At Cloudforce New York, Cohen joined Aneta Hall, Director, Social Media Strategy and Enablement for Pitney Bowes, to provide concrete examples of how a massive B2B company is tackling social media. During the Cloudforce session titled, “B2B Social Media: It’s not as different as you think,” Hall provided a number of valuable pieces of advice to B2B businesses on how they can build and sustain a social strategy.
Here are some of those takeaways.
Empower Employees on Social Media
Hall explained that Pitney Bowes started with a distributed social media policy with little pockets of activity scattered across the company. Essentially, the left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing when it came to social media. Quickly, they moved to a hub-and-spoke model, in which a social media council of about 30 employees sets an overall social media policy. That policy is then implemented across the company through spokes in which employees are empowered to train other employees on how to use social media at Pitney Bowes. The spokes have very relevant conversations within the social spaces, and sustainability of social activity is one of the charters of the program.
Train Employees on a Social Media Policy
Pitney Bowes has created a Social Media University. Hall said, “In order to grow a social enterprise, you have to think about employees becoming marketers.” A year ago, Pitney Bowes started a training program to make employees more effective and efficient in social media. The program is broken into three sections and employees can start wherever they feel comfortable. The white belt level, for instance, gives a basic social media 101 course, while advanced topics include how to listen, how to sustain a social media strategy, and how to be an effective community manager. To date, over 300 employees have gone through the courses.
Blog, Blog, Blog
Hall said there is not a strategy she would recommend in social media that does not have blogging at its core. Blogging aids with search engine optimization (SEO) and creates long-form content in a way that travels well across social media. Additionally, blogging creates thought leadership, which Hall says is the best way to shape the conversation in the way you desire. Pitney Bowes has 11 active blogging properties. When first starting, they used third-party influencers to help shape the conversation, which taught the team how to sustain a robust content pipeline. Pitney Bowes has now taken over full responsibility after learning from those influencers.
Get Customer Service Buy-In
Initially, Pitney Bowes had a small group responsible for engaging with the community in the customer service realm. It took a while to get buy-in from the company as a whole, but eventually Hall and her team were able to persuade everyone that using social media is a valuable way to start approaching customer service. Hall cited a study that noted 71% of B2B social media companies are engaged in customer service using social channels. She stressed the need to balance proactive and reactive engagement. If you’re out talking to prospects about your company and products, but people looking for help are not receiving answers, you will damage the trust you have sought to build.
One of the best ways to sustain customer service in social media is to make sure you are personalizing your responses, since you are talking to a human being. Hall notes that negative sentiment around the brand in social media was substantially reduced when their customer service account, PB Cares, switched its avatar from the company logo to one of the leaders of the customer service team.
Measure Success Over the Long Term
Many marketers want to make a big splash when it comes to social media, says Hall. But this is not the right frame of mind; instead, social media is a bonfire that needs long-term care to produce results. Marketers who say they want to do a month-long trial with the goal of 10,000 new followers are prepping a failed strategy. The idea behind social media is that it takes time to take root. Social media means different things to different people. The corporate marketing team may be interested in changing perception, the customer service team might be interested in customer satisfaction while the legacy business units are more interested in attrition rates. Hall expressed the importance of understanding lead generation as a result of social media, which requires technology that quickly ties social media to new leads.