The impact of social media campaigns in B2B markets remain limited, says Stephen Hooley
Date: 12 September 2012 11:25
Social media is now as much part of the ICT landscape as email or an internet browser for the computer literate, or should I say smartphone literate?
London 2012 was touted as the first truly digital summer games and the social media element certainly added to the atmosphere. Seeing what your favourite athlete did, said or ate after winning their gold medal added a new dimension to the event. There was even the opportunity for sports stars to Tweet things they shouldn’t and be censored by their sport’s governing body. However with my PR professional’s hat on I’m still wondering how much social media can add to a B2B relationship on a purely commercial level.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Twitter is an asset and I use it daily to keep in touch with my large group of triathlon friends. I’ll also admit that I’ve been educated and persuaded to buy products and services by what I’ve read on Twitter, but only at a B2C level. In terms of promoting chocolate bars, FMCG or for that matter any product that uses celebrity endorsement, it is a perfect fit. The ability to cut out the media middle man and hit an audience of millions is tailor-made for everybody involved in celebrity culture and the B2C products associated with it.
However in a hard-nosed B2B environment, the opposite is often true. Purchasing cycles are far longer and unit costs often far higher. Consequently, products and services are not procured on a whim. Buyers need to know they are getting some sort of added value and sellers can enhance their offering through focused, robust, integrated PR.
Another issue that must be considered is that there is a symbiotic relationship between the PR industry and the media. Publications need advertising revenue more than ever to survive and whether we like it or not, elements of PR do feed this need. Does the PR industry really want to be cutting out the media middle man and trying to engage directly with its audience? Or maybe social media should be the tool of choice to communicate with the media? There have been many apocryphal tales about journalists who now only accept pitches via Twitter: I’m not sure how many good stories they get as you can’t say much in 140 characters even if u resort 2 txt spk.
I don’t think that social media is the route to glory for B2B PR, any more than SEO is the future for PR. Social media provides a new and exciting communications channel, but in the final analysis it’s just a channel. The PR professional still needs to ensure that he or she is hitting the correct audience for the client and providing content that adds value. In the communication transaction it’s always the content that will deliver the client’s tactical or strategic aims, not the mode of communication. Without pithy news or robust thought leadership attached to the communication, it remains fluffy and vacuous. From my perspective the most powerful element of social media circa 2012 is the link and the value is what’s at the end of that link.
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