Social Media: Should or Shouldn’t I?

LOTS of buzz in marketing about social media – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube. Seems like everyone wants to talk about these channels lately. For business-to-business marketers, I must admit I’m skeptical about many of these tools. I hear lots about Twitter, but find it rather hard to imagine what it could do for b-to-b branding or demand generation. Ditto FaceBook.

But blogs seem solid. They deliver timely content, fuel search traffic, and give marketers an opportunity to get into content areas that they couldn’t do in traditional channels and so much more. Certainly, effective blogging isn’t without its challenges. If you’re going to commit to a blog, keep it fresh. If visitors see that the last update was 3 months ago, they likely won’t be back. I’ve seen this with my personal blog – consistent fresh content delivers traffic. I heard a comment at a presentation the other night that also rang true, “If you’re a good writer, blogs are a good idea.” Just because you CAN publish easily via a blog, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Have someone with a solid writing background either author, or at least edit content.

YouTube is another interesting channel. All talk of “viral marketing” aside, YouTube is a simple, low-cost way to distribute video. Have a cool new machine tool you want to show people? Shoot a nice 30 second video clip, stick it on YouTube, and post a link on your website. Done. No muss, no fuss.

But Twitter and Facebook – while they may have applications in consumer marketing, I really don’t see how the effort/results ratio is worth the distraction.

Let’s Get Small

In the current economic correction/downturn/recession, I see an alarming trend. The biggest organizations seem to be the most effected – GM, CitiGroup, Bank of America. Something I’ve noticed is that bigger organizations seem the most disconnected, both from their customers and from themselves. All the layers and functional roles seem to cloud people’s thinking and judgement. Many are afraid of losing their job, so they’re thrashing about trying to implement SOMETHING, rather than the RIGHT thing. You even see it in government – witness the NYC/Air Force One debacle this week. Did we REALLY need to spend $328,000 for a new photo? Really? And maybe someone should have stopped to think that perhaps it was going to trigger panic in Manhattan?

But what to do about it? Think small. Another trend I’ve seen is that I have many clients in the Small/Medium Business (SMB) segment who are doing quite well. They’re not caught up in the panic, and they spend their time thinking about how they can serve unmet needs in unique ways. With segmentation, any business can be an SMB. I work with a division of a Fortune 100 company who has chosen to not get embroiled in the politics of the parent and focus on their marketspace. The result? Last year they set a 10-year sales record.

Banners Aren’t Dead

The lowly banner has been much-maligned in the trade press in recent years. But like so many things in the marketing equation, banners can have a place if used appropriately. I would concur for mass-market consumer sites. Banners are likely dead. The victims of too many re-finance ads, credit card offers, and mass branding efforts.

But in b-to-b the banner is alive and well. We recently ran a banner for a local CPA firm on the business section of a regional news site that pulled a 1.18% click-thru; about 4x the industry average. Another client’s programs are often exceeding 1% CTRs as well.

I think the secret is in your strategy for using and deploying banners. Too many marketers view them as advertising – much like print or broadcast. A more helpful perspective is to think of them as a direct marketing tool. In this model, the list, creative, and offer fuel success. With online you can target more tightly (like direct mail) and you’re motivating a response behavior (like direct mail) with impactful, relevant creative (like direct mail). And, unlike direct mail you can perform testing of these variables with almost real-time feedback.

If you have a solid message, the need to target, and a compelling call-to-action, consider an effective banner program for your next campaign.