Break Through the Content Clutter with Cool Infographics

Cool-Infographics-BookInfographics are key to many B2B companies’ content marketing efforts. Randy Krum is the president of InfoNewt and the author of the new book, Cool Infographics. Featuring over 100 infographic examples, this guide prepares you to create compelling infographics for online marketing, business reports, posters, presentations, and even design your own infographic resume. Randy answered the following questions about the business of infographics.

Data visualizations and infographics have become interchangeable terms to some. What is the difference and why use one over the other?

I often have to define the difference between Data Visualization and Infographics, because when a client asks for an infographic design it’s not always clear what they are requesting. I define the difference like this. Data visualizations are visual representations of data, usually in the form of a stand-alone chart or diagram. Infographics are larger designs that combine data visualizations, illustrations and text together to tell a story. For example, a data visualization chart could be one element of a larger design, as seen in the Could You Be A Failure? Infographic.

How do brands use infographics for storytelling, both within a single infographic and as part of a larger content strategy?

Infographics are a perfect medium for brands to tell the many stories behind their company, products and services. They have the potential to break through the information filters of customers that don’t want to take the time to read product descriptions, product reviews or packaging claims on the shelf. Specifically for brands, they can offer a fast-to-read and easy-to-share story, and visual nature of infographics increases customers’ recall when the time comes to make a purchase decision.

You make a point to say that you can’t just publish an infographic, but you need a launch strategy. Can you describe that?

Publishing an infographic without any promotion or strategy is like a tree falling in the forest when no one is watching. People can’t find or share an infographic online without a successful launch strategy, and it’s disappointing to watch companies publish an infographic online, and then just wait for people to find it. That doesn’t work. In the book I outline my three part Infographic Release Strategy that includes designing the landing page on your website, self-promotion through your existing communication channels and finally outreach to other sites and influencers that have audiences that would appreciate the infographic. This extra effort can exponentially increase the success of an infographic online.

Many B2B companies use content to drive leads. In the book you don’t mention putting an infographic behind a gated lead form. Are there any exceptions where it makes sense to gate an infographic?

I’ve seen a few companies put their infographics behind a form requiring your email address before you can view the infographic, but this doesn’t work in practice. It goes back to the data visualization vs. infographic question you asked earlier. An infographic is meant to be easy to share, and as soon as the first person shares the infographic image in social media, it’s freely available to everyone without completing the form. The nature of infographics also implies quick to read, which is perceived as only a small reward for giving up your contact information. On the other hand, including many good data visualizations within a longer content piece, like a white paper or research report, behind an form can increase the value of the overall piece, and make it more valuable for readers.

One of my pet peeves with infographics is the inconsistency of listing data sources. Can you share best practices for identifying where the data comes from?

Absolutely! This is a pet peeve of mine as well. I recommend designers include links to the original, specific data sources in their infographic designs. The original source may take some research, but the readers are expecting that from an infographic designer. Don’t list the news article or wikipedia entry where you found the information. Instead, track the data back to its original source and include that link as the data source. Also, being specific is just as important. If a designer lists just the home page URL as the data source, that doesn’t help anyone track down the original data on their own. Include the link directly to the specific data so readers can easily access the data on their own.

How has the explosion of mobile affected infographics? Is anyone making it easier to read those really long infographics on a smart phone?

Surprisingly no. I have seen a few attempts at mobile responsive designs, but nothing I would consider to be successful. Data visualizations are being used fantastically within mobile apps, but viewing full infographics on a smartphone is still a challenging process.

We’ve seen animated, interactive and video infographics used on a limited basis. What are some of the pushing-the-envelope trends of infographics? Will we see augmented reality or 3D printed infographics?

We will continue to see experiments with interactive, animated and video infographics as well as other new formats like augmented reality and zooming interfaces. I fully expect the art of infographics to continue to evolve along with the most current interfaces, but infographic image files are still the most successful because they are so simple and easy to share online. As people move towards wearable devices like Google Glass and smart watches, I expect new areas of data visualization to be developed to take advantage of the new displays.

Download Chapter One from Cool Infographics here.

5 Ways B2B Companies Can Take Advantage of Facebook

b2b-facebookFacebook is a platform used by brands to reach millions of consumers, but don’t discount it for B2B companies. The most commonly used social networking site for many B2B companies is LinkedIn, but Facebook is an easy-to-use option as well.

1. Develop a Strategy

The first way to take advantage of Facebook is to create a content strategy. Instead of planning out how your company will market itself on Facebook, you can plan how you will market across all types of traditional and online marketing, then work Facebook into that plan. This creates marketing materials that are more consistent with the brand image that you want, and also gains more exposure throughout various media, which allows you to reach more people.

2. Keep Things Visual

When prospects look at your company’s Facebook page, your cover photo and the images you share will stand out. The more photographs and other graphics that are on a page, the more scannable it becomes. You can accompany the images with creative captions since prospects are more likely to read a caption on an image versus reading plain text. If your business participates in community events or charity initiatives, consider sharing photos of those on your B2B company Facebook page.

3. Generate Buzz

With Facebook you can build an audience of fans that follow your business and you can try to activate them to take additional action. Some companies spotlight their fans to help them feel more appreciated. Hosting giveaways and offering free or discounted items also helps promote your page and gain more followers. Getting fans to engage with your posts, especially sharing, can get your content in front of their friends.

4. Connect with Your Partners

If any of your partners have Facebook pages, make sure to like their page and ask them to like yours. You might share relevant content or link to their blog posts or other content. This can help build the connection between your business and theirs, and fans of their Facebook page can view your company’s page because of the shared content.

5. Mobile Access

If someone posts a question to your Facebook page on a Friday evening and your staff won’t be back in the office until Monday morning, you may lose a potential customer in the interim. Staying connected during hours that you are closed is crucial in maintaining the constant connection that people have come to expect. Purchase a tablet and assign a staff member to check in regularly. This also improves your company’s customer service, which is a key part of a successful business strategy. With so many avenues for disgruntled customers to voice their opinions, it is best to try to support a good relationship with all of your online fans.

Using Facebook for your B2B relationships is very beneficial to growing and activating your network of customers and prospects. How has your B2B company utilized Facebook?

Why I’m Not Making Any B2B Social Media Predictions for 2014

b2b-social-media-predictionsFor the past four years we have shared our predictions about where B2B social media would go in the coming year, but this year I am not going to do it. You can stomp your feet, hold your breath and even throw things in my general direction, but I am just not doing it. When I look back over the predictions for 2010, 2011, 2012 and even 2013 they all pretty much say the same thing: more B2B companies are going to adopt social media practices for their businesses.

Sure, there is more nuance to them than that, but that’s the basic idea. There have been specific predictions over the years that focus on the importance of mobile, social websites, blogging, better metrics, visual content and marketing automation, but at its core, all of the predictions are about greater adoption of social media.

Has this been happening? Yes. Will it continue to happen? Yes.

There are lots of statistics that point to growth in social media spending and commitment towards both content marketing and social media, but there’s nothing surprising or shocking about those statistics. No marketing manager is going to get fired for wanting to spend more of their budget on social media. And it does nobody any good for me to predict that this will happen. We all know it will happen.

The real problem with B2B companies adopting social media is the quality of their results. Many are still in such early stages of activity that signing up for a Twitter account and tweeting press releases allows them to convince someone that they are using social media. This makes it really easy to check a box on a survey to skew the results of adoption. But you, your boss and the executive team at your company will be disappointed in the results from this effort. That’s because there won’t be any results. You might pick up a few followers, but they will be of limited value.

So rather than regurgitate the same feel-good predictions about growing social media adoption, whether based on inaccurate survey data or anecdotal reviews of social media activity of real B2B companies, I would rather provide you, the B2B marketer, with helpful advice. If you need statistics or predictions to make your case, click the links, but if you would rather have some advice on how to be truly successful with social media lead generation for your B2B company, here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Who are your prospects?
  • What are their biggest pain points in their business?
  • Can you provide advice to help them solve their business issues?
  • Where do they spend their time online?
  • What are they talking about on line?
  • Who do they respect, follow and retweet?
  • What are the goals and objectives of your company?
  • How does the rest of marketing measure success?
  • Can you align your metrics with other marketing and company activities?

If you are not even to the place where you can ask these questions to begin your social media efforts, here are some B2B social media myths and objections that can get you closer to your own adoption of social media.

Photo credit: Flickr

10 Questions about B2B Blogging Answered

b2b-blogging-questionsB2B marketers understand that one of the keys to their social media success is to create and host a blog on their corporate site. But even with this knowledge, they still have many questions about how to go about it. Below are some common questions that I have been asked about B2B blogging.

1. How Do We Get Started Blogging?

Blogging for B2B companies starts with personas. Who are you trying to reach with your marketing and what do you know about them? If you understand their pain points and the struggles they go through in their day, you can begin to think through the kind of content to create for your blog. It must be helpful, compelling and shareable. Once you have some content direction, you need to create and commit to a calendar. If you plan to blog once a week, start by writing four blog posts before publishing. This way you will be 4 weeks ahead. And keep an idea file (digital or analog) so you are never at a loss for specific blog post ideas that will resonate with your audience.

2. How Do We Get More People Blogging?

Many blogging efforts start as a solo activity. Getting more people blogging involves lowering the bar for entry for those you identify as potential bloggers. Have them send emails or word docs with their blog posts initially, rather then creating them in the blogging software. This alleviates the technical hurdles (which are pretty low already), but doesn’t deal with the lack of time required to blog. If your industry experts just don’t have time to write a separate post, use what they are already creating for other purposes, like powerpoint decks that can be uploaded to Slideshare or external articles. You can write an intro, summary and conclusion to bracket these. You can also do a series of one question videos that you post over time.

3. How Do We Get Less People Blogging?

As a blog gets more successful, or at least gets noticed, there are unqualified people who want to write for the blog. Let’s face it. Everyone is not a great writer. There are people who are not even good writers. If you need to turn people down, you should do so honestly. You can say that it’s not right for the audience. It’s off topic. The tone is just not right. But there will always be someone who is so earnest that they will keep trying. Some of these posts require a great deal of editing time to become publishable, and that is another way to move them along, by saying you just don’t have the time to edit their posts adequately. This conversation gets much harder when the person in question is an executive, or someone on the PR team who wants to publish company news on the blog. These issues must be solved on a one-off basis, but leave room for a future rejection. Say it’s not really right for the blog, but we can post it this time since it is part of our latest corporate initiative.

4. How Do We Simplify the Approval Process?

B2B marketers who are used to traditional marketing activities like print collateral, full featured websites and trade show booths are usually saddled with complex approval processes where a number of executives must sign off on the copy, the design and even the layout. Everyone operates in an environment where they are scared that the wrong thing will be produced, and in public companies the wrong thing affects the stock price. Blogging needs to be a lightweight process. While you are writing those early posts to get ahead is the time to establish this simple approval process. Share the plan with executives, which should include targets, topics, tone and even a sample article. And let them know that standard approval process will not be happening. It’s just not practical for a blogging program. And if you still need mutliple levels of approval, you are at least working 4 weeks ahead.

5. How Can We Drive More Traffic To Our Blog?

This is a huge question, because some B2B marketers get disappointed that social media is not an “if you build it they will come” activity. Once you start creating complelling content that your prospects and customers would respond to, you need to let them know about it. Social channels work for amplification, but so do internal newsletters, external newsletters and links in email signatures. You need to leverage all available channels and communication touchpoints to let people know about your blog in general and even specific relevant posts.

6. Is it Okay to Ghostblog for Our Executives?

There are many ways to ghostblog, but the most important thing is that these posts represent the thoughts and opinions of the executive. And they need to read them before they are published. The worst position you can put an executive in is to have someone ask them about a particular post and they are not familiar with the ideas.

7. Do We Need Calls-To-Action on Our Blog?

Yes. A blog that does not give a visitor the opportunity to raise their hand and let you know that they are interested in what you have to say is missing the point.

8. Should We Have a Separate Blog for Each of Our Target Industries?

From a managment of resources perspective, you should have one blog and separate the industries using different categories. Make sure visitors can subscribe to the blog by category. That means each one needs its own RSS feed.

9. How Do We Keep Blogging?

Once you get in the groove of blogging and you start to see some results, it is easier to keep going. With other writers on board, it is also easier to keep going. The only reason to ask this question is if your B2B company is not getting any results from your blogging efforts. That means you need to step back and examine what you are doing to make sure you understand the blog’s shortcomings so you can make some changes.

10. What Metrics Should We Track?

There two kinds of metrics you should look at: optimization metrics and success metrics. Optimization metrics are the ones that are only reported within your team, while the success metrics are the ones reported up to the executive level and are the metrics that others in the company care about. These are high level metrics like blog traffic, click-through rate of calls to action and form completes. But if your team wants to understand how your content resonates with your audience to improve on that, you can look at blog traffic as a percentage of overall website traffic; percent of traffic from search, social or other specific sources; and even social shares of specific posts as a relative number compared to other posts, not as an absolute number.

If you have more questions about B2B blogging, please ask them in the comments below.

Photo credit: Flickr

7 Examples of Innovative B2B Content Marketing

At Content Marketing World, my good friend Ann Handley, coauthor of Content Rules and Chief Content Officer of MarketingProfs, presented a number of innovative examples of content marketing. The following are some of the B2B examples she shared in her presentation. Any metrics or results came from Ann’s presentation or published information. These examples are meant to inspire B2B marketers to think bigger than just basic written or video content. And bigger doesn’t mean spending more money.

Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is

  • Packed with utility
  • Seeded with inspiration
  • Honestly empathetic

to attract customers to you.

Here are 7 examples of innovative B2B content marketing:

1. Kinvey ebook

Kinvey provides a backend infrastructure that makes it easy for developers to set up cloud hosted mobile apps. It is a natural fit for them to create content about creating mobile apps, in this case one called How to Make an App: Android. This first content offering was so successful, they created a series of ebooks on create mobile apps for other platforms. More than 40% of customers who opened a Kinvey account first converted on a content offer.

2. Marketo Coloring Book

Marketing automation company, Marketo, wanted to make marketing fun again and created the Marketo Big Activity Coloring Book. It featured such activities as thought leader book matchup, dress a marketer, a revenue cycle maze and a marketing automation mad lib and has been downloaded over 22,000 times.

3. MarketingProfs Slideshare Infomercial

MarketingProfs wanted to do something different to drive registrations for its upcoming conference, so they called on their love of late night informercials and created one. But on Slideshare. And the results were impressive. They had four sales in the first hour

4. UberFlip Video Infographic

UberFlip helps companies present and distribute their content in dynamic ways, so when they wanted to tell the visual story of the growth of online video, they created a video infographic. This drove tremendous awareness and traffic with 800% increase in blog traffic.

5. Levenfeld Pearlstein Profile Videos

Law firm Levenfeld Pearlstein discovered that the attorney profile pages were the most visited pages on their website. This is not surprising, as prospective clients want to know the backgrounds of the attorneys they would be working with. So they created a series of videos with attorneys answering interesting questions, beyond the usual legal stuff. Attorneys talked about first jobs, most prized possession, how one met his wife, and even time travel.

6. IBM Smarter Planet Billboard

IBM has been promoting its Smarter Planet initiatives for quite a while. One of the most innovative approaches to sharing the ideas of things being smarter is to provide multiple uses for billboards. When posted in cities, they can provide utility, as in this example with a curved top that functions as an awning to people out of the rain. If you wonder if this is content marketing, let’s look back at Ann’s definition. Content marketing means you consistently create and share information that is packed with utility, seeded with inspiration and honestly empathetic to attract customers to you. This is definitely all those things.

7. TalkTo iPhone App Update Notes

Mobile app TalkTo lets you text businesses instead of calling them, and TalkTo will make sure they get the message. Even if they don’t use texts. They have created content in an unlikely place. The update notes in iTunes store. The update starts with “now comes with 600 pounds of awesome sauce,” so you get a clue about what to expect. Click the image below to read further updates, including many about David Hasselhoff. This is a company that is building a business, connecting with consumers and businesses by creating a unique voice and having fun doing it.

What are other examples of innovative B2B content marketing you have seen?

How to Optimize Your B2B Landing Page

B2B-landingpage-exampleTraffic from social media must come to a landing page to convert those visitors to B2B leads. Knowing the conversion rate of a landing page is the first step to optimizing that landing page.

The conversion rate of a landing page is the percentage of visitors that complete and submit the form on the page divided by the total number of visitors to that page. Generating leads with social media can be increased in two ways. The first is by increasing the amount of traffic to a landing page. The second is to increase the conversion rate of a landing page to enable more of the visitors to become leads. While improving conversion rates for a landing page is a long-term task, following best practices will help you start out with higher conversion rates and more leads.

Landing pages are different from website pages. Most of the pages on a business website are about education. Landing pages are about action. When a person visits a landing page, the most important aspect of the entire page is that it clearly directs the visitor to take an action. Most often that action is to fill out a form in exchange for an offer.

1. Provide One Clear Action

When looking at a landing page, take a step back from the computer. Take a quick glance, really only a second. During that oh-so-brief time and from that further distance, is the action that should be taken on that page clear? Simplicity is key to many aspects of social media marketing, but most important when it comes to landing pages. Part of simplicity on landing pages is removing options for the user. Too many choices are a bad thing. The more choices that you give a landing page visitor, the higher the likelihood that they will do nothing and simply leave the page without becoming a lead.

2. No Top Navigation

One of the easiest way to remove choices for the visitor is to remove the top navigation. Include a prominent logo in the uppper, that can link back to your home page, but do not include the standard menu across the top. Once you have gotten someone to the landing page, do not distract them with other paths. Let them finish the path they are on and complete the form. This means that you can’t use the standard web template to make these pages, but you need a clean landing page design.

3. Limited Bottom Navigation

The same is true about bottom navigation. Get rid of it. Lots of sites have a full menu and other resources in the site footer, which in this case would distract the visitor and keep them from completing the form. If your site needs copyright or policy links at the bottom of every page, add those very limited items to the landing page design, but don’t take the lazy route and include the entire web site footer.

4. Match Look and Language of Call to Action

A visitor clicked on something to get to the landing page. They were promised an offer. It had a compelling headline. It had a look to it. You set their expectations with that something (blog post, social media update, sponsored post) and now you have to pay off those expectations. The offer itself is part of that, but so is the look and feel of the landing page. You don’t want to create the disconnect of the visitor questioning what they just clicked on because there is no visual connection or pay off to their expectations.

5. What’s the Promise of the Headline

The headline on the landing page should continue with the promise of the offer. Will the visitor learn something? Everyone wants to be smarter. Will they get access to premium information? Everyone wants to feel like an insider. A simple way is to use the title of the ebook or webinar, which should already be optimized for attracting the right visitors with the right promise.

6. Keep Copy Short and Direct

Give them a brief summary of what they are signing up for. Include a few bullet points focused on benefits to the visitor, not features. And provide a clear call to action on the page so they know what to do next. Most landing pages have too much copy. See A/B testing below to determine if your pages have too much copy.

7. Include an Image

The correct image reinforces that the visitor is in the right place. It can show them what they are getting, although ebooks are often shown as physical books. Very confusing. It also helps someone scan the image and keep moving towards the form.

8. Limit Number of Fields

This is the most important part of the landing page. This is where you need to get the visitor to provide their information. Even though business contact information is much more available than it use to be, it still feels like an invasion of privacy to ask for certain information. Keep to the information you require and the number of fields at a minimum. Only ask for information you really need. If you are never going to follow up by phone from this offer, don’t ask for a phone number. Email is enough. Asking for a phone just reminds prospects that a salesperson will call. That will prevent some people from filling out the form. Many small businesses are reluctant to indicate their annual sales. Use number of employees as less intrusive way to gauge company size. Again, if you don’t need it, don’t ask for it. No matter what your sales team wants down the road.

9. A/B Test Everything (One at a Time)

A simple A/B test involves changing one thing on your landing page and driving traffic to both versions of the page to compare the difference in conversion rate. The more you can hold constant, the better your test will be. You should A/B test the big things like the headline, amount of copy, number of fields, even the button color and button text. Once Google A/B tested 50 different shades of blue buttons. Extreme, but they knew what drove more conversions.

10. Track the Right Metrics

And finally, to optimize your conversion rate, you have to have the right metrics. Start with how many people view the page. Next, you may have data telling you how many people started the form, but abandoned it. And lastly, how many people completed it. You conversion rate is the number of completed forms divided by the visitors to the landing page. This is the main number you are working to increase. The middle number of people who start the form and don’t submit it can provide specific feedback on the number of fields and the information requested. You will see a definite increase in conversion rate with fewer fields. But make sure the prospects are the right ones that lead to sales. And that is another set of metrics.

Do you have any examples of well-optimized landing pages or have you seen any particular fields that made you abandon a page without completing the form?

What Social Media Looks Like at the New B2B Version of Kodak

Yesterday as Kodak emerged from bankruptcy, Antonio M. Perez, Kodak Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “We have emerged as a technology company serving imaging for business markets – including packaging, functional printing, graphic communications and professional services.”

This is not the dream of most companies to start as a consumer brand, especially a global and ubiquitous brand that dominated the camera and film markets, and emerge 125 years later as a B2B brand focused on commercial printing. Everyone had a Kodak camera at some point in their lives. Now that company is gone. The personal imaging division has been sold off, although still licensing the Kodak name, and the commercial folks need to reclaim and reinvigorate the company’s social media profiles.

Let’s start with the main Kodak Twitter profile.
The Twitter profile of @Kodak has been minimally used in the past and does not have many followers. But when someone’s grandmother finds an old camera in her attic and wants to get film for it, her granddaughter is going to reach out to this account.

And with the exception of three retweets, the account has been dark for more than a year and half between the announcement of the bankruptcy and the emergence. The newly emerged company needs to take on this account and run with it. They need to approach their customers and prospects with information that helps them solves problems. It can’t just be press releases about new products.

And this is the account that represents the current business. While their Twitter bio of “Kodak’s conversations about commercial printing, packaging, integrated marketing, innovation and sustainability” is an accurate description of what they do, there is no indication that this is now their core business. And the name has to go. “Kodak I Dig Print” or an abbreviation for “i” digital printing. The team just needs to switch to @Kodak.

And I know that this is day one, but the Twitter link from leads to the Twitter account of Kodak Chief Blogger Jennifer Cisney. Over the years she has been responsible for Kodak’s social presence and running their blog, but she is now part of the division that was sold off. Hopefully this will remind someone to update that link to the correct account (which ever one they chose).

This is the blog for the commercial side of the business. This will become the main company blog, and it needs help. Post after post of product specs and new releases is not a corporate blog. They need to inspire customers and prospects, not bore them. They should take a lesson from Jennifer and feature spectacular images that were created with their equipment. They can consider honest customer and employee interviews. It is important to share what people really think about the new company.

The Facebook page for this part of the business is trying to provide value to customers and prospects, but the updates shared on the page seem to have a limited audience. The Kodak team needs to focus on their core audience and use this as another touchpoint.

And finally, the LinkedIn products page definitely represents the new B2B version of Kodak. By understanding who their LinkedIn audience is, they have the opportunity to share more relevant updates on the company page. Not everything needs to be posted everywhere, but the right content that drives engagement and traffic needs to be a focus. Oh, and since B2B is now the core of the business they can’t forget that they need to use social media to drive leads.

What would you tell the team at Kodak now that the B2B social media team is front and center managing the presence for the core business?

REPORTS: LinkedIn is the Most Effective B2B Social Network

b2b-LinkedIn-LogoLinkedIn has always been the social network that gets the business attention, especially from B2B marketers. If you are trying to justify resources (time and money) for focusing on LinkedIn, several reports combine to make the case that results are real. But like everything in social media, use these resources to guide your thinking while you discover if your customers are there.

1. LinkedIn Drives More Traffic

In this recent post, Webbiquity looks at the top social networks and analyzes how they drive traffic to B2B blogs and websites. On average, social media drove 5% of traffic to all B2B sites, however, it drove 17% of traffic to blogs and only 1.1% of traffic to commercial B2B websites. When they looked at the traffic by site, 90% of the social traffic was driven by the big three networks, with half of it coming from LinkedIn.

2. LinkedIn Drives More Leads

In a study of over 5,000 businesses, HubSpot found that traffic from LinkedIn generated the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74%, almost 3 times higher than both Twitter and Facebook. This was a mix of both B2B and B2C companies, but the large sample size clearly shows that a focus on driving leads from LinkedIn works.

3. Your B2B Marketing Peers Use It

Across multiple studies, eMarketer has found that an average of 80% of mostly B2B and small and medium sized businesses use LinkedIn for marketing. A number this high, across multiple studies, really adds to the validity of the number. While this study doesn’t define what how marketers use the platform, or how effective they view it, the next point addresses that.

4. B2B Marketers Call It the Most Effective Social Network

In a recent content marketing survey of the 50,000 member strong B2B Technology Marketing community on LinkedIn, 85% of those surveyed indicated that LinkedIn was the most effective social network for distributing content.

5. LinkedIn is Creating More Marketing Opportunities

A recent eMarketer report describes the changes coming to LinkedIn as they grow their ad revenue business with a variety of sponsored opportunities beyond text and banner ads. These include sponsored company updates, or what are called native ads in the feed, and ads that mimic the functionality of Slideshare, a platform they bought last year. As LinkedIn re-makes itself as a content platform, do not overlook the opportunities to post content directly on the platform as part of their thought leader blogging program, although it appears that they are not taking any new entries into the program.

B2B LinkedIn Takeaways

As you begin exploring the effectiveness of LinkedIn for your B2B company, here are some specific tactics that will build your following and drive traffic, leads and awareness. What are your favorite LinkedIn tactics?

  • Grow your LinkedIn Company followers by encouraging followers on other networks to follow the company on LinkedIn.
  • Share both gated and un-gated content on LinkedIn company page.
  • Encourage employees to share company content of their LinkedIn pages.
  • Discover LinkedIn Groups with your target prospects and encourage appropriate employees to participate in the conversation, not just share links.

Make Your B2B Social Media Headlines Compelling and Clickable

Every B2B company wants their social media posts read, clicked and shared. These are not just tweets, Facebook posts and LinkedIn updates, but the blog posts, ebooks and webinar offers they lead to. A couple of the following articles focus on the art, science and data of writing the best headlines to make followers, and casual passersby click. Social media headline writing is part marketing, part journalism, part SEO and part sensationalism. And all of them need to pay off expectations with the article itself. That is how you build credibility, authority and ultimately, trust.

As you are creating content for your B2B company, especially blog posts, you need to know what kinds of posts to create. Move beyond company news and product announcements with the below guide to types of blog posts. And finally, we share a review of the next stage of storytelling called storydoing and how it elevates companies to be more productive and to drive business results.

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Which Format Is Right for Your Next Blog Post?
When it comes to choosing the right format for your next blog post, there’s quite the smorgasbord to choose from. Perhaps how-to posts are your forte. Or maybe you just can’t resist the list. But just because you have a signature format, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily right for the topic you’re blogging about.
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Good Companies Are Storytellers. Great Companies Are Storydoers
Discussions about story and storytelling are pretty fashionable in marketing circles. I have ambivalent feelings about this. On the one hand, as a lifelong advocate for the power of story in business, I find this very encouraging. For all companies, having a story and knowing that story are crucial steps to achieving success. On the other hand, I’m worried that too many marketers think that telling their story through advertising is enough. It’s not.
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Photo credit: me

10 Ideas to Make Boring B2B Social Media Posts Captivating

Many B2B marketers are still trying to figure out social media for their companies. Years of product marketing driven writing, or content as we now call it, has honed their skills on features-based marketing. No matter how exciting your products and services are, this kind of marketing is boring. And it is not going to work in a social media context.

Prospects and customer want solutions to their problems. They don’t want to hear about your products in a blog post. Once you identify your target audience and their pain points, you can begin creating top-of-the-funnel content to connect with them by solving their problems. With the right content in mind, on paper and on screen, how do you make sure that your content is found, read and shared by your audience?

Start by making it remarkable!

And then here are 10 ideas for make it captivating:

1. Use Keywords in the Headline

No matter what you writing about, you have to include the words that your prospects and customers use when talking about your solutions, business and industry. These are used in the questions they are asking in search engines and of their social network connections. The most important keyword location is the headline. See the headline above (and most of the ones on this site) for an example. They always include B2B Social Media or B2B and relevant terms. That’s how B2B marketers find what they are looking for on this site. Posts without those obvious keywords are just not found by the audience.

2. Use Adjectives in the Headline

Even keyword-based headlines need to be interesting and compelling. Or captivating. As this one is. No matter where you prospects and customers see your headlines, they are looking for something that will be worth their time. As you are establishing your authority on your subject area, every post is an opportunity to draw in new visitors. Interesting and different descriptive words, like adjectives can do that.

3. Find a Compelling Image

In this post I used a recent Instagram photo I took of the San Francisco Bay Bridge. While not entirely relevant to this post, it is a captivating image, which relates back to the headline. Rather than use the same stock photography images of light bulbs or the diverse team around a conference room table, look for interesting images that set the tone for a post. Search Flickr for Creative Commons images and make sure you give credit back to the photographer. Hone your own skills as an Instagram photographer and use your own images. You want to use images that will draw someone in, make them click and make them keep reading.

4. Don’t Talk about Your Products

Successful blog posts are not about products. Your website already does that. Provide real value to prospects and customers by providing solutions to their business problems. Demonstrate your industry expertise by giving them something they cannot get elsewhere.

5. Solve Prospects’ Business Problems

One of the reasons “How To” posts are so popular in different industries is that they answer people’s questions. Search engines are designed to provide the most relevant results to every search. If B2B prospects are trying to find answers to their problems, your posts have a better chance of showing up if you are answering their questions. And using their terms.

6. Share Customer Stories

Leverage your existing customers to tell your story of how your solved their business problems with your products and solutions. These are not just case studies where your product helped your customer reach business nirvana, but a real, human story that is interesting, remarkable and captivating. Ask yourself if you would read the story before you hit publish.

7. Use Video

Video is a powerful way to tell a story, share an important detail or present a point of view. A post with embedded video can capture someone’s attention in a different way than a written post. This is an easy way to share the thoughts of an industry influencer you met at a trade show, but keep it short. Definitely under five minutes, and under three minutes if possible. Video viewing dropoff is pretty significant at two minutes.

8. Experiment with Different Formats

Every post should not always be 500-800 words on a subject. Try shorter posts if you have a simple comment about an industry news story. A link to the story and three takeaways work. Consider an occasional longer analytical post that really takes a point of view. What about an all image post where you show 20 examples of what others in your industry are doing well, where you only have a line or two of explanation. Mixing up your post format keeps things interesting and keeps you from writing the same post over and over.

9. Use Subheads to Make it Scannable

People on the web scan. Subheads make it easy to glean some information from your post without taking the time to read it. That’s why list posts do so well. They match the way people consume information. Scan this post as an example.

10. Remember Social Networks

And finally, getting found in search is just part of the equation. Getting found on social networks is also key. Keep headline length in mind for social networks. Know how images show up on Facebook and Google+. Make sure your post description is captivating, as that may be what shows up on networks.

Remember, all of these ideas will help remarkable content get found, read, shared and clicked, but if your content is not worth reading, none of this will help. And keep in mind that blog posts just to drive traffic are not enough. Include calls to action (CTAs) at the end of every post to bring your prospects into the sales funnel.

What are other ways that you have made your B2B social media posts more captivating?