Social Media B2B Editor Speaking at MarketingProfs Digital Marketing Forum

Use code SPEAK100 and save $100 on an in-person registration to Digital Marketing Forum 2011.Next week I will be traveling to Austin, Texas to speak at the Digital Marketing Forum. My New To You session at this MarketingProfs event is Social Media Best Practices to Heat Up Your Marketing, where I will be presenting with Alan Belniak (@abelniak) and Sharon Mostyn (@SharonMostyn). If you are attending this conference, it would be great if you attend our session, or at least stop by and say hi.

If you are thinking about attending, make sure you check out the list of awesome speakers. We have interviewed several of them over the years, and the links to the videos are listed below.

If you see someone on the conference speaker list that you would like us to interview, let us know in the comments below. We will do our best to try to arrange it. I will definitely be talking to Ann Handley about Twitter and her new book, Content Rules.

And finally, if you are going to be there, and you would like to write a blog post or two about the B2B content and examples from the conference, please let me know (contact@socialmediaB2B.com), and tell me what session you would like to blog. This has worked great in the past, and since I can’t attend every session, this is a great way to share more content from the event. Hope to see you in Austin.

[VIDEO] 11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011

I recently had the opportunity to share the screen with David B. Thomas (@davidbthomas) of New Marketing Labs and discuss my predictions for B2B Social Media for 2011. Even though you may have read the predictions, watch the video to hear us talk about them. Dave brings additional perspective to the conversation with his experience working with enterprise level companies using social media.

11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011
1. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile
2. Open APIs Support Information Portability
3. Collect, Analyze and Visualize Data
4. Share Compelling Stories
5. Continued Growth of Social Search
6. Expanded Forums of Social Communications
7. The Year of Conversions
8. Customer Service is More Social Than Marketing
9. Daily Deals and Group Buying Change Pricing Models
10. Social Media will be More Accepted in the Enterprise
11. Companies with Limited Results Pull Back from Social Media

A Legal Perspective on B2B Social Media

As you have incorporated social media into communication planning for your B2B company, whether large or small, chances are you worked with the company legal team or outside firm. While these legal teams are in place to protect the interests of the company, some are just not familiar enough with social media to provide appropriate counsel for your efforts.

The following email interview with India Vincent and Howard P. Walthall, Jr., both partners at Burr & Forman LLP, provides some thoughts, not legal opinions, about the legal approach to social media.

1. What are some of the main legal issues (liability, risk, copyright) that delay companies from beginning to use social media?
All of the issues companies address with other forms of marketing and customer communication (including false advertising concerns, copyright infringement, regulatory issues, proper message, etc.) are all present in social media. The catch is that in order to use social media effectively, companies must devise ways to address these concerns, or at least mitigate the risks, in a more timely manner. Responding quickly does not mean ignoring the potential risks, it means developing more timely ways of addressing the risks.

For example, if a company is developing a new marketing campaign, the materials must be reviewed to ensure that there is nothing that could serve as the basis for a false advertising claim. Postings on social media must be reviewed for the same purpose. It is important that anyone tweeting for the company, blogging, responding to a customer email, or otherwise interacting with the public through electronic channels have a general understanding of the boundaries of false advertising and be aware that their st atements in these different forums could create liability for the company if the statements are over-reaching.

There are some advertising issues which are especially significant in the social media context as compared to traditional media. These usually involve the failure to disclose the true identity or corporate affiliation of a person touting the firm’s products or services via social media. This can happen, for example, when an employee posts a glowing review of a company’s products without disclosing the employment relationship, or when a celebrity does the same thing without disclosing that the company is compensating the celebrity for his or her comments.

Other legal issues familiar to advertisers also come up routinely in social media marketing. For example, someone managing a Facebook page for a company needs to understand not only false advertising issues, but at least the basics of copyright and privacy issues. If photographs are to be posted on a Facebook site or the company’s website, it is important to ensure you have permission to use the photographs, from the source of the photographs and, in some cases, from the subjects as well. Briefly educating those responsible for managing these websites in the requirements for obtaining proper permissions can go a long way to minimizing risks.

2. How has your team approached these issues so clients can communicate using social media?
Our clients who use social media effectively usually have a small team of people dedicated to managing the social media efforts. Those people are educated in the legal risks associated with advertising and social media, and are provided with ongoing updates as the rules continue to evolve. That is not to say that this team of people are experts in addressing legal risks, but they are able to spot the concern and in most cases to adjust the message in order to avoid or limit the risk.

In many cases, these people also have designated contacts in the legal department or with outside counsel so that they have a relatively efficient method of getting answers when something falls outside of their comfort zone. Those designated legal contacts are also educated on the impact of social media and the need for timely responses to such questions.

3. Are there any legal cases that have provided guidance on either side of the issue of social media participation?
There have not been many legal cases yet focusing on this specific issue. However, any company interested in developing a social media policy should review the Federal Trade Commission’s Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising (pdf) which was recently revised to address social media issues, among other things.

4. How much does a social media policy influence the legal approval process?
Policies which clearly delineate which activities can be carried out without legal approval, and which cannot, can help greatly in mitigating the time constraints involved with legal review. Such policies not only give the social media team some room to operate in “real time,” but also help improve the response time on matters that do require legal approval because there should be fewer requests submitted to legal. Those responsible for the social media efforts should always look for ways to adjust the posting to comply with the policy, and only when that is not possible should requests be submitted to legal. If the social media team is finding that every posting they make is outside of the policy and requires independent legal approval, then the policy probably needs to be revisited. It is also important that the policy specify items which will always require legal review, such as contests.

5. Are there companies that you look to for examples, and say if they are comfortable with social media, our clients can be too? Or even companies where you can contact their legal department and understand their comfortable level?
There are sometimes particular uses of social media that we use as references when a client wants to adopt a similar use of social media, but we do not hold particular companies out as good or bad examples. Use of social media requires a strategy customized for the company in order to be successful. In addition, every company has its own level of acceptable risk and legal concerns based on its business model, its particular products and services, and any regulatory requirements applicable to its industry. As a result, the legal implications of each company’s social media strategy are different and must be considered independently, rather than copied from another company. It is certainly clear, though, that a number of large and successful companies are actively engaged in social media efforts.

6. What advice would you give someone in communications as to how to approach their legal department regarding social media.
The company’s legal department should be involved from the beginning in the development of a social media strategy, not brought in at the end of the process for approval. Many legal departments already understand the importance of social media in today’s market, but it is important that they also understand the objectives their business groups have for the social media efforts. As with most projects, the earlier you involve the legal department in the process, the more they can do to assist in developing a strategy that is workable, meets the business objectives, and still minimizes the legal risks. Certainly, the legal department should be involved in developing any policies for identifying those matters that do not require legal review .

These comments from Burr & Forman LLP are general in nature and are not intended to be treated as legal advice regarding the topics discussed therein. No representation is made about the quality of legal services to be performed or the expertise of the lawyer performing services. Applicable state bar or attorney regulations may require these comments to be labeled as “Advertising.”

B2B Niches Are Prime Audiences for Podcasting

I spoke with John Blue of Truffle Media at Blogworld about what he does within a B2B niche using social media. He produces regular audio shows, also called podcasts, for the agriculture industry, as well as video podcasts of conference presentations. Each show is targeted to a specific niche within the ag industry and he sends regular email updates alerting his audience about the latest episodes. He also uses Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep in touch with his audience.

Highlights from our conversation:

  • Due to the pervasive use of technology within this niche industry, Truffle Media has provided content in a form that allows the target audience to easily consume it.
  • Create a podcast by recording and editing an audio file. Upload it and embed it in a blog post. Share the link. Go to Podcast411.com for more details about creating podcasts.
  • Use industry experts to build a reputation for your podcast. And this takes time.
  • Truffle Media’s email newsletter is the primary way they spread word about the new shows.
  • Twitter and LinkedIn are also useful in expanding their voice, however, Facebook has not been very effective.

Share Surveys of B2B Social Media Usage with Caution

New studies constantly appear about the use of social media among B2B companies, B2C companies, as well as industries and niches within each. These are frequently shared via social networks and blogs (including this one). People also use these surveys to support, justify and sell their own use of social media. We wondered about the validity, relevance and representativeness of these surveys, so we talked to Tom Webster, Vice President of Strategy at Edison Research, at Blogworld about this issue. Watch the video below to see what he said. Follow Tom on Twitter at @webby2001.

  • Many surveys shared on social media are not representative of anything more than the people who took the survey.
  • When looking for evidence to support something, you will find it online. Someone has done a study that you can point to.
  • Social media has become a mainstream American activity. Half of Americans have a profile on a social network.
  • Social media is where communication is going and based on the general adoption curve, businesses should consider using it.

Let us know about your use of social media surveys, and if you have ever questioned the data before sharing it with your network.

B2B Social Media and the Business Revolution

Jay Baer, social media strategy consultant and co-author with Amber Naslund of the Now Revolution, spoke yesterday at Blogworld in Las Vegas. I had a chance to chat with him about the changes he sees in businesses that allow them to take advantage of the real time web.

  • Social media success is more about customer loyalty and retention, rather than customer acquisition
  • Everyone in your company is a potential first-time contact, marketer and customer support person.
  • Social media is more important for B2B than B2C because of fewer net customers and more considered purchases.
  • The less social media chatter about your B2B company that is out there, the more content you need to create.

B2B Case Study: Supply Chain Firm Drives Traffic with Online Community

Kirsten Watson, Director, Corporate Marketing of Kinaxis presented a case study of their online community at the Marketing Profs B2B Forum. This video is a summary of the presentation, which was part of a session featuring four case studies moderated by CK.

Goals

  • Double web traffic
  • Double conversions (leads)
  • Foster a greater awareness of the company’s supply-chain management solutions

Strategy

  • Find out where the audience hangs out
  • Get involved in key online locations
  • Drive interest from there to the Kinaxis Web properties by adding value (not selling )through the creation of a highly engaging, content-rich “home” for supply chain experts to LEARN, LAUGH, SHARE and CONNECT.

Results
Traffic:

  • 2.7X increase in traffic to Kinaxis.com
  • 3.2X increase in conversions (leads)
  • 5.3X increase in traffic to the blog/community

Community:

  • 6X increase in registered community members
  • Over 2,300 registered members (35% increase since Jan. 2010)

Revenues:

  • Double-digit subscription growth (paid users of SaaSproduct RapidResponse), topping 30,000 users and counting

Here is a recent article from Fast Company that goes into more detail about this social media program.

B2B Social Media in the Construction Industry

Patrick Prothe (@pprothe) is the Marketing Communications Manager of Viewpoint Construction Software, which produces project management tools for construction professionals. I caught up with him at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum and spoke about getting started in social media in a niche B2B industry. He is looking at where people are talking online, and discovering that not many in the construction industry are using social media yet. The company is positioning itself for the coming growth in online conversations by trying to become human and building relationships with the industry people who are online. He recently created a blog to share things of interest to the company (and presumably their customers and prospects), as well technical aspects of their products. He stresses the importance of defining a company voice online and understanding what your company stands for. And he reminds newcomers to social media that even though many tools are low cost or free, companies need to understand the time commitment required for social media.

Importance of Mobile Strategy in B2B Marketing Mix

Christina “CK” Kerley, B2B Marketing Specialist at CKB2B Marketing, and Chris Koch, Associate Director of Research & Thought Leadership at ITSMA, sat down at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum in Boston and discussed the importance of integrating mobile approaches into the B2B Marketing mix. This is a great example of a hallway conversation that continues after a session, although it was arranged for video. For more of their thoughts and ideas, or to ask them follow-up questions to this video (in addition to leaving them in the comments below), follow them on Twitter at @CKSays and @CKochster.


Production Note: This is an odd beep in the beginning, but it goes away after the first minute.

They discuss the following topics:

  • Why should B2B companies consider mobile marketing?
  • What are some critical success factors for B2B companies and mobile marketing?
  • What are some other approaches to B2B mobile marketing?

Have you developed a mobile marketing strategy for your B2B company? This is just as important for small businesses as it is for enterprise-size businesses.

Better Business Blogging with Galen DeYoung [Video]

Galen DeYoung, Managing Director of Proteus B2B Marketing, led the Better Business Blogging session at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum. The session looked at three b2b blogs that were submitted for critique, and both Galen and the session attendees discussed what they saw.

While the blogs did a good job from a content perspective, with regard to writing in a proper voice and providing valuable content for their audiences, all three blogs had some search issues and some usability issues. Here are the details of the session and comments made about each business blog.

Galen also offered some tips for new business bloggers:

  • Understand business objectives
  • Identify target audience
  • Utilize a keyword strategy
  • Develop a content strategy
  • Establish metrics and measure them
  • Post consistently