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?

A Baker’s Dozen of B2B Social Media Statistics for 2013

One of the challenges for any B2B company that adopts social media is to benchmark their success against other B2B companies. Statistics, like those collected below, are one way to spot trends in overall activity and spending. When you look at all the stats below in aggregate, you see that B2B companies are spending more on digital marketing and social media, they are dedicating resources to content marketing, but they are not driving traffic to their websites with social media.

If your first tendency is to shout that they are doing it wrong, you are not alone. But we don’t know what specific tactics these companies are using and what their goals are. If they are not creating compelling content or they’re not driving prospects back to their websites, then social media traffic will be small. If they are focused on lead generation, and the social traffic converts at a higher level than general traffic, they might be fine with how much traffic social drives. Start with trends that you may find in these statistics, but make sure you review your own social media metrics against your goals and other tactics.

Changes in Spending

49% of B2B marketers plan to increase their marketing budget in 2013. (Source)

9.5% of B2B marketers plan to decrease their marketing budget in 2013. (Source)

67% of B2B marketers plan to increase their digital marketing budget in 2013. (Source)

70% of B2B marketers plan to increase their spending on website development in 2013. (Source)

56% of B2B marketers plan to increase their spending on social media in 2013. (Source)

Content Marketing

93% of B2B marketers using content marketing use their website. (Source)

65% of B2B marketers using content marketing use social media. (Source)

58% of B2B marketers create their content internally. (Source)

35% of B2B marketers use personas to guide their content creation. (Source)

A B2B buyer will find three pieces of content about a vendor for every one that the company provides. (Source)

Traffic Sources

41% of B2B website traffic is driven by organic search. (Source)

40% of B2B website traffic is direct. (Source)

Only 2% of B2B website traffic is driven by social media. (Source)

Photo Credit: flickr

Top 10 B2B Social Media Posts of 2012

As each year passes the growth of social media for B2B companies continues. Looking at the top posts of the year is a good way to see what resonates with B2B marketers. How to more effectively use Facebook and LinkedIn, especially for generating leads and sales seems to be a running theme. Practical versus theoretical definitely rules the day (or year). Check out the top 10 below. If you have any other favorite B2B social media articles from this year, let us know in the comments below. Posts from other sites are okay too.

1. 10 of the Best B2B Facebook Timeline Cover Photos
Hope you didn’t oversleep this morning, because if you manage a Facebook Business or Brand Page for your B2B company today is the day that the timeline goes live, whether you are ready or not. One month ago, Facebook announced the Page changes, and you had the whole month to get your Page in line. And you were able to launch the update any time during the past month.

2. 12 Revealing Stats About B2B Social Media Marketing
Articles about B2B social media marketing adoption often paint a rosy picture of the current landscape, but when you dig in deeper, there are many challenges in effectiveness and understanding the results. In a recent survey of 5,000 B2B marketers from all industries, Penton Marketing Services found some pretty revealing statistics.

3. 20 LinkedIn Tips for B2B Social Media Success
B2B marketers are looking for ways to improve their social media marketing results, and one of the platforms that helps with that is LinkedIn. Many B2B companies have seen success on the professional social network by getting employees to represent the company in addition to their own experiences, managing company pages and even running industry groups.

4. 5 Ways to Generate Leads from a LinkedIn B2B Company Page
Many B2B companies have been successful at generating leads from LinkedIn, but there are features of a company page that B2B marketers are just not aware of. Most B2B companies have company pages on LinkedIn where they include a keyword-stuffed paragraph or two of marketing-speak. It also shows the employees who work at the company. This is the most basic option for LinkedIn.

5. Generate More Leads with B2B Social Media
Our friends at Inside View created this awesome infographic that gathers together many statistics, ideas and examples about using social media to help drive leads and sales for B2B companies. You can look through the stats yourself, but here are some to consider

6. 5 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Facebook Timeline
Facebook rolled out its new timeline for B2B Business Pages, so these Pages now have a similar look to personal profiles where content is organized and viewable by date. It is becoming a more visual platform and they continue to promote the idea that photos and videos create stronger connections with customers, prospects, fans and likers. B2B companies who want to succeed on Facebook must now develop and share content that doesn’t just provide value, but that catches peoples’ eyes. A recent study has already shown that many large brands don’t get that much fan engagement on Facebook, so this can be even more challenging for many B2B companies.

7. 10 Reasons Why B2B Companies Are Failing With Social Media
Too many B2B companies are flat out failing at social media marketing. It isn’t their fault. This isn’t an attack on the companies. Heck, they are at least brave enough to give it a shot. Instead this is an explanation for why a new marketing channel has been slow to grow in the B2B space. This shouldn’t be news to anyone though. Email marketing has been around for decades and many companies still don’t have that mystery figured out yet.

8. 4 Reasons For B2B Marketers To Explore Pinterest
Pinterest has made a big splash on the social media scene, by quickly earning passionate users who log multiple hours per day on the site. Pinterest saw a 4,000% increase in site traffic from June to December of last year, and many consumer-facing and female-centric brands are already using it well. While Nordstrom pins its latest shoes and fashions by boards organized by department, Whole Foods uses the site to pin kitchen design inspiration and recycling projects in addition to recipes using its foods.

9. 4 Ways to Use Storytelling for B2B Social Media
B2B companies who embrace social media to connect with prospects and customers need to understand storytelling as a means for communication. No one wants to hear about your products. They want to hear about solutions to their problems. One way to get there is by sharing compelling stories. As many B2B marketers still struggle with this change in marketing focus to a customer-centric model, we offer the following suggestions for storytelling ideas. Keep in mind that each of these story types can be told in words, images, audio and video, depending on their use.

10. 5 Ridiculous B2B Social Media Marketing Myths
B2B social media is gaining wider adoption. We are past arguing if B2B companies can use social media like we did in the early days of this blog. With the gradual adoption of social media marketing for B2B companies, some misconceptions and myths about B2B social media have been born. That’s okay, because myths are a part of change in any aspect of life. Heck, when people started using microwaves one of the big myths was that they leaked electromagnetic radiation. Change and myths go hand-in-hand. Let’s squash some of the most ridiculous B2B social myths now before they spread any further!

10 B2B Social Media Predictions for 2013

It is that time of year again where we look forward and try to predict the future of social media for B2B companies. This is not a shot-in-the-dark exercise, but one based on observing how B2B companies have adopted social media over the past year. When we look back at 2013, we will not see a banner year with explosive growth in B2B social media. In many areas there will be continued gradual growth started in 2012 or earlier. If you have your own predictions or you disagree with ours, please let us know in the comments below.

1. There will be incremental growth in using social media for lead generation

Social media provides new and lower cost opportunities for B2B companies to generate leads, and the adoption of this continues to be slower than social media advocates would have you believe. Many B2B marketers still struggle to get the mechanics, tools and resources in place to build a robust social media lead generation program. More B2B companies will see success in generating leads with social media, but it will still not be the norm.

2. B2B CEOs will remain skeptical about social media

The disconnect between B2B marketers and their CEO about the value and application of social media will remain. Just like with the adoption of social media lead generation, there will be slight improvement, but it will not be a banner year. Many CMOs have seen the light, but there is not enough evidence from inside and outside the organization to convince the CEO. They will need another year of the pain of higher cost and inefficient lead programs before shifting to more cost effective social media marketing.

3. The chasm between B2B companies creating content and those who don’t will widen

Remarkable content will continue to distinguish B2B companies from their peers and competitors. Marketers who have mastered the art of blogging, ebooks, visual content and video storytelling will forge stronger relationships with prospects, customers and advocates, while those who don’t will get left behind. Customer expectations will drive this disparity even more in 2013.

4. The skills of B2B marketers will expand as content gets more visual

It starts with storytelling and interpreting data, but the new world marketers who will write their own tickets in 2013 are those who have a graphic design or photography background. The smaller explosive platforms like Pinterest and Instagram have driven up the importance of visual content, but Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have all continued to incorporate rich media into their platforms. Marketing communication is no longer just about great writing. Look for fewer words from top B2B marketers and eye-catching visuals that promote compelling offers.

5. Data becomes more than a buzzword

Look for more B2B marketers to really understand the data components of their social media efforts in 2013. This is not about better measurement, but about compiling data to gain better insight into customers and prospects. This kind of data mining and interpretation gives marketers a more holistic view of social media profiles and activities, which lead to smarter and more informed actions.

6. The role of marketing automation becomes clearer

Sometimes B2B marketers need to say the name of their tools out loud to understand what they do. “Marketing Automation.” Say it again. “Marketing Automation.” You didn’t just say, “Sent spammy emails.” Expect to see better use of marketing tools in 2013 as B2B marketers do more than set up email drip campaigns, but unleash the full power of these tools to automate repetitive activities or other things that computers do better than people.

7. Mobile Strategies Catch Up to Reality (Again)

Repeat of 2012 Prediction: As each mobile device is released, it sells more than its predecessor. This will continue in [2013] and we will get closer and closer to the day the mobile web dominates B2B site traffic. B2B companies are on course to develop their mobile strategies so they can move forward with their customers. If every B2B marketer took their smart phone out of their pocket and suffered through their own website, this really would drive the creation of mobile-friendly sites.

8. B2B Marketers will determine relevant social media metrics

This is one prediction that I hope exceeds my expectations of how far it goes. Overall social media adoption hinges on better and more appropriate metrics. Lots of B2B marketers are still measuring vanity metrics or optimization metrics and reporting them as results. While the tactics of increasing reach will help you drive more leads, it is the leads themselves that are an indicator of your success, not the increased reach. Without the proper reporting in place that is connected to company business goals, there will be a social media backlash due to soft reporting.

9. B2B Marketers will get addicted to social media ads

B2B marketers will explore additional ways to build their audience and drive traffic to their lead-generation landing pages. Not only do social media ads fit this bill as a new tactic, but these ads will be less competitive and more cost-effective than pay-per-click (PPC) ads throughout 2013. That will change as more marketers start using them, but they will be regular part of the tool set before that happens.

10. Email usage will grow as B2B marketers struggle to generate leads with social media

As customers and prospects continue to click on email offers, B2B marketers will keep sending them, but with diminishing returns. This is still interruptive marketing, while social media acknowledges that the customer or prospect is in charge of the relationship. A tipping point is coming, but it won’t be in 2013.

There is still a tremendous amount of work for B2B marketers to do in 2013, but we know you can do it with planning, remarkable content, marketing and sales alignment and executive buy-in.

Photo Credit: One Way Stock

10 Google+ Power Tips for B2B Social Media

Early adopters flocked to Google+ when it was launched last year because that is what they do. Another social network was not what they needed, but it is part of Google and worth checking out. In the past year Google+ has shown to have an effect on search results, because Google is always trying to improve their search results. Social signals has proven to be another card in that deck.

There are also active and thriving communities on Google+, but again, among small niches. Former Apple evangelist, Guy Kawasaki, has written What the Plus!: Google+ for the Rest of Us to show everyone how to build a network and community on Google+ (This book was provided by the publisher for my review). I also have a copy to give away. See the end of the post to learn how to enter.

If you are looking for an in-depth guide to using the platform and gaining expertise, you should check it out. The book is focused on effectively sharing content and maximizing its reach, and it doesn’t matter whether you are using a personal profile or a B2B company page to do this. Rather than go into the details, I have pulled out 10 power tips from the book to help you with your Google+ efforts for your B2B company.

Circles

1. Sharing Circles
Circles are the core of Google+ and let you control both your outbound and inbound posts. You can segment your audience into circles and share content with just a particular circle. You can also create circles around industries or events to filter posts that are coming in. One way to add value to your followers is to create a public circle of industry journalists, bloggers, influencers or trade show attendees and share it. This makes it easy for people to circle these profiles.

2. Search for Shared Circles
Rather than find individual people, you can find public circles that other people have shared. Search for “shared a circle with you” and this will return all the public circles recently shared. To reduce the number of results, or do a more targeted search, add a keyword, like B2B, marketing or an event name to your search.

Posting

3. Alert Someone by Email
If you want to share a post with someone, and they are not on Google+, you can + or @ their email address and Google+ will send the post to them. Use this sparingly. Do not mention all your customers this way on your Google+ posts, but it is a clever way to share off the platform.

4. How to Conduct a Poll
Instead of embedding a poll in a Google+, just ask a question and add comments below as the answers. Readers can +1 whichever comment is their answer. Disable comments on the post to make sure people vote rather than comment. This method of polling was started by Dain Binder.

Responding

5. Respond from Email
Because Google has integrated Google+ into so many aspects of its products, when you receive email notification of someone +mentioning you in a post in your Gmail, you can see the entire post and respond right from that email. This saves time and lets you engage with posts without too much disruption to your normal workflow.

6. Always Be Crediting
As you are building a following and audience on Google+, make sure you acknowledge the source of your discoveries. Curating content on Google+ and sharing it is an important part of what you should be doing, and it is a best practice to +mention the people, companies or sites that are the source of that information. It alerts them that you have shared their content and may provide a new connection for others. And it’s good karma.

Chrome Extensions to Improve Google+ Experience

Google+ has been designed for the Chrome browser. Additionally, any programmer can create an extension that adds functionality to the browsing experience, so you can get even more out of Google+. Here are some extensions mentioned in the book for particular tasks.

7. CircleCount
Roll over any profile or page name in Google+ to instantly see their follower history and the average number of +1′s, reshares and comments. This gives you a sense of someone’s activity and relevance to your company without having to click and leave your stream.

8. Replies and More
This extension makes it easy to reply to the author of post by making sure they see it. One click of the button +mentions them in the comment. The “and more” part of this extension provides more reach for your posts. It lets you easily share any Google+ post, yours or others, on Twitter and Facebook. You can build you audience and engagement on Google+ by letting people on other platforms know what you are doing on Google+.

9. Do Share
This extension lets you schedule your Google+ posts. If you have a global audience, or you just want to test posting on the platform at different hours of the day, you can schedule posts to both personal profiles and pages. Even if you schedule a post to go live in the middle night, try to check for comments as soon as you can. Most of the comments on a post occur within a few hours of it posting.

10. Streamified
If automatically cross-posting to multiple social platforms is your thing, this extension will automatically post what you share on Google+ on your Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn profiles. This helps you share valuable content on the other networks, as well as drives traffic back to Google+. Streamified can also pull your blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn streams into your Google+ profile.

Are there any other power tips about Google+ that you would share with other B2B marketers?

Win a Copy of What the Plus!

I have shared this post on the SocialMediaB2B page on Google+. To enter to win a copy of What the Plus, share that Google+ post on your Google+ profile or company page (or both). Post the link to the Google+ post in the comments below. Enter by November 1, 2012 at 11:59pm ET and a winner will be selected at random on November 2, 2012. Only one entry per Google+ profile and one per page.

10 Reasons Why B2B Companies Are Failing With Social Media

Too many B2B companies are flat out failing at social media marketing. It isn’t their fault. This isn’t an attack on the companies. Heck, they are at least brave enough to give it a shot. Instead this is an explanation for why a new marketing channel has been slow to grow in the B2B space. This shouldn’t be news to anyone though. Email marketing has been around for decades and many companies still don’t have that mystery figured out yet.

Instead of placing blame, let’s diagnose the reasons B2B companies aren’t seeing success with social media.

10 Reasons Why B2B Companies Are Failing With Social Media

1. Massively Under Investments In Content
In the old days of B2B marketing, space was the core limiting factor. Marketers needed to work in the size constraints of a direct mail piece to get their message across. On the social web, space is unlimited. Instead, attention is now scarce. To grab the attention of leads online, marketers need more content than ever before. One blog post a month isn’t going to cut it. With the need for multiple blog posts per week and daily social media messages many marketing teams find themselves under-equipped to keep up with the content demands. If you are a B2B executive shift some of your paid advertising budget to content creation resources ASAP.

2. Haven’t Used Paid Social To Bolster Organic Efforts
Advertising shouldn’t be a dirty word in social media marketing. Instead paid social media marketing efforts on platforms like Twitter, Linkedin and Facebook should be used to bolster your organic marketing investment. Use advertising to attract new connections on social networks. They will see the content you are sharing and engage with it to increase your lead generation.

3. Aren’t Focused on Lead Generation
Stop counting followers as your primary metric of social media success. Engagement is not a goal, it is a metric. Put a lead generation and revenue goal on your social media marketing efforts so that you can demonstrate the value in order to get additional budget consideration. Heck, we though this was so important, that we wrote The B2B Social Media Book.

4. Management Support Doesn’t Exist
Social media doesn’t succeed as a rogue one-man or one-woman project. Instead take our advice from #3 and build a model that projects social media lead generation growth over the next year. Share this with your executive team to get the funding and support you need to be successful.

5. Aren’t Looking At The Right Data
Social media is nothing more than another marketing channel. Stop looking at weak metrics like followers and engagement. Instead look at social media as you would any other marketing channel and look at key metrics like visitor-to-lead conversion rate by social channel, as well as visitor-to-customer conversion rates.

6. Customer Personas Aren’t Clear Enough
To win in the world of B2B social media you must clearly understand the daily pain that your target audience is facing. Your customer personas are critical to understanding this important information. If your social media efforts are missing the mark it is likely because you are failing to address your targets’ core pain. Revisit your customer personas with a new round of customer interviews to better understand the challenges they are facing.

7. Failure To Make The Boring Exciting
Your business is exciting. I don’t care what you do, someone in the world thinks it is important and awesome. Brainstorm with your team about some of the awesome, yet unexpected applications of your product. You never know, you might end up like BlendTec.

8. A Terrible Website
You could be rocking social media and sending tons of traffic back to your website but if your website sucks, it won’t do you much good. Conduct user testing on your website to make sure that it properly communicates your company’s products and services. Examine the conversion paths of your website to make sure that when someone arrives from social media, that they actually have a chance to become a lead.

9. The Belief That It Can Replace Everything
Social media isn’t a cure all. Don’t think that it can replace your other marketing channels. Instead, work with your team to get tighter alignment between social media and your other marketing activities.

10. Still Making Too Many Excuses
“Well social media doesn’t work for my industry.” “My business is different.” “We are boring.” “We have a different model. It doesn’t apply to us.” “We tried, but after a few weeks it just wasn’t working for us.” STOP IT!!!!! Quit making excuses. I hear these statements all the time from countless businesses. Never have I said “Wow, you are totally right.” Instead, I simply nod my head and then walk away thinking that this is another business who is condemned to failure because of a “can’t do” attitude. Don’t let this be you. Open your mind and attack big and bold ideas. You just might be inspired by the success you find.

Don’t fall victim to these mistakes and situations. Instead learn from them and crush your competition.

Photo: Flickr

20 LinkedIn Tips for B2B Social Media Success

B2B marketers are looking for ways to improve their social media marketing results, and one of the platforms that helps with that is LinkedIn. Many B2B companies have seen success on the professional social network by getting employees to represent the company in addition to their own experiences, managing company pages and even running industry groups.

Below are 20 tips that will help with many aspects of LinkedIn, both personal and for your company. Each one of the tips has a link to the original source, so many more tips can be found by clicking through and reading more. If you have other great tips for B2B companies, please share them in the comments below.

Personal Profiles

1. Use a professional-looking photo that is tight and well-lit with limited background distractions. (Source)

2. Customize your website listings. (Source)

3. Use LinkedIn to follow up after other communications. (Source)

4. Teach LinkedIn strategy and tactics to your employees. (Source)

5. Endorse others first and endorse fairly. (Source)

Company Pages

6. Choose keywords in your company description that your potential customers might look for. (Source)

7. Target your posts by Industry or Location. (Source)

8. Build followers for your LinkedIn company page. (Source)

9. Amplify through your network. (Source)

10. Monitor and focus your efforts. (Source)

Networking

11. Use “Tags” to categorize your connections. (Source)

12. When you think it could benefit your business, ask your contacts for introductions to their contacts. (Source)

13. Understand the psychological needs of people on LinkedIn when connecting with them. (Source)

Groups

14. Have sales reps join industry and local LinkedIn Groups. (Source)

15. The best groups have discussion topics that do not always begin with blog article links. (Source)

16. Send messages to a large number of people for free. (Source)

Lead Generation

17. Target searches for keywords you’ve identified as central to your business. (Source)

18. Create free banners on your products/services page. (Source)

LinkedIn Advertising

19. Each element must attract the audience you’re targeting and inspire people to click on the ad. (Source)

20. Create a special landing page just for LinkedIn ads. (Source)

What are some things you have done to grow your B2B network or expand your company’s presence on LinkedIn?

3 B2B Social Media Lessons from Apple’s iPhone5 Launch

Apple’s iPhone5 launch was covered in depth by the online tech sites and major news outlets, as well as everyone else on social media. Whether you think this is a gotta-have release, a nominal upgrade or a “my phone already has those features,” you can find plenty of agreement across the web. What can B2B marketers learn from the release of this sixth generation product that is responsible for nearly two-thirds of Apple’s profits.

1. Advocates can be your social media presence

Apple is the largest US company by market value, and yet they have no social media presence to speak of. But they manage to dominate the conversations on the social web, especially when they have a new product launch. Even the speculation leading up to it creates a certain amount of dominance. And this is because their customers are passionate about their products. They want to share what they know and they always want to know more.

This kind of advocacy is rare in B2B, but what if you focus some of your social media efforts on creating outstanding products that customers will love. This is the first step to building the kind of advocacy that starts social conversations.

2. Tightly controlled message is no longer possible

Apple has always kept a tight lid not just on their product specifications, but even the announcements themselves. Yes, last week’s announcement was certainly about the new iPhone, but that didn’t come from Apple. The control model of keeping everything a secret until the announcement is just no longer possible. There are too many publishers of content on the web that looking for that scoop so they can gain eyeballs and social media shares. Apple manages their supply chain so that products are delivered shortly after the announcement, and as the product numbers have grown, there are too many links in that chain where details can leak out. A huge order of larger screens doesn’t go unnoticed. And don’t forget that new connector.

So as you plan product announcements or other public activities, be aware that secrecy just may not be possible. This is a great opportunity to work with a customer council, or some preferred partners, to slowly share information on the social web before a big announcement. Use selected details to generate awareness for the announcement.

3. Make it about your customers, not your solutions

Some of the negative reactions to the Apple announcement had to do with the presentation and the disappointment that Tim Cook is not the dynamic CEO and speaker that Steve Jobs was. One writer even went so far as to say that he missed Apple’s reality distortion field. This was a characteristic of Steve Jobs where his statements were so convincing, that reality was unimportant. Apple product launches always had a bit of that sense. But the article goes further and mentions that the iPhone launch moved so far away from that when the Apple ecosystem (hardware, software, marketplace) was called a solution.

So let’s forget that we are talking about a consumer company and make sure we’re talking about the customers. They don’t care about our solutions. They want to know how we are solving their problems. This is truer than ever in social media because we need our customers and prospects to share our blog posts, ebooks, videos and webinars. They won’t do that if we talk about our solutions.

Are there other lessons for your B2B company that you took away from the launch of what could be the biggest consumer electronics product ever?

3 Ways B2B Companies Can Manage Big Data

A recent emarketer article highlights the data overload that B2B marketers are currently experiencing. The study by econsultancy focused on web analytics data, which has been available for quite some time, and did not even address the volume of social media data that is available. A majority of the marketers surveyed indicated that less than half of the data collected is useful for making business decisions.

This type of response is more common than people realize as we all wade through too much data. If we are able to collect data, often we do before determining its business value. And B2B marketers who have wrangled their data into manageable reports just don’t understand how difficult this is for others. The same is true on the other side, where those who can’t figure this out do not see an easy path to enlightenment. With this in mind, here are 3 ways to better understand your data, whether from web analytics or social media or even from across your whole marketing mix, to make better business decisions.

1. Focus on business objectives

Even though it is easier to track followers, likes, clicks and page views, it is unlikely that any of those measurements relate to your B2B companies business objectives. Those are likely to be things like generate leads, acquire new customers, retain existing customers and improve customer satisfaction. You can certainly track the softer things mentioned above, because these tactics behind them drive your real metrics. You need to know how much traffic you are driving to a landing page and what sources those come to optimize all steps in the process, but this is not where your reporting should end. Followers are not leads. Page views are not leads. Facebook likes are not new customers. Report on the end goals, not the tactics to get there.

2. Get everyone to agree

If you are trying to make sense of big data and developing reports that track your success metrics, make sure everyone agrees with the reporting structure and how the numbers are being reported. They also need to agree on what success looks like. One place to start, if you looking for quick executive buy-in, is with your traditional reporting and metrics for other marketing efforts and campaigns. Sharing web numbers or social media numbers alongside numbers that people are used to seeing, and in the same format will help them understand what they are looking at. This will also give you an agreed upon starting point for the numbers to use.

3. Don’t set it and forget it

Once you start distributing reports, others will comment on what you are reporting and may ask you to change what you are looking. This happens even after everyone agrees, as stated above. But the bigger issue is that once you start measuring and reporting, you may need to refine what you are tracking. You may find that your metrics don’t mean what you think they mean. Or maybe it turns out that you can’t have any effect on the metrics, so it is informational, not actionable. You might still want to include it, but the focus on these kinds of numbers change.

How have you managed to report your success as the volume of data has increased for B2B companies?

5 Ways to Generate Leads from a LinkedIn B2B Company Page

Many B2B companies have been successful at generating leads from LinkedIn, but there are features of a company page that B2B marketers are just not aware of. Most B2B companies have company pages on LinkedIn where they include a keyword-stuffed paragraph or two of marketing-speak. It also shows the employees who work at the company. This is the most basic option for LinkedIn.

1. Products and Services

The first thing that you need to do is enable the Products and Services function of the company page and begin adding products and services. This is where the action happens on the company page. Recommendations aren’t given for companies. They are given for products. Several of the follow lead generating suggestions are based on areas in the product and services tab. Note that you can be flexible with the definition of what a product is. If you have a compelling ebook that is appropriate for a LinkedIn audience, add that as a product. You can direct visitors to a download page with a lead form to receive the ebook.

2. Free Banners

Want to test some new creative ideas? Want to test some landing pages? LinkedIn gives you three free banner ads at the top of the products and services page. Create images that are 640×220 pixels, upload them to your page and add a unique URL, preferably to a landing page, and you have free ads. All you need to do now is make sure you are directing traffic to your LinkedIn products and services page.

3. Personal Contacts

Prospects don’t always like filling out contact forms because they never know who is going to contact them, but what if you could show them real people, with pictures and everything, that they could connect to for more information. This personalization of contact can be set by product, so consider adding people who have a high enough profile in your business or who have a title that makes sense for the contact. This can be viewed by some prospects as a purely “for more information” request about the product or service, so product managers can be a good fit, but these are leads. Clicking on this link is someone raising their hand and expressing interest.

4. Video with Call to Action

Each product and service entry has a space to link to a YouTube video, which appears embedded on the page. Video is another way to tell the story of your products. There are many ways to include calls-to-action in a YouTube video, which should be considered for the ones on your LinkedIn page. Everything you do on this page should provide enough information for prospects to decide that your products and services should be in the consideration phase of their buying process. You need to make it easy for them to take the next step and become a lead.

5. Status Updates

Companies can share status updates with those following the company. This is different than sharing information on your personal profile. You should have a content plan for sharing on your company profile. Share a mix of third party articles, company blog posts, links to ebooks and webinars, employee information and other content appropriate for your LinkedIn audience. Cross promote LinkedIn groups and events to continue to build your audience across LinkedIn. The main thing to do for lead gen is to make sure you are providing compelling offers with calls-to-action so prospects can become leads for your B2B company.

Have you taken advantage of all the lead gen levers that LinkedIn offers on your B2B company page?