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Three Tips for Turning B-to-B Employees into Content Creators

Social media content is playing a bigger role in the B-to-B buying process, and it’s crucial to develop a robust internal content program to engage current customers and attract new ones, but motivating your employees to contribute content for social media can be a challenge.

During a Sept. 24 panel discussion in Chicago at Social Media Week, an annual conference on social media best practices held simultaneously in several cities around the world, Ed Brill, vice president of social business transformation at Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM Corp., and Edward Vesley, executive vice president and CMO of Chicago-based human resources software provider SilkRoad Technology Inc., offered the following tips for turning B-to-B employees into content creators.

1. Institute training programs. IBM created training programs that instructed employees who were product line experts to write posts for the company’s Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn pages. “Humans want to learn from humans, and by putting our individual voices in the market, we were able to establish our credibility in a way that wasn’t just blowing smoke,” Brill said. IBM’s social channels are seven times more effective at getting customers to convert than traditional marketing programs, largely because of the content created by the company’s subject matter experts, he added.

SilkRoad set up a “swat team” of employees to blog and to write research reports, white papers and infographics. The company created social media profiles for each writer and empowered more seasoned writers to train new recruits. SilkRoad also hosted an internal webinar about LinkedIn best practices, and provided sample tweets and Facebook and LinkedIn posts to make it easier for employees to share the company’s content. “We’re a small company, 350 people, so it’s different than IBM, but some of the concepts are very similar,” Vesley said.

2. Let employees write in their own voices. “[Content creation] has the challenge of scale: People are too busy to write, or not everybody was born a writer, so they kind of fall back on saying, ‘We’ve got a communications person to do this,’ ” Brill said. “If we let them write in their own voice, we’re more successful in getting them to do it.” Along with encouraging employees to use their own communication styles, IBM also offers them a variety of channels in which to create content, including podcasts, video blogs, traditional blogs and IT forums.

3. Establish pride of ownership via proper attribution. “People love to be heard, and if they take the time to draft something, we want their name to be associated with it,” Vesley says. “A lot of articles tend to go out through our social marketing manager, but when other departments write, we want them to have their own [bylines]. It also helps our employees build their personal brands.”

IBM has a leaderboard for employee blogs and social media posts that have garnered the most traffic. “Playing into the ego is definitely a huge thing,” Brill said. IBM’s top executives also write blogs and social media posts, which motivates employees to do the same, he said. “Guidelines, coaching, leading by example and recognition all keep people engaged. When we think about B-to-B buying in the context of social, we’re always thinking about it more as sustaining than buying. If we can build positive word of mouth, recommendations, endorsements and case studies, the community sustains itself.”

This article was originally published in the Oct. 14, 2014, issue of Marketing News Weekly.​

About the author: Christine Birkner is the senior staff writer for Marketing News and Marketing News Weekly. Email her at

Categories: Strategies.