Brain Vibe

marketing muses to stay engaged

B2B Social Media: Got Your Toe Wet, Now It’s Time to Swim

You tweet, blog, have a Facebook page, and created a Ning community.  That’s great.  Nice first step.  Now what?

The great thing about social media is that the barrier to entry is not the platform any longer.  You have the ability to test drive ideas within or outside your online current environment before committing. That just didn’t exist as you built your web presence in the past.  In some cases you can shift existing resources as you phase out old interactive practices, although I wouldn’t bank on this as social media is more content intensive and requires consistent monitoring and responding to increase and maintain value. To take your interactive customer experience to the next level, it will require pulling the learnings you’ve had with Twitter, blogs, social networks, and social bookmarking and begin to sector out those that truly worked to drive sales, reduce churn, and contributed to market influence and leadership.

Many times, we’ve created our social media experience parallel to our overall web strategy.  Marketing campaigns still drive traffic to product and solution offers in landing pages or on a website, or they specifically focus on growing a community.  The website is still a place to become educated about the company, products and solutions, and there may be a link to a social network that has blogs and discussions.  The problem is that your website strategy and your social media strategy now need to become integrated.  You’ve built your communities, now what do you want out of them?  You need to drive qualified leads and incorporate successful practices into an integrated interactive strategy.  Remove the website and social media silo.

Here’s how:

Content Conversion: A key staple of web content and marketing content overall is the white paper and case study.  Marketers covet this content and leverage it as a call to action in direct marketing campaigns.  Typically in PDF format users are required to register to download.  It is used so much because it works well to get qualified leads into the funnel.  However, the missing link is the SEO factor.  In PDF format you don’t have the keyword rich content to attract paid and natural search visitation.  You don’t have the ability to build upon SEO through conversations, linking and authority.  It is time to open up the white paper and case study to a blog format leveraging the reach you get with social media at the same time continuing to require registration to comment, bookmark, or RSS subscription on the content.

Trackbacks: Creating thought leadership and product/solution leadership has always been tightly controlled on our websites.  It is all about what we want you to know.  We’ll through in an industry analyst study that showcases our solution or our perspective to create credibility and plop a sidebar banner in to get to the content.  Although, the content is usually a PDF contained in our CMS system.  There are a number of customer networks and media/analyst networks that have blogs and discussions on our business.  We even have created our own.  It is time to integrate those discussions into our website content through trackbacks.  This allows page content to stay fresh maintaining and improving SEO over time as well as allowing forums for customers researching more avenues to learn about what we have to offer.

Social Bookmarking: Leverage social bookmarking within your website to allow visitors to bring people to your website.  This will do a couple of things.  First, if you want people to bookmark you’ll be forced to produce highly relevant and valuable content on your site moving past the online brochure.  Second, allowing your content to go viral will expand your reach.

Content Commenting: Let people comment or create discussions.  Having customers provide ratings or feedback can be good in helping customers make decisions.  Even if a comment is not glowing but is constructive, it may provide insight for customers to consider when choosing.  You may want to populate comments from support or customer forums that show how the solution solved a problem or configurations necessary for specific customer environments.  Then, open it up to visitors to ask questions or drill into the forum discussions.  This is a cornerstone in online retail and is a proven factor driving conversion.

Forums: Normally a behind the scenes venue in your customer portal or industry networks, take that same venue and apply it in your website experience.  Allow visitors to discussion their needs for a solution and what they are experiencing in their business.  Rather than keeping this separate, by integrating into your website experience it encourages engagement connection with you, your customers, and other prospects.  It could be a similar format as LinkedIn groups or Twitter Twibes.

The point of all this is that stand alone widgets, networks, and branded social media venues in the long run won’t serve your business well.  An integrated and seamless approach will add value to your website experience and improve customer conversion by linking to your marketing funnel strategies.

Filed under: b2b, customer relationship, sales 2.0, social media, social media marketing, , , , , , , ,

B2B Social Media: The Silent Majority Opportunity

B2B Customer Silent MajorityThere is a huge silent majority out there.  Are you speaking to them?  I think you should.

This has been an issue with social media in B2B that I keep coming back to.  There are those of us that produce content, those that comment, those that share, and those that just are there on the fringe – the silent majority.  As marketers, free press (engagement) is typically measured more in actions and thus the measure of social media success.  But, what has me thinking is, are those that are most vocal and interactive really representative of my market or who I want to convert?  I know that they have influence by their ability to advocate the brand and spread my message.  Though, it makes me wonder if my message is really being shared in the manner that I would intend.  Ah, the loss of control.

But, I digress…

There is a part of me that thinks social media and how we measure effectiveness may be a bit flawed.  Taking a step back and looking at the B2B decision process, social media is not proving to be a big conversion component at the bottom of the funnel.  It is really a thought leadership component.  As such, while I certainly want to engage those visiting say in a blog or community, I think that the silent majority may actually be my real customer.  I’m not even determining how I’m influencing them or who they are in how social media effectiveness is measured today.

Here’s why I care about the silent majority.  They are the ones that are probably in a serious research phase as they assess their business and ways to improve it.  They are the ones that don’t have other motives outside of becoming more knowledgeable.  It may not be in their best interest to publicly communicate their opinions or questions as it could expose their strategy to competitors, thus they are closer to considering next steps.  They share content rarely, but when they do it is highly relevant to their purpose.  I think the silent majority is actually the closest to being converted, and we don’t even track them well.

Initial thoughts are that we should look at members/subscribers and content sharers that are active in visitation but less so in direct engagement – taking a bottom up analysis rather than top down.  This may point towards more qualified leads to engage in direct marketing activities and other traditional conversion tactics.  We might want to look overall at our social media and begin to track metrics that point towards research behavior that resembles behavior of those ready to engage in the sales process in order to determine potential effect on marketing conversion.  Thus, giving a window on our social media’s effect on conversion.

What do you think?  What is your strategy for the silent majority?

Filed under: b2b, customer relationship, sales 2.0, social media marketing, , , , ,

B2B Social Media is Not One-Size-Fits-All Part 1

Social media opens up a wide array of possibilities for marketers as well as cost savings.  However, how or if it is used for marketing will look entirely different depending on the company, industry, and products and solutions sold.  Social media marketing is not “one-size-fits-all”.

The hype of late has really told the story of social media marketing within the consumer arena.  The picture is quite different in business-to-business.  When Forrester talks about 50% of marketers increasing their spend in social media, take out business-to-consumer and you get a very different perspective.  Supporting this, agencies see the big push in social media spending is really still from consumer focused companies.

In a recent Q&A session on LinkedIn, I asked marketers what percentage of marketing spend was for social media marketing and what that number was last year.  So, even if everyone said they were increasing spend, this could provide a perspective on how committed they were.  One reply provided an article from from eMarketer and included a graphic on social network advertising spend.  To my surprise, the biggest increase of spend was not this year (2009) 17% but last year (2008) 46%. No wonder all the hype over the past year.

But, this still doesn’t show what is happening in B2B.  That came from responses from marketing and business developmentThe B2B social media marketing spend answer: no marketing spend.  None. Zero. However, that doesn’t mean that no effort is spent on social media marketing.  Dani Lee, Director of Marketing at Copanion says, “(This) is partly due to the fact that our B2B SMB target audience has low adoption of social networking. However, from a time perspective, we definitely spend more time on social networking this year compared to almost no time last year. We drive content to our social networking sites with the goal of creating more engagement with our audience over various channels.”  Another contributor doesn’t see that social media makes sense in highly complex solution sales.

The big question is, what does social media marketing do for B2B?  Or, is there also a factor that social media marketing as it is defined today does not represent B2B marketing perspectives for marketing overall.

Where social media marketing and advertising is focused on the consumer, the engagement is much more relaxed and, well, social.  In B2B, there is a lot of vested interest on both sides of the deal. Sending tweets to customers may not be the answer to relationship building.  There also may not be an audience to connect to through social networks and communities.  B2B is going to have to figure out what the conversation looks like from their perspective and map to social media outlets.  It all boils down to conversational preference.

You can watch the Q&A session on LinkedIn by going to http://www.linkedin.com/answers/marketing-sales/advertising-promotion/internet-marketing/MAR_ADP_INM/443710-575533?searchIdx=0&sik=1237987444226&goback=%2Easr_1_1237987444226

Also, if you would like to participate in a survey on budget and resource allocation, you can go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=9ccwmeJJoa_2f_2fcSl_2bwgr_2fDA_3d_3d

Part 2

Related Articles:

You Don’t Have to Get Social Media, You’re Doing It

Conversational Preference in B2B Social Media

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Filed under: b2b, customer relationship, marketing technology, networking, sales 2.0, social media, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A B2B Twitter Neighborhood

Twitter MailanaB2B marketing will not be effective in social media if it continues to focus on goals of awareness.  Mailana, a nifty tool to analyze strong conversational relationships on Twitter shows that a circle of influence is a tight one.

ReadWriteWeb exposes The Inner Circles of 1o Greek Heroes on Twitter using Mailana.  By typing in someones twitter name it produces a network graph and a ranked list of who a person converses with.  RWW was interested in the top 5 of people like Evan Williams, Kevin Rose, and Shaq.  They make the premise that this shows the influencers of the influencers.  Which makes sense since the more you interact with someone, the more likely you would take into account their opinions or have similar opinions.

Outside of this being a bit creepy and verging on stalking, it is amazingly interesting.  What struck me is just what type of people a person is most likely to converse with on Twitter.  It seems that there are varying degrees of personal and professional as well as the range of insulation and outreach.  Not that this should be much of a surprise but, for all the talk about the “socialness” of social media, connections for some of the biggest influencers have a high degree of professional connection and insulation.

For B2B word-of-mouth marketing, the inner circle is a tough thing to crack.  Depending on who you want to connect to, and what you want to talk about, marketing has to not only learn how to hold conversations but also be a lot closer to the customer and conversation.  This new marketing technique moves marketers closer to sales activities than broad stroke marketing activities.

Many are focusing social media goals on awareness generation and next on engagement.  It seems to be more about driving activity on the vehicle than a focus on a business objective.  At this high level, marketing is just not going to be effective to change opinions.  You are starting at square one.  To make social media work for you, focus on thought leadership and building relationships through reciprocating interactive vehicles.

You probably have a pretty well established market presence unless you are just starting out.  In this instance, you are probably already working your network and partners heavily.  So, leverage those existing relationships to crack the inner circle.  Always incorporate customers into your social media outreach. Identify ways to expand your customer advocacy programs to social media.  Always ensure you incorporate customers into your webinars and demos to encourage and expand conversation.  Never go it alone.

Another way to leverage your social media community venues is to engage customers during the sales cycle or customer advisory sessions within these venues.  Conference calls with presentations and demos are integrated in your social media sites.  Hold your regular customer advisory calls within the community.  Use your community as the place to interact and people will recognize that this is the place to do so.

At the end of the day, who your customers turn to to make decisions isn’t any different than it always was.  Mailana now makes it easier to see who they are.  Who are your customers talking to?

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Filed under: customer relationship, sales 2.0, social media, , , ,

You Don’t Have to Get Social Media, You’re Doing It

My 9 year old daughter watches as I write blogs, check my stats, and ponder what others are saying and doing.  While writing this morning, she is peaking over my shoulder and says, “I really don’t get social media.”  I had to laugh because she is immersed in social media.

B2B social mediaShe doesn’t think about what she is doing as new, different, or leading.  She blogs to tell friends and family what she is up to.  She is obsessed with Webkinz and all the things she can do in Webkinz World (I recently found out she has a boyfriend there, YIKES!).  She is plugged in to her Ninetendo DS and sits with friends connecting through a game.  Her goal is to get a cell phone when she turns 10 so that she can text with friends – we’ll see.  She doesn’t have to get it.  She just does it.

You may think that as B2B marketers and salespeople you are lagging behind your B2C brethren. I think that is wrong.  The foundations of social networking and communities already exist within your websites, trade associations, and professional associations.  You have a captive media audience with your analysts.  You also have existing media assets that you determined work. And, believe it of not, you are already doing it.

Here’s an example of social media in action during 2001.  I worked for a computer software company that had it’s own solutions as well as a large partner network.  The dot com bubble burst and our event budget was significantly scaled back.  However, we still wanted to have interaction with customers as well as fulfill our partnership obligations through joint marketing and sales efforts. Our solution was to combine webinar, conferencing, and forum capabilities to create a virtual conference.  The virtual conference mimicked live conferences with tracks, product showcasing, break-out sessions, as well as pre-scheduled customer meetings for demos and solution discussions.  We promoted it the way we would our other conferences, but there was no charge for the event. The event was highly successful both in attendance, interaction, and initiating or closing business even as the technology platforms were in an early stages of capabilities and usage.

A hidden benefit to the virtual conference was we now had an extensive asset library.  Webinars, flash demos, white papers, and forums that could be converted to FAQs as well as kept open for further community building and interaction.  It also pushed us to test new technologies and work out some of the kinks before applying them within our overal website.

If you think about it, social media is really just a virtualized society.  It makes it faster, easier, and at times cheaper to connect with others that have simliar interests or commonalities.  The tools today, as opposed to 2001, are more intuitive and flexible making it faster and easier to get started.  So, the real effort is taking what you have in your assets, look at how you interact both online and offline, and recreate that in social media.

Additionally, you will need to evaluate how the conversation is different in a face to face setting vs. the content push that primarily happens today with direct marketing efforts.  What works with events and meetings is dialogue exchange.  Our websites and marketing as a whole have become more of a linear mechanism to bring people into the lead management process.  The social setting is about exchange.  I heard one person say that social media is really a vortex – kenetic, circling, accelerating to a mutual objective.

Don’t believe that you are behind in your ability to implement an effective social media strategy.  It doesn’t matter if you “don’t get it”.  In many ways, you are already doing it.  Now there is a lexicon for it.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Filed under: b2b, marketing technology, networking, sales 2.0, social media, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Topics

Linking

Bookmark and Share

Blog Archive