Social Media at B2B Companies: An Interview with Epsilon’s Alison Reynolds

As most marketers have learned over the past decade, harnessing the power of social media is no easy task. This puzzle is even more difficult to solve when you aren’t working in the traditional business-to-consumer landscape. This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Alison Reynolds, a Senior Associate on the Corporate Communications team at Epsilon. Alison is an experienced content marketer who was able to provide an insightful perspective into the world of social media at business-to-business companies.

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Thanks for meeting with me, Alison. To start us off, can you explain the structure of Epsilon’s social media team?

Epsilon’s social media team sits as a part of corporate communications, which is pretty standard for the industry. My manager and I run the day-to-day activities for the Epsilon marketing account, and we have regional folks who manage the Europe and APAC accounts, as well as HR team members who manage our recruiting social media presence. We have separate people managing these accounts to make sure those messages are getting out into the market since they are different from the messages we’re trying to drive from Epsilon Marketing. All of our social account owners make sure to stay connected internally to adhere to Epsilon’s guidelines, and to make sure there is no overlap or confusion in our messaging.

How would you describe Epsilon’s social media strategy?

Our social media strategy aligns with our overall corporate communications strategy. Our goal is to drive thought leadership in the marketplace and position Epsilon as an industry expert and go-to resource in our key function areas. Social has become an extension of this, especially on LinkedIn and Twitter. We use Facebook and Instagram more as recruiting tools and platforms for employee engagement, often sharing photos that are indicative of our company culture.

Your strategy seems very unique to your business and its target audience. Can you discuss how social media use differs for B2B versus B2C companies?

For B2C, consumers connect directly with brands and those brands mean something to consumers when they’re using their products. Every day, they have an emotional connection to those brands, but this brand affinity is often missing in the B2B world. Folks won’t engage with Epsilon just because they like our brand, and we’re offering deals or coupons. Instead, we’re focused more on education and information sharing. While we are still trying to connect with other humans, social for B2B companies is more about extending the visibility of our brand and increasing thought leadership.

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It’s interesting that you bring up the concept of business-to-human. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Whether your company is B2B or B2C, there is always going to be a person on the other end who is making a decision on behalf of their business. While our communications differ from B2C, we still need to include some human elements. We have to be engaging, use simple language that people will understand and connect with them in a way that goes beyond what we’re trying to drive from a business and sales perspective. It’s less about what is going to motivate the business and more about what is going to motivate the individual.

I know it isn’t always easy to tell if your social media strategy is working. Which tools do you use to measure your social media impact?

We use TrackMaven to monitor our social media growth, and to see what others in the industry are doing and how we compare to them. It’s pretty useful in the sense that it allows us to normalize things. It helps to provide some benchmarks for us to see where we should be. It’s also helpful to see what types of topics in the industry are being talked about, which topics are generating interest and what drives engagement.

Besides monitoring competitors, what do you do to stay ahead of social media trends?

I really try to read as many articles about social media as I can. I also try out new platforms, and tap into people like you in younger generations to see what they’re using and how they’re engaging with brands. It’s hard and it goes beyond just reading up, you know? It involves trying out things like Periscope and Snapchat to see if they make sense for our brand.

It sounds like you have a lot on your plate. What is the most difficult part about working in social media?

It’s incredibly unpredictable. You can’t always predict what others will be saying or how you’ll have to react to something, so that’s tough to plan for. Social media often requires you to drop everything and shift your focus to what needs to be handled immediately. That can be hard to manage sometimes.

One last question: where do you see Epsilon’s use of social media going in the future?

I definitely see it getting more strategic. By that, I mean ensuring we’re using the right channels for the right purposes. For example, we’re currently using Instagram for both Epsilon Marketing and Campus Recruiting, but I think we need to analyze which social media channels are right for each of our needs. It is crucial to determine the right mix of channels and content in order to make an impact.

I’d like to see our use of social media incorporate more video in the future. We need to try to leverage things like Periscope to use live video and create additional content to engage more people. I think that is a big area of opportunity for us in the near future.

 

6 comments

  1. Excellent interview, thanks for sharing! I really liked the “business to human” point she discussed because that is the connection between B2C and B2B. I also liked that they split social media responsibilities across the company (i.e. by region / goal – HR) and how they experiment with new tools like Periscope and Snapchat to try to stay on top of trends. Sounds like it was a fun interview!

  2. Very well conducted interview, Ashley. It is nice to hear about the B2B side of social media use since most of us only think through the B2C lens. Alison’s strategy sounds perfect for Epsilon’s goals and she clearly isn’t afraid to look to the future for different platforms to accomplish these objectives. I particularly liked her point that working with other companies still means that there is an individual on the other side who makes the decisions that she is trying to reach with her messaging. I feel like social media is particularly important for B2B companies for lead generation to reach these individuals and obviously the education piece that she mentioned is key as well. It will be interesting to see how B2B companies differentiate themselves going forward. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hello Ashley, this is a very informative and instructive interview to B2B companies! We’ve focus a lot on the B2C side before, but it can be more challenging for B2B companies to appropriately use social media. In fact, some may still not think it’s equally critical for them to have or increase social media presence at this moment. It seems that Epsilon has a well-rounded and professional management team for social media, and Alison touched a number of of critical points for effectively engage audience on social media, such as aligning with overall corporate communication strategies, being a human, analyzing after collecting data, trying out new platforms, listening to consumers, choosing right channels for right purposes, and attaching more pictures to engage people. In addition, I really like the part talking about the difference between B2B and B2C on the use of social media. it’s very clever for Epsilon, a B2B company, to mainly focus on education and information sharing to extend its visibility and increase its thought leadership.

  4. Thanks for sharing, Ashley! As a former B2B marketer, I really loved seeing the focus shift away from B2C for a moment. I agree with her point about all marketing being “business to human,” but what really resonated for me was the idea of using social media for thought leadership. If a B2B brand uses its social channels solely to promote its products and services, it provides very little value for followers. However, if a brand can generate and curate relevant, interesting content, it’s a win-win: followers will feel like they’re learning, and the brand will gain more followers who see the brand as reputable.

  5. Awesome interview! I always love reading more about B2B marketing, since CPG is such a routine focus for academic study of marketing. I was interested to learn that they use the different channels available to them to accomplish different goals: facebook and instagram for employee recruitment/engagement and twitter and linkedin to create a reputation of expertise/excellence. I think too many times companies forget that their employees are there customers as well – and forgetting that concept leads to expensive employee turnover and unmotivated employee bases.It was a great read, thanks for sharing!

  6. Nice interview. I like the fact that B2B companies are beginning to recognize the power of social media for them, too.

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