By adaptive - March 27th, 2013

In the last part of this series we look at how B2B organisations can find and nurture their brand advocates to deliver positive sentiment that can result in real-world sales.


Content drives communities. It keeps community members engaged and interested and ensures they will come back for more. In order to create relevant content, you first need to identify and understand your community, and specifically, the key influencers in that community. Who are they? What websites do they visit? What type of content do they read and post? What social networks do they participate in? What do they care about?
Says Head of Think at digital marketing agency Quirk Sam Beckbessinger: “Be smart about identifying your influencers. Don't just chase those who have big follower numbers on Twitter, or anyone with a vaguely relevant blog. You're looking for the sweet spot between the people who influence others, and the people who actually care about your brand. If someone cares about what you're offering, communicating with them is easy. 
“A great example for me is Crocs SA (@crocs) and Sarah Britten (@anatinus). Sarah Britten has a fairly large number of Twitter followers, and more importantly, if you dig in and look at who follows her, you'll see that many influential people are influenced by her. Sarah also happens to love Crocs (yeah, I don't get it either). All Crocs had to do was send Sarah a care bundle with some free shoes, and talk to her occasionally. Now Crocs can send Sarah news about what they're doing, and Sarah will talk about this. Why? Because she actually cares - she's a natural brand advocate. This is a B2C example, but the same principles apply to B2B.”
Joseline Mudede-Macdonald, Marketing Manager at WhatUsersDo, an online user experience and useability testing site, agrees: “At WhatUsersDo our B2B audience is unique and niche. Remote user testing as a product is beneficial for anyone with digital assets they would like to optimise, but very few professionals are actually responsible for it. Targeting and finding influencers has to be refined and segmented. The user experience influencers we are seeking will come from design, marketing, Internet or eCommerce backgrounds and possess captive audiences of their own on social media.” 
“The things I would look for when seeking influencers on, for example, Twitter, include frequency of postings, number of followers versus number following and their organisational reach,” she comments.

Communicate clearly

How big is your potential community? According to Social Media Around the World 2012, by inSites Consulting, 50% of consumers post information about brands, products and/or companies on social networks.
In their last report into the power of brand advocates, Zubrance stated: “A global word of mouth study on 2006 by Gkf Roper found that the average consumer recommends 3.7 brands. The Zubrance in study in 2012 found that on average, brand advocates recommend nine brands, products or services per year. The study also found that 16% of brand advocates recommend ten or more brands, products or services with 16% recommending 15 or more.”
How often do you use the following platforms to send information about products, brands, sales or stores?
[SOURCE: BzzAgent]
A simple Google search using key terms relevant to your market will reveal who is talking about your topics online, whether on Facebook, Twitter or their blog. Social networks like LinkedIn, which specifically cater to professionals, are also good places to go - a premium account costs very little and can yield tons of useful information. If your company is already engaging via social media channels look at the users that are talking to you and about you, and start talking to them.
Says Mudede-Macdonald, “What has always astounded me about companies seeking to approach influencers is that they do not ask their audiences. The best way to ascertain how and if you should approach is to ask. Creating a survey or poll to understand their content consumption and preferences for contacting them helps you to respond to their needs. Going forward, the results from a survey can dictate the type of content your network needs and at what part of the production cycle they will need it.”
“There are some smart tools that will help you identify who these people are,” says Beckbessinger, “NodeXL is my personal favourite - it allows you to map fairly complex influencer relationships and looks for real influence, not just how many followers people have). ORM tools like BrandsEye and Radian6 will also help, but only if there is already some conversation about your company.”
Turning an interaction into a relationship takes a bit of effort, beyond initial introductions. And here, content really is king. Says Beckbessinger: “Influencer engagement works best when supported by a robust content strategy. For most B2B companies, the primary benefit of social media is that it offers you a free, open publishing platform around which organic communities can coalesce. Creating useful, interesting content will naturally draw people around you into a community.”
“One of the best ways to build relationships is asking influencers to provide guest blogs,” comments Mudede-Macdonald. 
“Most of the B2B social media campaigns I have managed include an element or stage that facilitates face-to-face contact,” she adds. “For instance, we recently published an extensive industry survey, The User Experience Survey Report 2013, which was promoted and supported purely by social interactions. In return for filling out the survey all respondents were invited to the launch event. Like every relationship, there should be some give and take. You cannot continue to roll out calls to action without giving something in return.”

Close the loop

And if things go wrong, as they do in relationships from time to time, have a plan in place to handle it gracefully. Product Marketing Director Xabier Ormazabal has six pieces of advice:
  1. You can't react if you don't know.
  2. Be quick to acknowledge.
  3. See it from their point of view.
  4. Take it out of the spotlight.
  5. Say sorry when it's your fault.
  6. Don't feed the troll.
It's as important to listen as it is to talk to your communities and influencers. There are a number of listening platforms available. 
Cisco Social Media Marketing Manager LaSandra Brill says the Cisco team takes an ABC and 1-2-3 approach to listening. “First, we identify what the “action-based conversations” are (ABCs for short) then prioritise them with a 1-2-3 priority. Cisco is currently mentioned five to seven thousand times a day and roughly 3% of those conversations are actionable. Our Social Media Listening Centre allows us to visualise those conversations, and enable our 1500+ social ambassadors to have meaningful engagements with customers.”
For B2B companies nurturing advocates once they have been identified is vital to the long-term development of the social media relationships that are not part of every business.


Next Reads

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