Uh, oh. But another customer just turned one of your hot leads lukewarm. Maybe even cool. Ouch.
Had you been reading your Twitter account, you might have caught wind of this. Or would you?
We examined a group of leading life science product and service suppliers regarding their use of Twitter, and explored the similarities and differences between B2B and B2C Twitter use. As of early February 2013, Thermo Scientific led the pack for products suppliers with over 21,000 followers, and Quintiles led the pack for services providers with over 7,000 followers.
“Great. Just what I need. Another know-it-all social-media-mogul wannabe writing yet another end-of-the world business warning about why my company will fail if I don’t spend 80% of my time tweeting to my Facebook friends about the latest addition to my Pinterest boards.”
Who, us? No, no, no, no, no, no…
In the middle of planning a drop-dead interesting SAMPS Annual Meeting, we took a quick snapshot of what the SAMPS community was currently doing with Twitter (which we both will tweet to our Facebook friends so that they can see that we added this article to our Pinterest boards).
Show me the Twitter data
Here’s what the data looked like as of February 9, 2013 for a select group of life science product and service suppliers.
|@Merck4Bio (Merck Millipore Bio - not for North America)||Products||10,781||1,927||71|
|@EMDMilliporePS (process solutions)||Products||156||207||127|
|@bioradsa (south Africa)||Products||115||49||0|
Wondering what your competitors are doing on Twitter?
to objectively educational,
but also includes some fun conversation with the scientific community.
Life Technologies, a strong second overall, uses Twitter to promote products and create rapport with customers,
but also adds some creative fun to the mix.
A nice example of integrating Twitter into a content marketing strategy is provided by Quintiles.
Looking to promote a thought leader? Check out the tweet from INC Research.
Life science customer support via social media vs B2C social media
Interestingly, one function that this quick study didn’t come across was technical support or customer service problem solving issues on Twitter. While at least one organization (Life Technologies) has a dedicated Twitter account for technical support issues, most all of the tweets are promotional or informational. This could reflect the limited nature of this research, or perhaps life science customer and technical support issues show up on other sites. For instance, technical support issues may be featured on more life science specific websites like Scientist Solutions.
Or perhaps the lack of using Twitter for life science supplier customer and technical support is in part due to a fundamental difference between B2C and B2B use of Twitter. Unlike B2C customers, a dissatisfied life science B2B customer may prefer to deal privately with with a supplier.
Lets dig a little deeper.
It's one thing to ask a technical question on a site like Scientist Solutions, but it's another to complain in a public forum. A B2C customer who complains about a problem represents themself, but a B2B client represents an organization, and so has to consider how the complaint will be viewed by that organization AND by future employers, especially if the claim is not easy to substantiate. To this end, many life science businesses, especially pharma, biopharma, medical device, and diagnostic companies, have rules that may preclude employees from posting certain comments.
How many Twitter feeds are enough?
Your organization isn’t limited to one Twitter account, also referred to as a feed. It’s feasible to create separate feeds for different product areas, different purposes, and for different subsidiaries of a large conglomerate. One such example is the Life Technologies technical support feed mentioned previously.
The tweets we’ve shared to this point are largely commerically oriented, but so long as it meets your organization’s regulations, you could create Twitter feeds to broadcast news about personnel announcements, industry and scientific news, subject recruitment for clinical research studies, pretty much anything that passes muster with your company. In other words, Twitter could be a significant component of your public relations and content marketing strategy tool kit. And let’s not forget our friends in Human Resources, who might want to piggyback their recruiting efforts to your social media stream.
Multiple feeds need care and feeding
By feeding, we mean managing, that is creating, monitoring, and revising the content flow in your Twitter feeds. Like any content marketing plan, strategy is key. Without a plan AND a process that includes scheduling, creation, and assessment, how can you assure that your desired messages are being delivered (and the dangerous ones blocked)? So, more feeds means more work, but the chance for greater rewards also grows.
Will social media put money in your pocket?
The folks at the McKinsey Global Institute certainly think so. And we’re not talking pennies.
In a study published in July 2012, McKinsey researchers concluded that businesses are leaving 900 billion to 1.3 trillion dollars on the table because they don't take advantage of the commercial influence of social media.1 The McKinsey report also cites that one-third of all consumer spending could be influenced by social media.1
How does this translate into the B2B world? Would this boost the life science product and service community, a notoriously challenging market that requires a specialized marketing strategy? Maybe not, but does a 10% boost in total influence sound bad to you? McKinsey also proposes that the wise use of social media could boost worker productivity by up to 25%.
Table 2 summarizes some of McKinsey’s thinking regarding how social media could increase sales and productivity.
From The social economy: Unlocking productivity and value through social technologies. McKinsey Global Institute.1
And the point of all this is?
Marketing to the scientific community is tough enough. And now during most weeks, somebody throws a colorful infographic on your desk or emails you (or tweets you?) a link to an article predicting the downfall of any company not applying the latest form of a geo-locating, content-strategy-agnostic, responsive-design-based technology newly hatched from a 3-day conference attended by venture-capital-chugging Silicon Valley/Alley darlings.
The McKinsey report suggests that profits can be increased greatly by incorporating social media into your marketing plans. Check out the executive summary or full report and assess its potential impact on your business.
But why is so much emphasis being placed on social media? Ask 5 people and you’ll probably get 10 opinions, but maybe it comes down to the one of the most primal reasons—trust. John Doherty shares data showing declines in the number of people who subscribe to information feeds provided by a website (RSS feeds) at the same time that Twitter traffic is increasing. The data aren’t exhaustive, but there’s evidence of a trend away from relying on subscription information from an enterprise versus information you can obtain from someone or some group with whom you’re familiar on a more personal level.
To paraphrase Mr. Doherty, people trust people or brands that they know.
1. The social economy: Unlocking value and productivity through social technologies. Chui M, Manyika J, Bughin J et al. McKinsey Global Institute. July 2012. Available athttp://www.mckinsey.com/insights/business_technology/big_data_the_next_frontier_for_innovation. July 2012.
2. Doherty, J. What The Shift From RSS to Social Media Means for Marketers. Available at: http://www.johnfdoherty.com/shift-rss-social-media-means-marketers/. Accessed February 9, 2013.
Authors: Alan Gerstein and Chuck Drucker