For the marketer seeking social media marketing partners, much depends on that marketer's strategic needs. Then it's up to the vendors to serve up their best pitches.
While the stakes here are always high, when the marketing group is Verizon Enterprise Solutions Group, which oversees Verizon's products for business and government customers internationally, and the vendors are Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp. and Twitter, we're talking a social media program of global scope and potential impact.
This was the scenario at a Feb. 21 conference sponsored by the Business Marketing Association-New York City. In a Digital Face-off, Benigno Gonzales, VP-marketing communications at Verizon Enterprise Solutions, presented what amounted to a verbal RFP to representatives of the three social platforms who shared the stage with him.
“My objective is to set up the challenge,” Gonzales said. “A big driver for Verizon is that technology is changing society. It's changing the way we interact with customers and also creating new business opportunities for our enterprise customers.”
Gonzales asked for pitches on how Verizon might tailor its social marketing program in support of its initiatives in mobile and content marketing as well as its cloud computing and Big Data solutions. He asked specifically how to build preference for the company's brand, convert that into sales and develop a thought-leadership program that feeds future growth.
Lee Bienstock, manager-financial services advertising at Google, stressed that Google+, currently at 343 million users a month, has created a social layer that affects all the company's solutions, including email, search and YouTube.
“What that means is, when someone searches on Google for a restaurant or Verizon's 4G network, they'll also see social comments from Google +1,” Bienstock said, of the service's +1 comment button. “The holy grail of marketing is social comments, which drive significant consideration and purchase intent.”
YouTube is complemented by Hangouts, a Google+ feature that enables group video chats, he said.
When it was his turn, Dan Coughlin, Twitter's director-East Coast regional sales, stressed Twitter's viral power around happenings, such as the Super Bowl or the Consumer Electronics Show.
“There's the ability to see trending topics, retweet them and add content and pictures,” Coughlin said. Citing Twitter's 100 million active users each month, he said 60% access the service on mobile devices, sending out 400 million tweets per day.
“The intrinsic value of Twitter is connecting with who and what interests you most in real time,” Coughlin said. “It provides marketers with real-time signals about customer behavior and sentiment based on user engagement, including such factors as brand awareness, product favorability and purchase intent.”
Twitter's Promoted Accounts help build audiences, with Promoted Tweets backing up marketing messages, he said.
James Burnette, director-marketing solutions at LinkedIn, weighed in last. He said a powerful advantage of LinkedIn is its audience of 200 million “affluent, educated professionals, including 10 million small-business people, 4 million C-suite executives and 5.9 million IT professionals.”
LinkedIn profiles also reveal connections, illustrating webs of influence, he said.
“You can imagine the rich data this offers,” Burnette said. He also cited LinkedIn's new INfluencer service that features 170 high-profile business leaders contributing bloglike essays to the network, as well as a proliferation of members sharing their own and others' content.
“We're seeing five times the engagement on our platform around content than around jobs,” Burnette said. “And SlideShare, which we acquired last year, offers content that has a very narrow appeal, but a very deep one.”
Gonzales asked the three vendors to summarize how influencers are using their platforms:
Gonzales was politic in not voicing any preference among the three social platforms. He said the most likely solution would be to employ each in order to leverage their key strengths and address specific Verizon needs.