Dahli Lama, Charlie Sheen, Social Media and Influencing the B2B Marketplace.

HRmarketer team member Dawn Passaro had the opportunity to see his Holiness the Dahli Lama when he visited Long Beach, CA recently. His efforts on behalf of human rights were recognized as part of Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary celebration. It was an historic occasion, and he was humble, in the face of receiving the inaugural "Shine a Light" award. He is a visionary with very down to earth solutions to problems.

Dawn described the experience to me with this email:
"During his acceptance speech, He described his interactions with the Government of China over the past decades. He said that sometime around 1979 he was able to negotiate with the Chinese Government, but he was unsuccessful. He spoke of his long and determined efforts to achieve his goal, lasting years and decades. He is still struggling with this same goal.

I think businesses can learn something from the Dahli Lama's approach.

Determination, and vision, coupled with small achievable goals is the key to making significant progress. His example inspires us to remember that continuing to make efforts every day will yield long term success.

I was surprised when He mentioned social media. The Dahli Lama has a Facebook page! And he Tweets.

Who knew he was so tech-savy?"
The topic of social media influence came up as he described his efforts to encourage the Chinese Government to recognize Tibet. He told of the (on-the-whole) unsuccessful results.

But something has changed since the advent of Social Media, and it has given him hope. It appears that there is a grassroots support by some citizens of China and he credits social media for some of this progress.

He was able to reach "groups" of Chinese people who support this common cause; more importantly – they found each other. In spite of the risks social media can bring to individuals he pointed out that because of Social Media, many Chinese citizens are better able to reach out to each other, and to the Tibetans still in China. He has seen the result - human rights supporters have more impact that ever before. It was a hopeful viewpoint, and one that supports a belief in the power of social media to influence positive change.

Maybe we can be invigorated and inspired by his view. Slow and steady wins the race, or at least, keeps you in the race!
In B2B market segments including human resources, companies are increasingly attempting to use social media to "influence" buyers. As a result of this demand we are seeing numerous new technologies that attempt to identify or rank "influencers". In fact, our own HRmarketer.com software is in the process of developing algorithms and technologies to help human resource vendors identify the most "influential" media outlets, journalists, conferences, analysts, etc.

But in B2B can social media or social media "influencers" (whatever that means) really influence people to buy your products?

Saul Colt, the self proclaimed smartest man in the world, takes a humorous look at social media's influence in his blog post If Charlie Sheen told you to jump out a window: A lesson in Influence.

But there is more serious research on the topic that a recent Information Week article titled Online Influencers: How The New Opinion Leaders Drive Buzz On The Web summarizes.

In this article, Dave Balter, CEO of BzzAgent, says "We actually believed in the idea that influentials drove market trends….but upon closer look, we found out it didn't add up. Today, when a client comes in with the goal of influencing the influentials we tell them that's fools' gold. It sounds really great, it sounds really sexy, but the results simply don't fly."

And Duncan J. Watts, professor of sociology at Columbia University who studies networked communities, recently conducted research that indicates there is no hard evidence that the long-held belief in opinion leaders as, well, leaders, has any basis in fact.

So what's a marketer to do?

The buying process in B2B is complex and we wrote about this extensively in our recent e-book, The Right Mix: A B2B Marketing Allocation Guide.

In our e-book we discuss the role of social media to help companies raise awareness about their company/products, strengthen our brands, and monitor what others are saying. It helps us position our organizations – and our company leaders – as trusted subject matter experts and thought leaders and improve relationships with customers, the business press and other key audiences.

But does it influence?

There is little evidence that suggest your actual buyers are even paying much attention to the the social media chatter. I have had conversations recently with several CEOs of established HR vendors who tell me they have given up on social media because their buyers are not paying attention.


We're not sure anyone really knows who the real influencers are and who exactly is paying attention to them. And the truth is it’s extremely difficult to measure the results of your social media efforts. But it would be a huge mistake to ignore social media in your marketing plan. Conversely, allocating all your resources to social media at the expense of other, more traditional marketing and PR tactics is a huge mistake.

Marc Cantor, founder of Macromedia and CEO of Broadband Mechanics, divides online marketing into first, second, and third-level strategies. First-level strategies are the traditional mass-media campaigns. Second-level campaigns are more subtle and involve "giving something to the community" (e.g., useful educational content). The third-tier approach is to "circle the end user experience with a compelling product, and let people decide for themselves what's in it for them. It involves listening to consumers and actually giving them what they want."

Well said.

Effective marketing means you are investing in a broad range of marketing activities to move buyers from awareness to purchase: distributing a steady stream of news and content through a variety of distribution points, attending conferences, direct marketing (email and print), advertising (on and off line), speaking, awards, webcasts, etc., etc, etc.. Each tactic, including your social media initiatives, plays a unique and important role in moving buyers through the buying process.

As for relying on social media and the "influencers" to do all this for you. Not going to happen.

In B2B marketing, the tried and tested fundamentals are still relevant and critical for long term success.

Stay tuned for more on this topic. HRmarketer will be releasing a position paper on social media and influence later this year.

Post by HRmarketer CEO Mark Willaman and Dawn Passaro. Join Mark on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Labels: , ,