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Cut to the Conversation

A lot of time is spent thinking about social in B-to-B and B-to-C, but Airfoil Public Relations says it’s all P-to-P—person-to-person
  • November 22 2011

Social networking can be a key element of a word-of-mouth campaign only if the audience actually uses it, which is why Airfoil Public Relations remains keenly attuned to the target’s habits. The firm creates buzz through multi-platform marcom that reaches targets through outlets they engage with and respect.

“We spend far too much time as an industry trying to master social technology, tools and techniques. We need to focus more on being social and less on doing social media,” says Janet Tyler, president of Airfoil. The key, according to the agency, is to create true connections between the enterprise and customer.

With offices in the Midwest and Silicon Valley, Airfoil works with clients in a range of B-to-C and B-to-B technology segments. Its client roster includes high-profile brands such as Microsoft and industry leaders such as MotiveQuest, a strategic social market research company.

No matter the client, Airfoil tries to build its campaigns around an understanding of the audience and how it consumes information. David Rabjohns, CEO of MotiveQuest, agrees with the approach. “Brands that explore the full landscape of consumer conversations in social media are able to better understand the true depths of their customers’ motivations and behaviors, educating their R&D, corporate strategy and brand management.”

For example, in trying to reach small and midsize businesses for Microsoft, Airfoil found that they were more likely to be listeners of social media than active contributors. “At Microsoft, we know the majority of our SMB customers have active word-of-mouth networks and use social media primarily as a listening tool, so the content we develop for our MicrosoftSMB Twitter handle is aligned with our offline communications,” says Amy Messano, senior PR manager at Microsoft.

The strategy around @MicrosoftSMB has been to fuel the feed with practical, how-to tips culled from well-known small business advisors such as Anita Campbell (Small Biz Trends) and Ramon Ray (Small Biz Technology). This has helped grow the number of @MicrosoftSMB followers to more than 12,000. “We helped them orchestrate a strategy that uses influencers as an amplification network,” says Tonja Deegan, digital and social media director in Airfoil’s Client Solutions Group. As a result, MicrosoftSMB engages respected third parties who are likely to have an influence with purchasers. “B-to-B is very different. You’ve got a passive audience watching, and engagement happens when content gets passed along offline,” Deegan adds.

MobiTV, Inc., the mobile media technology company, needed to increase its brand perception and share of voice in the media, an area its competitor had been controlling. Ray DeRenzo, CMO at MobiTV, believes an integrated approach was critical to its success. “It’s important for marketers to remember that consumers have the same expectations no matter where they encounter your brand,” he says. “While the channels are markedly different, consumers expect a consistent experience, and marketers who present a unified front stand a better chance of creating a powerful story for their customers and ultimately increasing word-of-mouth buzz.”

Airfoil and MobiTV created a thought leadership campaign that more than doubled the company’s share of voice and helped the company form new partnerships with carriers and content providers while also increasing subscribership. Ultimately, the campaign helped validate the viability of mobile television. Airfoil and MobiTV were recognized as a Corporate Media Relations Gold Sabre Award finalist for this work.


SMB owners tend to be passive readers of social posts, not active contributors; that's why Airfoil and Microsoft focus tweets on how-to info