Adopting a social mindset requires a change in culture. Tough to accomplish. Now layer on top the added complexities of a B2B sales cycle, strict industry regulations, and dozens of regional markets. Welcome to the world of Clive Roach, Social Media Strategist at Philips Healthcare and keynote at our upcoming Forrester Interactive Marketing summit in London on May 23. Clive has managed through these complexities to create successful B2B influence marketing programs in customer communities like Philips NetForum and public communities like LinkedIn. I recently caught up with Clive to learn more about how he did it. I hope to see you in London where Clive will share the full story!

 CO: What’s unique about nurturing influencers in a B2B environment?

CR: Building relationships is the key aspect of nurturing influencers in a B2B environment. In many B2B industries the sales cycle can be quite long, and much longer than in B2C situations. It is important to work towards long lasting relationships, where you can learn about the needs and interests of the influencers that you have identified and that you supply them with information and continue to have dialogue that is useful to them. In that way both parties have a win-win outcome. It is also possible to find out the channels within which they are most effective.
CO: You gained the buy-in of Philips board on your social media strategy proposal. What tips would you give to others to gain the support of the C-suite?
CR: My advice would be to position social media as an interactive marketing channel and not as a geeky new thing that the IT department is testing out. Select an important business objective and carefully develop a strategy that will clearly demonstrate the huge impact that is available. In the past, I successfully used Twitter and Linkedin to demonstrate how sales leads could be gained. Start small. Plan a concept that would work at a country or regional level, and that has business objectives and processes defined and well documented. Naturally, the success metrics should be aligned with the objectives. Early successes will then become the proof points that bring C-suite approval to allow deployment to other areas that will bring in investment to expand. 
“The goal is not to be great at Social Media. The goal is to be good or better at business because of Social Media”
CO: What are the special considerations that you made when implementing social programs in the healthcare space?
CR: Philips already had the basic building blocks in place. We had a social media policy, a strategy framework, a cross functional team to share early success and lessons learnt across the company, and we had carried out many benchmarking exercises. The next key component specifically for Philips Healthcare was to create a social media guideline for our legal and regulatory compliance. I chaired that group for several months. This was an important step for Philips Healthcare because we operate in a regulated industry.
CO: What must marketers keep in mind when they localize their social programs?
CR: Within Philips Healthcare, local social media programs must show that they have used our internal strategy framework to ensure that they have chosen the right objectives with aligned metrics. They should also have editorial content planned and be targeting the most appropriate channels. In addition, local programs must conform to the company branding and naming guidelines and have budget available. However, from experience, resource management is the area that must be carefully assessed. Resources are often less available at a local level, and this is where extra vigilance is needed.
CO: We’ve found that, generally, a growing number of people believe the time they spend on social platforms is wasted. How do you ensure that Philips’ social programs continue to offer value in return for people’s time?
CR: I used to hear this said a lot when I first moved fully into Social Media. It is important to treat social media with the respect it deserves in 2012. In 2009 there were many examples of companies just diving in and after a short while often walking away when the initiative failed because there was no planning and no business objectives set. That was three years ago. Now companies must plan to integrate social media into its digital marketing eco-system and tie it in with offline activities where there are business goals to be met.
My advice is to always develop social media metrics that show results aligned with your objectives, which in turn should be aligned with the relevant targets of your organization. Throw in some competitor benchmarks as well, and you cannot go wrong with that approach. In Philips Healthcare I created dashboards for all our leading social media channels. The metrics range from Purchase consideration, NPS, influence and Top of mind awareness for Philips to more operational metrics like effective reach, subscriber numbers and video views. I can show success because as we have reached targets and thus showed that social media was a good investment. We also celebrate our success and share that good news internally within Philips, especially using our internal enterprise social media application.