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Secrets of social success for b-to-b companies

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With 750,000 Twitter followers and social network presences on everything from Pinterest to China's Weibo, CME Group shatters the notion that b-to-b companies in regulated industries can't use social media. BtoB spoke with Allan Schoenberg, director of corporate communications at the former Chicago Mercantile Exchange, to get his thoughts on using social successfully. BtoB: We're an established b-to-b business in a niche industry and all our customers are already known to us. Why do we need social media? Allan Schoenberg: We're in a dynamic environment of constantly changing competition, regulations and customer needs. Social media is a way to keep people up-to-date, have conversations and listen in real time. Companies of all kinds need to communicate constantly. They also need to educate the market about why they matter. Sure, existing customers are very important, but social is a way to talk to the people who may not be doing business with you now. It's also a way to reach the media, analysts and other people who don't buy your products but influence those who do. BtoB: How can a company in a regulated industry participate in social channels without getting into trouble? Schoenberg: Companies get into trouble when they don't have good communication guidelines. Start with what you need to communicate and how that fits with the platform. Publish your guidelines—including what you can't talk about—in your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. On Twitter, use direct messages or a link to a Web page. You also need a strong relationship with your legal and compliance people so they understand your needs and limitations. No surprises. BtoB: What's the best way for a b-to-b company to build a quality following on Twitter? Schoenberg: Don't just post a ton of tweets; focus on quality over quantity. Good information can come from you or from other trusted sources. Put the audience first. Second, talk to people. Social media is about making the individual matter and the best way to do that is through conversation and showing that you're listening.
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