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 make a profit.
You will often receive a flood of applicants for social media manager positions from people who are ripe out of college, or still in college. We even receive applications from high school kids. The perception out there 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’re doing online so we don’t question it. We think they just “know.”
Those are the same people who thrive as social media managers in advertising companies because they get to use more of the ‘cool tools’ available for retail needs. Online retailers need someone who knows how to set up location check-in buttons and run 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 how to start, nurture, and sustain relationships, you’re in for a struggle.
Here are 8 priority questions to ask when vetting someone for a B2B social media management position:
1. Are they social media users?
Do they actively use LinkedIn? Do they tweet personally? Are they a Facebook user? If they don’t rely on these networks to communicate in their personal lives, they are unlikely going to intuitively turn to them when it comes to clients. That means a very long training curve for you.
2. Who do they know AND who knows them?
If you expect someone to bring clients to the table from social media efforts, you can’t expect that result from a person who only posts photos to your networks each day. B2B business is all about who knows who and who will refer who. If you hire someone who is not connected with anyone you need to know, it will take much longer to ramp up sales and referrals.
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. Send them two new clients and you are BFFs! An experienced B2B social media manager will understand that.
4. Do they understand commission sales?
How would they prioritize social media tasks if they were only paid based on who became a client or referred a client? It’s easy to waste time if you aren’t accountable for that time and salaried employees often fall into this rut. There is a lot of noise online and it’s easy to get sucked in. Someone who understands commission sales can usually prioritize time better than someone who has never worked in a commission environment.
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, he or she will be unable to find the best conversations for your company to participate in and that’s a big deal. You don’t want someone who only contributes hashtag noise because you will end up looking like a spammer. #NotGood
6. How disciplined are they?
Discipline is a huge factor in a social media manager’s life. Why? 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 of every day so the ability to stay on task and stick to priorities is essential.
7. Do they have a system or process for managing their time?
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, which can leave a social media manager feeling like they can never really be “off.” It’s totally possible to be off. It just requires proactive planning and good time management when they are ON. A person who is not proactive about their time will only end up reacting to all the online noise and claim that takes up all their time. #NotTrue
8. Would you be comfortable sending this person to lunch alone with your very best client?
This is the bottom line. If you expect someone to use social networks to bring in new clients, who do you think they are going to talk to online? CLIENTS! They will be talking to the people you do business with because you want those people to bring their friends to also do business with you. If you can’t trust your social media manager with them OFF line, why are you allowing them to chat with them ONline?
B2B social media mirrors online what you have going on offline. 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 setting yourself up for failure.
Social media management is a business development role, not an advertising or marketing role. Great social media managers proactively work alongside everyone in the company, regardless of role, and are comfortable collaborating both on and offline with all those who matter most to the company’s bottom line.