THE B2B YOUTH CONUNDRUM
Do youngsters know how social media works? Dr. Muneer Muhamed responds
Business-to-business (B2B) marketers shy away from social media in contrast with their counterparts in business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing. This is because there aren’t too many youngsters handling the marketing function in their businesses; or perhaps they don’t see the relevance of social media for B2B marketing.
Furthermore, even if there are social media savvy youngsters who drive it, not all of them can run such marketing efforts.
Several clients of ours don’t understand how social media works; they focus solely on creating leads from digital media. This is a big mistake, and they miss the real business benefits of listening, analysing and generating unique insights.
While young employees may not know the nuances of email or content marketing, they are better off following social networking sites to build what we call ‘social capital’ and staying in touch in the virtual space. The key is in leveraging this inherent capability to drive business.
Young graduates who are fresh out of college, and in the early years of their employment, need to be introduced to the business and its characteristics. Many researchers paint these youth – who have returned from university and joined the workforce – as a strange and exotic species.
Whatever they may be, they’re valuable assets to B2B social media marketing plans… if managed right. However, you may not want them to lead your social media campaign. Simply because a person is a foodie doesn’t mean you’ll have him or her as a chef in your restaurant, right?
For instance, I have seen many B2C companies place young graduates in senior positions to drive social media campaigns and all of them have been dismal failures. These freshly minted MBAs need handholding before hitting the path.
Many of them know the theory of marketing but the real practical approach isn’t something business schools teach. This isn’t something that recruiters don’t know but since they’re sometimes desperate to hire someone to fill the shoes of a social media marketer, they take chances that don’t deliver the results they’d hoped for.
These new young employees will be ideal for increasing your company’s social media understanding and planning. They will be able to contribute to your marketing team and across the company. These youth have been in the virtual space for years, and live and breathe it. They are early users of new devices, media and channels, and have intuitive knowledge of the rules, formats and so on of each social media platform.
With a senior executive heading the team and channelling their efforts, these young employees can assist in discovering new ways of driving the social media effort and achieving company goals.
As B2B marketers begin discovering emerging trends well in advance, as a result of using social media efficiently, you will also be able to track customers’ perceptions about your company, brands, products and services, as well as keep an eye on your competitors.
Your young employees will also be able to help you find ways to connect with prospects and decision makers through their youthful ingenuity.
Businesses can also use these employees to raise awareness on the benefits of social media, and share technical know-how across the organisation through interaction and practical demonstrations.
When you pair these youngsters with seasoned older employees and give them joint assignments, you’ll find that an amazing synergy has been established over a period of time. They will eventually mentor each other and derive the perfect harmony that results from effectively blending the old with the new.
Your role as the head of the company will be to reiterate that each has something to offer the other, and that there should be a positive embrace rather than hostility and defensiveness. In addition, the younger employees can bring in an element of change and innovation in the way things have been done traditionally.
The skills that young graduates possess in terms of knowing what folks in the virtual space think and do can be applied to tracking your own customers through tools such as LinkedIn or by using programmes that others on your team may not even be aware of. They can also help find ways to use social media to focus on broader marketing goals and deploy resources more efficiently.
It’s critical that B2B companies realise that in the next six months or so, if they don’t take the social media route in a big way and make use of the youngsters who are social network savvy, they’ll have trouble attracting the best and the brightest of the youth brigade. Moreover, they will also lose out if they don’t make full use of social media to build brands and equity.
Indeed, the youngsters will help your organisation become social media friendly, and drive the listening and analytical skills you need to compete effectively.