M.C. Escher
This part 3 of my interview with B2B marketing pioneer Dr. Ben Hanna, VP of Business.com.
Part 1: Four breakthrough Twitter research insights
Part 2: Essential B2B social media start-up strategies

You’ve decided to lay bare the evolution of your social media campaign — warts and all. It’s a fascinating read. What made you decide to expose your strategy to the world?

It was a simple decision, really. Business.com is focused on helping people find actionable solutions to business challenges, and what better way to add to the “solution set” for B2B social media than to chronicle our own challenges, insights and solutions?

We also took this approach to accelerate our learning about the value of social media for business, and for our business in particular. If we blog about the evolution of our B2B online marketing Twitter account with updates every 30 days, will we get useful feedback from other business people using social media? What does it take to get a discussion going around a topic of interest that produces real, valuable answers?

You’re a company executive but take an extremely hands-on approach to your social media initiative through blog entries, tweets and presence on SM platforms. Is this typical of your style, a new demand of social media, or something you just do for fun?

It’s a combination of the three, united by the requirements of the situation. In my experience, the fastest way to develop effective marketing strategy and tactics for a new channel where the rules are still being written (as is the case for B2B social media!) is through a combination of the following, which form a nice acronym – REAP:

Research – Collect as much of the current “best practice” info as possible and triangulate findings, in the context of your unique business and business goals, to establish an initial position on where to focus and what to do. At Business.com, we started with an overview of the current state of B2B social media.

Experience – Immerse yourself through direct experience, taking existing best practices as hypotheses to be tested rather than inviolate rules to follow. I personally took on a decent sized chunk of the work on our new blogs and Twitter accounts so that I could get a feel for the medium, test assumptions and get a jump on cross-channel strategic planning. I can’t, and won’t, be as directly involved as we transition from tests to regular programs but the early direct experience is essential.
Action – Act before you think you have all the answers. In a rapidly changing marketing channel, relying too much on the research or experience of third parties will often lead to over-analyzing and inaction. Instead of watching from the shore for the perfect opportunity, get your boat in the water so you can start actively observing, testing, learning and adapting.
Perspective – Engage multiple people in the new marketing channel and share insights to learn more quickly. Ideally, you’d like a combination of experts and novices in the new marketing channel, other marketing channels and the business. Our initial social media initiatives at Business.com involve myself, an experienced social media marketer, corporate communications expert and our editorial director (a long-time small business journalist).

Tomorrow, Part 4: Executive tips for managing the social media time commitment

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