Ted Rubin is an author, social marketing strategist, keynote speaker, and acting CMO of Brand Innovators. He sat down with Oracle Social Cloud’s Senior Content Manager Maggie Schneider Huston to discuss how brands can nurture relationships on social media.
Maggie Schneider Huston: What’s the best way for B2B companies to build relationships on social media?
Ted Rubin: It’s so much easier to apply social to a B2B brand. If you’re B2C, you’ve got millions of people you’re trying to connect with. If you’re a B2B brand, you have a much more refined audience. But people always forget that they are selling to a person, not a company. We need to build a relationship. If you feel like we’ve connected, you’ll listen more closely. Personal connections lead to business relationships. I often say, “relationships are like muscle tissue.” The more you use them, the stronger they become.
MSH: Obviously, not every interaction is going to go well. With every relationship, there are bound to be a few missteps. What should brands do then?
TR: They should admit it. Don’t apologize if you don’t mean it, and don’t apologize if you didn’t do anything wrong. But if you’ve done something wrong, you need to fix it. You have to take the time to say, “we realize we have a problem, and it will take us some time to fix it.” Be transparent and authentic. It can be as simple as saying, “we’re going to retrain our employees.” Don’t automatically fire an employee, unless it’s really obvious that it was malicious. We all make mistakes, especially in the social world. The most important thing is to catch those mistakes.
MSH: A lot of employees are scared to post on social media about work – they’re afraid they will say something wrong and get fired. However, we know that employee advocacy (especially on social media) is one of the most important levers brands can pull. What should leaders do to instill confidence in their employees and encourage them to be active on social media?
TR: Leaders should get into the social sphere themselves. They might not share (although they should), but they should at the very least read other people’s posts and show that they’re listening. If you tell your employees that you want them to be social leaders, then you need to lead by example.
Leaders also need to empower employees to get on social channels – even during the work day. Don’t cut your employees off from social. I know that Facebook can be a time suck. But look, I’m 58 years old. In the beginning of my career, if you wanted to waste time, you could find plenty of ways to do it. I used to go to the bathroom just so I could read a book. Leaders need to encourage employees to build their personal brand and influence. Do for others without expectation of anything in return and the authenticity shines through. If you show your employees that your primary concern is helping them grow, then they’re going to be that much more apt to support you in your efforts.
Business is very different these days. In 1980, most business dinners were a drag because they had to be entirely about business. Today, I love going out with my colleagues. We talk about everything. I want my employees sharing experiences and putting things out there, because a lot of the time your business colleagues are also going to be your friends on social media, get to know who you are, and feel that much more connected. A Network gives you Reach, but a Community gives you Power! Networks Connect… Communities Care.
MSH: You’re a divorced dad. How is parenting similar to management?
TR: <laughs> It’s really the other way around. Managing is more like parenting. We don’t want to be managerial in our parenting skills. You know, being a parent is about building a relationship. By the way, that doesn’t always mean I’m your friend. A good parent has a great relationship with their children. It means they’re listening – and hearing – and taking what they’re hearing and applying it to the way they parent or manage. Managing has to become more like parenting, more thoughtful. You’re more worried about the end result than what’s happening right this minute.
Being a divorced dad, we’re not necessarily one big happy family. We have different groups with different responsibilities. We need to come together and get rid of the silos. In a family, it works best if it’s not broken down into what’s most important to each kid. In business, one of the most important things is customer service and marketing working together with one voice and the same goals.
MSH: Ok, I have to ask. What’s the deal with the socks? Do you plan your outfit around your socks?
TR: I’m playful. Socks have become part of my personal brand since 2010. It started because people noticed I was wearing funky socks at conferences. It creates conversation. It makes me approachable. I have CEOs stick out their foot and want to take a #TedSockie when we meet or come across each other serendipitously. It makes it so somebody can say, “what socks are you wearing today?” instead of thinking they have to come up with some bright comment or way to open up a conversation or approach me.