Question: Does my brand campaign need a social community component?
Answer: It's fundamentally natural for b-to-b marketers to integrate social community into the marketing mix because the concept's not new. Take the IT space. Independent user groups, media-sponsored trade shows, company-produced events—all with keynote speakers, breakout sessions and troubleshooting panels—have existed in the physical world for decades. Attendees interact with their peers, solve problems, share tips, spend valuable time with key vendor contacts and invariably talk about any number of competing solutions in the same space, openly, to arrive at smarter answers.
By and large, all the big audience-gathering opportunities—user groups, trade shows and events—have created online presences. It's practically a given that whatever work we do at a brand level will contribute to those interactions whether we create specific campaign community components or not. The question is a trick: Communities are a given; intelligently harnessing them is the answer.
Throughout b-to-b marketing, we're seeing varieties of efforts that invite direct interaction or suggestion (for instance, “What would you do with this new technology?”). These are perfect campaigns for social community components. Some inspire community extensions of campaign elements—such as a Facebook page for a superhero to data center administrators. Still others leverage pre-existing company- or user group-oriented communities as a place to continue the conversation.
So while the idea's not new, we now have new opportunities. We've always aimed to continue conversations. Thanks to new technologies, our responsibility is to take full advantage of social media in our plans.
John Mannion is exec VP-director of client relations for Doremus, San Francisco (www.doremus.com).