Social media in the B2B (business to business) commercial market does not work the same way it works for the retail consumer market. There are no coupons. No fancy check-in prizes. No tricks or ad gimmicks. No fluff in general. That’s because it’s not advertising or marketing.
The B2B social media space is a place to do business.
This brings a dilemma in hiring social media managers for your company. Someone who understands how to use social media tools and networks is a very different person than someone who understands how companies who sell to other companies makes a profit.
You will often receive a flood of applicants for social media manager positions from people who are either in college, or ripe out of college. We’ve sometimes even received applications from high school kids. The perception is they are the best at social media because they’ve grown up using the tools. Many of us older folks don’t understand half of what they are doing online so we don’t question it.
Those who work in advertising companies will usually do okay as social media managers because they use more of the cool tools available for retail consumers. Online retailers need someone who knows how to set up location check-in buttons and cool Facebook ad trackers that entice us to buy cool stuff. It’s a cool world in retail social media.
In the B2B world, we don’t care about cool. Unless it’s about profit, of course. Profit is always cool.
The coolness of B2B social media is in the relationships you have with other companies. If the person you plan to employ has no idea what that picture looks like, it could be a struggle.
So what’s the skill set needed to do THAT job?
Here are 8 priority questions to ask when vetting someone for the job:
1. Are they active on LinkedIn? Do they tweet personally? Are they a Facebook user?
Those are the only networks we ask about because we know most of the commercial industries are in those three networks so if they don’t know how to use them, AND don’t currently use them personally, it could be a long training curve.
If they know how to use Instagram, great. But are your customers there? That’s all that matters. We don’t waste time in networks where we can make friends with flowers and wedding dresses and don’t really care if a social media manager has twenty Pinterest boards with five thousand followers. That’s not going to bring commercial clients.
2. What kind of network do they bring with them?
Speaking of bringing clients, what circles are they already in – both on AND offline? Who can they bring to the table that would benefit your company?
3. Do they understand what it means to make “business” friends?
Making business friends is not the same as making personal friends. Often times, business friends become personal friends but business friends are primarily made because someone becomes or sends someone else a client. Not hard to make friends in business if you send someone business! If that is the goal offline, it should also be the goal online and a good B2B social media manager will understand that.
4. Do they understand commission sales?
How would they prioritize social media tasks based on what actually pays the company’s bills? There are a LOT of things people can do to waste time online and create noise. What can they do that brings your company referrals?
5. Do they understand how to use hashtags?
This may not seem like a big deal but if someone doesn’t understand how hashtags work, especially on twitter, they will not be able to find the best conversations for your company to participate in. They will likely just contribute to the hashtag noise online and then you will look like a spammer. #NotGood
6. How disciplined are they?
Discipline is a huge factor in a social media manager’s life. At any given moment, a tweet or post could come across their feed and distract them. There are so many things they must filter through each minute so the ability to stay on task and know what the priorities are at all times is essential.
7. Do they have a system or process for managing their time online?
Serious organization and time management skills are needed to be a social media manager because there are so many competing priorities. Social networks are 24/7 parties that never end, which can leave a social media manager feeling like they can never really be “off.” It becomes a burnout job and that’s not good.
It’s totally possible to be off. It just requires proactive planning and organization. If the person is not proactive, they will be reacting to the noise online and are unlikely going to help you generate any real leads.
8. Would you be comfortable sending this person to lunch alone with your very best client?
If you expect them to go online and talk to the people you do business with – and you want those people to bring their friends to also do business with you, you better be comfortable having your social media manager also talk to them offline.
That’s exactly how B2B social media works. It’s the same relationships online you have offline. You create loyalty with your social networks and those that love you will share you. That’s how you end up with referrals. If you hire a social media manager who doesn’t understand how to generate referrals for your company in real life, not just thousands of fans and followers online, you are likely going to feel like it’s a waste of time.
The social media manager role is often filled by the wrong person, primarily due to a lack of understanding of the job by the hiring manager. If your company sells to other companies, social media is the place to earn trust, not advertise and market products and services. It’s not about gaining a bunch of fans. This is not viral magic technology trickery. It’s about talking to, helping and validating those you do business with because that’s what good business friends do. #ActHumanOnline