What is the difference between showcasing the expertise of a B2B company and that of its employees?

Company expertise is usually ‘anonymous’ for the effect of branding the company as a whole. Traditionally, the goal has been to enhance knowledge about a product or service as a representation of the brand. A top-notch marketing campaign would not only tell you what it provides, but convince you that you are missing something without what it has to offer. Often, this is still the primary goal. However, social media and online marketing has changed the rules of the game. Now, we want not only to be exposed to information that gives us professional or personal value; we want to know who is giving us this information and why they are qualified to do so. Without a name, face or contact with a person we can visualize, we are less likely to trust the source. The new wave of social media strategy involves balancing the needs of the company brand with the expertise and intelligence of its corporate members.In today’s social media, a company can decide to act as a single entity or as a collection of informed individuals. A single branded unit (one person or homogeneous firm) will publish and share content from a homogeneous perspective, creating a unified social media strategy. This method can be highly effective. (How many mechanics or scientific researchers do you know that also enjoy both writing and engaging in social media activity?) Allowing internal experts and external content marketing specialists to collaborate can certainly enhance a company’s exposure and reputation. However, relying on the ‘marketers’ to relay information with which they are not familiar risks misconstruing expertise, missing out on communication with the desired audience, and compromising credibility and internal personality.Around 60% of companies worldwide outsource their social media activity, while only 44% of these companies are satisfied with the outcome. It’s hard to make out why the various companies are dissatisfied, yet this pattern should draw our attention. Social media can be a volatile place by nature, but especially in the case for B2B brands, communicating expertise is vital in establishing trust. Outsourcing or relying solely on talent from the marketing team seems an intelligible strategy, but when the valued knowledge and personality of company experts is absent, we may be wise to reconsider just why we are sacrificing these essential elements.

Let’s compare this situation to ‘offline’ content marketing: do you trust an expert at a business fair who has spent months or years arriving at their conclusions or a firm they hired to speak on their behalf? Would you be more likely to collaborate with the professional that can independently express his or her ideas, or the third-party charismatic speaker who has been paid to provide representation. There is nothing wrong with hiring much needed public relations or marketing help. It is, however, important to assess the costs and benefits of making this decision. Often times ‘experts’ do not represent themselves as cleanly as the sweet talkers in the marketing biz. But does this also mean they are not the best people to perform the job? The answer will always depend on the situation and desires of the brand, but the question should not forgotten.

When experts and social media strategists are integrated in the content marketing processes, the true value and knowledge of a company can be present and expressed. Defining ‘high-quality content’ will differ for each company, though keep in mind what will be the most effective way to demonstrate industry expertise and establish a brand reputation. Combining individual expertise to build a collective company reputation may just be your best bet.

To read more on content marketing and building a reputation in social media, see exploreB2B’s whitepaper, The Social Media Way of Life for B2B Experts and Content Marketers.

(This piece was a collaboration with Dr. Susanna Gebauer.)