BLOG: I heard it through the grapevine

The UK Government is running a consultation on proposals to introduce legal measures to regulate social media companies. Like many other countries around the world, it wants to take better action against harmful content, and enforce a duty of care to users. As well as explicitly harmful content, increasingly revealed are the day-to-day mental health and wellbeing effects of social on consumers including addiction, cyber-bullying, anxiety and depression.

In B2B marketing, these are not immediately obvious issues but that’s not to say social media is not without some problems of its own here too!

We’ve become accustomed to social media being a daily marketing activity with LinkedIn and Twitter firm business favourites, and Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for certain audiences too.

Excitingly, so much that happens in the daily operations of a business can be shared – from new people appointments, projects won, projects finished, accreditations gained, awards won, press releases published, events attended by employees, company sponsorships, activity in the community, national awareness days, to thought leadership material, campaigns and blogs…content is never in short supply. We post with high frequency because we know an active feed gives confidence to clients and potential recruits alike about how interesting a place the company is to work, and the vibrancy of its culture.

Gone are the days of people looking to websites for a company’s latest news, the news always breaks on social first, and the website is the place to read on if you’re interested. Yet whilst social media can help drive website traffic, this typically comes directly or through search, i.e. most people don’t ‘read on’, which makes its value harder to track beyond more intangible objectives of brand awareness or profile-raising.

So everyone’s on it, it’s noticeable if you’re not, but I get asked alot what does it all mean? Is it just a never-ending hamster wheel of posts about activity? It can feel like that. It’s not possible to read even a small fraction of the news put out there every day, without losing your entire day!

There are also risks associated with it; you could spend too much time on social broadcasting to a mass audience and not enough time listening and talking directly to your actual customers. It can be easy to forget it’s your customers that ultimately pay your wages and not your social followers. Look closely at your most engaged posts, how many are liked or shared by your customers or even by your target audiences?

Word-of-mouth is worth feeding first

I did a brief consultancy stint in a specialist B2B marketing agency once, and most impressive to me was that nearly all of their work came from word-of-mouth client recommendations, i.e. through the grapevine.

Previously, and since then, I’ve worked in medium, large and enterprise-sized organisations, so I’ve experienced marketing across the full business scale. You’d think common ground would be hard to find but what I’ve learnt is that no matter what your size of business, the customer (or client) is king, and people need to be passionate about keeping their customers happy to make a sustainable living.

For any business, the more authentic you are about what you do and the services you offer, the more customers will buy into your story whether you promote it on one, or many, social channels or not.

Customer satisfaction and loyalty won’t come as a result of social media, but from providing a service that is either personalised, fast turnaround, high quality, local – or all of these things – and, good or bad, you will hear about it on the grapevine.

Happy customers ultimately translate into healthy revenue and a profitable business, which is pretty much living the (commercial) dream…and that’s something worth promoting on social media.

Song credit: Marvin Gaye.

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