"Social Media" Needs a Rebranding

Over the past decade, with the rise of social media as a marketing channel, B2C marketers have made social platforms their playground, to staggering results.

From RedBull’s virtuoso social activations, highlighted by Felix Baumgartner’s 2012 Space Jump, to Oreo’s agile Dunk In The Dark and nimble Daily Twist campaign, to six years (and counting) of brilliance and bizarre from Old Spice, it really didn’t matter what you were selling.

If it was a consumer product or service, there was a way to harness the power of social media, and a select few mega brands will vie each and every year to have the campaign that everyone talks about for the next 12 months.

But for some reason on the B2B side, the social marketing hits are fewer and farther between, and the pitch is harder to make – both internally to Marketing leadership, and from the outside as an agency, vendor, or consultant.

I’ve been on every side of that equation; I built social media products and services in-house from scratch, in the early days; I helped build social marketing practice areas at traditional media companies and large marketing agencies; I’ve grown huge accounts as a social media software vendor with a client list as big as P&G and Facebook, itself; and now, of course, my team at Socialight Media helps, from the outside in, as consultants, and as tactical delivery partners.

So, when it comes to social media, why are B2B marketers not ringing the bell as much? As with anything, there are actually a host of factors, from B2C vs B2B expectations, to the pace of communication technology, to what “content marketing” means today, to the cataclysmic shift that B2B selling is undergoing, all of which I’m eager to unpack in a few upcoming posts.

For this one, though, let’s stick with the simple concept of semantics; “Social Media” is a vehicle, but the phrase is used to mean any number of different things, and without some context, nobody is sure which way you mean it. When nobody is sure exactly what you mean, it leads to head-nodding, but not much else. This makes championing it difficult, whether you’re an in-house marketer, an agency, or a software product.

With a semantics challenge, any marketer can get on board with this solution – a good old fashion rebranding. They’re as tried and true as the Bible and as fresh as this US election season. This concept has even been discussed recently by Simply Measured, a great tool for social analytics, albeit in a different way and from a different angle.

Instead of one convoluted term, let’s break “social media” into three that are each more substantial and representative of the aspects that matter to us as B2B marketers.

Social Media: the road

This is used for the social platforms you know and love. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Snapchat, the corporate blog, and more. If you have a profile and there’s a way to comment, post, or share, you’re on the highway of “social media.”

Community Marketing: the drive

This is the big schism – no more “social media marketing.” That’s where your listeners stop listening and fill in the rest of your words with “Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, yeah I get it.”

Successfully harnessing relevant social communities for your brand and your buyers is more akin to being a great driver, not having a fast car. Community Marketers (the drivers) understand not only the social media roads, but also which ones their buyers are on, and which ones get them to their destination faster.

Good community marketing has a destination – specific goals and measurable objectives. Are you leveraging social media for customer service? As a recruiting tool? As a sales tool? For product insights? To build awareness? Without strategic goals that tie back to real company stuff (nod to one of Wil Reynold’s most passionate topics), your community marketing initiative (or pitch) will be lost.

Social Insights: the signs

This is another one – no more “social media data.” Nobody needs or wants more data, especially oceans of social media data. Social Insights are the nuggets your Community Marketers pick up on the way, which help to achieve your business goals and get where you’re going. You may discover through social listening, for example, that buyers are shifting the way that they talk about your industry – that messaging shift is actionable social insight. Through social monitoring, you may find that your competitors just launched a wildly successful campaign – whatever made it succeed is actionable social insight.

Semantics Matter

At the end of the day, we understand that this is semantics, not epiphany.

But semantics matter.

And if we start separating the social media platforms, themselves, from the actual practice of community marketing, and discovery of actual business insights within those social communities, maybe your CMO or SVP of Sales & Marketing will have a clearer picture of exactly what you’re talking about when you tell them how you’re going to change the firm’s marketing forever.


As the President of Socialight Media, Jed Singer has been keeping his clients at the forefront of social marketing for over a decade. Over the years, he has been lucky enough to work with the world’s largest and most social brands, including P&G, MasterCard, ESPN, HBO, and Facebook. He and his team help firms map their online Buyer Journey and design strategies for content marketing, community building, and lead generation.

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