Business, Interviews

Q&A with Oktopost on the Value of B2B Social Media: 'Screw Likes, Get Leads'

Social media has transcended social networking, and is now an important part of business. Going beyond reaching out to consumers in a B2B communications model, however, companies are finding the need to reach out to other enterprises as well, especially those whose business models involve dealing with vendors, suppliers and fellow businesses or entrepreneurs.

B2B social media has also gone beyond the purview of the traditional PR company. Cloud- and desktop-based tools are already available, and any CMO or marketing manager would have such tools at their disposal, or perhaps even access to boutique PR firms that focus on running effective social media campaigns meant for the enterprise. Still, it’s not that easy to find the optimal means of reaching out to fellow businesses and entrepreneurs. In some cases, “likes” or connections don’t necessarily convert to actual business.

According to a study by Business2Community, this particular genre is dominated by LinkedIn, given the professional focus of the social network. About 91% of marketing professionals dealing in B2B are active on LinkedIn, compared with about 85% on Twitter and 81% on Facebook. However, the same study says only 36% of the same professionals consider themselves well-versed in doing B2B social media. Here is where enterprises will need help, says Daniel Kushner, co-founder and CEO at Oktopost, a startup that provides B2B social media consulting and services. An alumnus of companies like Zend Technologies, application service automation startup Nolio, and medical technology firm Syneron Medical (NASDAQ:ELOS), Kushner now focuses on enabling effective B2B social media management for enterprises through his Tel Aviv-based startup.

In an interview with Bright Side of News*, Kushner says his motto is “Screw likes, get leads,” which means generating business is inevitably more important than simple connections. While a basic “like”, retweet, +1 or share might be a plus in terms of relevance and authority in social media, what really matters is the bottomline, and how to properly attribute or account for such success.

Here is an excerpt of our Q&A:

Bright Side of News*: Can you shed some light on your decision to focus on B2B social media management?

Daniel Kushner: Social media has evolved from a peer-to-peer (P2P) network to a place where businesses both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) users can reach their customers, prospects, and fans. There has been a huge rise in social media management tools that all revolve around the B2C way of marketing. B2B is different, however, and we learnt this from first-hand experience when running global marketing teams for hi-tech companies. Being frustrated that there’s no social media management platform that is in line with the objectives of B2B marketers, we decided to create one.

There are a few big differences between marketing with consumers and businesses in mind. B2B marketers need to manage huge social editorial calendars due to the amount of content they are producing. They also need to measure and understand their RoI on social media. These two factors are the core of Oktopost, making it the only platform that is truly B2B focused.

BSN*: Is there any particular advantage with targeting social media campaigns this way? If I’m running a business, can’t I just hire someone to manage my Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn pages?

DK: Social media, like most marketing activities, can be managed either in house or with external vendors. In fact, I strongly believe that if you don’t know “how” to do social media marketing then it is in fact better to hire an external agency. Social media management platforms help you manage the social media marketing — they don’t do it for you. So if you don’t know what you’re doing, a platform won’t really help. Just like using a CRM won’t make you into a better sales person, but will help you manage your sales, taking into consideration that you have your sales methodologies, and the like. Even when using an agency, they will most probably be using a platform like Oktopost to manage their clients’ social media.

BSN*: Can you share some trends with regard to business’ uptake of social media? What do businesses want to accomplish with their social media campaigns?

DK: Social media is a new bi-directional channel for businesses that is at most controlled by the customer (consumer in B2C case), so there are a few angles that social media play within the business. There’s a “marketing maturity level” that business go through not only in regards to social media, but also in overall marketing management as a whole. There are those at the very beginning of the scale and are more activity-driven that business-driven. This is old-school marketing where a marketer will be measure by how many trade shows they did and press releases that were put on the wire. Then there is a trend to measure how marketing is helping the business and becoming a profit center instead of a cost center. This is normally done by measure how many leads are generated by the marketing team, quality of leads, sale ready leads, etc.

On the higher end of the maturity level, I see marketing scientifically measuring and A/B testing everything from lead source to touch points to opportunity contributions. Measuring becomes a centric part of the marketing DNA, and social should also be measured. Not only how many likes, followers, retweets, but how many leads, and what social content is driving those leads.

BSN*: What are the common misconceptions do businesses have with working with social media? Any common gaps that businesses need to address?

DK: Social media for marketing is multifaceted — there’s no one method, tactic, or way of doing things. There’s also not a single objective, KPI or outcome. Social media can be used for content distribution, brand awareness, content curation, customer support, and much more. Each discipline needs to be understood and management separately. You can’t just simply send 10 tweets a day and call that social media marketing. What are those tweets for? Promoting a webinar, a whitepaper, or talking about an event? Driving traffic to you blog? The major gap is having the business understand what is important for them and what they want to measure. From there a social media plan can be created.