Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

Digital Conversationalist

As a B2B marketer, social media success may still be allusive.  You blog, tweet, post on LinkedIn and Facebook. You are vested in the conversation.  But, are you really ready? How are you executing?

I am no expert.  By far, this is my most vexing question to date.  What I have done is really to start looking at what other companies seem to do, talk to fellow marketers, and try to figure out what works to build a vibrant community.  Here is what I’ve seen and taken away in my quest.

Entry level marketers and interns have typically been tasked to take on the social media effort.  In B2B, this can be a real challenge and barrier to realizing value from your initiative.  There is significant finesse, knowledge, and networking ability that is required.  Simply putting your brand, subject matter expertise, and yes, promotion out there is not for the inexperienced.

You can leverage a PR agency.  However, do they really know your business?  They do a great job of triangulating your message with experts and media.  They may even be there to ghost write.  This approach can get your effort up and running more effectively.  Over time, it is costly and slows the conversation.  Conversation is not sustained or maybe not achieved at all because of the bureaucracy to produce and eventually turns the social media effort into direct marketing and promotion or worse yet, the promotion and branding of external experts, not you.

You may have created a social media or blogging bureau and established a set of social media guidelines.  Subject matter experts are tasked with writing blogs and tweeting.  How is this working for you?  Do you have the steady stream of content?  Many times it is difficult to get people to commit to contributing if they are busy (I admit to this trap) or don’t see the value and return.

My conclusion is that what B2B companies need to start thinking about is how to be the Digital Conversationalist. Don’t just pay this lip service.  The best social media efforts are balanced between thought leadership and a vibrant customer driven community.

Here is my Digital Conversationalist job description:

This person is already versed and experienced in what you offer, is a good writer, but can also “pass the beer test” with a wide audience in your customer base.  This person can work the digital room and get discussion going.  They can balance thought provoking contribution with the ability to ask questions and get responses.  They utilize and test social media tools to illicit the most and best discussions.  They can turn lemons into lemonade, addressing discordant views and complaints in ways that promote your brand and give you insight you didn’t have.  A Digital Conversationalist knows they are only part of the conversation and not the center of attention.


Filed under: blogging, networking, social media, social media marketing, ,

There Is Revenue in Social Media

social media revenueRight now the value of a social network is tied to ad dollars.  Facebook allows you to place ads.  LinkedIn charges for job postings.  Blogs have ad text and banners.  Ad dollars is what is making social media go round.  The notion that social media is about the party is no longer the case.  It may not be as obvious or it may be very obvious, but Twitter, Facebook pages, LinkedIn contacts, and blogs all have agendas and it is about making money in some shape or form.  On the internet, free to the user has generally been the norm.  I’m not convinced it has to be.

One of the first social media venues was online games.  In 2007, online gaming reached $8.6B.  People pay monthly fees to access, entertain themselves, and interact with others.  They derive value from the experience and equate that with what is in their wallet.  It is one of the biggest growth areas on the internet. Another interactive experience that in some ways is also social is e-learning.  Here, the market hit $17.5B during 2007 in the US alone.   By the way, B2B companies are already tapping into this with their training offerings.  Contrast these markets with social networks like Facebook that is free and a membership the size of the US, and you realize the revenue potential and loss.  Granted, global internet advertising had reached $45B in 2007 according to the Kelsey Group.  So it is understandable that getting a piece of the internet advertising pie seems easier and more appealing.  Google built an empire on this.  Combine that with the fact that the internet is ‘free’ to the user and you know how to follow the money trail. I say, this is short sighted.  The ROI for ad spend will be less than what you can get from a direct revenue model.  The other aspect, you aren’t Google and your business model is about selling your products, not advertising another company’s offerings.

The value in social media for the user is not unlike that of online gaming or e-learning.  There is opportunity to be had by putting a dollar figure on the experience.  Social Networks are micro communities and associations that provide a value.  There is a place for these communities to be fee based and to continue to be true to the experience.  Other’s have implemented a for fee experience and are successful:  Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, BusinessWeek.  Associations give access to their members and communities as part of the annual membership fee.  This has allowed these venues to maintain integrity and continue to provide information and experiences to subscribers.

B2B is looking for ways to generate value and revenue from social media.  Simply looking at it in terms of the Marketing Funnel and lead conversion is only a part of the potential.  Leveraging the interactive and informational quality of an experience and you have the potential to have direct revenue generation.  There is also the opportunity for new forms of revenue generation evolved from information service providers like LexisNexis and Elsevier.  They sell full or limited access to high value content and community networks.  Services may aggregate memberships in trade associations and sell full or limited access to online forums and content.  Meeting services can act as conduits to extend trade show seminars and key notes into virtual experiences people pay to access.  In each of these 3rd party offerings companies derive direct revenue while building credibility and relationships.  Afterall, customers pay to attend events, if there is enough value, they’ll pay for access.

B2B needs to start thinking out of the box in tying social media to direct revenue generation.  Social media experiences have value in more ways than an advertising vehicle.  With the right value proposition, customers will pay for access.  It is all in how you create and package it.  Now that is marketing!

Filed under: b2b, CMO seat, networking, social media, , , ,

The Fine Line in B2B Social Media

Social media, and more specifically social network connections with real friends and family is a much more interesting and comfortable place to be than it is for business.  How I envy even the business-to-consumer businesses where they can cozy up with entertaining and light games, gimmicks, and discussion.  Yet, while we all dress business casual these days to go about our daily work routines, we still have to put on that respectable suit in client and customer facing activities.  Thus, is the case with social media marketing.

If the intent of social media marketing is to provide greater transparency, where do you draw the line?  And, does that line move depending on how engaged and connected your customer is?

Several years back I had a conference call with an executive at a large media company.  The call was on a day that I was working at home and happened to be in the kitchen with the back slider open letting in the beautiful day.  As we were discussing the finer details of a project, a turkey chick happened to wonder up on my deck and right into my kitchen.  Wide eye’d and shocked, I ran through the kitchen to grab a broom and shoo it out.  As I did this, who happened to follow looking for the chick, you got it, mamma turkey.  Half in the conversation, and half out of my mind, I began to swing carefully at the birds to get them back out on my deck.  Mamma turkey was all too ready to defend her chick and the gobbling began, the wings flapped, and clawed feet came up.  I squealed half under my breath but of course my client was on to me.  First I had to explain that I was working from home, then I had to explain the noise and squeal.  I was mortified.  As it turned out, my client found the situation hilarious and since we had a fairly good relationship, it all worked out fine.  Yet, I was not prepared for such an unprofessional event to intrude on my business at hand.

Had this been a sales call or first meeting, I don’t know that this incident would have come across as well.  Such is the issue with social media engagement.  Since conversations are typically out there for all to see, there are going to be times when long time connections and newly created ones will interact with you and each other at the same time.   With newly engaged connections you may want to err on the side of safety and maintain the business suit, but with long time customers, jeans and a button down may be just fine. You don’t have control over what is said, only how you respond. Will you shoo away newly engaged customers if they intrude on conversations you are having with existing customers or those that are ready to enter your sales cycle?  Or, will you shoo away long time customers when you are developing a new relationship?  In social media, you don’t really have the option to ignore or push off if you want to hold and nurture your community.

The more I ponder the nature of relationship building in social media, the more I conclude that engagement and transparency may take on a more homogenous aspect and that the line moves as engaged connections move into the sales cycle, solution cycles, and support cycles.  Social media is good as a communication stream with a broad ability to form direct connections, but it won’t necessarily build deep connections where the line of transparency and relationship begins to dissipate toward arm chair discussion.

If the goal is a customer relationship that is a partnership, social media is a piece of this and can facilitate communication.  However, will it really be the primary mechanism of the relationship?

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Filed under: b2b, communication, customer relationship, networking, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

The Value of Social Media for B2B Purchase Decisions

digital-medium-used-by-us-professionalsUnderstanding how customers decide what solutions they need, which services they need, or what vendor to work with seems to move in peaks and valleys.  With social media on the scene and companies embracing it to get closer to customers, the question is arising again.  The real question is, how does social media contribute to a customer’s purchase decision?

Taking visitors to social media networks or connections to social media marketing efforts into the sales process has thus far eluded marketing.  The answer may be in this recent analysis provided by  While GenY is more optimistic about visitation and use of social media activities by US Professionals, Boomers and GenX think that professionals are less inclined.  This is not surprising as other statistics show an age gap.  What is important to realize is that Boomers and GenX are typically the ones making the decisions and holding the purse strings.  If they aren’t using social media to gather information about solutions, services, and vendors their purchase decision is not going to be influenced by what marketers put there.

Another revealing aspect of this study is the individual vehicles and their place in the typical workday.  Social networking, where marketers are looking to develop one-to-one relationships, are not as frequented by decision makers.  The other area to connect directly, internet forums, is also a lagging vehicle.  On the other hand, traditional vehicles such as a news site and personal email are ingrained in everyday behavior.  Social media, as a newer communication and information source, requires change in a decision maker’s behavior.  Other tools, such as mobile devices, were readily adopted due to teh fact that they mimicked and incorporated existing communication methods.  It wasn’t as much of a leap for people to make.  Social media, on the other hand, my be too different from how decision makers gather information or collaborate.

In a world where the journalist is considered a dying breed, across the board responents reconginzed the role they play in a professionals workday.  In fact, the gap is significant when compared to blogs.  This seems to point to a need to value and validated content versus opinion.  Another aspect to consider is that business journals are still able to sell online content and information.  Social media in time may become a trusted source of informtion, but today’s the number indicate that decision makers as designated by generation still rely and trust traditional sources.  Blogs, forums, and networks may still be seens as commentary and biased even is they are produced in journalistic fashion.

As GenY moves up the ranks and GenX further gravitates to social media int the workplace, things will shift.  But, this may still be several years out.   As marketers, we need to consider our audience’s preference for communication and information gathering when leveraging marketing tools that should drive sales.  Social media in business is still an immature source even as the hype has reached a crescendo.    If social media is not used regularly in a workday, it does not have the marketing power to transform engagement into sales.  Purchase decisions are complex and content and engagement needs to happen in a manner that creates trust, credibility, and aligns to the customer decision process.

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Filed under: b2b, marketing operations, marketing technology, networking, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Is Twitter an Effective Direct Marketing Tool?

There are many uses for Twitter, but a significant use is to share content.  So, if you are a marketer and trying to get reach and conversion by feeding your blogs, white papers, and event invites through Twitter, what is the click-through rate?  How does it compare to email and direct mail?  Just how effective is it?

Pear Analytics just released a post looking at just that.  Their conclusion is that Twitter only provided a  click-through rate equivalent to direct mail.

… [A] “useful” tweet has the following characteristics:

-a shelf life of about 1 hr 15 min, and then it “dies”
-1 to 2% click-through rate on links

Which means that this is not a whole lot different than direct mail for example, without out the cost of course.

Ouch!  Alright, so it didn’t cost anything except manpower, but it is supposed to be better than direct mail and even email due to the ‘viral’ aspect of being within a social network.  That’s the hype.  That’s what the creative gurus are telling us. 

The issue with Twitter as a direct marketing tool has more to do with the fact that you cannot manage your list.  You may be able to manage your own follower and following list, but ultimately you are relying on the good will of others in the network to get out the message.  The way you manage your Twitter list is different than others manage theirs.

A big factor of success in direct marketing is the ability to slice, dice, and segment for a targeted approach.  It is surgical and scientific.  Even when you purchase lists you account for quality and alignment to your purpose, message, and content.  This simply is not manageable in Twitter if your follower’s networks are built for size rather than quality.  You can at least have negotiate money back if lists your purchase from vendors have quality issues.  But, Twitter lists are free.

Social networks like Twitter are great to keep high quality leads and customers close and then leverage to build your databases through early stage outreach.    When new leads do come into your social network, check for quality as this will tell you if your viral channel is high quality as well.  Then, If social network connections meet a threshold for quality, migrate to your central marketing database for lead nurturing.



Filed under: customer relationship, data quality, marketing operations, marketing technology, metrics, networking, social media, , , , , , , , , ,



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