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Why B2B Marketers Still Don't Get Social Media--And 7 Steps For Fixing That

Who cares if you have 25,000 followers on Twitter if you’re not doing anything with or for them?

Amazingly, many B2B marketers still don’t get social media.

A recent CMO Survey reported that while B2B social media spending increased 9.6% last year, the majority of B2B companies failed to integrate social media into their business practices.

"The biggest challenge is that many companies see social media as a cute promotional activity when it can be a strategic marketing activity," says Christine Moorman, director of The CMO Survey and T. Austin Finch senior professor of business administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business.

We’re in the "silo" stage, according to Brian Kardon, CMO, Lattice Engines "where most social media is generally segregated from the rest of the organization."

A big part of the problem is that most B2B companies don’t understand that social media requires both a technology and a business approach. Who cares if you have 5,000 or even 25,000 followers on Twitter if you’re not doing anything with the followers? Instead, companies leave the heavy lifting to "some kid out of college who tweets with no knowledge of business processes, says Joe Chernov, VP of Marketing at Kinvey.

B2B companies pay a price for the lack of integration. A 2011 global survey of senior B2B and B2C managers found a significantly high correlation between financial performance and social media integration, says Steven Van Belleghem, author of The Conversation Company, and former managing director of InSites Consulting, which fielded the survey.

So where does that leave marketers? Here are 7 steps to take to help you increase your social media effectiveness:

1.Understand why social media matters. "Social media is becoming a real competitive advantage for the companies that do it well; the gap is widening between the companies that have been organizing around social media and those that have not," says Kardon.
2.Create goals. What do you want to achieve from your social media? Do you want to track sales, monitor customer complaints, grow brand equity? Do you want social media to do a push or pull job?
3.Get top management buy-in. "You need a champion to get people from across the organization to pay attention and act," says Moorman.
4.Give social media a home. In our experience and that of many social media experts, it belongs in marketing.
5.Structure your social media team. The need to prioritize what to do and get it done quickly has disrupted the traditional setup of the marketing organization," says Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, CMO, Mindjet, which has developed "scrum teams" comprised of design, media buying, development and all the other resources necessary to executive a strategic campaign. Regardless of the approach, however, there has to be a built-in workflow system that links social media to customer service, sales, operations, and the other business processes.
6.Train employees. Don’t just assume they get social media.
7.Get accountable. Establish an accountability system that demonstrates the impact of social media on your objectives.

Social media is not a luxury. Companies that fail to take these steps will find themselves outflanked by their competitors.

[Flamingo: Elenarts via Shutterstock]