Like many people, I’ve had great success in my career at companies with iconic brands – GE, HP, Microsoft – all with long tenures in their respective industries. Loved by many and hated by some, brands like these have a difficult path in the world of B2B digital marketing. Social media in particular can be a challenge for iconic brands – how do you embrace new media and yet still be you?
The challenge big brands face is multi-faceted in B2B. The desire internally to “stay true to the brand”; the fear of “what if people say something bad”; the fear that “we can’t control the message”; the perception that “social doesn’t apply to B2B” are all part of the conversation internally at companies with iconic brands. So here’s some ideas that can help.
First some things to remember….
- You can stay true to your brand in social media. This is done by pulling out meaningful threads of your brand strategy, adding a human voice and engaging your target audiences through new media. It’s not about your whole brand; it’s about the meaningful pieces of your brand for your audience.
- People may say something bad, but guess what; they’ve been saying these things for a while. You just didn’t see it as clearly before. Don’t fear the negative comment, instead embrace it. Being able to engage in these conversations and steer the perspective in your brand’s favor is a great thing and one that is best done via social media. You’ll also learn a great deal that can shape your brand strategy going forward.
- Make peace with not being able to control the message. This is actually a good thing. You’ll find out very quickly what people perceive your brand to REALLY be. As I tell my team regularly, doing social media for a big brand requires us to be a good dance partner and let the community lead us. This also means having patience and diplomacy when they step on our toes or we accidentally step on theirs.
- B2B is social because people buy your services not companies. To paraphrase a friend of mine from SAP (@ToddMWilms) “Treat businesses as people because business is about people”. Well-said Todd and I couldn’t agree more. People in the B2B space know this intrinsically, they just haven’t applied it yet in social media or more broadly in digital for that matter.
Great, so what to do? Ah, embrace the unique advantages of having an iconic brand and have some fun:
- Be the heritage. A company with a long tenure has fantastic history to embrace. This fuels all kinds of “this day in history” content as well as an ability to embrace the concept of “we’ve been there for you through thick and thin”. Use your heritage as a content and brand advantage. History is full of powerful emotional connections to leverage.
- Be the human voice of business. Business is really about people and your customers are people first and representatives of companies second. So connect with them on a personal level via social media. This isn’t that different from the face-to-face relationship building. Include some interesting content in your social media. Sponsoring the Olympics? Let them know. Sponsoring students via contests or scholarships? Let them know as well – you never know they may want to hire some of these kids some day. Connect with content they care about as people then infuse business content as appropriate.
- Connect with your customers’ social media. Friend,Like or otherwise connect to your customers’ social media efforts. Amplification and collaboration are part of being a good social-media-citizen. So embrace the crowd and do the social-media-group-hug of message amplification. They’ll return the favor if you do it well and that is all goodness.
B2B social media success for big brands is both achievable and needed. Give it a try and you may just be surprised at the positive response. After all, who doesn’t like a hug?