B2B Social Media: Cisco’s Kathleen Mudge shares her perspective on different networks
Cisco’s social efforts regarding Cisco Live, a popular event the company throws yearly, was recently covered by a MarketingSherpa case study. Kathleen Mudge, Social Media Marketing Manager and consultant, Cisco, agreed to speak further with us on how she views and uses specific social networks.
With the effort featured in the case study, Cisco was looking for a way to extend the excitement that surrounded the event through the entire year using social media channels.
Facebook proved to be the tactic with the greatest reach with Cisco’s audience, above LinkedIn, which was a bit surprising for a B2B effort.
Mudge’s view of the results is that while Facebook pulls in a larger audience, they are both effective in accomplishing her communication goals.
Know what type of interactions to expect
“[Facebook] is a lot more lighthearted and diverse conversation,” she said about this difference. On LinkedIn, “People tend to go there and be more serious and focus on learning and what the issues are, not just to proclaim their excitement.”
Mudge sees Facebook and Twitter working well as constant communication tools because people are already there updating throughout the day. LinkedIn does not have the same continuous stream of communication, but has interactions that are more thoughtful.
LinkedIn serves as a tool group members can utilize for “answers among each other, as well as through our Cisco technical experts that are in the group … Specific, deep dives into technical issues or conversations on solutions and potential products. Or to find out what other people are doing to resolve issues. So it’s a more focused and centered conversation on networking and issues they have.”
Mudge finds that LinkedIn group members can be more active, even though Facebook reaches marketers more often. She encourages this by spurring the conversations and thoughtful interactions group members favor.
Mudge believes Facebook sees more consistent interaction because marketers, like one billion other people in the world, are already on Facebook – usually multiple times a day.
“On Facebook the really popular items are photos, such as of our next event, and people will chime in about the venue and how they’re excited about going, what they’re looking forward to.”
“There is more conversation among people within the group on LinkedIn, whereas on Facebook people do occasionally post in the group, but not much. More often, it’s responded to posts I’ll make from the brand, and I do try to get the conversation going and stir the pot with questions. … I definitely get more conversations started in LinkedIn by the community members.”
Facebook mainly focuses on one-off comments or “Likes” on Cisco’s page, whereas conversations continue to expand on LinkedIn. Mudge uses different tactics to engage followers on the two sites with this idea in mind.
From her perspective as a B2B marketer, Mudge finds Twitter to be the more enjoyable outlet for her own participation.
“On Twitter, the conversation is just going all the time. That’s what makes it fun for me, because they’re chatting among themselves all day long. It’s fun to join in and follow the conversation and participate from the brand. That makes for more engagement and brand loyalty, and a connection to Cisco that they wouldn’t otherwise feel.”
In fact, the idea for this blog post started with a Twitter conversation Mudge had with MarketingSherpa’s Director of Editorial Content, Daniel Burstein.
Through all social media platforms, conversation can sometimes lag. To give it a jumpstart, Mudge says inserting specific prompts is an extremely valuable tactic.
“I’ll certainly start with different prompts to get people engaged in the conversation, either asking what they’re using as far a solution in this area, or have (they) registered yet – anything can get the conversation going and those work extremely well.”
Mudge estimates that the most valuable tactic B2B marketers have in their social media arsenal is leveraging influencers in their communities for conversations that will interest businesses.
“Determine who your influencers are. For example, for Cisco Live there are members in the community that are very influential, and there are people in the company who are very influential.”
Marketers should look and ask, “Who might I engage with to ensure that they see my post?” Mudge advises reaching out to these influencers to encourage active participation to get even more engagement and grow excitement throughout the community.
Difficulties with a B2B audience
Mudge says the B2B audience in her experience can sometimes be more difficult to engage than B2C. With consumer brands, there are a lot of people who are “tremendously excited to engage and passionate about a product or service.”
“Because you’re dealing with companies,” she says, the challenge with B2B is figuring out “who are the people at that company you’re targeting that you want to engage through social channels. I think it has a lot to do with the way you’re managing and fostering communications.”
“Just asking or prompting community members for their input” can do a lot to overcome initial shyness with B2B marketers who are unsure of their participation role, according to Mudge. “It seems like once they have had that initial opportunity, they’re less wary to participate the next time around.”
Even though they may be more difficult to engage, Mudge says the results can also be more rewarding, giving the example of participation before last year’s Cisco Live event.
“I was posting a photo a week, a month before the event, and asking people to supply their captions, and they were just coming up with the most hilarious captions. It’s amazing how much creativity there is in this community.”
Key to B2B social communication
To successfully reach and interact with a business audience, Mudge has a key philosophy she follows throughout all social media outlets.
B2B marketers will be successful, she says, “As long as you’re looking at what is meaningful to this target market. What are their pain points, what are their interests, their concerns? How can I help them have a better day, either by solving a business issue, or just inserting some fun and lively conversation? Something that makes them excited and want to be a part of this conversation.”
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