After much internal debate and in-fighting among departments you finally decide to put Social Media in PR. Well, don’t get too comfortable. The risk, according to recent research on the technology industry, is that PR may get pressured to turn a vehicle for engaging in genuine conversations into a broadcast channel for generating leads.
According to research from ExactTarget, close to 40% of Facebook users said that they “like” a brand to share their support of that brand with friends.
Why users “like” brands:
- 40% to receive discounts and promotions
- 39% to show my support for the company to others
- 36% to get a “freebie”
- 34% to stay informed about the activities of the company
- 33% to get updates on future products
63% of FB users reported that they would “unlike” a brand if postings become excessive, and in particular, if they are too promotional or repetitive. 52% of Twitters users would stop following a brand if their tweets became repetitive or boring. This is where the danger for hi-tech marketers exists.
In a report titled Tech Marketers Pursue Antiquated Marketing Strategies, Forrester found that 42% of hi-tech companies have handed over Social Media to PR and Corporate Marketing.
The research also showed that 76% hi-tech marketers say that lead generation was one of the two most important priorities for marketing compared to 53% of non-tech companies. Non-tech companies also list customer relationship management to be a priority at 52% versus only 22% of tech companies.
Because of the pressure for leads, tech has a tendency to want to turn any interaction into a sales conversation, by doing so it risk alienating what could be its best sales voice, the brand advocate. It doesn’t mean that PR organizations in tech can’t successfully execute social media programs, in fact, many of the best practices come from the industry. But if not carefully monitored and controlled, PR and MarCom will be under pressure to use social media as a one way outbound spam machine aimed at anyone who hints at liking a technology brand.
That squeeze will come from the product organization, which has P&L targets that will be made or missed according to the marketing team’s ability to produce leads. Forrester found that Product Development and Engineering (35%) has the most influence of any business function in the hi-tech industry.
|Where should social media sit?|
The Forrester report went on to say that other industry respondents believe social media plays an important part in other marketing activities, as a result, it could be owned by a corporate marketing/PR (24%), web/interactive group (22%) or a brand or product marketing group (16%).
If you are in hi-tech and PR manages social media remember this – the top measurable benefit of social media, according to a recent McKinsey survey, is that it increases the speed to access knowledge; specifically, to understand the external environment, find new ideas, and experts which has resulted in improved marketing effectiveness. Note that these activities are collecting information, not distributing.
Even if you believe in love at first sight, the likelihood of a marriage proposal on the first date is highly unlikely. Committing yourself to someone without getting to know him or her first is a ridiculous idea. Yet far too often companies are asking audiences to “commit” despite knowing little about them at the first hint of an interaction.
In the tech industry and according to author Tom Grant, Ph.d, it is the industry’s “voracious appetite for leads.” As Grant explains in his report, Tech Marketer Pursue Antiquated Marketing Strategies, the “high-speed innovation” rate drives a hyper focus on product marketing and lead generation compared to other industries.
In fact, only 22% of marketers in the technology industry said that customer relationship management was one of the two most important priorities. Contrast that with 52% of marketers in non-tech companies. The focus being on producing a measurable outcome that drives the product P&L…leads.
Developing a relationship with an audience takes time and resources and can often be perceived as a distraction to the task of finding “ready to marry” prospects. This outward-in view of marketing ignores audience needs and assumes that all audiences are the same and that all searches must indicate intent.
However, the key to driving demand and lead generation in today’s economy is not being more aggressive and pushing harder, but rather, taking time to develop and nurture relationships. Audiences, like dates, can sense desperation. Perhaps the way to go faster is by slowing down and shifting the focal point from the conversion to the conversation.
We have long known that relevancy drives conversion and that conversion drives revenue. Getting to relevancy requires us to engage with the audience to understand their unique needs and motivations. As a result, our role changes from dictating to facilitating and understanding that it’s now on the buyer’s timeframe, not ours.
New technologies, such as Bizo allow us to know who the audience is at the first interaction. We also know where they’ve been for 30 days (who they’ve been dating) before the conversion point, via Google Analytics new Multichannel Funnels.
We can serve up custom content through re-targeting based on audience profiles, adapt for whatever device they are using, and deepen engagement by providing specific product or brand messages that align with their journey.
“95% of prospects on your website are not yet ready to talk with a sales rep” Source: 2011 MECLABS research
We no longer have to interrupt a buyer’s journey to gauge their interest level. We no longer have to call a prospect to qualify them. This can, and will happen, at the buyer’s choosing, if we let it.
By providing something of value (e.g. relevant and personal) buyers will share their interests, desires and needs, but only if we listen, nurture and respect the relationship. According to Forrester, this intimate information is critical to creating real opportunity (leads) for the sales force.
In the Technology Buyer Insight Study, Forrester found that, although tech has done a good job of equipping their sales force to discuss their products, they have failed to provide reps with insight into buyer’s roles and responsibilities. Only 29% of CIO’s said that sales reps could “relate to their role”, less than a quarter (24%) of business leaders said that reps were “knowledgeable about their business.”
Still too touchy feely for you? Consider Harte Hanks’ report, Mapping the Technology Buyer’s Journey which states that the relationship with the vendor is still a top 5 consideration driver. The first and second most important drivers are what you’d expect: 1) Meets all needs, and 2) Cost.
Competitors can match your price, but they can’t necessary match your understanding of the buyer’s need or the relationship developed through that journey.