The potential of social media, and Twitter in particular, is a very hot topic among B2B online marketers these days. It seems that for every one person in this discussion singing the praises of Twitter for B2B, there are 50 others saying either "What's Twitter?" or "Using Twitter for business makes absolutely no sense to me - what's the big deal?".
For all the B2B Twitter-philes and Twitter-phobes out there, let's be clear about the current state of affairs - as an emerging communications channel, Twitter really is confusing, and not just for B2B marketers. Don't feel bad if you don't get it. No one really gets it completely at this point because so many of the rules have yet to be written, including how other communication channels like search will interact with Twitter.
Knowing B2B marketers, this debate is going to go on for a LONG time until there's a solid body of experience, demonstrable (and repeatable) results and best practice recommendations spanning a wide range of industries and company sizes.
Until then, you have a choice - do you want to be part of writing the Twitter rules for B2B, or would you rather let the dust settle and pick-up clear best practices as they emerge? Either is a viable choice, but don't torture yourself (or your company!) by bouncing between the two.
If you're currently in the majority that doesn't understand Twitter for B2B but want to get a jump on your competitors by being a proactive participant in the emergence of this new communications channel, then here's a few pieces of advice:
1) Set-up a Twitter account
You can't understand a new communication channel from the outside. Visit http://twitter.com to create an account.
2) Ignore the hype - its still marketing!
Twitter, and social media more generally, are hot topics in B2B marketing and will probably stay that way for the next several years. Forget the hype. Focus on what you know about good marketing and communications regardless of the channel, and look at Twitter through that lens.
3) Build up your own body of evidence
Get a group of B2B marketers together to discuss a new marketing strategy or tactic and you'll inevitably hear "Do you have any examples of this working in my [industry/company size/etc]?". The "does this apply to me" question is absolutely the right one to ask. While you're likely to hear the same B2B Twitter examples over and over again today, keep asking the question of different people and groups in your network. For example, ask about Twitter for B2B in a LinkedIn group, ask vendors in the next trade show you go to whether or not they're using Twitter, find out if associations you belong to are addressing B2B social media and search Twitter regularly for references to your industry.
What about the obvious - asking a question on Twitter? This isn't going to work very well for the interested-in-Twitter-but-don't-get-it-yet audience to which this post is directed. To get quick responses to questions on Twitter, you really need a very engaged set of followers (like a number of your friends) and/or a lot of them - hundreds, preferably thousands. You can ask as a Twitter newbie, but don't let a slow response, or lack of response, sour you on the medium.
Most of all - don't stress about not understanding the role Twitter will ultimately play in B2B marketing. You're in good company, and we're all figuring this out together.