5 Questions On How To Build A Social Media Strategy, Answered

Social Media 101

While the buzz around social media continues to grow, solution providers are left sifting through the noise to figure out how to make tools like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn work for them. At UBM Channel’s Best of Breed Conference in Dana Point, Calif., last week, Wendi Garrison, director of marketing and partner relations at Business Communications Inc. (BCI), a CRN VAR500 solution provider in Ridgeland, Miss., and Ruth White-Cabbell, marketing programs manager, U.S. channel marketing at Cisco Systems, San Jose, Calif., offered a look at some best social media practices partners can live by.

1. Is There A Business Case For Social Media?

Cisco’s White-Cabbell argues that for business-to-business outfits such as solution providers, the case for social media is extremely strong, particularly since it is often easier for B-to-B companies to measure the impact of social media efforts compared to business-to-consumer.

’There is a limited number of customers overall, and social media can impact the preference for our brand,’ she said. She advised solution providers to survey their customers to ask where they spend time online and ’where they would like to hear from you’ to ensure that their social media efforts are pointed in the right direction.

2. Must I Hire A Dedicated Employee To Handle Social Media?

The answer is likely yes. ’The more platforms you add, the more likely it is that you’ll need to hire somebody,’ said White-Cabbell. ’It’s a content hog. You need somebody to generate or curate content to put out in your social media channels.’

But that doesn’t have to be a first step, and you don’t have to hit every social media outlet from the get-go, she added. ’Investigate your employees to find resources within your organization -- you don’t have to be everywhere at once.’

White-Cabbell said that many of Cisco’s solution providers opt to handle their social media efforts via an agency model, but she offered a word of caution: ’You have to have someone from your company work with the agency. It’s your voice.’

3. Can I Control Negative Posts About My Business? How Do I Respond?

Both White-Cabbell and BCI’s Wendi Garrison agreed that the worst thing a business can do is try to delete negative comments made by customers, lest it makes them appear dishonest or that they have something to hide. ’We never delete a negative post. We want it to be viewed as an open forum,’ said Garrison, noting that BCI’s policy is to escalate the complaint to the department that was discussed to help craft an appropriate response.

’You want to participate in the conversation and turn a negative into a positive,’ added White-Cabbell.

4. Must I Blog?

’Blogging is truly the most difficult thing to do from a social media perspective, but it is the thing that will provide the best ROI for your business. Search engines love blogs,’ said White-Cabbell. ’Companies that blog receive 55 percent more traffic than those who don’t.’

BCI taps people from several departments to author blogs, but its marketing department operates as the central hub, collecting the raw content from the authors to ’wordsmith’ it. ’We give it back to them to make sure it still has the message they intended. We want more than one set of eyes on it,’ Garrison said.

5. How Do I Ensure That Social Media Activities Are Part of My Overall Marketing Goals?

’Before you engage in social media, you should have clearly defined marketing goals and objectives and then build social media into it,’ said Cisco’s White-Cabbell. Look at your e-mail activities and consider how to use that platform to drive readers to your blog or followers on Twitter. Think about how to use your Facebook page to get people to subscribe to a newsletter or attend an event. BCI’s Garrison noted that just gaining a lead isn’t enough: ’You do need to follow up with face time or phone calls.’