Social Media 101 for the IT Professional – Debunking the Myths

Recently, a highly respectable sales and marketing director told me that despite much investigation, he and three peers had decided social media offered little benefit to business to business activity. And since all four of them were in agreement with each other, they decided they must be right and took it no further.

Fortunately for you, this post exists to let you know that they were very much mistaken. Below are four common questions and statements we’ve been questioned over which are useful to understand if you are still dabbling with the concept of social media as part of your business strategy.

1. Do you have to be young in order to grasp social media?

Since over half the world’s population is under 30 years old, this is possibly the most accessible excuse used to avoid overcoming FUD-like relationships with social media. For an industry such as ours that promotes cloud hosting technology, it’s pretty ordinary to not be open minded to the tools and applications that sprout up as a result what we’ve had a hand in creating.

Whilst you’ve picked the machine you are using now to read these very words, it takes the brain power of you to extract value from the resources we choose to utilise. Social Media works in much the same way. You don’t need to be from a younger generation to see that we can use social media as an extension to what is already working for us.

Social Media is another tool in your armoury to help your business reach out to those who want to connect with you on that level and in different ways. If you are supplying and supporting the technology that enables others to do just this, shouldn’t you at the very least be able to understand and talk about it?

Rest assured, what we learnt in our early days such as more traditional marketing methods, how we analyse and interpret data, and the craft of being engaging to other human beings, has not and will not be surpassed by ‘social media marketing’ alone.

Nor will any of those annoying phrases self-proclaimed ‘social media gurus’ band around in an attempt to re-market what’s already out there. Be sure to cut through this ‘noise’ and utilise whatever will elevate you and your business in a way that you’re comfortable with.

2. Only Business to Consumer (B2C) organisations benefit from social media.

Whilst the likes of the Old Spice Campaign or the London 2012 campaign may have that look at me! impact that allows for quick buy-in, it is crucial to remember that social media isn’t all about shouting about wonderful you are.

Other than adopting the lifestyle of a professional stalker, social media is the next best (and legal) thing when it comes to listening and watching what those in your ecosystem are up to. You monitor your competitors, see who’s talking about you, and understand the what interests and excites your customers so that when the time is right, you can reach out and better connect with them.

More often than not, B2B activities on a social platform require a slow-burn relationship building approach – a style frequently used even before social media rode into town. Typically, to woo or attract a client, it takes at least seven different ‘touches’ to get their attention. So with the likes of Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn, combined with traditional email, marketing, phone calls, and meetings, you’ll increase your engagement levels quickly and easily. When used in this way, you’ll find you’re embarking on the realms of social commerce.

3. Why should I be concerned with social media if I don’t plan to implement it into my business?

Should you plan NOT to incorporate it into your business development plans, you must at least have considered your options and how it will still impact on you regardless.

For example, if I want to research a particular business, rather than use the Companies House website, we now access Duedil. This is one of the many applications that aggregates information from a variety of sources to present real-time snapshots of our businesses. Not only do we now gain access to reports, its integration with online platforms such as LinkedIn now displays anyone listed as a current or previous employee with that particular organisation.

What Duedil does isn’t radically new; you could extract all this information using a search engine if you had a few hours to spare. But what this application, and many more like it do is quickly deliver focused and real-time information for those wanting a dynamic way of doing more than just read it. When used in this way, social media becomes more than just a networking platform. It evolves into a information delivery service that can support your business priorities better.

As an employer, there’s a high chance your staff will have a Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook account. So even if your business decides not to use social media as a means of communication, you still should consider implementing a social media policy for those times an employee links their personal accounts to their professional profiles. Why not have a look at what the London 2012 Olympics committee has set out as their guidelines and regulations to get some ideas for yourself?

4. There are too many options that we don’t have the time to understand!

What’s really being said here is that don’t understand the value in researching this subject further.

When did the problem of overwhelming choice ever stop you before? Imagine saying ‘there are simply too many CPUs out there in the market that I think I’ll just give up!’. At least, we hope you’ve never said that.

The best way to start out is the same way you would eat an elephant (in small pieces) or run a marathon (by setting a series of milestones) – start out with what you know and seek the advice of your peers and colleagues. Start off by asking your friends and family about how they have benefited from social media – more often than not, much of why they use it in their personal lives can be translated into the professional arena. After all, we don’t switch into drones when Monday 9am rolls around do we?

Typically, most people and businesses have a Twitter account, a Facebook Page (maybe even a Fan Page for the adventurous), and a LinkedIn profile. If you’ve got those or even understand what they are, that makes you as up to speed as the majority out there…

… and who said this was for the young?!

What’s most interesting about these three applications alone is their interoperability not just with each other but also with online content that you already control such as your website. Just look at how within this very post we have hyperlinked our own social media sites as well as those of others to communicate with and inform you.

You can promote your website and your company blog, or reference third-party positive PR. In fact, if it’s online you can tell others about it in a matter of minutes! Once you content worth reading or something worth saying, you’ve got the fundamentals of what makes social media a viable commercial activity.

Start Thinking

Social media does generate business to business activity but in a way that echoes today’s style of selling. Today’s business is not longer just about ‘targeting’ markets, and more about ‘attracting’ them through familiarity and choice.

Essentially you need to operate like a flower attracting bees to engage and spread what you have to offer further than you alone are capable of. Social media is another petal to enhance your overall appeal. Just like it was three, five, or even 10 years ago, you need market knowledge, innovative thinking, and an open mind enhance your future success. Social Media is a tool for the job.

Once you’ve started, the next step should be to analyse the traffic you’ve generated and understand what content they respond best to – it’ll be that feedback that will help you stay relevant and encourage your audience to interact with you. The trick is to be confident with what you can manage and do so in a way that doesn’t take you out of your depth. If you’re ever unsure, find someone who you’re confident can help you, that way, you don’t have to be overwhelmed too much too quickly.

By knowing more about social media, you can make more informed choices, become one step ahead and be better prepared for when the opportunities present themselves.

After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that helps technology organisations redesign their business models to help them build better relationships with their customers. You can follow the team on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.


4 thoughts on “Social Media 101 for the IT Professional – Debunking the Myths

  1. Pingback: Are Marketers in IT Scared of Social Media? « The CowShed

  2. For those thinking on from this post, you may be interested to know that just today, we’re using a closed photo album on our Facebook profile to get some feedback on some work presented to us by a creative agency. It not only saves us sending weighty emails to everyone and impacting on storage but allows for quick ideas to be submitted without impacting on anyone too much.

    We’ve already had some great feedback and it’ll help us form some ideas and questions when we next meet with the agency. All in the space of 30 minutes using a free social media platform.

  3. Susanne – fantastic article that I’ll be encouraging those I speak with who either struggle to understand or plain dismiss the value of Social Media to read. The “flower attracting bees” analogy is perfect, I used to use the “Flame attracting Moth’s” but your analogy is much, much prettier. 🙂

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