Nov 162010
 

Yesterday I started my work week with a Small Business Roundtable breakfast at the Tower Club. The event was sponsored by the Association for Corporate Growth (ACG) National Chapter. The topic was social media — what exactly does that buzz word mean in a b2b/b2g environment, and how can executives put it to work for their businesses?

To facilitate the conversation, ACG brought in three executives currently executing social media strategies for their organizations. Victoria Clark directs govWin, a social media community for government contractors owned by Deltek. Steve Gleave runs marketing for MetaSwitch, a technology company that puts VOIP and IMS based intelligence into service provider networks.

Kevin Moss is an executive at British Telecom who has established himself as a leading authority on Corporate Social Responsibility via his blog CSR Perspective. Disclosure alert — Kevin and Victoria are clients of my firm Strategic Communications Group.

I can’t do full justice to the fast paced and interesting discussion, but here are my notes on how the panelists defined social media, and how best for business executives to get started.

Victoria:

  • The critical element of social media is two way communication, the fact it is a conversation. In a business setting, that conversation needs to be vertical specific, and have specific business objectives.
  • Listen first, then start to participate focusing on one social media tool — her favorite is LinkedIn.

Steve:

  • What social media ISN’T are the tools, the term means harnessing the wisdom of the crowd, and organizing a flood of information into a focused channel directed at your specific audience of interest.
  • Set a big goal, and be clear on the purpose of your efforts. For example, Steve has launched the “curated” news site Carrier Evolution and set an initial goal of 10,000 readers. MetaSwitch has reached this goal, and Steve shared that he’s achieved PR objectives through the site — placed stories, contact with influencers — at far less cost than traditional PR and advertising methods.

Kevin:

  • B2B social media is halfway between traditional PR and one to one connections. The trick is to find the balance between the messaging discipline of good PR messaging and the veracity needed for direct contact.
  • Definitely important to listen first in your social media niche, but even more important to start participating. The best way is to comment constructively in discussions you find, and don’t be anonymous – use your real name.

I’ve shared in this blog previously that b2b social media is very different than consumer. Some answers come via experimentation and just trying new things, which is a tough culture change for many organizations. Nobody has all the answers yet, and ROI measurements will vary by company and vertical. But innovators like these panelists are in the arena figuring it out.

How are you employing social media tactics in your vertical? You’re not still on the sidelines, right?

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