social media is now a mature practice integral to the success of virtually every B2B organization. But, although other key marketing communication disciplines have clear "owners"—advertising is responsible for "paid," public relations for "earned," and marketing for "owned"—social media doesn't have one.
The key responsibility falls to one of those three or to one of many other organizational functions in various departments (or performed by an outside firm) including Corporate Communications, Sales, Human Resources, and Customer Service.
All of those departments have specific, but strategically different, reasons to be on social media.
Of course, B2B customers do not see those differences. Whether they're prospective customers looking for product information, current customers with a technical question, brand advocates sharing a positive experience, or angry stakeholders causing a crisis, all experience your brand through the same virtual door of social media.
As a result, social media cannot be the job of just one department or outside agency; and, accordingly, integration is the key to success.
How to best achieve integration in your organization is the question. How cross-discipline social media teams are staffed and organized, and where they are located, are important foundations to effective B2B social media strategy.
But there's a simple way to figure out the answer. Since every organization is different, take the following steps to identify the cross-discipline social media strategy that's best for you.
Five Steps to Identify the Best Cross-Discipline B2B Social Media Strategy
First, conduct a social media audit for your brand and its products and services. Explain the kind of social media monitoring and publishing that is occurring. Is it 24/7 and consistent, or intermittent? What is being published and on which channels? What are customers saying and asking? Are they getting a response? What are your competitors doing?
Next, identify the departments, partners, and others responsible for your organization's social media monitoring and publishing. List by account and function. Is every discipline represented? Is Marketing active on social media? Is it being handled in-house or by an outside digital, advertising, or PR firm? What about Sales, Customer Service, Human Resources, or individual offices, product groups, local offices, or regional divisions? Of those, which departments are currently interacting with people on the social media accounts and who are those people? They could be anyone from current customers, prospects, and brand users to employees, investors, and others.
Make your list comprehensive so that you uncover all of the accounts, publishers, and activities.
Third, determine the goals each unit has for social media, the software systems each is using, and the organizational structures in place. Are those units also monitoring their social media and conducting social media listening programs, or are they simply publishing? If they are monitoring, who is doing it? Can those various systems talk to each other? Is a customer relationship management system being used? If so, does it integrate with those other systems?
Of course, you also need to determine your overall organizational and brand goals for your B2B social media strategy and activities.
Fourth, form an integration plan that addresses all areas of your social media activities efficiently and effectively. In the plan, identify common goals, metrics, resources to be shared across all units and outside partners, and if some accounts can be consolidated. Also, determine a software package that can integrate key employees and partners and how they will be organized. What you find will help determine if you should organize following a centralized model with one social media department, a hub-and-spoke model with a center of excellence, or hybrid model for your social media efforts.
And finally, fifth, establish formalized governance around the centralized, hub-and-spoke or hybrid model you selected; as well as determine budget, workforce needs, and resources; and decide whether the integration will occur virtually or physically. Of course, once all those steps have been fully completed, you can delegate the specific tasks to individuals by role and function.
Keep in mind the end result of your integration strategy can be quite different from others'. So how should you best structure your approach? Looking at a range of organizational solutions—even a few from the B2C marketing—can point you to the right model for your organization.
Successful Cross-Discipline Social Media Strategies
General Motors operates a global center of excellence at its headquarters that brings together the social media practitioners from Marketing, Public Relations, Communications, and Customer Care. Target's center, called "Guest Central," is located on the executive floor of its headquarters. And Nissan's command center features an open layout that directs employees from the other areas of the company to walk through when getting off the elevator at company headquarters.
GM's and Target's social media centers operate as separate centralized units not housed under Public Relations, or Marketing, which gives social media a unique position in those companies.
Nissan, on the other hand, takes a customer experience hub-and-spoke approach and employs a senior manager of social media and customer strategy who distributes social media data across departmental silos.
And Hewlett-Packard (HP) took organizational integration even further with a hybrid model where customers part of the social care team. In HP Support Forums, customers ask questions and get help from other customers, enabling HP to quickly scale social care while building its brand community.
BMC Software built a social media hub that enables social media managers, salespeople, and other employees to share timely, brand-relevant social media content and social media brand guides. Mack Trucks built a similar hub to also house company videos and aggregate all brand social channels and posts, segmented by product, enabling employees to easily access them.
* * *
With remote work and remote teams predicted to continue after the pandemic is over, integration will become even more important. And customer's expectations for a seamless brand experience will only increase.
Fortunately, with the right organizational model, tools, and software solutions, a cross-discipline B2B social media strategy is only a couple of steps away.
More Resources on B2B Social Media Strategy
You CAN Use Social Media for B2B (Even in a Pandemic): 'Ultimate Guide to Social Media' Authors Talk With Marketing Smarts [Podcast]
Seven Ways B2Bs Can Use Social Media to Boost Conversion Rates and Generate Leads
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