The 3Cs of Marketing is a popular concept (company, customers, and competitors). In Marketing Smarts Episode 537, host George B. Thomas and Dorien Morin-van Dam delve into the 3Cs of organic social media strategy.
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At least, at first there seem to be only three.
Content: "It's about content. The biggest secret there is that your organic content is your testing ground. When things do well in organic, you can then take them and use them as paid ads or use that formula for paid ads." (6:55)
Community: "You want people talking together about your product or about your service. You want to build community. In order to do that, you need to have a content strategy. Community most likely will start out organically by people talking about your brand." (11:46)
Conversation: "Where it happens is in the private conversations. I tell my clients your DMs, your messengers, that's where the real conversations happen." (20:26)
When the episode really gets going, though, a whole bunch of other Cs pop up, including comments ("When you comment on other people's content, you are seen, you become an influencer, you become a leader, and you will see the power of social media"), consume ("If you don't want to have a presence on social media, just go consume some content"), and... chicken? (Aldi's red bag chicken and Chik-fil-A both make special appearances.)
Of course, if you don't limit yourself to Cs, you get the whole kit and kaboodle of Dorien's social media wisdom:
"[Social media] success is growth, success is movement, success is building a community, having conversations, and ultimately that will result in superfans, brand ambassadors, more sales, more people that want to work for you, retention of customers, and all of those other things that you want."
Listen to the entire show from the link above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode.
George B. Thomas: Social media moves at the speed of light, or sound, or definitely something faster than mere mortal humans. Today, we're going to talk about how B2B marketers can use an organic social media strategy for success in 2023, right now, today. As always, I'm not alone. We are with Dorien Morin-van Dam and we're going to talk about what keeps her up at night when it comes to social and the organic strategy that you may or may not be using, we're going to talk about how to get started, hurdles along the way, what success looks like, and of course, we'll land the plane at those gratifying words of wisdom that we get from the experts each week.
Let's get into the good stuff. This is going to be a very organic conversation about strategy and maybe being social. Luckily, I'm not alone. Dorien, how are you doing today?
Dorien Morin-van Dam: I am great. How are you?
George: I am better now that you're here. That's a good dad joke to get us going. I like to get into the good stuff immediately. One of the questions that we like to ask first with the Marketing Smarts Podcast, around this topic about how B2B marketers can use an organic social media strategy for success in 2023, what the heck keeps you up at night?
Dorien: Trying to get all the content out for all of my clients at the right platform. That's really where my zone of genius is, making sure that every single one of my clients got the right content to reach the right audience, and that I didn't forget to create something. For me, organically, that means especially awareness days, trending topics, making sure that I know what's going on in the world of Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, so that I can advise my clients and then together we create content that is going to do the same for them as I hope it does for me.
George: I have to immediately go off the beaten path. When you used the words stay up to date and social media together, it feels like almost an impossibility. How in the world do you keep up to date on all of the different platforms on all the new stuff? What does a day in the life of Dorien look like then?
Dorien: I do a lot of content consumption. In order to create good content, you have to consume it. It's just a reality. I might not post on TikTok for myself, I might not be on there for myself as Morin Media, but I need to know what's going on, I need to know what's trending. The biggest thing is I need to know what are the latest updates on each platform. I need to know if LinkedIn has a new feature or if Instagram has a new feature. I go try them out because, first of all, I need to know so I can advise my clients let's go with Reels, which is happening.
Also, and this is a secret sauce that everybody should know, and maybe you already know, if there is a new feature, every single platform that throws out a new feature, they're going to put a lot of push behind it algorithm wise. If LinkedIn is pushing out LinkedIn Live, you want to be on LinkedIn Live because that's where you're going to get the most traction. If they come out with a carousel that has both videos and images, you want to post those. That's the other part. It's not just what are people posting and what content, but what are the features they're using and what are the newest features that are coming out, because you want to be using them.
George: I love that answer. There's a couple of hidden gems in there. One, I already have the base information that I need to know; therefore, I can just pay attention to the updates. The reason that I'm paying attention to the updates is that's the hot take on what we should be using, at least for the next 30, 60, 90 days before marketers ruin it. Understanding that is really key.
What's fun is when I was listening to you in that segment, I immediately went to I hope that everybody knows LinkedIn Live was a thing a while ago. Then I went to I love that LinkedIn allows me to schedule my posts right now, so that's an interesting tidbit of information.
Let's start with some foundational pieces. A lot of folks out there, B2B marketers, you'll be like, "Do you have a social media strategy," and immediately, I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Yes, we do paid social." That's not the conversation we're having today. We're having the conversation around organic social media strategy. What I'd like is just set a baseline. When we say organic social media strategy, what exactly do you mean by that?
Dorien: That means a strategy centered around content. Really, it's about content. The biggest secret there is that your organic content is your testing ground. When things do well in organic, you can then take them and use them as paid ads or use that formula for paid ads. Vice versa, when paid ads do really well, you have to pay attention to that, too, because that also might mean those ads when you post them on social organically or the same type of content they'll do well.
So, they really do work together, but an organic content strategy means that you're creating content that your audience wants. That means answering the questions that they have. You know who wrote the book on that, Marcus Sheridan, They Ask, You Answer. That is the formula I've been using with all of my clients for 10 years or more. The first thing I do when I work with a new client is I say to them, start gathering. Before we meet and put a strategy together, start gathering all of the questions you've ever received about your business, that your associates get through email, through phone, through direct messages, what questions are people asking. That's the start of your content marketing strategy.
George: I was going to go off the beaten path, and I think you gave me the answer, but I'm still going to ask the question so that we can circle back around and really solidify what I heard. In that segment what you said is what we're really talking about is content. My brain went to what do we say to the B2B marketers who are listening to this that might not have a content engine up and running? My question for you was going to be like if you ever start to work with a client and they don't have that content, what do you do? Is that the only starting point or is there a whole plethora of things that you do to tune-up or start the content engine at an organization?
Dorien: The content engine starts with doing a strategy. The first thing in a 90-minute strategy session would be asking them what their goals are. Why do you want to be on social media? I've had so many people come to me that say, "I need you because my friend told me that I need to be on Pinterest." Do you want to be on it? Is your audience on it? What are you trying to accomplish?
The strategy starts with goals. What do you want to accomplish by hiring somebody and by using social media? Those are two different things. What do you want to accomplish by hiring me and paying me a good fee? What do you want to accomplish with starting social media? Do you want awareness? Do you want to sell books? Do you want to get service calls? Do you want the phone calls to ring through Google? Do you want people to direct message you? Do you want to sell a product? Those are all different things, and they're all valid reasons to be on social media. That's the starting point.
Then I look at what they have. Most businesses that come to me are not startups. Sometimes they have talent, so they have people with skills. There might be a video editor, there might be somebody who loves photography, there might be somebody who is an awesome writer. I dive deep into what they already have and then we go to the content strategy. What does the audience look like, who are their avatars? What content do they need, what do we want to create for those ideal? Sometimes there's two or three avatars that we want to target, but usually I try to stick to one or two, just to get started and make it easier.
That's really where it starts, but if somebody is like, "I want to get started on content next week," I tell them to start answering questions.
George: I love that. Marketing Smarts listeners, that is probably a rewind spot. There was a bunch of hidden gems in there.
Here's the thing. We make time for what is important in life. This is kind of a two-part question. I'm sneaking one in, if you will. The first part of this question is why is organic social media strategy essential right now for organizations? When I say organizations, this is the second part of the conversation, I can't tell you how many folks I'll talk to and it's the marketer doing a social media strategy on the brand accounts, but there is nothing talking about employees actually helping to amplify that brand messaging with their personal accounts.
So, here's my question. Why is organic social media strategy essential for B2B marketers today, and is it only for the marketers to play with or should it be a holistic organizational game?
Dorien: That's a great question. I'm going to answer that with one word initially. Community. Community is the word. You and I were both at Inbound in 2022. Community is the new thing. We have a mutual friend that just put out a book about community. Everybody, it's about community.
If you are a brand, you want to bring people together. You want to have your superfan talking with your ambassadors, talking with your new fans. You want people talking together about your product or about your service. You want to build community. In order to do that, you need to have a content strategy. Community most likely will start out organically by people talking about your brand.
I have a great example that I use in one of the presentations that I do about community. It's for the brand Aldi. I don't know if you live in a place where you have an Aldi, but I lived in Myrtle Beach and now I live in Vermont and we have an Aldi. I'm a super Aldi fan because I grew up in Europe where we had Aldi. So, the whole concept of paying a quarter for your cart, all that stuff.
Here's the story. I am vegan. I don't eat meat, I don't eat eggs, I don't eat dairy. I've been doing that for eight years. Right before the pandemic, we moved to Vermont, and we only could shop once every two weeks or so, we didn't want to be in the grocery store. I was online in the regular Aldi Facebook Group, and people kept referencing this red bag chicken. Again, I'm a vegan, but they're talking about red bag chicken. It got to the point where I'm like I have to figure out what this is, so I went to the store. I couldn't find it.
I looked online and found a Facebook Group, a community for the Aldi red bag chicken. People will tell you Vermont store, Rutland, 3:00 Friday afternoon, I saw eight bags, or Pennsylvania, 2:00 on Tuesday, they had 10 bags, they just opened a box, and people were helping each other find this red bag chicken. Here I go to the store, and I buy chicken that I can't even eat, but I make it for my sons, who loved it. You supposedly have to prepare it in an air fryer and put a pickle on it, then it tastes like Chick-fil-a. It's amazing.
That's a community. That's an organic way that this brand has grown for this one product. If you can have a Facebook Group and a community for fried chicken, you can have it for any product that you have. You just have to find the right people and have the right conversations.
Did I answer your question?
George: Yes. I love that so much. Before I tell you why I love that section, if you haven't checked out the interview we did with Mark Schaefer on the what, why, and how of community and brand building for B2B marketing victory, you definitely need to go check that episode out. It was so much fun recording that with Mark. He is a good human that has a lot of great information, like Dorien.
I loved that because I heard Aldi, my wife loves Aldi, we're there all the time. The fact that it was a pickle and Chick-fil-a, I'm absolutely down with that all day long. Just so much good stuff.
I agree with you that it should be a community type situation. One marketer, or even a team of marketers, it's hard to manage a community and community conversations, so I do believe that it should be an entire organization sport where we're all helping to move the needle in an upward direction.
If you're a marketer and you're listening to this, and we do believe it should be an all-company sport, Dorien, have you seen ways that marketers can help enable other departments to share things socially organically?
Dorien: Yes. Actually, I interviewed somebody who is really smart, Kate Bradley Chernis from Lately, and she uses a Slack channel. When somebody says something smart, one of their customers or somebody that she has been interviewed by on a podcast, she goes into the Slack channels and says, "Everybody pile on, love pile," and they all get the notification, they go to this person and they love on the podcast she was on or something they said or a book she wrote. She said once you're in our circle of friends, we're going to love on you.
I think that's a great way to do that. Instead of saying "all employees report over here and all share this," they're not asking their employees to necessarily share it. They can if they want to. They're asking them to pile on their love. It's a difference in company culture. It's a difference in bringing it, how you put it out there. This person is now affiliated with our company, we love them. They might be a teeny-tiny customer and then they become this wonderful superfan or brand ambassador of ours eventually. How you do that is by piling on the love.
I think the Slack channel. You could also just tag each other, but I think that behind the scenes is a great way to do that. I think they keep a running list of all the people. They'll do Twitter lists, and that's another great idea, or share stuff internally in an email, "These are the people we want to highlight this week, go check it out."
You shouldn't require anything of anybody. As a leader, you should model it. I think that's the biggest thing if you're a team leader and you want your team to do that. Liking, sharing, and having conversations is free. It takes time, but it's free to do. Show how it's done and encourage people, applaud people, and have conversations. When you do that, other people are going to want to be part of it.
George: That section is so good. I love this idea of just getting people to pile onto something that is already happening, not demanding, and leading the way. There is something to be said about leaders who can serve and show this is how we want it to be done that is spectacular in organizations.
This next question, I fully understand it might sound like I'm talking about Sasquatch or the Loch Ness Monster, something that doesn't really exist or you never will see. I also am the type of person who likes to ask the question that may never get asked because of assumptions. If you're listening to this podcast and you are this person, please tweet me, DM me, send up smoke signals.
If you're a B2B marketer out there and you're not using social media, how can B2B marketers that aren't doing this actually get started? Is there an easy way to start, an easy button, or a way to dip your toe in the water? If I wasn't using social right now and all of a sudden somebody said that I had to, and I had to do it based on content, I'd be a little scared right now.
Dorien: I would start on LinkedIn. I think LinkedIn is a great place to be, especially for a B2B marketer. When I started on LinkedIn, 10 or 12 years ago, it was almost like a resume, a CV. You put your information on there and maybe you connect with people you actually meet in person, and meeting people you don't know online was kind of a scary thing. It's not like that anymore. There's incredible content there.
I would say go to LinkedIn and do some observation. If you don't want to post anything, I tell my clients this all the time, you don't even have to post. I know LinkedIn experts who barely post on LinkedIn. Do you know what they do? They leave five comments a day. When you comment on other people's content, you are seen, you become an influencer, you become a leader, and you will see the power of social media. People will reach out to you, and they'll come to you with opportunities, some good, some not so good, but you'll start having conversations.
Here's the other secret that I want to tell you. A lot of what's happening on social media on the outside that we see, that we might see on Twitter or Instagram or LinkedIn, you're right if you're thinking it's all a bunch of inflated stuff. But where it happens is in the private conversations. I tell my clients your DMs, your messengers, that's where the real conversations happen.
George, when you and I were trying to record, we messaged on Facebook. I recorded my podcast this morning, I messaged my friend on LinkedIn. The real conversations are happening where you are not seeing them between people. I'm always surprised to hear this person knows this person. Was I the connector? I don't know if I'm the connector. It doesn't matter, because we're all sort of connected.
Facebook, definitely things are inflated and ghosts from your past come out. I feel like on Facebook people from literally when I was 10 years old and living somewhere in the Netherlands a long time ago are finding me. I'm in my 50s, so that's kind of a really long time ago that people are finding me. On Instagram, I feel like that's kind of a display, look at me. Right? LinkedIn, I feel is still the platform in marketing if you're running a business or a marketing department, it's a great place to dip your toes in.
The other part is if you don't want to have a presence on social media, just go consume some content. Read some blogs. Go on your husband's, wife's, spouse's social media, ask them to login, and go consume an hour of TikTok. You will be amazed. Just watch what other people are creating because it has really changed in the last few years.
George: I love this idea of research what people are creating. I think that's absolutely magical. I agree with everything that you said in that last segment. I would plus one the idea of being powerful in the comments section. There's nothing that excites me more than when an actual great conversation starts to take place in the comment section, where people have actually stopped long enough to think about the topic at hand, the piece of content that was the conversation starter. It's absolutely fascinating to see when that happens in the way that it was supposed to instead of in the way that many people game it.
I want to address one little piece before we start with a couple of landing questions and let people go back to their regularly scheduled day. In B2B marketing, sometimes people think B2C is the sexy place, and of course we can create content, and of course we would do it. What do you say to the company, the marketer that works in a company who feels like the products and services are too boring for social media? Man, I hate this question, but I love this question. Too boring for social media, who would even give a crap if we posted something? What would you say to them?
Dorien: You need buy-in from the person who started the company to have fun, to nerd out, to think outside the box. In order to make a boring product or service sexy, you need to get a buy-in from everybody. That means going to the source, going to the person who founded the business and saying, "Tell me why you started this." If it's money, that might be really hard. If it's any other reason, "I wanted to create this product because my disabled son was going to have a better life," or, "I wanted to start this pharma company because people were paying too much money," or, "My grandma was blind and couldn't see, she needed a product, and that's why I created this product, and now everybody is using it and putting it in their homes."
Whatever it is, find the story behind this business, manufacturing, service, B2B, whatever it is. Talk to the people who are at the helm and find their stories, and then get permission from them to be different. What's going to make you stand out on social is not doing what everybody else is doing. I cannot tell you how much of a pushback we get when we say that, because the middle managers are literally taught to look at what other people are doing, we're comparing ourselves to what other people are doing. They're not doing that. Why would we? They're not posting on LinkedIn. Why would we? They're not doing TikToks. Why would we?
That is exactly the reason that you should, because you're going to be different and you're going to be perceived differently. Step outside the box, ask for permission, be nerdy, have fun, do fun videos, and test. The only way to get good content is to test 100 ideas. 98 might flow, and two might get you a post that is going to go crazy that people will pile on and love what you do. That comes from the top down, so go to them for their stories, involve them in this content.
That's the best advice I can give you. Have fun. If you like going to work, but you think you have a boring product, what do you love about going to work? Talk about company culture. Talk about dancing when the UPS guy shows up. I can get 100 ideas. Post that human part of the B2B brand on social media and people will connect with that.
George: Such good advice. I hope people were literally bullet pointing down the things that you were saying. Have fun. Find the story. Be different. Add in human elements. There's a roadmap, literally, if people would rewind that section and just start bullet pointing the things that you were pointing to. It's a roadmap to success.
Speaking of, in a minute I'm going to ask you what organic social success looks like. Before we get there, in that journey to trying to be successful with this organic strategy, there's probably going to be some potholes or hurdles along the way. To help us not hit those potholes or hurdles, what are some things that you've fundamentally seen some B2B or brands in general like you just jacked up, what are the hurdles that we should watch out for?
Dorien: Content approval. One of the biggest hurdles is not trusting the marketing team to be a brand voice, to get too many opinions in there and too many people wanting to say we can do this or that. If you hire a talented marketing team and they understand the business, and they get access to the sales team who is selling your product and get an understanding of what they're selling and why they're selling, access to the financial team so you know what is selling, what are the best sellers, what your financial status is, what your revenue is, you have access to your C-suite and understand what their goals are, then you're going to need to let marketing test and try things.
The best viral tweets and the best viral content we've seen from big companies are from social media managers sitting behind a screen just like this that have permission to fail. Let me say it again. They have permission to fail. One of the famous examples is when Pharrell had that Happy song and he got an award and he wore the big hat, and Arby's tweeted, "Pharrell, give us back our hat." That went crazy. If he had to go to ask for permission from somebody or they didn't have permission to put that tweet out or put that on Instagram, none of that would have happened.
If you're listening to this, you're C-suite and you're in B2B, give your marketing team permission to fail. That also means giving them permission to try new things. I think that's one of the biggest hurdles, that content approval. You have to approve the concepts of what you're doing and you have to have the content strategy plan in place. Like we're going to do some evergreen posts, some salesy posts, and we're going to run a sales campaign, we're going to highlight our members, and all of those things. Then once you have that framework, let them go and let them fail if they need to, because that's how they're going to succeed.
George: I almost broke out into the "Let It Go" song from Frozen, but I decided the Marketing Smarts listeners probably would not like that very much. I do love that section because this idea of giving them freedom to try and test, and almost a culture that there's not really failure, there's just lessons that we're going to learn along the way. I'll lean into the mirror version of this, what does organic social media strategy success look like? We've reached the first place, gold medal around our neck, on the podium. Paint us a picture of what that looks like.
Dorien: The picture that you need to have is that at the beginning of the cycle, whether that's a quarter or a year, you have your goals. Why did you want to be on social media? Then you need to see improvement in those goals. For some companies, when the budget is teeny-tiny, the goal might be our traffic went up from 1,000 people to 5,000 a month. For a big company, it might be our email list went from 1,000 people to 30,000 people. Just depending on what your goal is.
The biggest thing with organic is you have to see movement and you have to see growth. The growth will depend on your resources, time, money, and how much you put into it. If you post only twice a week on organic, you have a teeny-tiny budget, and you send one email newsletter a month, your growth and your success is going to look very different than when you have a large marketing team, you have a dedicated email marketer, you send out email sequences, you want to grow your list, you're doing paid ads alongside the organic, it's going to look different. The biggest thing is you need to have growth and conversations on social.
If you're not building your audience and you're not listening to your audience, whether you're building an open community on these different platforms or you have a dedicated community, a Facebook Group or a LinkedIn Group, or somewhere on social, you have to be building that community and you have to have conversations. The best content that you can create is content based on the feedback from people. That's how you improve your content. You start with the content that you think they want, you test everything, then the things that work the best, you're going to go evaluate that every month or every week, depending on what your resources are, and you can make content that looks like the one that did really well and make it even better. You have to build upon that.
So, success is growth, success is movement, success is building a community, having conversations, and ultimately that will result in superfans, brand ambassadors, more sales, more people that want to work for you, retention of customers, and all of those other things that you want.
George: I love this vision of success that you've painted. I really love this idea of community equals conversations equals future content. There's just something absolutely magical about that if you map it out. It makes me think about the interview I did with Nate Brown about voice of customer and having a way to hear those conversations coming back to the marketing team.
Dorien, this has been an absolutely amazing interview filled with gems and nuggets that people can use as they move forward. I always like to end the episode with words of wisdom. We've all been on a journey, you've helped other people on their journey, so what are some words of wisdom that you want to leave the Marketing Smarts audience around how B2B marketers can use an organic social media strategy for success in 2023 and for years to come?
Dorien: Work with your teammates. One brain and two brains don't equal two brains, it equals even better. When you put the power together of teams and of ideas, listen to all of the voices on your team. Come up with content that works. Go test it. I think that is the essence of what I want to tell you moving forward. You might have an idea, and if you implement it by yourself, it's probably great because it's your idea. When two or three people come up with an idea and five or eight people implement it because they get excited about the plan and excited about the implementation, it's that pile on.
Just because you're on a marketing team and you're the video editor, it doesn't mean that your opinion doesn't count on what kind of video you have to create. When everybody stays in their lane, nothing exciting happens. When everybody works together as a team and all voices are heard on the team, whether it's a team of three, five, seven, that's when the magic happens.
Really treasure those teammates, your marketing team that you're on, sit around and have these sessions of brainstorming, "This is the one thing that we want to do. What do you think? What have you seen? When you have been online? What are some examples of content that stopped the scroll for you?" Build upon that. All those brains together is just going to be amazing.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Joe Pulizzi about the mechanics of starting and running a content-first B2B marketing department, and Version 2 of Epic Content coming out soon, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
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Published on March 16, 2023
Dorien Morin-van Dam, a social media strategist, organic social media specialist, trainer, community manager, and keynote speaker. She is a Certified Social Media Professional and Agile Marketer. You can recognize her online and onstage by her signature orange glasses, a nod to her Dutch heritage.
LinkedIn: Dorien Morin-van Dam
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