Social media tops agenda at "BtoB' NetMarketing event

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The cost-efficiencies and networking value of social media are increasingly attractive to b-to-b companies, panelists said last month at BtoB's NetMarketing Breakfast in New York.

“You have to open up a dialogue with your customers,” said Jean Foster, VP-marketing at BT North America, the New York-based arm of U.K. communications service provider BT Group.

BT has experimented with blogs as well as microblogging service Twitter, primarily as customer outreach initiatives.

The company also encouraged its employees to become active in the online professional network LinkedIn.

“We got good results from Twitter in two weeks, with customers following us and referring us to others,” Foster said. “The benefit here is that it's cost-efficient, and you can get the campaign up quickly.”

As for blogs, Foster sounded a note of caution: “Blogs are great, but only if you have something to say.”

One company that has ensured its blogs are content-rich is American Express OPEN, the small-business division of the large financial services company. Jason Ewell, VP-emerging channels and partnership acquisition, said Amex OPEN invited numerous high-profile “celebrity bloggers” to chat about any topic, which in turn helped drive viewers to its blog site.

“Blogs have great staying power,” Ewell said. “Human beings like to speak with other human beings when making buying decisions. To get across the idea of complex products, you need to have people talking about them.”

American Express' blog page marketing was very subtle, consisting generally of an unobtrusive text link to its main site. Social media was instrumental in the launch last year of American Express' Plum Card, a charge card for small businesses.

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