Brain Vibe

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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, , , , , , , ,

Metrics and ROI: Bonfire of the Vanities

“Is social media effective?”

“How do you measure ROI in social marketing?”

“What KPIs do you use for social media?”

Sounds familiar, right?

Inevitably, when you see someone talk about how to measure social marketing effectiveness you have someone focusing on hits, page rank, sharing, links, and the like.  Then, another voice comes in saying that is is about the business outcome, metrics should tie to business objectives.  A third pipes in that you can’t reabigstockphoto_adjusting_the_data_1234568lly measure marketing to revenue, it’s too fuzzy.

This was evident in a post from Chris BroganMoving Needles.  He mentions several things to look at and what they indicate.  Then, someone commented that social media is a tool and that KPIs that exist today are still valid for social media.  What the needle measures never changes.

Well, everyone is right, and everyone is wrong.  It depends on what your role is in monitoring social marketing effectiveness.  Are you the direct marketer, PR person, the web manager, a program director, or a marketing executive?  The difficulty in all this is that everyone has a different way that they measure their own effectiveness.  Each is silo-ed.  In fact, many times it is the function that defines what the metric is for success rather than CMOs driving the scorecard and dashboard.

Successful measurement of social media, as with any marketing tool, is the ability to take tactical metrics, see how they link to KPIs, show how KPIs drive business outcomes, and then be able to predict how changes in strategy and tactics fuel the cycle again.  Simply showing the end result of marketing effort contribution to business outcome is great for marketing executives.  But, marketing managers, web teams, and specialists need more detail to manage the tactics that drive business outcomes.

As it pertains to social marketing, I think it is opening up things that should be measured as part of web marketing that hasn’t been looked at before.  Web marketing has always been internally focused on website hits, traffic patterns, and how visitors enter the lead funnel.  Social marketing is opening up an understanding of how word-of-mouth influences website visits and brand interaction.  So, it goes without saying that things like trackbacks, linking, conversation, and bookmarking are important to watch.  What we need to figure out is how do these new metrics fit into our dashboard framework to measure impact on desired business outcomes.  What is also important is that some of these metrics may be better to use when looking at our traditional web mediums.

So, while I agree and continually evangelize the need to have marketing executive dashboards that ensure marketing is aligned to business objectives, de-emphasizing web stats that contribute to outcomes won’t help manage effort and resources.

Related articles:

Social Media Metrics: ROI or Just Numbers

Conversational Preference in B2B Social Media

Web Metrics Don’t Cut it for Social Media

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B2B Social Network: Your Website by Customer Design

Provided by: xiete

If all you B2B marketers thought I was crazy when I wrote about giving up control of social media to sales, this one will really take you into the Twilight Zone

Imagine if instead of designing your website your customers did.

You provide the template and content.  Your customers choose what content is in the space, like a Facebook page or Google dashboard. Think about it.  Your customer enters your website today and has to drill into the content that suits them best.  If you are a solutions company, they may click into specific solutions, industry, or even your support area.

For all intents and purposes, your website today is a controlled environment not too unlike a printed brochure.  How traditional!  How boring!

If you use cookies and can track at some level who is coming to your site, maybe after the first entry you customize content based on their previous traffic and interests.  It could be as simple as the type of news alerts scroll on the main page.  You could also customize forums and discussion groups to align them with similar profiles or interests.  For something more sophisticated, you could provide a custom start page that is specific to them: articles, solutions, news, forums and discussions.  But, that is old web thinking.

Ultimately, I would love to see us be able to allow customers to design their experience.  We could provide categories of content and allow customers to drag and drop them.  We could allow them to choose the feeds they want be it offers, events, or product updates.  We could allow them access to discussions with other similar customers for support or ideas on product use.

Personalization has been the holy grail of marketing.  Social networks have provided a straw man of sorts to consider ways we can interact with customers outside of our traditional ways.  We should not be afraid to loosen our grip on our message and the view we give to our customers.  In the end, customers are already making choices on what they are interested in, how they want to interact with us, and if we provide value.  Let’s make it easier for them.

Let the customer create their experience, we could learn a lot about them and they will learn about us.

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Hey teacher, can you give me a tweet?

He He…Alright, maybe not the most appropriate title, but there is a point.

My school system has embraced technology.  It is all about going green.  Really it is about saving money to avoid printing notices.  Regardless, noble effort. But, I have to pull the info. Drives me crazy. I actually have to think about it! The shame of it all (can you hear the whine?). Oh, there is the monthly email that comes out from the school, teachers, PTA, and so on. If there is a hot topic being debated then an email arrives on that. But, if you are like me, my mailbox is pretty full and things get lost.

So I had a thought, what would or could mobile and social media do for cities and towns? Think about it, Obama raised millions and drove his entire campaign through social media. I was listening to his podcasts two years ago. He nickel and dimed his way to the top and drove home his message of change mostly through PR.

  • What if teachers could use Twitter to send parents a reminder that the class project was due in 2 days?
  • What if you could create educational games for kids to purchase and download on their phones and iPhones to play and proceeds went to the school?
  • Would you like to participate in the school committee meetings via webinar or Skype technology and submit questions?
  • How about a social network for parents and teachers to connect and discuss issues and topics?
  • Wouldn’t you love a blog from the Superintendent, principle, and your child’s teacher?
  • Could schools leverage social networks, phone applications, and other Web 2.0 media to raise much needed funds?
  • What about kids blogging to each other in a book club, sports club, or any other topic that promotes writing, journalism, and community connection?
  • Wouldn’t you love to tweet a teacher? (Get your minds out of the gutter – Twitter!)

Anyway, you get the point.  Think of the possibilities.  Social media and mobile media can make the difference between parents being involved, kids getting more out of education, and teachers and schools connecting in meaningful ways with all families.

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Social Media for B2B? You’ve got to be kidding.

Could it be that social media lags in B2B because marketers don’t see value in it for themselves?

I’ve been talking to friends and colleagues about their perception of social media.  To be honest, I’m typically talking to the over 35 crowd.  But hey, these are the senior marketers and decision makers.  The ones that approve plans and dole out the budgets.  So, it has to be said that if you can’t convince them, how can social media succeed in B2B, at least today.

First, the idea of Facebook or MySpace is just plain frightening to them.  They can’t understand the urge to put your life out on the web.  This is way too risky and often frightening.  Here are the barriers.

  • When they consider hiring someone, they check out their pages and if their personal life doesn’t conform to a respectable life, an offer is unlikely to go out.
  • Anything you put up on the web stays there – FOREVER!
  • Their personal life is personal.
  • Social media is for teenagers and college kids.
  • It is too much time and effort and they have busy lives.
  • They just don’t need to know every detail about you – too much information

Social media may be the latest and greatest thing.  There’s a thinking out there that if you aren’t catching the wave, you are going to be caught in it and drown.  To a point it may be true.  It is certainly changing the dynamic of connecting people to people and companies to customers.  As a leading edge B2B marketer just dying to jump in and leverage this new paradigm, how can you convince the powers that be?

Tip 1:  Design a framework of your messaging architecture to social media venues.  Executives will understand better how and why you are entering this space when you show where you are going, what you are saying, and who you are engaging with.  You’ll be speaking their language.
Tip 2:  Don’t assume you need a huge budget, or any.  Re-use and re-purpose content.  Shift time spent from less effective communication avenues.
Tip 3:  Leverage your company or product evangelist.  Utilize their expertise the same way you would if you conducted a webinar, keynote, or by-line. Re-use these assets as video and podcast content.  Interview them and post the discussion of media.
Tip 4:  Participate yourself in discussions and blogging.
Tip 5:  Formulate ways to capture outcomes from social media interactions and report on these.  As with any communication, consider a call to action.  If your purpose is primarily awareness and to evangelize then incorporate tracking into your general PR watch.
Tip 6:  Create a relationship between your executives and experts in your industry that have a strong online presence.  Use classic PR strategy to have them evangelize for you.  This builds your executive’s network, yours, and your company’s.

The biggest point to get across is that your company has most likely been involved in social media.  Your company is already interacting with industry groups attending events, participating in discussions, speaking at events, and leveraging online discussions.  Social media for B2B is not the personal world of Facebook and MySpace.  It is the professional networks, industry venues, and media outlets that have evolved to expand the possibilities to interact with customers.

Do the work, show the results.  Your executives will praise your successes and be gently brought into the social web not even realizing it.

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