In my last post, I talked about the 2009 Forrester Groundswell Awards winners. I would like to echo Josh Bernoff’s recent blog observation that anyone can do a successful social application, (and from my perspective) especially those in industries that sell primarily to other businesses. In research published earlier today, I explain how the winners and finalists — and the activities I follow at other top firms — show that more companies are taking steps to enter the social world. To keep create successful social discourse with customers that drives real business returns, B2B marketers should:
1) Pick an audience, listen to them, and then join the conversation. B2B marketers keen to get involved in this groundswell of social activity should start with a specific group of customers or target buyers in mind. Actively listen to this audience in the venues they visit. Interact by tracking which topics they discuss and how frequently they discuss them. Engage in active social listening, summarize your findings, and present your experiences to your marketing, support, and sales teams.
2) Make specific business outcomes the goal of social activity. Cut the social goal-setting process short by convening five, 2-hour executive meetings that tackle, in turn, audience profiles, business objectives, measures/outcomes, resources, and responsibilities. Share the outcomes of this discussion with the primary teams who need to implement the chosen objectives for the chosen audience.
3) Rationalize your public social presence with your Web site. Most B2B Web sites focus too much on the company and not enough on what buyers want. Put your Web site at the center of your social media plans. Inventory official and semi-official presences on public social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter and look at what you find when you put audience and objectives first. Chances are, it won’t be pretty.
4) Organize for social success. My former colleague, Jeremiah Owyang, recommends adopting a hub-and-spoke model for social organization, and I agree. Hub-and-spoke supports a central, cross-functional group that facilitates resource-sharing and cross-team communications with those in distributed product groups, divisions, or geographies closer to strategy execution. It also gives business units flexibility while providing a central authority that enables your organization to act efficiently and to account for the impact of social activity.
Take a look at the winners, finalists, and other examples of social application excellence in the report and let me know what other examples you have seen that equal these accomplishments in innovation and business value.