[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

Cisco Social Media Manager Talks Facebook

Autumn Truong is the Social Media Manager of Corporate Communications at Cisco Systems. Her role is continually evolving to reflect the ever-changing social media landscape but for now, she oversees the social media strategy and programs which includes social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and immersive virtual environments. The company has different groups focused on social media and her focus is on developing the strategy and working with different functional groups to execute social media plans within corporate communications. For more background on Autumn, please visit her bio page or you can follow her on Twitter at @autumntt.


facebook.com/Cisco
now has over 54,000 people who like it.

What made you think there was a place for Cisco on Facebook?

While Cisco has had established pages and groups on Facebook for a couple years now, most of these pages are focused on one technology or business. In addition, there are Cisco Facebook group and fan pages that aren’t created by Cisco employees. We felt this was an opportunity for us to create a Facebook page that is a “one stop shop” for our community on Cisco news, events and information. Similar to how we have a corporate presence on our blogs and Twitter (@CiscoSystems), we thought it was a great opportunity to have a similar presence on Facebook.

It is certainly important for Cisco to be on Facebook because it is another channel we leverage to communicate to our customers, employees, influencers and to anyone who is interested in Cisco. We want to be wherever they are.

What kind of content do you publish on Facebook?

There are a lot of different features on Facebook that allow you to customize and aggregate content from other social sites such as Twitter and Flickr. Each tab we created represents a corporate social channel that feeds into our Facebook page. These include Twitter, Flickr, Youtube, our corporate blog and online newsroom. Essentially, we have created within Facebook, our own online community. You don’t have to leave the Facebook environment to get access to the content across all those Cisco channels. Those are the tabs that we link to, and if you look at our wall, it’s an area for us to spotlight content that we think is important to share with our Facebook community. It could be as simple as an important press release to a humorous video recorded on the Cisco Flip Camera. We’ve had tremendous success with the level of engagement that our community has on the content shared on our wall.

What is your biggest challenge using Facebook?

Initially, it was a dedicated resource. It takes time to build and nurture your community. You don’t just log on one day and have 1,000 fans. You have to take the time to listen and engage with your community. We knew that we had to put one person on this and make sure that person is engaged and understands our Facebook community. Our community manager’s role, which comprises about 5% of her time per day at this point, is not just to post content, but to read the posts, listen, monitor and keep our internal team informed of the level of engagement on the page. We want to be listening 24/7, or at least as much as we can. The role of our part-time community manager is to ensure that conversations are continuing, that we are maintaining our presence with the types of assets and news we share and to ensure we are keeping a pulse on not just the positive feedback, but also any negative comments. Due to limited resources, we are primarily focused on amplifying our content and monitoring responses for the time being and are looking to engage more in the near future.

What was the goal for the Cisco Facebook page?

Our goal initially was to create a Facebook page where people can get news and information about Cisco that is qualified and authentic. We also wanted our community to have access to other Cisco social channels such as our corporate blog, Flickr page, Youtube channel, etc. within the Facebook environment.

After a year, we currently have 54,000 people who like Cisco on Facebook. And looking at the level of engagement from them, as measured by their comments, we do feel that we were successful in accomplishing our goals. By creating this page, there is now a Cisco community on Facebook where interested people can engage with us. On average, each post on our Facebook wall gets about 35-45 hits or likes or comments.

What do you think about the issue of transparency on Facebook, as it relates to a personal face for a company, like many brands do on Twitter?

While we still see companies experimenting with this, and as social media continues to evolve, I think we’ll see more of an expectation for disclosure and authenticity. I have a personal Facebook profile, people know that I work for Cisco and if you search for me on Google, you’ll see my bio and you’ll see a link to my LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook page. I use Twitter more for work and Facebook more at a personal level, but regardless of where you find me on the social web, my connection to Cisco is apparent.

While we have placed a personal face to our corporate Twitter profile (@CiscoSystems), we haven’t done that on our Facebook page and mainly it’s because we haven’t set up an active engagement strategy. But once we do, I think we will also personalize our Facebook page as we’ve done with our Twitter profile.

Do you have some advice for B2B companies setting up Facebook pages?

1. Conduct an audit to determine whether or not you have an actively engaged audience on Facebook.

2. Determine your goals for establishing a presence. What are you looking to achieve?

3. Always think long term if you are creating a presence. What is the 12-month plan (at the very least) for being on Facebook? Do you have a plan for how you will share content, engage and interact with your community?

4) Determine what success will look like after the 12 months. Can you easily measure and track success?