Cisco Does B2B Facebook Right

Want a low-cost, fun and effective way to reward your most active Facebook contributors? Steal a page from Cisco, whose corporate page is one of the best B2B presences on Facebook.

Last year, Cisco started the SuperFan program to recognize its best community members. Each month, administrators recognize one fan and highlight him or her at the top of the page. Two of the monthly winners were just chose as SuperFans of the Year and celebrated on the Facebook page as well as on the Cisco Platform Blog.

Winners get no cash or large prizes, just some Cisco swag and lots of thanks and exposure. Co-winner Sandee Weiner commented, “VERY VERY proud of reaching SuperFan status with Cisco! I’m pretty passionate about technology and the way social collaboration brings folks together.”

Cost to Cisco: next to nothing. Value: a lot more than that. Next up is a photo contest challenging people to show the Cisco logo or products in the most unusual or exotic places. That’s another great low-cost idea.

Cisco B2B Facebook photo contest

So was last year’s Crazy Cabling Contest.

Facebook Can Work for B2B Marketers, But You Gotta Know the Rules

In my work with B2B organizations, the question of how to use Facebook is invariably front and center. This Is despite the fact that numerous surveys have shown that Facebook is one of the least effective social networks for B2B marketing.

In a survey of marketers conducted by BtoB magazine last year, Facebook was ranked last in usefulness among the top five social networks, trailing blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube and Twitter, in that order.

Nevertheless, some B2B companies have mined gold out of Facebook’s audience, particularly for recruiting young college graduates. Let’s look at some examples of what they do well.

Storage maker EMC makes particularlyEMC page on Facebook good use of Facebook’s “Welcome” page. This is an under-utilized tool that enables companies to present an HTML page as their default front door. It’s done with an application called Static FBML (Facebook Markup Language) but there is little difference between FBML and HTML.

The advantage of a Welcome page is that you can use all the tricks of an HTML page, including hotspots, embeds and even forms. Buddy Media uses it to capture leads, as does e-mail marketing provider Infusionsoft. SAP plays inline videos. Use welcome pages to present an attractive and exciting introduction to your company.

EMC has several FBML pages, including a list of its other social media accounts and a game you can play only after liking the page. EMC doesn’t use Facebook’s wall to much effect, but its purpose seems more promotional than interactive. On that front, it hits the mark.

Other B2B companies that use their welcome pages well include VMWare, Lenovo, UPS and Intel. Fedex uses a cool Flash animation to link to its sub-pages. has a nice roundup of Eight B2B Facebook Landing Pages

Conversation Equation

LinkedIn is all about efficiency, but Facebook is about generating discussion, even if it’s around trivial things.

For interactivity, it’s hard to beat Intel’s page, which has racked up nearly 2.7 million likes*. Intel uses its wall to great effect. Its language is perfect for the young Facebook audience, and its questions and challenges are often offbeat and fun.

It’s 2026…what are your devices able to do?” Intel asked last week. Nearly 1,100 people have responded. Wow. Earlier in the week it used an in-line poll app to ask “What content are you most excited to see on our Facebook page?” Interestingly, videos and product announcements topped the list.

Cisco is also terrific at generating discussion. A post on Monday offered fans the chance to win a Casio camera by telling how the Cisco Unified Computing System can benefit their business. That’s a great way to generate word-of-mouth, because posts are shared with people’s friends. Contests and giveaways work well on Facebook.

Cisco SuperFanCisco also has a clever concept called the SuperFan, which is a recognition awarded to their most active visitors. There’s no money involved: SuperFans get their name and face on the Cisco page, and that’s good enough for many of them. Here’s how it works. leverages Facebook to drive attendance to its many events. The company knows that its core audience is sales professionals, and it uses discounts, referral bonuses and contests to reach these individuals. Salesforce also post lots of photos of people, which reinforces the image that this is a company with a personal touch.

Desperately Seeking People

One of the most popular uses of Facebook for B2B companies is as a recruiting tool. Facebook has an app to support career postings on your page, but some companies take it to the next level.

UPSjobs goes beyond simply posting job opportunities. It makes the extra effort to quickly respond to inquiries from its fans, often within a few hours. As a result, UPS has turned the tables on traditional recruitment: People come to its page seeking jobs because they know they’ll get a rapid response. As a result, most of the wall comments are from people who want to work for UPS.

Microsoft celebrates its interns on its recruiting page, which is a smart move given the young demographics of the Facebook audience. Sodexo is a master of using social media for recruitment. It uses apps for Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Foursquare to pull its content from other social networks into Facebook. This company’s entire recruiting effort  – it hires about 5,000 people in the US every year – is built on social media. Check out its impressive recruitment site, which lists the many social channels it uses. Other notable careers pages on Facebook include Shell, Hilton and Abbott Laboratories.


Now that we’ve looked at examples of Facebook best practices, what can we learn from them? Here are some of my takeaways: on FacebookHave fun. I think of Facebook as the after-hours social network. The style that works best is relaxed, informal and a little edgy. Be personable and distinctive. No company does this better than M&M Mars, whose Skittles page is closing in on 19 million likes. Its style is unique: funny, unpredictable and tuned to generate response.

Respond. Facebook is a place for conversation, not publication. If people ask questions, you need to respond and quickly. One common mistake companies make with their Facebook pages is to launch them and leave them. Successful fan pages feature a constant stream of new posts by the company and quick response to visitor comments.

Be Colorful. Welcome pages are one of the big differences between Facebook and LinkedIn. They enable you to add a colorful and multifaceted dimension to your presence. The best welcome pages have lots of entry points and a vigorous, hip feel.

Share. One aspect of’s Facebook presence that I particularly like is its willingness to share content from other sources that its audience may find useful. This not only makes the fan page a resource but builds goodwill with the sources it links to.

Ask. has built an impressive Facebook presence for its audience of firefighters and emergency medical technicians. “Is your department participating in National Night Out?” It asked earlier this week. It’s “Sunday Morning Roll Calls” sometimes generate hundreds of responses. Something as simple as asking people what they plan to do for the weekend can create interaction.

* I’m personally not a big fan of tracking page likes as a measure of success, particularly since Forrester has estimated that less than 15% of people who click that button ever return. What impresses me more about Cisco’s Facebook presence is the number of likes and comments that individual wall posts receive.


The Changing Rules of B2B Marketing

Here is a draft of the first chapter of Social Marketing to the Business Customer by Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman. This chapter focuses on drawing the major distinctions between business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) markets and where social marketing has particular value to B2B companies. Your feedback is welcome. Please ignore the typos and grammar flaws that inevitably appear at this stage.

Friends know Scott Hanson as an affable native Texan with a penchant for computers, cars and poker. But to thousands of technology professionals around the world, Hanson is a celebrity. By day, he and three other technologists at Dell Computer manage the Dell TechCenter, an online community that helps enterprise IT professionals unravel the thorniest problems that occur when trying to integrate technology from multiple vendors.

Dell conceived of the community in 2007 as a way to enhance loyalty among its largest customers. Members share advice and ask questions of Hanson and the other engineers, who dispense it for free. The community is open and fully searchable, although only registered members can submit articles and comments. In 2008, about 100 people visited the site every day. By early 2010, that number was over 5,000.

Hansen and colleagues Jeff Sullivan, Kong Yang and Dennis Smith are celebrities of sorts in the community of enterprise customers, who frequently seek them out for meetings at trade shows and during visits to the company’s executive briefing center. Their celebrity is paid off handsomely for Dell: Hanson won’t provide specifics, but Dell has estimated that the Tech Center is indirectly responsible for many millions of dollars in sales each year.

That’s despite the fact that Dell Tech Center isn’t charged with selling anything. The site is free of advertising and the member list may never be used for promotions. “The last thing IT people want when they come to a technical resource is an ad asking them to buy a laptop,” Hanson says.

Those sales are generated by the affinity that the staff has developed with these key corporate customers. It’s a camaraderie that is nurtured by personal contact. In the early days of Twitter, the Dell TechCenter staff had set up a common Twitter account as a secondary channel of communication. But it turned out that customers wanted to speak to people, not brands. The Twitter initiative really gained traction when Hanson became @DellServerGeek and Sullivan became @SANPenguin. Suddenly the discussion became more personal and the people behind Dell TechCenter more real to their constituents.

Welcome to the new world of B2B communications. Dell TechCenter and other initiatives like it are microcosms of the changes that are sweeping across corporate America as a consequence of the rapid growth of social media tools like blogs, communities and user-generated multimedia.

Companies like Dell, which does 80% of its sales volume with corporate customers, are ideally positioned to take advantage of these new channels. In fact, B2B companies were among the earliest adopters of social media. Technology leaders like Microsoft, IBM and Cisco had hundreds or thousands of employees blogging as early as 2005 and those same companies are now expanding their footprint into social networks like Facebook, YouTube and, overwhelmingly, Twitter.

Microsoft used a video program called Channel 9 to show its human side to a market that saw it as a closed and secretive company. B2B technology companies have also been among the most creative users of social channels to reach the highly skilled people they need to hire in competitive labor markets. Recruiters have found that social channels are far more effective in identifying prospective employees than recruitment advertising sources and that prospects came into the hiring cycle with a better understanding and more enthusiasm about the company they were hoping to work for.

Yet B2B applications of social media get remarkably little attention. Perhaps that’s because their focused communities of buyers pale in size to the millions who flock to Facebook Official Pages for Coca-Cola and Nike is. Perhaps it’s because glitzy video contests and games don’t resonate with the time-challenged professional audience. It doesn’t really matter. Few B2B companies seek the consumer spotlight and their audiences, which may spend millions of dollars with them, are more interested in substance than in style. Fortunately, B2B social media is all about substance. Continue reading