B2B social marketing received a significant boost earlier this month when Microsoft acquired LinkedIn for $26.2 billion. In the future, CIOs and IT professionals can play a critical marketing role within their organizations, because marketers need advocates, educators, integrators and strategic advisors to help them weave through the complexities required to effectively use social media.
Much of the business-centric marketing that occurs on social media today is rudimentary and separate from other enterprise processes, but savvy marketers lean on the strengths of CIOs to elevate their campaigns. “CIOs can be critical to that ecosystem, because they’re in charge of IT, and you can’t do social media marketing unless there are solid IT underpinnings, not only for content creation, but distribution, analytics, and tying things into additional systems such as CRM,” says Rebecca Lieb, an industry analyst and advisor.
[Related: Microsoft’s big bet on LinkedIn not just about data]
Customers are also more likely than ever to interact with companies of interest on social media, according to Raul Castanon-Martinez, senior analyst at 451 Research. “CIOs should look at social media as another channel for customer service and lead generation,” he says. “CIOs play a key role in helping organizations leverage social media, because they are responsible for providing the systems and infrastructure needed.”
CIOs can also help research technological requirements, according to Lieb. IT pros can ensure social marketing tools align with their organizations’ strategies and that they’re suitable for the staff that will use them, she says. “Marketing is really fueled by technology, and somebody has to understand that technology as well as the strategy behind it, so it’s a question of alignment.”
[Related: B2B marketers start to see value in social media]
However, it can be a significant challenge for CIOs to coordinate B2B social marketing efforts with other business objectives, according to Castanon-Martinez. To do so, CIOs must create synergies between social tools and business systems, such as CRM, ERP and content management systems, he says. If a customer reaches out on Facebook, for example, marketers must be ready and able to respond and provide necessary responses via the same platform.
“Everything is just becoming more and more connected, and people don’t want social media to live in a vacuum anymore, nor should it,” Lieb says. “This is all really complicated stuff, and it’s not necessarily stuff that marketing understands. You really need deep technical expertise, which doesn’t just happen and remain static … It’s a constantly changing landscape … [and] you’ve got to figure out how the dots connect.”
4 ways tech execs can accelerate social marketing
As enterprises add more tools and tech complexity to their marketing objectives, the challenges for CIOs continue to mount. Mary Shea, a principal analyst with Forrester Research who recently authored a report on the rise of B2B social marketing, shared four tips for CIOs who want to enhance social selling efforts :
- CIOs can amplify the conversation throughout the C-suite and provide specific examples of how quality social marketing programs benefit the business.
- CIOs can assume leadership roles by communicating best practices to roll out and support social marketing initiatives, as well as how to measure progress.
- CIOs should ensure that social engagement platforms effectively link back to enterprise systems of record, to provide a comprehensive view of the accounts and contacts that enable contextual outreach.
- CIOs should partner and collaborate with their marketing counterparts to ensure the right controls and policies are in place to effectively manage related efforts, and then make sure they’re communicated throughout the company.
“This is not an easy challenge for CIOs, but providing the systems needed to align social media efforts with the rest of the organization can have a significant impact in the company’s results,” Castanon-Martinez says. “Organizations have developed the know-how for B2B social marketing,” but they still need to figure out “how to adequately support these efforts to produce results.”