actually do harm. So if you’re not up for the long swim, don’t dip your toe in the water.

So why are B2Bs increasing their investments?

If the above sounds pretty dismal, why are 86% of B2B companies investing in some form of social media, compared to only 82% of B2Cs? For starters, consider that social media isn’t the first time a technology, initially targeted for personal use, has transformed into a major business tool. Think instant messaging, smartphones, and smartphone apps, which were originally designed for personal use and fun and were frowned upon by the business world. It’s hard not to see a similar trend with social media.

I shared the following four thoughts with Janet.
1. Consider integration vs. ad hoc postings
Janet’s company may already have a social presence, whether or not she knows it or likes it. Many employees regularly create haphazard, ad hoc postings about their company… not only on LinkedIn but also on Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and YouTube. Such uncontrolled, disparate postings can be a disadvantage; they might work at cross purposes both to each other and to an integrated marketing plan. It’s far better to own your social media presence so that it’s a cohesive whole.
2. Janet’s B2B audience is there
Even though Janet’s target is businesspeople, not consumers, professional buyers now consult social media sources during the buying process and before making a decision. Recent studies have found that up to 90% of B2B buyers use social media to research purchases and are heavily influenced by third-party feedback in their purchasing decisions—both to identify solutions and to limit risk.
The directive to “be where your audience is” has never been more relevant or more possible than in today’s integrated Web, where marketers can know precisely who and where their audience is. “Being there” has also gone beyond a direct dollars-and-cents relationship: A presence in social media has simply come to be expected.
Businesses that aren’t present on social media are creating a negative perception of themselves as being behind the times or unavailable to their clientele.
3. The multiplier effect is hard to argue with
Best-practices already exist for using social media as part of an integrated marketing plan. No marketing element—whether tradeshow, ad campaign, or thought-leadership webinar—should be used in a vacuum: Integration and expansion are the keys for achieving marketing impact.
When used as a follow-on tool for another campaign, social media channels provide an excellent venue for broadening the impact of other marketing strategies and investments. And though not everything goes viral the way we might like, you can dramatically increase your reach with a Tweet here and a Facebook posting there.
4. Don’t get trumped by your competition
Rising success stories (check out how an EMC campaign used nearly every promotional channel) are validating the concern that B2B social media skeptics—and their businesses—will be left gasping in their competitor’s exhaust.
The hard reality is that ROI metrics are imprecise, and it’s always been difficult for Marketing to link its efforts directly with revenue. Perhaps the question is, why should B2B social media be any different? (See this slideshare/webinar on generating ROI from social media.)
Though social media may still be an unproven channel that delivers results difficult to quantify, it’s moving forward so quickly that there’s real risk in staying out of the game. Yes, there is risk involved in allocating money to a B2B social media campaign… but as marketers, we’re used to risk, and there is even greater risk in not doing so.

I confirmed with Janet that, for her, there is indeed a leap of faith involved in B2B social media. But the question today is not whether you can afford to implement a B2B social media presence into your marketing campaigns—it’s whether you can afford not to.

Get Real-Time Fashion Advice Before You Go Out – article on Mashable

Name: Go Try It On
Quick Pitch: Crowdsourced advice on your look, before you go out.
Genius Idea: Go Try It On is a website and iPhone app [iTunes link] that enables users to get real-time feedback on their outfits before they make a purchase or leave their bedrooms.
The site, which launched in March 2010, attracts 80,000 unique visitors per month, 30% of which are from outside the U.S. More than 250,000 have downloaded the iPhone app, about half of which are active users, founder and CEO Marissa Evans claims.
Both the website and app have a sleek, easy-to-use interface. Users can upload photos from their desktops or iPhones, or snap one on the spot with a webcam, and ask the community (or, if they prefer, a private set of friends) to approve a particular look or help them choose the best of three options.
The site’s most active users tend to be young women in their teens and early twenties; 20% of registered users are men, Evans, a graduate of Harvard Business School, says.
If Go Try It On sounds a lot like another startup we’ve covered, you’re not alone. When asked how the startup differed from Fashism, Evans said that Go Try It On was making a greater investment in data and analytics.
Soon, Go Try It On will begin displaying that data in a way that is useful to members. The site will notify a user if she tends to get good feedback when she wears white skinny jeans, for instance, and send her product suggestions to further expand that look — a service that might prove useful both to the user and the startup, should it generate affiliate revenues from the suggestions it serves.
Evans also believes that users are “about 10 times more engaged.” While I wouldn’t place any bets on that number, I will say that the community is certainly very active. Within an hour of uploading a photo on a Friday afternoon, I received 23 votes and 2 comments on my look. The feedback wasn’t particularly insightful, but it did up my confidence about a recent dress purchase.
Go Try It On currently has a full-time staff of five, including the three founders. The startup raised a seed round of funding last fall from Index Ventures.

Monday, May 2, 2011


You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting for a fashion show than right on Circular Quay next to the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and across from the Sydney Opera House. That’s where we were yesterday for the opening of 2011 Rosemount Australian Fashion Week (RAFW) at the Overseas Passenger Terminal (OPT) at Sydney Cove.

Looking up at the old red brick and limestone buildings across the street from the OPT, it was easy to look back and imagine how it was 200 years ago.  However, today was all about looking forward as the latest Australian fashions for Spring Summer 2011/12 were debuted to enthusiastic audiences that had come from all over the world.

Bec & Bridge opened the week at the OPT with a beautiful, creative, very wearable collection that included floral prints,  burnt oranges, leather/suede mixes, silks, and very sexy black mesh cut-out dresses and skirt. Short shorts are definitely in for Spring Summer –

Other favorites of the day were:

The Ready to Wear 1 show was incredible. New designers with vision and courage giving the audience thrills with audacious designs and use of fabric and color. Check them out at:

Off to start Day 2 … can’t wait!