Question: Why Are You In Social Channels?

July 5, 2012
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I was moderating a great panel recently at the Inbound Marketing Summit: “How Does Inbound Marketing Affect SCRM?”.  The speakers were superb – thanks Sameer Pattel, Kirk Mosher, and Chris Spears – but the audience was outstanding.  I hate to ask questions of panelists since it basically bores the audience with pre-packaged statements, I prefer to let those listening guide the conversation and I just stand there and look pretty — well, pretty for me.

I was moderating a great panel recently at the Inbound Marketing Summit: “How Does Inbound Marketing Affect SCRM?”.  The speakers were superb – thanks Sameer Pattel, Kirk Mosher, and Chris Spears – but the audience was outstanding.  I hate to ask questions of panelists since it basically bores the audience with pre-packaged statements, I prefer to let those listening guide the conversation and I just stand there and look pretty — well, pretty for me.

This was one of the bestest panels I did lately – the audience was engaged and driving the conversation in the right direction (away from soundbites and into real-life experience and knowledge).  One of the audience members asked a killer question, something that has been plaguing me for quite some time and I finally get to ponder out loud (I would love to thank whoever it was that asked that question, as I foolishly failed to get her name on my rush out of the door following my panel).  Her statement (followed by a question) was (and I paraphrase):

The people on Twitter and most social channels are not Decision Makers when it comes to enterprise purchases, why would you need to be in social channels?

Clearly this is a statement that applies to B2B (or whatever you want to call the model of selling to other businesses – not the place or time for that debate), but it got me thinking deeper.  OK, not that deep – but certainly got me thinking.

Forget the fact that we were talking Marketing and forget the fact that most organizations still don’t understand why they have a social presence or what they are doing in there (no disrespect, of course, simply a question of maturity for the channels).  Forget all that.

Let’s focus instead on how decisions are made in enterprises and how social affects that.

Truth be told, decisions are not made by a single person in B2B models – they are made in a chain-of-command or committee model.

In a chain-of-command model a lower-level employee finds and processes the information and passes it along to their boss with a recommendation, who in turn adds value (more processing, a recommendation, an alternative, customized information, financial analysis, etc.) to it before passing it to their boss — and so forth.  By the time the decision-maker has the information it has benefited from the addition of several layers of add-ons that make the decision making simple: choose one of a few options, all well (OK, fairly well at least) documented and pre-chewed.

The people in Twitter, traditionally the lower rungs in this corporate ladder of decision making, consume the  information necessary to understand the market, but they don’t prepare the customized information about the industry or organization when doing so (from my experience, fewer than 20 percent of product or solution searches are carried out in customized fashion; that is done later).  Those added layers of information and customization provided by their bosses are focused on the industry and or the organization itself.  That is their value add as it climbs the ladder.

The committee model is not very different, with the exception that it is more social – the people in the committee will seek the information, discuss it among themselves, tap into experts where necessary to add more customization or personalized information, and craft a response that will go one or two more layers or approval before getting to the decision makers.  Similar model, but involving more conversations and customization before getting to the people adding the industry and company specific information and fewer, hopefully, layers between information and selection.

It is (anecdotal experience for now but working on a primary research project to solve that) very rare for the decision makers to be in the social channels.  Even in those cases where they are, the time availability to find and understand all the necessary information is beyond their available resources – they may never notice the content created for the situation they are involved in – even in cases where the committee or the lower-level workers point out the existence of the content.

Going back to the question that prompted this post (and giving you the comments area below) – if you cannot reach the people making the decision — why are you on Social Channels?  Is reaching the influencers and recommenders sufficient? Can you reconcile the organization’s roles and  responsibilities — with your needs and desires? Can you prove the value of presence in social channels by the reach/distribution/velocity of the sames in contrast? Is this enough justification?

How are you doing this, how are you making these decisions — how are yo making it work in your organization? Would love to hear your thoughts on this…