With B2B enterprises often operating within very narrow and specific sectors, social media can deliver influence that many businesses thought impossible says Dave Howell
One of the key components of social media especially within the B2C sector is influence. Companies that have spent the time to develop the positive sentiment and brand advocacy across their social networks within the B2C sector are now reaping the rewards.
In the B2B sector things are quite different. Chasing high numbers of Facebook likes or Twitter followers may not deliver the influence your business is looking for. In the B2B arena less is more, as the quality of the connections your business’ social networks deliver is paramount. And from these highly qualified relationships comes influence.
A good example is the influence that companies can have when tendering for public sector contracts. The 4A’s research service commented: “Everyone has their eye on everyone else: how they think, what they buy, what they read, hear and view, the ways in which information is passed along to others, and who is most likely to influence issues and engage in decision-making.
“The various media sources, including digital media, social media and the mobile devices of today, influence the influencers and the issues, and act as a major conduit of all news and information. Each action and decision spawns new and different reactions, and continues the cycle. The influence cycle tends to spin on somewhat the same track picking up new criteria, new leaders and new media and tools from all of the available sources. While media may be the major conveyor of all that is influential, it takes savvy business and opinion leaders to recognize and act on the relevant information.”
For the B2B enterprise developing their own profile as a key business of influence in their market sector is vital. Social media can be a tool that if used correctly, can provide B2B companies with a number of platforms from which to exercise that influence.
Says Evette Rochester, social intelligence expert, PA Consulting Group “For B2B organisations, reputation is the single most important component of becoming a key business of influence. Reputation with their customers, their suppliers, their investors, their employees, their competitors and the media all contribute to a B2B organisation’s overall performance. B2B organisations need to value each of these reputations, prioritise them by value, and then invest in them accordingly. Social media can be used to assess and influence these valuations.”
Often for the B2B organisations, influence will be inextricably linked to trust. Says Dean Russell, European Social Media Director at LEWIS PR: “If you are going to be seen as influential, you need other influencers to believe in you. When drawing up your list of influencers, whether they are journalists, social media commentators or peers online, the list must include your customers too.
“Google is also an influencer. If you don’t appear in the search results, what do that say about your organization to the average user? They may go straight to a competitor, or worse, question your reputation. However, it is critical to remember that social media doesn’t exist in a bubble. It is hugely impacted by the events in the real world. As such, no communications campaign should be developed in isolation.”
Influence within the B2B sector is multi-faceted with many components that need to be placed into the influence equation. Business reputation, traditional marketing and promotion all play their part. But it’s social media that offers an opportunity for businesses within the B2B sector to dominate their market and become destination companies for customers and strategic partners alike. It takes resources to develop this influence, but once established it can be a highly lucrative tool.
How to become an influential business
An influential business typically has 5 key things it can do well above and beyond the core competencies of its industry:
- Every person in the business from top to bottom is clear about the value proposition of the business. Who the business is trying to serve and why the business deserves a long term future. Not only is everyone clear, they can all communicate it to others as well.
- The business has written documents that communicate the value of each product or service as well as the value of the business. Ideally these documents share some of the unique philosophy that makes the business special.
- The business only develops, recommends or supplies products and services that stand rigger to scrutiny. The business doesn’t engage in anything that doesn’t deliver upon its promise… and then some.
- The business strives to build and maintain a reputation for being the best within a certain niche. It isn’t she about standing out.
- The business forges partnerships and strategic alliances with other influential businesses.
[SOURCE] Daniel Priestley, author of Become a Key Person of Influence.
Q How can B2B organisations lever their social media and the big data they have to become key businesses of influence in their sector?
A You have been influenced when you think something you wouldn’t otherwise have thought or do something you wouldn’t otherwise have done. There is influence in everything an organisation does, and often what it decides not to do. And it’s never of course entirely the domain of the marketing and PR teams.
In my opinion, the organisations that most often exert more than their fair share of influence on their stakeholders are those that work hardest at being influenced by their stakeholders. And this is a discipline. It entails employing every opportunity to listen, analyze and synthesise.
Q What are the key components of becoming a key business of influence in the B2B sector? Does this differ from the B2C sector?
A I believe that most distinctions between B2B and B2C are artificial. Fundamentally, we’re all people. We all like different things. We all have different media proclivities. We all have different approaches to family and friends. The way influence spreads – when minds and deeds are changed – is complex, and the company that recognises this complexity is more likely to find ways to consistently exert influence than the company looking for the one killer mechanism – which they probably won’t find, and it’ll be ephemeral if they do.
Q Are there any pitfalls to watch out for when developing a B2B corporation’s profile as a key business of influence in their sector?
A Yes, I would say that the main pitfalls to watch out for include: Failing to listen. Failing to recognise the advantages of dialogue over monologue. Failing to recognise that the axiom “perception is reality” is rapidly switching around completely. Reality is perception in the age of radical transparency wrought by social media and related technologies.
Q What is the value of becoming a key business of influence?
A For every business, influencing and being influenced is a basic requisite of delivering the mission and pursuing the vision. If you’re in business, you’re in the business of influence.
Q Social media aside, what other channels should a B2B corporation use to evolve their status as a key business of influence?
A I’m so glad you ask this question. Social media has been transformational in many ways, but I remain a keen fan of Full Gesture Communication in Unaugmented Reality. These are joke phrases of course. They just describe “the real world”, the world in which most of us still spend most of our time doing most of our interacting. So a simple question: does everyone in your organisation understand their role in terms of being influenced and feeding that intelligence into the organisation, and influencing others in support of the business objectives?
Listen. And listen some more. Did I say that already? And then your organisation must develop the processes to take part in the dialogue surrounding the organisation in real time. And that’s a real discipline.