Last Thursday I attended my first social media conference – the fourth DellB2B Social media huddle. The event is designed to bring communications professionals together to discuss the latest ideas in social media for B2B focused organisations.

 

The first presentation of the day by Lee Bryant (@leebryant) was on “social business” and he outlined some of the key trends that he believes will affect business over the coming years:

  • Mobile – will become ubiquitous and companies need to change how they think of the user experience
  • Cloud – no longer just a storage opportunity it is a utility
  • Consumerisation – businesses need to offer a consumer-grade user experience
  • Big data – databases are an essential part of business, but how that data is mined is the key
  • Social – both inside and outside the organisation – need to engage customers as well as partners and staff (for example using tools such as Yammer)

Lee also noted that organisations needed to think socially and that companies are now moving from hierarchical management structures to a networked style to ensure that the skills in their workforces are fully utilised. This is where social tools inside the business play a role to bring ideas together to ensure better outputs. Lee said that social can also help in CRM where the hard data can be combined with social data to personalise the offering. Lee also noted that most new company websites were build out of narcissism with a stone-age mindset and fail to take the customer into account. He said most websites are built in the style of the organisation – always self-obsessed – and fail to use pre-existing social tools. These comments certainly made me smile given that my employer has just launched a new website. Lee added that successful organisations realise that they need to engage on the customer’s own territory to build a better connection.

 

The second presentation was from Caibre Sugrue (@cairbreUK) and looked at trust. Cairbre said that if people trust your business they are more likely to buy from you and more likely to pay more for your products. This applies offline and online – including in the social world. This reminded me of some comments that Ian Rogers (@iancr) of Topspin Media has talked about with respect to their software and how the average sale for musicians through their service is over $20. Cairbre said social interactions need to be transparent, honest and frequent – however quality is more important than quantity. He suggested that the communication should be CEO-led, but supported by the “technical” experts when required. He added that in general a message needs to be heard 3-5 times to be believed, but if you are trusted 1-2 times. If you are not trusted one negative message is a switch-off. Cairbre recommended reading Dell’s social media policy, which is seen as a flagship for companies.

 

One comment during the Q&A suggested that companies shouldn’t just use social media as a marketing stream as it switches off the audience very quickly. They need to engage with the audience, be interesting and build trust.

 

The third presentation from Azeem Azhar (@azeem) looked at influence scores, which I think is of particular relevance if you are engaging in a wide field. The presentation looked at a number of tools for measuring influence (PeerIndex, Klout, Kred) and how they could be used to identify the key influencers in your field. The presentation noted that it is important to define what influence is before measuring it.

 

However, in the post-presentation discussion it was noted that in niche fields – and I think the field in which I work, biotech, is one of them – you tend to already know who the influencers are and you should aim to engage with them in the social media sphere too.

 

The first session of the afternoon un-conference, led by Rob Shimmin (@robshimmin) asked whether companies need to let their guard down to use social media in a B2B environment. The answer was no. However, Rob noted that care needs to be taken – as with any online interaction. He said it is important for companies to manage their personal brands as well as the company brand and to educate family members and staff about what can and cannot be said online. Rob also discussed security and recommended not just using different passwords for different sites but also changing them regularly. The overall message was be aware and be smart.

 

The second unconference session led by Andrew Gerrard (@andrewgerrard) and Guy Stevens (@guy1067) looked at governance of social media and asked who “owns” social media within an organisation. Andrew noted is important that companies have HR policies that define what staff can say about the organisation both in and out of the work environment. He added that the US Army social media handbook is a good guide for setting up a policy.

 

The final presentation by Benjamin Ellis (@benjaminellis) discussed best practice in linking the offline and online worlds. Some of his recommendations could apply to any organisation:

  • Capture notes from every meeting on an intranet
  • Organisations need to change their culture to be socially open
  • Use software – online or local &nda
    sh; to help planning and workflow within an organisation
  • Use QR codes – and on printed materials to bring people from offline to online – more and more mobile devices now have native code readers.
  • Use social tools such as lanyrd.com to socially promote conferences – currently very big in IT conference field, but spreading rapidly to other fields 

Overall, for me, the most satisfactory realisation from the event was that the way I have proposed we should use social media  at work to promote our business is the way it should be done and is being done by other businesses. I was pleased that the event reinforced my suggestions that my employer needs to use social interactions as more than just a marketing stream and actually engage with its customers and potential customers, otherwise its competitors will steal a march on them. I learned that there is a lot more we could do – new ways to interact and new tools to learn.

 

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