Your 2015 B2B Social Media Predictions Are Totally Wrong. Or Maybe They Are Totally Right!

b2b-social-media-predictions-2015It is the time of year when bloggers dust off their crystal balls and try to predict what will happen in B2B social media in the coming year. I have done this for many years myself. Whether these predictions are based on recent data, anecdotal experience or pure conjecture, they are frequently wrong. Or maybe they are right.

But the best part of writing these blog posts is that nobody ever goes back and looks at last year’s post to see what bloggers got right and what they got wrong. It is a content creators dream come true: attractive headline, shareable content, no repercussions.

Anyone can predict the future if they are not accountable for being right.

These opinion pieces are just that. Opinions.

It is very easy to find a survey and say that B2B companies are increasing their social media budgets. The percentage of B2B marketing budgets spent on social media will rise from 9% to 13% in the next 12 months. It will continue to rise to 21% in the next five years. This single data point will let a blogger predict growth in social media budgets for the next five years. And this survey is updated every year, so this one can go on for eternity.

But nobody is checking up on the bloggers to see what really happened. Or the marketers.

Every year the Content Marketing Institute and MarketingProfs release their benchmark report about content marketing. But in this year’s version they changed the definition of content marketing and the number of B2B marketers indicating that they used content marketing went down from the previous year from 93% to 86%. Does this mean that bloggers can use this study to predict the decline of content marketing? Of course they can.

But other parts of the report reveal that B2B marketers are spending more time and money on content marketing. These selective data points support a prediction of increased reliance on content marketing. A blogger can take their pick of the direction, based on their opinion.

And be right either way. Or wrong.

What about making predictions about mobile? Is this really the year that B2B marketers will finally embrace mobile? It’s very easy to predict. Even easier than it’s been for the past five years that bloggers, including me, have been predicting it. 58% of American adults have smartphones. The breakdown of that data is even higher when you look at groups that likely contain your customers. And that data is almost a year old.

Predict away about the impact of mobile, but B2B marketers will prove it wrong once again. B2B websites, white papers, ebooks are still designed and built for desktop computers. This is one of the biggest no-brainers for marketers in years. But bloggers can predict this until they are blue in the face, but it is just not happening.

Other areas that inspire prognosticating for 2015 are marketing automation, social media advertising, scaling of social media across organizations beyond marketing, measurements of success beyond chasing likes and followers and true executive understanding and adoption of social media.

But for every one of these data-supported predictions, there will be many B2B companies that just don’t follow the trend. And prove the predictions wrong yet again.

It is easy to sign up for a Twitter account, but hard for many B2B marketers to embrace the platform and share information that is of value to their customers. It is easy to pull a white paper out of the archives and say you are doing content marketing, but harder to build a content funnel that matches prospects’ interest and timing so it can all lead to sales. And yes, it is easy to look at your own behavior on your mobile device as a rallying cry to go “Mobile First,” but to get all the pieces in place to make this happen at most B2B companies is hugely challenging.

For many B2B companies 2015 will be the year of true social media adoption and success at many levels. Unless I’m wrong.

Photo credit: Flickr

7 Awesome iPad Apps for the B2B Road Warrior

b2b-ipadI don’t know about you, but I use my iPad as a replacement for a laptop when on the road. Even before Microsoft released Office for iPad I stopped lugging my thousand pound beast with me when traveling.

Not only have I discovered apps that make it easy, but I added a keyboard case to close the laptop replacement loop. I use one made by ZAGG. It is lightweight, responsive, and looks great. The fact that airport security doesn’t make me take my iPad out of my bag is a major bonus.

But this post is about apps, so here are my top 7 for conducting “business as usual” while on the road.

1. Document Storage

To make a mobile device truly productive, you need to store your files in the cloud. I’ve been using Box for years – even before I had my iPad. It’s highly intuitive, can sync folders and files from your computer, and the iPad app plays well with other business apps to create a fairly seamless file storage experience. You can get a 50GB personal account for free with more storage and business accounts available. New functionality is added regularly with one of the latest versions providing a highly functional file viewer that allows you to read those files locally. Though I haven’t tried any yet, Box “One Cloud” offers a myriad of other integrated business apps.

2. Word Processing and Spreadsheets

I’ve used Quickoffice for as long as I’ve owned an iPad. My only rub with Quickoffice was the Powerpoint functionality and I’ve got an excellent solution for that below. Recently purchased by Google, Quickoffice provides all the word processing and spreadsheet functionality I need. It allows you to open, edit, and save Word, Excel, and Powerpoint files in the latest formats. Quickoffice integrates with Google Drive for document storage and Box (and other apps) allow you to easily open documents stored in the cloud in Quickoffice. Quickoffice allows you to store files locally as well, but I recommend storing most docs in the cloud so as not to use up your precious iPad storage. Quickoffice is free though it may not be for long.

3. Presentations

If you despise Powerpoint as I do, you’ll love Haiku Deck. Haiku Deck is built on the premise that presentations are about how we engage with the audience not with the number of animated bullet points a presentation has. Haiku Deck has numerous, beautifully designed templates to choose from as well as a library of high quality royalty free photos. You can create beautiful, visually oriented presentations in minutes and share and edit them in the cloud. Added bonus – Haiku Deck will display and promote them on their site and via Twitter. The app is free but there are in-app purchases for some of the templates and photos.

4. PDFs

iAnnotate PDF enables PDF editing and more. Anything you can do with a Word doc you can do with a PDF in iAnnotate. You can actually open up to 8 PDFs at once and work on them concurrently in a well-designed, easy to use interface. iAnnotate seamlessly connects with Box as well as other cloud-based services. You can create new PDFs and easily share them. There is also PDF security available. Added bonus – you can do all of the above for .DOC, .PPT and image files. Though iAnnotate PDF costs $9.99, you’ll find it to be well worth it.

5. Desktop Access

LogMeIn Ignition may be my favorite app for the road warrior. LogMeIn enables you to quickly and easily remotely log in to a PC or Mac as long as you can connect to the internet. It takes only a few minutes to set up, and access is even faster. Though I haven’t tried it Internationally, I’ve accessed my home computer (in Iowa) from both coasts and everywhere in-between. I primarily use it for file transfers though I have used it for remote printing and controlling programs that live on my PC. When I first discovered LogMeIn it was free. Now it costs a minimum of $64.99 a year with other pricing plans available. Though one of the more expensive iPad apps, if you truly are a road warrior you won’t want to leave home without it.

6. Digital Signatures

DocuSign makes an iPad app which enables you to quickly and easily sign and deliver documents while on the road. You can sign documents for free though full functionality costs as little as $9.99 per month for individuals. Docusign conforms with the e-sign act, so signatures utilized on these documents are acceptable by law firms and financial firms – I closed a mortgage with mine. The functionality is incredible as you can sign without a writing implement, send documents to multiple people to sign, and even complete face to face signing with multiple signers! You can also send and store your signed documents via this extensible app.

7. Project Management

Trello is a free app whose tagline is “organize anything.” Trello allows you to create “cards” where you can establish lists, task lists, images, documents, and enables team-based communication around those items. Cloud-based, it flawlessly syncs across multiple devices. I’ve just started to test this with my team but I’m betting I’ll love this as much as the other apps on this list – which is why it made it to number 7!

Ok road warriors, what indispensable apps have I missed?

Photo credit: Flickr

4 Elements to Consider to Take a B2B Website Mobile

b2b-mobile-optimizationAt the center of your B2B marketing sits your website. Marketing your company to other businesses requires a top-notch web presence. And with the explosion of users, especially business professionals, checking their mobile devices and tablets it’s crucial to make sure features from your site run flawlessly for users on the go. Beyond the need for aesthetic appeal, your mobile website needs to function without hiccups and without interruption. Like any website venture, it’s imperative to test, test and test again. Focus on the following four elements to ensure your B2B website passes the test for prospects and customers.

1. Forms

The best way to capture information from potential customers is through landing page forms. Forms are easier to see and easier to submit contact information on desktops and laptops. Forms on mobile need simplicity. Remember, smaller screens condense the user experience. Drop down boxes are preferred for easy tap, touch and go. The more one-step procedures you can implement for a user the better. In addition, forms require a submission process. Make sure your site’s submission button is operational on mobile devices.

2. Images/Video

Optimize your images. It’s so crucial. A lot of this is taken care of prior to uploading. Images and video that aren’t properly saved for the web will turn visitors away. Long load times are inexcusable for B2B sites hoping to reel in potential customers. Web designers can balance image quality with file size, but you can’t take that for granted. Make sure you maintain quality with quick load times. Test how your images and videos load on variable services and various mobile devices.

3. Usability

Make sure to review your navigation and ease of usability for your B2B site on mobile. One way to make sure the content appears in an easy-to-navigate and visually appealing way is to build the site with responsive web design (RWD). The elements of the website adjust themselves automatically to suit the screen size of the device. RWD is important for more than just a friendly user experience. Some companies maintain two separate websites, one for desktop and another for mobile. With responsive web design that isn’t necessary because you can maintain just one website. While RWD may cost more than traditional website design, in the long run it will save you money because you won’t have to maintain duplicate sets of updates. Having just one site for your business also has a positive impact on SEO for the same reason.

4. Search Queries

Sometimes your audience may want to dig further into your site. With mobile, some users are more apt to head straight to the search bar. But beyond a functioning searching option, it’s imperative to optimize your mobile site properly in Google’s playpen. Google penalizes sites when a desktop page either redirects smartphone user to an irrelevant page or opens smartphone only errors.

Whether you’re just beginning to implement a mobile site or trying to improve your existing one, make sure you consider these elements. When in doubt, it’s best to test and retest as much as possible.

Photo credit: Flickr

B2B Mobile Tactics If You Still Have a Blackberry Audience

b2b-blackberry-demiseWith the latest news that Blackberry will be taken private and give up the consumer business to focus on the enterprise are signs that Blackberry will never recover their mobile market share, which ComScore reported at 4.3% of the US market as of July 2013. What do these events mean for B2B companies who still have a mobile strategy that is reliant on a Blackberry-using audience?

Many regulated industries like finance, health care and government have stuck with the devices due to compliance issues requiring employers access employees’ communications records. The first question you need to ask is how many of your customers and prospects still use Blackberries. Do your own research of your website with your web analytics program. Google Analytics breaks traffic down by specific devices. Under the audience tab, go to Mobile and choose Devices.
b2b-devices-Google-Analytics
When reviewing this for SocialMediaB2B.com, there was only one Blackberry model (BlackBerry 9900 Dakota) listed among the top 25 devices. Since most of the traffic comes from Apple devices and a small percentage from Samsung devices, we can choose to ignore the Blackberry. But that is our audience. If you find a large number of Blackberries accessing your web site, here are three things to do to make sure your mobile efforts reach your audience.

1. Test Your Mobile Site on a Blackberry Simulator

As more and more people access your website, blog and landing pages on mobile devices, you need to know how they look on those devices. It is never hard to come up with an iPhone, iPad or even the latest Android phones from your co-workers to view your site. Blackberries are harder to come by. But if you have determined that you need to test your site on a Blackberry and you don’t have access to a real device, install a Blackberry simulator to make sure you see what your visitors see. If you have never paid attention to these devices and your site uses incompatible technology, your response depends on how big the audience is and how broken the site is. Also see #3 below before expending significant resources in fixing these problems.

2. Avoid Building Native Blackberry Apps

If you were planning on developing a Blackberry app, no matter how large your Blackberry audience, you need to stop. This audience is shrinking, and for many reasons these people will be switching to other devices. The best option now is to focus on building a mobile web-based app that takes advantage of the latest technology that is compatible with multiple devices. Blackberry provides tools to make sure HTML5 apps are compatible with their devices too.

3. Start Planning for a Move to iOS

As Blackberry stops selling devices to consumers, fewer people will have Blackberries. As more IT departments let people bring in their own devices (iPhones) or provide iPhones to them, there will be fewer Blackberries. Unless you work in an industry where the Blackberry provides something that no other device can provide, which only seems to be a physical keyboard and a blinking red notification light, the majority of your customers and prospects will no longer be using Blackberries. That means it is time to begin optimizing your mobile experience for the iOS. This doesn’t mean create an iPhone app, but test your website, blog and landing pages on an iPhone and iPad. Make sure visitors can do what you expect them to do.

Are you still paying attention to Blackberries in your B2B mobile marketing or has your audience moved on to other devices?

Even B2B Marketers Need to Follow these Internet Trends

Many B2B marketers don’t view themselves as cutting edge in the marketing world. They don’t always keep up with the latest trends in digital marketing and social media. And even when they do, there is a sense that they can’t implement the latest approaches to marketing in their organizations. B2B sales are often viewed as heavily dependent on relationships where sales people understand the prospect’s business at a deep level. Marketing must follow suit and support that approach.

But things like social media and digital marketing are not fads. These are things that have changed the way people live their lives. And conduct their business. Even buyers at B2B companies.

Mary Meeker, partner at the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer, presents a report every year that collects a series of datapoints to show how the internet is growing. The current report (embedded below) has over 1.8 million views on Slideshare and has been the talk of the internet.

Here are some key insights from the report that are relevant to B2B marketers.

1. Internet Growth

There is not a question that internet continues to grow. The report highlights 8% year over year growth. More people spend more time looking for information on the internet. They are not just looking for restaurant reviews, but they are looking for answers to their business questions. What do they find when they come across your B2B company? Do they even come across your company? Enter your company into a search engine box? What comes up? What if you enter your most common product categories? Are you helping your prospects find their way to you with your internet presence? Compare what you are doing to what your competitors are doing for a good benchmark.

2. Social Media Growth

More people are spending time on social networks than any other activity on the internet except email. Are your prospects part of this trend? Ask your current customers. What are the sites that provide the most value in your industry? For some B2B companies the answer is LinkedIn. For others, forums still hold sway over the audience. And there are even B2B companies that are driving business from Facebook. Your audience is there. You just need to get in front of them with something that matters to them. Nearly all respondents to the survey shared in the report use Facebook.

3. Smart Phones

Penetration of smart phones continues to grow and people are using these devices for so much more than phone calls. They are still trying to solve those business problems while they wait in line, while they commute and even while they are walking through the hallways of their office to the next meeting. This means they are conducting searches, asking questions on social networks and reading blog posts. Conduct an audit of your B2B company’s mobile presences including website, blog and the things you are posting on social networks. Are you trying to capture leads with gated content? Have you tried to fill out the form on a smart phone? And if you have a cookie-based system that identifies people and automatically fills out the form or categorizes visitors as new or returning, how does that work as more and more traffic comes through smart phones?

4. Mobile

We tend to think about smart phones as the most important mobile trend, but for huge parts of the world, mobile will never mean smart phones. There are 3-4 times the number of mobile phone users compared to smartphone users worldwide. People use standard mobile phones as their connection to their families, to the world, to their money and to their business activities. Does your B2B company serve parts of the developing world where this opportunity exists? You may need to consider who your customers sell to when examining these mobile phone trends.

5. China

With the rapid technology growth in China it is hard to ignore this huge market. There are already more active Apple and Android mobile devices in China than there are in the US. The Chinese also spend more time using the internet (33% of time vs 26%) and on mobile devices (22% vs 12%), while Americans spend more time watching television (42% vs 29%). And two of the top ten technology companies in the world are based in China (Tencent and Baidu). None of this means that you should change your marketing approach and suddenly add China to the mix, but if you are a global company, or one that could serve customers in China, start exploring your options. Many Chinese social and technology platforms continue to experience significant growth.

What are other trends you see in the report below that your B2B company can respond to?

14 Tweetable B2B Social Media Marketing Statistics

Statistics are popular with B2B marketers, since they can be used for so many things. Here are some recent stats that can help your cause with your social media adoption, or to use in your next presentation. We have also made these stats easy to share with your network by including a tweet button next to each one. If there are any other recent stats that help make the case for what you are doing in social media for your B2B company, let us know in the comments below.

Marketers and Experience

1. 73% of CEOs Think Marketers Lack Business Credibility (source) Tweet This Stat

2. 53% of B2B companies have been using social media for longer than one year (source) Tweet This Stat

Budgets

3. 68% of B2B companies spend 5% or less of their revenue on marketing (source) Tweet This Stat

4. 40% of B2B companies expect their 2012 marketing budgets to increase (source) Tweet This Stat

5. Social media spending will increase 3% in the next 12 months and 9% over the next five years for B2B companies (source) Tweet This Stat

Social Media Marketing Mix

6. 66% of B2B companies use social networks in their marketing mix (source) Tweet This Stat

7. 34% of B2B companies include blogs in their marketing mix (source) Tweet This Stat

8. 58% of B2B companies using social networks are using LinkedIn (source) Tweet This Stat

9. 57% of companies have acquired a customer through LinkedIn (source) Tweet This Stat

Blogging

10. 57% of companies with a corporate blog have acquired a customer through blogging (source) Tweet This Stat

11. 72% of companies who blog weekly have acquired a customer through blogging, 78% have who blog daily. And 89% of companies who blog multiple times a day have acquired a customer through blogging. (source) Tweet This Stat

Metrics and Analytics

12. Only 28% of B2B companies calculate ROI on even some of their marketing campaigns (source) Tweet This Stat

Mobile Trends

13. 52% of BlackBerry users are planning to switch to iPhone 5 (source) Tweet This Stat

14. 59% of B2B Decision Makers Researching with Smartphones (source) Tweet This Stat

59% of B2B Decision Makers Researching with Smartphones

B2B buyers are using smartphones in greater numbers as part of the buying process. According a recent study conducted by TriComB2B and the University of Dayton School of Business Administration and shared by eMarketer, 59% of B2B purchase decision makers have used their smartphone to research products and services when they are considering purchases. This makes it critical for marketers to publish information in a mobile-friendly format, whether that is a on a mobile-optimized website or in a dedicated mobile application.

There is a huge missed opportunity by the sellers in not addressing this form of information gathering. According to June 2011 data from Google and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), only one-third of their surveyed advertisers had mobile optimized websites, and only 19% had dedicated mobile apps.

Based on this research, no matter your B2B industry, you need to begin thinking about mobile marketing to connect with your buyers. With all the information available online, including that shared through social media, buyers are more knowledgeable than ever before. This means they don’t contact your B2B company until they are further along in the buying process, or further down the funnel. If they cannot find information about your solutions in the format that is most convenient to them, they will look at your competitors.

3 Steps to Getting Started with Mobile Marketing

1. View your B2B company website or blog on a variety of mobile devices.

2. Check your website analytics to determine the current amount of mobile traffic.

3. Determine which website and blog content are most relevant to mobile users. Do this using web analytics, customer interviews and a content inventory.

What are you doing to address the growing number of B2B mobile visitors to your website?

7 Ways to Take Your B2B Marketing Mobile

Plan for Mobile MarketingWithin the last few years, the use of mobile technology in the workplace has risen dramatically. In the B2B space, professionals accessing business information and content on smartphones and tablets is impacting business operations, workflow, communications and marketing.

B2B mobile marketing spending will quadruple over the next five years, rising from $26 million in 2009 to $106 million in 2014, according to Forrester Research.

So how should your business plan for the impact of mobile on B2B marketing?

1. Provide mobile-friendly marketing content
Optimization of your web site, emails, blog and other marketing content for mobile devices should be a top priority for your development team. Don’t simply re-purpose existing content. Design and create specifically for the mobile environment.

2. Consider mobile users when creating content
As the use of mobile increases, short form marketing content may generate more impact than long form content. Blog posts and short videos may provide more long-term B2B marketing value than not-so-mobile-friendly content like whitepapers and webinars.

3. Centralize content
You may need to re-consider the source of your business marketing content. Instead of publishing it in a specific channel, you may want to put it in a central location (web site, database, etc.) and then point your channels to that content or broadcast it from that content source. That way you can announce or display the content in your various marketing channels such as email campaigns, social networks, mobile apps, blogs, text messages, etc. Recipients will either access the content directly or pull it through the interface or channel of their choice.

4. Choose mobile-friendly technologies
When creating content, consider the channel or service you’ll be using and determine if it’ll work well in the mobile environment. Certain tools and services will work better for videos, animations, blogs, etc.

5. Mobile app vs. mobile site
With the abundance of apps proliferating the app stores, many marketers are considering if the time and expense of creating apps is worth the effort. Can a mobile site offer a better experience and broader reach? Is there additional branding and marketing value in having an app available in an app store? Consider the short term and long term value of both options to see which may be a better fit for your intended audience.

6. Review your analytics
Understand if mobile is impacting your marketing and make decisions based on analytics. Make sure you are set up to be able to determine the mobile audience for your web site, blogs, email campaigns and social channels wherever it is possible to do so. Use that information to make the decision on the importance of preparing a mobile strategy for that channel.

7. Test emerging marketing strategies
Because many businesses are still determining the potential of mobile marketing, testing and refining their mobile marketing process and choices are an ongoing process. But by doing so, marketers will identify the mobile opportunities that will create business value. Testing now can lead to significant long term mobile marketing success.

If you remember to keep your target in mind and consider the impact of mobile marketing on near and long term goals, you’ll likely find a way to use mobile to create value for your customer and your business.

For more great B2B mobile information, be sure to check our our previous post The B2B Mobile Revolution is Here and download The Mobile Revolution & B2B (PDF) by CK.

The B2B Mobile Revolution is Here

There is no doubt that B2B marketers need to learn more about mobile, so they can reach their already mobile audience. This is not a coming revolution, it is already here and you need to catch up. Rather than have five posts about mobile, we have links to two posts and one big link to the awesome site B2B Mobile Revolution. Our friend CK makes the following case for B2B mobile marketing on her microsite. And there’s absolutely a mobile version.

B2B companies have been slow to move into mobile. And the irony is stark, given that mobile is the one set of media that is most used by their target audiences. With 72% of the U.S. workforce already mobile, 64% of B2B decision makers currently reading their email via mobile devices, and more than 70% of executives under 40 considering mobile their primary communications tool, it’s clear: professionals view their mobile devices as veritable “lifelines to their livelihoods.”

Mobile Revolution and B2BSo definitely check out the site, as there is lots of great information, but the centerpiece is the downloadable PDF The Mobile Revolution & B2B: Why Mobile Ignites A Revolution And The Marketing Imperatives For Today’s B2Bs, which includes a business case for B2B mobile integration, a 5-point framework of marketing imperatives, mobile statistics, 10 B2B mobile examples and 7 video clips.

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Where does mobile fit into your B2B marketing plans?

[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