Social media tops agenda at ‘BtoB’s' NetMarketing Breakfast

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New York—The cost-efficiencies and networking value of social media are increasingly attractive to b-to-b companies, panelists said Thursday at BtoB’s NetMarketing Breakfast.

“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.”

A 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. The effort supporting the rollout was named the year’s top marketing campaign by the Business Marketing Association of New York.

Also on the panel, Larry Pearl, director-business development for Fresh Direct, an online premium grocery delivery service, described how the company used guerrilla marketing to expand its consumer-focused business to include office buildings in the New York area. The company stationed staffers outside office buildings, handing out information sheets with discount offers to likely decision-makers—females between the ages of 25 and 49 who are considered likely to influence office food-buying decisions.

“With social media, you have to focus on what works,” Ewell said. “You have to be very focused with its ROI. Generally you don’t want to reach too far, but marketers should try it.”

—Christopher Hosford

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