January 14, 2014

Is “adult creep” making social media better for technology companies?

Unless you’ve been tucked away in an alternate dimension for the past decade or so, you know about social media. But are you aware of a social media phenomenon I’ve come to think of as adult creep?

Working adults are creeping into the more popular social media platforms.

Working adults are creeping into the more popular social media platforms.

Social media was originated and initially populated mostly by young people looking for a way to connect with each other, independent of distance and time. Lately, though, we working adults have started creeping into the more popular social media platforms at an increasing rate. And now that mom and dad may be peeking over their social-media shoulders, our younger counterparts are fleeing the established sites in droves, seeking a more congenial (read, less adult-populated) environment.

Adult creep has certainly increased the concentration of working adults plying social media sites. But does that mean business-to-business companies, particularly technology companies, can finally benefit from social media programs similar to the ones consumer-product marketers have found so enticing? Maybe. But tread carefully — it won’t be easy.

If you work for a technology company, your customers and prospects are most likely engineers, applied and research scientists, purchasing agents, and the managers who oversee all of them. Not the group most likely to spend their working day logged into Facebook and Twitter to see what their favorite vendor might be posting or tweeting about.

When your program targets these audiences, be patient — it’ll take time to develop communities. And don’t expect the same number of participants as consumer or less technical B-to-B marketers commonly see. But like them, your success will depend on a program that is well planned and impeccably executed. To help with that, consider the following guidelines.

1.   Determine your objectives

Do you want to build a community among your prospects and customers, identify a base of potential candidates for recruitment, or boost morale among employees? All are legitimate objectives, though each requires a different approach, and perhaps a different social media site.

Remember, you can have different objectives for different social media outlets.

2.   Choose the right platforms

The most popular social media platforms among working adults in the U.S. are LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Google+. Each of these represents a unique kind of communication; you’ll need to study them carefully to determine which one may offer the best platform for distributing any particular type of message.

3.   Cater to your audience

When you engage a technical audience, make your content technically rich. While the term we use is social media, the content is hardly restricted to social topics. Your audience will most appreciate technology-oriented content that helps them feel like an insider.

Instead of simply announcing the availability of a new product, for instance, describe a technically interesting feature that may not be touted in your product advertising or publicity. Or talk about a design challenge that had to be overcome to make the product function as it does. No one wants to give away trade secrets, but you can share a lot about virtually any new tech product without revealing anything competitors don’t already know.

Want your company’s followers to share your content with their separate networks of contacts? Write about industry trends and other non-company-specific data aimed at helping them do their jobs.

4. Make it interesting and keep it coming

The items you post, tweet or upload — even the most technical ones — must be fresh, interesting, insightful and informative rather than promotional if you want to keep the audience engaged.

To help with engagement, set a posting-frequency target you’re confident you can maintain. If you can’t post more often than three or four times a month, you may not be ready to venture into the social media world. Haphazard posting intervals are anathema to many social media users, as are posts that appear only rarely.

Consider outside resources if dedicated internal staff is not available.

Maintaining social media sites and nurturing social media communities take a surprising amount of time. While it’s tempting to think social media work can be done in spare moments, assigning the responsibility to a staff member who already has a full-time job will almost certainly lead to a site that starts well, only to drift into stagnation and disrepair. Why? Because the job demands on which the staffer’s performance is actually evaluated will eventually, and inevitably, reassert themselves.

If a full-time social media manager is not in the budget, consider hiring a professional partner to manage your social media program.