Friday, November 12, 2010

Should Business-to-Business-Companies care about Social Media?

When we talk about successful usage of Social Media one often talks about nice brands targeting end customers. Not only because there are many of good examples but also because they are more visible than others. But being a company doing business to business products or services one wonders what to do with social media. You barely establish your brand with it, only few try to do business to business over the social networks like Twitter and Facebook yet. Asking themselves: Should I care about Social Media?

Over those great example on brand building one easily oversees the other aspects coming with social media. And quite a bunch of them are attractive for business to business companies as well. Let me give some examples:

People talk anyway
The first and most obvious reason why you simple can't "not participate in social media". Is that you already do. There is a good chance that at least some of your employees are enganged in social media, if you have no no-private-surfing-policy probably even from your office. But those aren't the only ones mentioning you, others do, too. They discuss your products and services. And more'n'more they do it publicly online. With everyone else to find and read. There is no "not being involved" any more. So instead of looking the other way it is better to know what they are talking about.

Bonding employees
One thing I can't emphasise often enough is the social part of social media. People don't just talk to each other, they communicate and with it socialise. Many books of small talk and communication say exactly this: ask a general question and let the other person talk. Just because of that they like you, and feel like they had a create talk, might even feel connected to you. This is true for social media, too. And you've probably heard that a lot already. But I had so say it once again, emphasising: This isn't only true for your customers but for your employees, too!

In fact most of the Insiders we've talked to sooner or later realised most of their earliest fans have been their own employees. Resulting in your employees getting more involved and attached to your company. Being proud of what they all accomplish together. For some it might be their most important news feed in their lifes. There is no team-building-activity your HR department could do having such a long lasting effect as doing social media.

Extended Network
Now most say there isn't any value in having a twitter account for news where only their employees listen. Au contraire, mon cheri! There is quite a gain. In every network of people you have what is called the "extended network". Those are the people who know people you know. Just with a few employees this makes a huge network. And even though these people don't know you, but you can reach them. Now let's consider you tweet about the new job openings. One of your employees in IT where the opening is going to be, retweets it and all his followers have your message in their timeline. Now he has some IT-Friends, some even think about changing jobs. And now your opening appears in their timeline.

Of course this works offline, too, but with social networks it is faster and much more effective. These two might not be that close or your employee doesn't know of that guys plans to change the job just yet (not all people brag about such a thing upfront ;) ). Social media gives you access to a huge extended network to find people, projects, services and broadcast your news. You just have to post the right things.

Feeling of Transparency
As a result some understand social media and tweeting as the modern version of the internal company news letter. Might be started out of cost reduction (paper is expensive) it gained a certain reputation over time. Your employees get the information faster, they are closer to the actual happening and it allows reactions on it, even discussions - the social way of interaction. And caused by the fact that their are broadcasted using Twitter or Facebook they are publicly available. While in the beginning that threatens the writers on the long run it shows the transparency of your company.

Even if you are the most locked down building in the world. If you post your Christmas party pictures on Facebook, the latest funny joke on the black board or tweet about the squeaking door, your company becomes more than the concrete building at the end of the street. By being able to look inside it looses the touch of the black box and gains the feeling of transparency. And with transparency comes trust.

Future employees
With the emerging skills shortages your company is interested in the best employees possible. Therefore you have to stand out of the crowd, you need to be a place some really wants to work at. While some might don't care most people want to work somewhere fun and modern on something they can be proud of. When a future employee now prepares for the interview he'll do a research about you on the internet. And then he finds your company news letters in form of a public Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account. Having the fun photos of your last office party on the page. And then the list of employees owning a Twitter account and he finds the two people who have been said to be in the interview with him the next day.

What do you think this looks like? Like an old-school company only caring for their own profit or like a modern company with fun activities and smart people you wished you went to high school with? Now, who wouldn't love to work for you?

In a nutshell
As you can see there is much to gain in social media even for B2B Enterprises. Though you probably won't get any leads with this media, it is a great to way to connect to and engage with your employees. With some simple action, like moving the company news letter into Blog and Twitter your company can show it's not hiding anything but is a modern and transparent enterprise your current and future employees want to work at.

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