Social Media

Hands up! Guilty. I have sniggered and mocked, sneered and covertly ridiculed. Those men (mainly), proud of being independent thinkers, defying fashion to express their individuality while all looking more or less exactly the same as each other. With their neatly coiffured beards, their jeans...

As we enter the silly season, here’s a great idea from Ian Burdon. I have pretty much stopped looking at my “business” Twitter feed. This isn’t because of general disaffection with social media - I also have a “civilian” Twitter account full of music and authors and beer that I keep a regular eye on. No, it is because of the endless flood of nonsense relating to procurement and e-procurement that tracks across my screen. I understand why this has happened. There is a marketing mantra that you should issue (x) number of tweets per day or per week, without regard to whether they have any meaningful content. Also blogs and journals need to maintain a steady flow of stories to stay at the forefront of their readers’ minds. The confluence of these and other streams overflows onto the Twitter floodplain and leaves everything soggy and somewhat smelly. And there is the rest: the incessant self-aggrandisement; the business-as-usual presented as if a disruptive triumph of innovation; and the strings of abstract nouns, opaque in their individual meaning, gibberish when strung together like a charm bracelet, that remove rather than enhance communication.

In response to a witty remark by the artist James Whistler, Oscar Wilde declared “I wish I'd said that”. Quick as a flash, Whistler replied "You will Oscar, you will". I often think to myself "I wish I'd said that" especially whenever I read anything by Seth Godin. He distils wisdom into the most straight forward and frighteningly obvious observations. That's why he's a genius. The title of his book Purple Cow is one such example. The purple cow is the one that stands out from the crowd, the one that differentiates itself. This, Seth preaches, is what businesses need to do to promote themselves. Mostly, they don’t. I’m not a marketer but I’m a seasoned marketee and from this side of the fence I can tell you, there is something wrong with the way B2B solution providers try to get their message out.

Imagine if a stand-up comic, trying to promote him or herself tweeted: “I’m really funny. Follow me”. It doesn’t work does it. For social self-promotion to work for a comic they have to tell jokes. They have to perform, on-line, for free! If they are funny, people will retweet and they’ll grow their audience, and they’ll get more retweets and more followers and, if they work hard at it they’ll sell out venues because they’ll have built up a huge on-line audience that they can market to. That’s how twitter works and there’s a lesson in this for all of us. It’s part of the answer to the question - “What can twitter do for me?”

The weapons in the marketer's arsenal are always evolving. In the B2C world there's been a frenzied exploitation of social media but in the B2B domain, it seems there is still some caution as the social media marketing landscape is assessed. There is still a great deal of uncertainty about what does and doesn't work and there have been as many high profile backfires as there have been success stories. What's especially interesting is how some of the tools are being used - not as you might expect.

I won’t lie. When I first started Purchasing Insight in 2009 I didn’t know what it was. The motivation was personal and the mission was straight forward. I wanted to set up a pure play internet business that was built on a social media platform. Initially, I had no idea what the business model would be but I was driven by a gut instinct and an intuition educated by nearly 20 years in B2B internet technologies. My instinct proved to be sound and increasingly people within the procurement community are understanding the importance of social media as professional tools and vendors are becoming more savvy about employing social media in their marketing mix.