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BtoB

Why social b-to-b is really, really, really hard

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"Let's do a b-to-b Facebook page," I said, thinking it would be a relatively simple thing to get off the ground.

I mean, there's really no cost to launch a page. You just have do some light graphics work, package up your content and than you're off to the races, right? 

Wow, was I wrong.

Launching a b-to-b Facebook page has been a surprising challenge that has opened my eyes to the broad impact social media has across an organization.

When we started the planning process, we identified a few key internal stakeholders we needed to engage with for the project. But as people started to find out what we were doing, it really snowballed. We had multiple people from different departments that wanted a seat at the table.

Now, with our other marketing activities we usually get a lot of input from people across the organization. But in the end, we're the marketing experts and we generally make the call on what we do and how we do it. We own the message as well as the media where we communicate that message. 

But social media is a very different animal. Here's an example. A person from our customer service team called me and had some concerns about what happens when a customer posts a complaint on our Facebook page. Who deals with that?

That's a great question and that's where social gets messy. I might say that marketing should reply, because we ultimately own the brand. But customer service thinks they should reply because they are responsible for resolving customer issues. Then PR wants to reply because they see social as an important component of our corporate reputation.

Of course the sales team wants to reply because they own the customer relationship. Then the product team wants to reply because the criticism is related to our solutions and they are the subject-matter experts. Then our consumer-marketing team has issues because they say our b-to-b Facebook page might spill over to our consumer Facebook page. 

Oy. Like I said, really, really messy.

The process of developing a b-to-b Facebook page can really put a spotlight on some of the silos and dysfunctions in an organization. Unless your company is structured in a highly collaborative, cross-functional way where everyone has clearly defined roles and responsibilities, social media can create big challenges. And let's face it, there are no companies that are perfectly organized unless you live in Fantasyland. If they were, all the "organizational effectiveness" consultants would be out of work.

With our social-media program, what worked was assigning a "social quarterback" to the task, someone in marketing who would be responsible for the ongoing management of the Facebook page and closely coordinate with the social stakeholders across the company. The social QB has to lead our team down the field to score. But that person will only be successful if the entire team works together.

We finally launched our b-to-b Facebook page in May and we're learning more every day. You can check it out here, at www.facebook.com/DealerConnect. If you're not a car dealer it probably won't be that interesting to you. But feel free to "like" us anyway.

Through the process, we've learned that collaboration is key. Being able to effectively work with our internal stakeholders has helped make our b-to-b social media program much stronger. And that's probably a good lesson to learn that goes beyond just social media.

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