Few days back, got this mail as part of my MarketingProfs newsletter. The topic was “Getting Results with Social Media: Q&A with Lena West“. Though every now & then, we all marketing and social media enthusiats get emails like this but this one somehow struck some chord which prompted me to include a part of the interview into my blog. I found the Q&A quite insightful, interesting and most importantly clears up the ground level realities of Social Media acceptance in B2B companies as they have begun to launch Social Media efforts and incorporate Social Media tools into their marketing campaigns. But with the new tools comes the inevitable learning curve, and many organizations are finding that their initial wade into the social media water isn’t yielding the results they were hoping for or expecting.

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Here, she shares some insights for B2B players looking to hone their social media strategy.

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[Q] It seems that in the last couple of years, companies have been looking to learn all they could about blogs and social networks. Are these still the hot spots for companies wanting to start using social media, or are other areas emerging?

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[Ans] Blogs and social networking are still very “hot.” Gosh, I don’t like saying that because it makes anything new media related sound like a fad – which it decidedly is NOT.

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Online communities and engagement are emerging areas for brand investment. Companies that are active in social media are finally getting the blogosphere memo that it’s not just about being part of the community and listening, but facilitating dialogue as well.

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There was a report released recently that showed that with the economic downturn, many brands are taking a good chunk of their traditional marketing spend and allocating it to social media engagement. Not to mention that there is still a huge learning and adoption curve for social media on the corporate front. The best is far from being over and we haven’t even reached the peak yet.

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[Q] What do you think is the biggest misconception that companies have about using social media tools?

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[Ans] That legal “won’t let them” or that people will say negative things about their brands. Newsflash: people in your market are already saying both good and bad things about brands. Why stick your head in the sand, when you can find out what’s being said, address it and develop relationships?

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As for legal? Their job is to protect the firms they’re hired to protect. It’s our jobs as consultants, social media evangelists, marketers and PR professionals to present a plan that mitigates risk while still being open, honest and direct. If you’re not doing your job, don’t dare blame it all on legal.

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[Q]There’s a growing emphasis on establishing the right metrics to measure social media programs. What’s hard about correctly tracking and measuring the effectiveness of social media efforts?

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[Ans] Because when [companies] started their social media initiative(s), they didn’t determine what the end goal was and as a result they don’t know which metric to measure to keep tabs on that goal. It’s really that simple. There are HUNDREDS of KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you can track, but if you don’t know what you should be tracking and how that indicator relates to your goal… you might as well go watch Project Runway. This is why it’s so important for brands to get help implementing social media. If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. It’s seemingly minor things, like selecting the appropriate metric(s), that can cripple otherwise healthy social media programs.

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[Q] Is blogging a good fit for every company?

[Ans] Blogs do seem to get the most attention, but that’s because everyone can type. You see, people mistakenly think they have to be some uber-orator in order to have a successful podcast. Or, with a video blog, they think they have to be the next Ed Bradley or Barbara Walters. And, even with online communities, they feel it’s a lot to manage, but a blog…? Heck, anyone can type. That’s the thought process.

No, blogs are not a good fit for every company. Different social media tools produce different results. For example, if you know your audience is on-the-go, you might want to consider a podcast because audio offers a different means of portability than text.

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Companies can tell they should start blogging when they feel that they want something more from their marketing than demis and data. Many people get older and they think, “There has to be more than this,” and they go on a search for their passion in the Burmese mountainside. Companies get the same fire in their breastbones. They think – and correctly so – there has to be more than numbers and email addresses. They start thinking about how to start a movement in their industry. They start thinking bigger about their brands. THOSE are the companies that are ripe for engaging in social media — blogging or otherwise. It starts as a yearning to be part of the big picture.

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