Guarantee Your B2B Social Media Marketing ROI in Just 7 Steps

b2b-social-media-roiWhen social media first started gaining traction, CMOs and other B2B marketing heads saw the value of the new marketing channels. Since that time, social media marketing budgets have increased substantially, yet a majority of businesses fail to deliver a quantifiable return on their investment.

What can marketers do to ensure their efforts are generating a true and effective ROI? They can take these seven steps:

1. Know your why and set a goal

This is the critical first step that is needed to explain why an initiative is important enough to spend money on in the first place. State upfront what you are trying to accomplish and why you’re doing it. It’s important to outline clear deliverables such as increasing the number of leads from a source or securing a specific number of email sign ups from a certain initiative, and communicate why it’s important.

2. Identify and target the right audience

Without knowing who the key customers will be, you run the risk of a scattered approach that may dilute your message and drastically increase your costs. Some sample questions to ask yourself to help: who in your current customer base is the right fit for your product or service? Who buys the most and why do they buy? What have they purchased from you before? Do their purchasing patterns suggest they might be a good target?

3. Develop specific content for the audience and determine the correct outlet or channel

Determine the best avenue and media format to communicate your content to an engaging audience. The answer is not typically a one-size-fits all approach. Will video communication work better than written content to better showcase your product? Should you write a 600 word blog post or are 140 character tweets more logical? Do status updates on Facebook make more sense?

4. Allow the product to market itself

Many businesses don’t yet realize it, but providing a great product experience allows customers to determine if your product really fits their needs. One simple way to do this is to offer customers the opportunity to experience the product for free. The freemium strategy of the 21st century has created billions of users and spawned tremendous new business opportunities.

5. Generate brand advocacy

Creating and amplifying advocates should be front and center on every marketer’s agenda. The blueprint for how to turn advocates and owned media into a powerful marketing force is the key. Get your brand on customers’ pages in social media channels and have them share information with their networks about the product or service. This generates word of mouth marketing, which is one of the most effective kinds of marketing.

6. Engage with people on social networks

Too many businesses lack this step too. If your product or service is mentioned on a customer’s social media page, engage with that person. Start a conversation directly with customers – it will make a huge impact of their perception of your product or brand. Engaging with customers on social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create brand advocates.

7. Track and analyze your success

Defining and determining a technology solution to track important metrics must be done proactively. You need to know what data you need to show, how to go get it, and then show it simply. There are a variety of services that can help you proactively gauge the impact of your strategy, so that in the end you have a tangible ROI that is defensible in front of any CMO or CEO.

Social media marketing is the biggest opportunity to marketers since the web, and it’s now time to develop a clear strategy, create advocates, and generate leads and sales.

Next time you have to justify your budget to implement a successful social media campaign and provide a tangible ROI, rely on these seven steps to get you there.

Photo: Instagram

10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your B2B Website with Twitter Influencers

b2b-twitter-logoFor B2B marketers, Twitter can a very powerful tool to build relationships and drive traffic to your blog. But most business marketers still don’t get it.

How can you cut through the noise? How can you get your tweets seen and even clicked through on this massive site?

Influence marketing.

Influence marketing is getting your industry social influencers to share your content to their Twitter followers. 92% of us trust peer recommendations for product choices and brand preferences. Use prominent influencers in your sector to gain reach, trust, and drive traffic to your website.

Here are 10 ways to act on it:

1. Find your influencers

Do a Twitter search to find your industry leaders, and influential customers. Your customers are some of your most powerful influencers these days. They can be the most passionate about your brand, and can easily spread the word about you through Twitter. Check out popular niche hashtags to find top tweeters of your keywords. Follow them.

2. Make influencer lists

Once you’ve found your influencers on Twitter, make Lists to follow your their updates on the site. You could make a few influencer lists, such as:

  • Industry leaders
  • Influential partners
  • Influential customers

b2b-twitter-list

3. Retweet your influencers

Share your people’s tweets, when they post valuable content for your own followers. Retweet inspirational quotes and images, with links. Especially retweet content to their blog.

4. Use @mentions

@mentions get your tweets seen by your influencers. They’re the tweets that most busy tweeters check, and they’re much more effective than a Direct Message. Connect directly by showing your influencers you value their insights – ask a question in their area of expertise, or share good news about them.
b2b-twitter-connect

5. Tweet their blog articles

Show that you read your leading influencer articles – and that you appreciate their knowledge. @mention when you do, with your own positive comments, to build a more personal relationship.

6. Favorite tweets

You can also Favorite influencer tweets, to develop relationships, and show that you read what they’re tweeting. They’ll notice when you’ve engaged with a like of their content.
b2b-twitter-favorite

7. Respond to @mentions

When an influencer, customer (or anyone) mentions you on Twitter, respond. Keep the dialogue going to network with your connections.

8. Write great blog content

As a business, you need to write blog articles – and they should be good quality content. The better your content, and more relevant to your market, the more likely your blog will be tweeted by your influencers. Getting your blog tweeted by influencers drives traffic to your site.

9. Write about influencers on your blog

Give a shout-out to your influential customers and industry leaders. You could:

  • Write about customer success stories
  • Quote tips, inspirations, or product reviews of leaders
  • Crowdsource your content by asking industry leaders for their views on a subject – then compile a list of the best responses

Source your influencers in your article, by giving them links back to their site. Then tweet it to them. They’ll likely share it with their followers – with a link back to your site.

10. Network for guest blogging opportunities

Guest blogging can drive traffic to your site. Network with influential bloggers in your niche. Use Twitter to develop your relationships, and share your previous articles. Ask to submit an article for their blog. They’ll likely tweet your post to their followers – and their readers might too!

I’ve found Twitter to be an incredibly cool way to meet my industry influencers – around the world. I hope you’ll act on these tips to get your business better connected too!

Do you have any more ways that you connect with influencers on Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Ways to Improve a B2B Cold Sales Call and Make it Social

b2b-sales-call-appointmentYesterday my cell phone rang and it was a Raleigh NC number that I didn’t recognize. I often get calls from numbers that I don’t recognize, but since I live in the Raleigh area, I answered this call.

“Hello, this is Linda from [company name]. I like to tee up a 10-15 minute call with [name], our CEO.”

“Can you say all that again? I didn’t understand any of that.”

“I calling from [company name] and I want to tee up a call with our CEO. It will only take about 10-15 minutes of your time.”

Since my number is out in the world from business cards, email signatures and contact databases, I was not surprised to get this random call on my cell phone. I also get calls from PR people pitching me on irrelevant stories for this blog. It was not clear to me which this call was, so I asked her.

“Is this a PR call or a sales call? What is the point of this call?”

She then proceeded to the next line of the script and briefly described what the call would entail. It had something to do with targeted leads and prospects. She did a terrible job explaining the product and phone call demo she was trying to schedule.

I still didn’t know the name of the company. I still didn’t know if this was a sales pitch or a PR pitch. Since neither of them were relevant to me, I told her thank you, but I was not interested. I hung up before she could respond. This is how I have always dealt with cold calling sales people that do not quickly demonstrate their relevance to me.

What was Wrong with this Call?

1. Linda was so unenthusiastic that I did not even understand her when she told me what company she was representing.

2. Her do-over was no better than the first time, and I still did not catch the company name or the CEO’s name. Because I didn’t recognize either name after two attempts, this was clearly a cold call.

3. She provided no context for the call. Not for how they got my name or what company they thought I represented. Did I sign up for something on a website? Did I meet them at a trade show? Did I drop my business card in a fishbowl at a restaurant? Did they buy my name from a list where I expressed an interest?

4. She was trying to schedule a call with no statement of benefit for me.

5. When I asked is this was a sales call or a PR call, she couldn’t answer me. All she could do was resort to phase two of the script, which apparently is where she provides some context for the call if I don’t automatically agree to talk to the CEO.

6. It is not common to arrange sales calls for the CEO. That’s more common with PR pitches.

Ways to Improve this Call

1. Linda needs to stop acting like she is reading from a script and get excited about her calls.

2. The script needs to change to incorporate a description of the company in the opening. Since this is a cold call, and I probably haven’t heard of the company, I can remain engaged in the conversation is I know what they do.

3. Add a mention of my company or position so we can determine if I am the right person to talk to.

4. Add a benefit to me. If this is a lead prospecting tool, let me know that companies similar to mine have increased their pipeline by 50% using their product, tool, service.

5. If they want me to talk to the CEO, which automatically makes me think the company is small, sell me on the experience and influence of the CEO so that I want to talk to him.

6. Unless they bought a list, or just mined some data from a list, let me know why they are calling me. Again, this is a way to engage me in the conversation. If the call is because I downloaded a content resource or registered for something at a trade show, share that context with me and I am more likely to accept the appointment.

Ways to Make this Call Social

1. Search for me on Google, Twitter and LinkedIn before calling me. My name on my business cards is the same as all my social profiles, so I am pretty easy to find. Learn a little bit about me so you can add context to the conversation that is relevant to me.

2. If you have one job, setting appointments, you need to come prepared to engage me in conversation. There are lots of things that I can talk about that you can learn from my social profiles. This makes me more receptive to your message.

3. Confirm that I fit your target personas by looking at my latest position. This did not seem like a product for marketers, but if she could make a connection with me as a way into my company, that is a step in the right direction. Very often you are selling to wrong people at the right company.

4. It is called social selling for a reason. Yes, it is about using social media, but it is also about being social. If you are engaging and friendly on this interruptive call, I will respond the same way. An attitude of “I can’t be bothered” presents that as the attitude of the company. And my response is that I can’t be bothered.

Have you responded to a cold call to set an appointment? What made you engage with the company, and what there any use of social media to help that engagement?

Photo: Flickr

35 Expert Tips To Make B2B Content More Manageable

b2b-content-expertsContent. Many B2B marketers hear the word and wonder how they are going to create increasing amounts of it with their limited bandwidth.

Trust me, I understand this issue on a personal level. I write large volumes of material every week, from corporate and personal blog posts to website content to social media posts and more. That’s why I was psyched to hear what my fellow experts had to say in the way of tips and tricks at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in Boston last week.

Below are their words of wisdom. Take these 35 ideas and incorporate them into your content plans!

On the Planning Stage

1. Develop a content and engagement plan – ‪@DavidBThomas‬
2. Editorial calendars are worth their weight in gold – ‪@kesslermichelle‬
3. Look at the titles of those who consume your content – it will reveal who your audience should be – ‪@jchernov‬
4. Organizations need a content strategy, a social media presence, and an understanding of how to connect both to business objectives – ‪@AmyVernon‬
5. Understand what your content marketing objectives are and what you think the ultimate outcome will be – ‪@JoePulizzi‬
6. Figure out what motivates your customers; once you know your customers’ “why,” you’ll achieve success – ‪@webby2001‬

On Developing Content Ideas

7. Sales, customer service, product management, and marketing all need to talk to one another in order to create a strong content strategy – ‪@ShellyKramer‬
8. To achieve ‪social media success, you must break down silos within your company – share info & resources – ‪@AmyVernon‬
9. Blog post brainstorm: Get together everyone who talks to customers and make a list of the questions they hear – @TheSalesLion‬
10. Encourage user-generated content – ‪@NickWestergaard‬
11. Start with a piece that’s resonating and check the comments; you’ll likely find great, new, related story ideas – ‪@kesslermichelle‬
12. Do research on Quora or Twitter to understand the questions your audience is asking – ‪@jchernov‬
13. Remember to ask: only 34% of marketers have asked their customers what they want – ‪@NickWestergaard‬
14. Answer your clients’ questions and provide value, even if it’s not directly about your products – ‪@DavidBThomas‬
15. Everyone has a story worth telling – ‪@larrysmith‬

On Developing Your Posts

16. Simplicity is key; constraints fuel creativity ‪- ‪@larrysmith‬
17. If you don’t use mobile friendly links and responsive websites, you’ll lose half your audience – ‪@TheTimHayden‬
18. 55% are more likely to buy from you if you provide solid business advice on your site – ‪‪@ShellyKramer‬
19. Until your competition and bad fits start paying your bills, don’t let them dictate how and what you teach – ‪@TheSalesLion‬
20. Don’t forget to link to authoritative sites – ‪@AmyVernon‬

On Using the Same Content for Multiple Purposes

21. Do an “ego trap” series: have different well-known folks write guest posts on their views on the same topic – ‪@jchernov‬
22. Do a content audit on pieces you already have (collateral, emails, etc.); figure out what you can repur pose – ‪@JoePulizzi‬
23. Think of yourself as a content chop shop: repackage your content into blog posts, videos, ebooks, and more – ‪@NickWestergaard‬

On Utilizing Influencers

24. Co-creation of content with influencers can be a powerful way to amplify content – ‪@leeodden
25. Identify influencers and slowly build a relationship with them before asking them for anything – ‪@kevinrcain‬

On Measuring and Tracking Success

26. Understand the difference between vanity metrics (e.g., likes, followers) and metrics executives care about (e.g., traffic, leads, sales) – ‪@jeffreylcohen
27. Figure our what you want your customers do once they’ve read your content – ‪@MarketingProfs‬
28. Don’t just create consumable content; create actionable content – ‪@TheTimHayden‬
29. Content marketing is an art that, when done well, not only provides value, but also produces sales – ‪@samfiorella‬
30. Make sure your metrics are reported in a way that makes sense both to you and to management – ‪@DavidBThomas‬
31. Try measuring what others in your company are already measuring and making your reports look the same – ‪@jeffreylcohen

On Next Steps

32. Keep in mind that in the very near future, people will be viewing your website via wearable technology – ‪@TheTimHayden‬
33. A topic that was relevant six months ago may not be relevant now; always listen and adjust your strategy – ‪@samfiorella‬
34. Keep the internal content culture going by sending out monthly newsletters and trainings several times a year – ‪@TheSalesLion‬
35. Continue to earn your authority by sharing content – yours and others’ – ‪@AmyVernon‬

What are your expert B2B content tips? Share them in the comments below.

Photo: Flickr

How to Build a Great B2B Community on Facebook

b2b-facebookWe know you (yes, you B2B marketer) are skeptical. The social network of choice for many B2B marketers is LinkedIn. Even though Facebook is the largest social network by far (and one of the most trafficked websites overall), B2B marketers remain skeptical of Facebook’s viability for marketing impact.

Mike Lewis, Chief Marketing Officer of Peoplefluent kicked things off his session at MarketingProfs B2B Forum with a few important statistics courtesy of a recent Hubspot report about Facebook:

  • 750 million monthly visitors
  • 51% more likely to make a purchase after they “liked” a brand on Facebook
  • 41% of B2Bs surveyed indicated they have acquired customers through Facebook

Here are three examples of B2B Facebook pages worth reviewing:

Mike also showed a business page he worked on – Awareness Social Media Best Practices – and the key is / was content and communication (and literally, “best practices”). The page went from 0 – 10k likes in 2011 and more importantly the organization could track 22% of leads back to a first interaction on this Facebook page.

What makes these examples outstanding?

  • Audience engagement
  • Compelling and relevant conversations
  • Encouraging the share
  • No selling (direct selling at least)

6 Keys to effective B2B Facebook page development:

  • Paying Attention
  • Interaction
  • Content
  • Presence
  • Management
  • Measurement

On paying attention: listen to people and their actions and behaviors. This is the heart of a Facebook strategy but more importantly (taking a phrase from Chris Brogan – paraphrasing) ”It’s not what you say, it’s about what you hear.”

  • Why are you listening?
  • Where are you going to listen?
  • What are you going to pay attention to?

Silo your attention based on brand, keywords, buying signals, etc. Understand the market landscape, brand, competition, customers, influencers, buying intent phrases (situational, problems, etc), and of course, what’s happening on the page itself.

If attention is the yin, interaction is the yang. Mike outlined how to understand your extended audience, since your direct competition is not necessarily your competition on Facebook. You’re also competing with other brands, a person’s friends, family, network, etc.

At a high level, here is your extended audience and the basis for how to communicate with them:

  • Broad Extended Audience – share photos and videos
  • Passive – ask questions
  • Moderate – consistency is key
  • Active – make them champions
  • Influential – guest post opportunities

Considerations for improving and developing presence:

  • Use milestones
  • Star and highlight important information
  • Connect other channels
  • Use custom tabs within your Facebook page
  • Maintain consistent branding across Facebook page

All in all great examples and ideas that hopefully can sway a skeptical B2B market audience to do more with Facebook.

How to Create a B2B Content Culture

b2b-content-sales-lionB2B marketers know that content creation – and blogs in particular – is a critical part of the marketing arsenal. Yet many balk at the thought of creating new content on a consistent basis. How do you get enough ideas? How do you create content that keeps readers coming back? And how do you do it all when content isn’t the only thing you’re responsible for?

At MarketingProf’s B2B Marketing Forum, Marcus Sheridan (otherwise known as The Sales Lion provided some answers to those questions.

As a person who runs a blog or two and is a contributor to several others, I’m always on the lookout for new ideas on how to keep the content machine going. Here are some of the points that really resonated with me.

Learn to Teach

When I have a business decision to make, I start by doing my research online. I would guess that you do too. With that thought in mind, Sheridan advises that you begin to think of yourself as a teacher, with your blog posts being the classroom material.

Consider the questions your customers ask when they’re researching your products or solutions. Do they want to know about something that’s related to your industry but doesn’t directly have to do with your products? Write about that. Do they want to know about how you stack up vs the competition? Write a fair and honest comparison – without shying away about the pros and cons of everyone, including you. Do they want to know about pricing? Write about how much your offering costs. (Sheridan says it’s also OK to answer “it depends” on that one – as long as you explain why.)

Be the best and most honest teacher around and you’ll gain customer trust. Gain customer trust and you’re on your way to making a sale.

Be Honest and Transparent

I mentioned this in the section above, but it was something Sheridan stressed repeatedly and I heartily agree with him. You MUST be as honest and transparent as possible. The moment a customer feels like a business is hiding something, the trust is lost. And it’s not something you’re going to get back.

Don’t shy away from hard topics just because you’re worried about what the customer will think. Not talking about a subject as nearly as bad as being dishonest about it. For example, say on your website who might not be interested in being your customer and why that’s so. Sheridan even went so far as to say, “It’s more important to say on your website who you’re not a good match for than who you are a good match for.”

Keep It Simple, Stupid

The goal of great content is to keep it accessible. Don’t get caught up in technical speak. I find this often happens when I’m working with bloggers. They are super smart people, but they are so caught up in being experts in their space that they forget that the rest of us don’t know every acronym in the book.

This is not to say that you can never go into technical detail. However, be aware that many of your readers won’t understand you unless you explain what you’re saying in clear and straightforward language.

Don’t Go It Alone

Eliminate the barriers between sales, marketing, customer support, and any other group that talks to customers. These are the best people to get blog topics from, because they hear the questions your clients and prospects ask every day.

Get a group of customer-facing employees together in a room and take an hour to brainstorm a list of questions they hear on a consistent basis. Write them all down and you’ll likely have enough blog post topics to take you through the next few months, if not the next year.

There is power in using multiple employees to produce content and build the company brand. Develop a corporate culture of listening and teaching – these are powerful tools.

Moreover, understand that there are different personality types in your company. Some people are better for taking on certain jobs than others. For instance, there are writers who can produce text-based blog posts. But there are also actors who would do better with video, talkers who could create great podcasts, and questioners who are great for brainstorming about new topics. Each person is valuable. Use their strengths to your advantage.

A final, bonus tip: recognize that developing a content culture isn’t a one-time thing. Keep the content culture going through newsletters and trainings throughout the year. No doubt it adds to the workload, but persevere – it’s worth it!

5 Smart Tips for B2B Content Marketing

b2b-content-marketing-hand-5-tipsAccording to a recent study, buyers contact a sales representative after 70% of the buying decision is made. What does this mean? People do their research online before they even begin to talk with you. So if you don’t have content that interests them, you’ve lost the sale before you’ve begun.

Shelly Kramer and Amy Vernon discussed this subject at the MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum. As Vernon says, organizations need a content strategy, a social media presence, and an understanding of how to connect them both to business objectives. After all, Kramer adds, today’s marketing process, known as “inbound marketing,” is all about attracting people with good content, converting them to prospects, closing the deal, and then continuing to delight them so they return for more.

According to Vernon and Kramer, here are the five steps you need to take to make that process a reality.

1. Develop and Implement a Strategy

Know what your end-game is, because if you don’t know what your goals are, you’ll never reach them. And in order to accomplish your goals, you need to have a strategy.

It’s important to note that developing a content strategy should never be done by marketing alone. You need to talk with sales, customer service, and product management as well. Everyone needs to work together to develop the strategy and everyone needs to contribute knowledge to your ever growing content repository, even if marketing eventually does the writing and/or editing.

2. Produce Good Content

Producing good content involves a number of factors: smart people, good writers, editors who can make the pieces more search-friendly, and more. The most important thing to remember when producing content is not to stop. As someone once told me, the biggest reason corporate blogs die is because people stop writing in them.

Having trouble figuring out what to write each week? Vernon and Kramer suggest putting together an editorial calendar, so you can more easily map content to strategy. For instance, you can easily write several posts about a single event your organization is attending: one pre-event post, one during event post, and one after-event post.

It’s also important to remember that posts can be simple as long as they’re useful. For example, you can put together a “blog posts greatest hits,” where you highlight a group of related posts that got a lot of views in the past. Posts don’t have to be complex; they just have to be consistent.

One other point – you have to be viewed as authoritative. One way to do that is to make your blog into a resource by linking to additional content outside of your material (such as a relevant blog or news article).

3. Be Where Your Customers Are

Social media alone is not enough – use it as one of your tools, not the only tool. As Amy Vernon says, ”Figure out where your audience is and go there.”

A multi-channel approach allows you to include everything from email to Twitter to advertising to guest posting and more. Wherever your audience does its research is where you want to be seen.

At the same time, don’t worry about the number of followers you have on each channel. In the wise words of Vernon, having the right 500 connections is better than having thousands of followers who aren’t engaged.

Furthermore, B2B companies must have a strong presence on LinkedIn. According to Vernon, it’s the most important platform for B2B. Kramer added that Google views LinkedIn as very credible – don’t disregard its power.

4. Use the Tools Available

There is an ever-growing list of tools available for monitoring and utilizing social media. Kramer and Vernon listed quite a few in their talk. Here’s a sample for you to explore:

Free tools to evaluate your website: HubSpot’s Grader, WebsiteOptimization.com, HubShout

Paid tools inbound marketing tools: HubSpot and Moz

A globally-recognized avatar for use when commenting on blogs: Gravatar

Alerts regarding news that is good for enhancing content: Newsle, Social Mention, TalkWalker

Tools to build your social networks: FollowerWonk, WeFollow, Twibes

Tools for building an editorial calendar: DivvyHQ, Kapost

5. Track Your Success

Although it’s listed last, this is one of the most important steps. If you don’t track your accomplishments, you’ll never know if you hit the goals you set for yourself when developing your strategy. Use the tools listed above to make decisions based on your audience’s actions. Become data-driven, and let that drive tweaks in your content strategy.

Photo: Flickr

What is Harder about B2B Blogging? Starting or Continuing?

b2b-blogging-getting-startedThere is no doubt that blogging for a B2B company is hard. Every day, or every week if you are getting started, you need to publish well-written, thoughtful posts that speak to your audience about their own business issues, while at the same time avoiding product-focused sales pitches and repurposed press releases. Seasoned content marketers don’t see this as a problem. They create content all day long. Night and day. With eyes opened and closed.

But for traditional marketers it is not that easy. And team-of-one marketers. And small business owners. It can be hard to find the time. Or the existing content. Or the creative ideas. But if you start dedicating a bit of time each day or week to focus on creating great blog content, it will become easier and more natural.

Trying to figure out how to get started? The links below provide different perspectives on blogging that are relevant for B2B marketers, and will get you thinking. But don’t just sit around reading blog posts on the internet. Talk to your salespeople. Talk to customer service. Learn what issues keep customers and prospects awake at night. Can you provide resources that can help? Not product pitches, but education. Use your blog to become a trusted resource.

Remember that B2B blogging is a long game. Whether you are looking at the ongoing search traffic or supporting a long sales cycle, both ideas should inspire you to keep blogging. Several of the posts below should provide some new inspiration to keep you going. And if you are the kind of person inspired by stats, according to Hubspot, 92% of companies who blogged multiple times a day acquired a customer through their blog.

Are there other recent resources that have inspired your B2B blogging? Share them below.

People Do Not Follow Blogs – They Read Articles
What do you do when you enter the URL of a highly established blog into your browser? Do you read every article you see on the front page? Likely, you don’t. Instead, you quickly skim through the headlines to see if there is something that actually interests you. You click on those headlines that seem relevant or intriguing, then you read the first several lines.
Continue reading

Blogging best practices: 8 ideas for curated blog posts
The blog is a critical centerpiece to your content marketing efforts. And it is also the content platform that is most difficult for organizations to maintain the pacing and quality necessary to compete. One of the best things you can do is curate. My only warning is that curating done poorly and cheaply can turn people off. However, curating done well is a scalable way to create great content.
Continue reading

Is Blogging Still Relevant in a World of Social Media?
I must hear this question – or a variation of it – at least once a week. So I thought I’d open it up for some discussion to the wider community. My feeling is that blogging is a very relevant option for developing a web presence but as the question states – there are other legitimate options too.
Continue reading

13 Dumb Mistakes Making Your Business Blog Drab, Smelly, and Sleazy
Let’s be honest. Creating a blog is tough. Blogging requires writing skills; enthusiasm about your company; and industry expertise. It requires energy, creativity, and perseverance. You can’t expect your blog to produce results straightaway. Depending on your industry and online competition, it may take three to six months, or sometimes even longer to generate results.
Continue reading

The Unremarked Death of Another Business Blog
The biggest issue with content marketing is, clearly, THE CONTENT. There are many great tools to solve the issue of how to promote and manage your content: Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and the social networks themselves. For most organizations though, as we can see, that is the least of their worries … as they have no content to manage and share.
Continue reading

Photo credit: Flickr

9 B2B Social Media Lessons from Buzzfeed CEO Memo

b2b-content-buzzfeedJonah Peretti, Founder and CEO of Buzzfeed, the content site that is the source of those crazy Facebook posts that your friends share but you never do, posted an internal memo with the year’s upcoming plan on LinkedIn. In it he revealed that Buzzfeed drove 85 million unique visitors in August, that they are 3X bigger than they were last year, and by this time next year they will be one of the biggest sites on the web.

How did they grow to become this content behemoth? By publishing list posts, or listicles as they are now called. There is a list about everything and everywhere. No matter what you are interested in or where you come from there’s a post like The 29 Most Minnesotan Things That Ever Happened. There’s a lot of retro and nostalgia posts like 15 TV Shows From Your Childhood You Didn’t Know Had Book Versions and there are even posts that appeal to the social media set. This post, Who Tweeted About It First? A Peek At Twitter’s Early Archives, uses a new Twitter search archive and discovers the first tweets around certain topics. I would share that post. And the title of the post is not as sensational as others on the site.

In true Buzzfeed fashion, Paretti’s memo was written in list form, and I have adapted his headings to the lessons in this post, so B2B marketers can improve their own social media and content creation efforts.

1. News

Even though Buzzfeed made their name on fun posts, they take their news coverage very seriously. While you are here to watch cat videos, read more about what Congress is up to. And it seems to be working. Company news may not be the best content for your B2B company, but industry news filtered through your subject matter experts or industry leaders is. News is becoming personalized, so anything you can do to show your site or blog visitors how the news is relevant to them will be to your advantage.

2. Formats

Yes, they live by the list, but Buzzfeed creates a variety of content, including some they have invented. Have you seen a “rubbable” GIF that you can control with your mouse? Thanks Buzzfeed. Different members of your audience consume different types of contents at different times. Experiment with different types of blog posts. Explore visual content. Even consider audio or podcasts, especially if your mobile audience is growing.

3. Video

Nobody is expecting B2B Marketers to build a video studio and hire a full team of video producers like Buzzfeed did, but video is an easy way to tell a story, highlight a customer or employee, provide customer service how-tos and even entertain. Choose from 6 seconds, 15 seconds or even 2-3 minutes. Make sure you consider the environment in which your customers and prospects watch video. It is as likely to be on a smartphone or tablet in the middle of a train or bus.

4. Mobile

The Buzzfeed CEO freely admits that all their mobile traffic is due to luck. The same is true for you. Visitors are turning to mobile devices and B2B companies are not following. If a prospect can’t find what he’s looking for due to a poor mobile experience it is unlikely he will return from a desktop. And Google mobile search penalizes sites that are not mobile optimized. Learn what responsive design is and talk to your web team about it.

5. International

If your business serves a global audience, follow the Buzzfeed lead and don’t create separate outlets for every country but maintain one central repository and build dynamic localization processes into the site. Even social media posts, especially LinkedIn company updates, can be targeted by geography and language.

6. Business

You better believe that Buzzfeed is a business and their goals are to create interesting content that people share and to find interesting ways to get companies to sponsor that content. It’s a business model and it’s working. Social media needs to be core to your business activities for anyone to take it seriously. If a small group of B2B marketers are running a blog and posting updates on social channels, but nobody in management understands the business value, the activities could be all in vain. As companies change course this team can fall by the wayside.

7. Advertising

Buzzfeed is building a site that advertisers must include in their plans. The business model dictates that companies pay to participate. But is there something in your social media activities, for example, a leading blog, important video interview series, even an ebook that becomes wildly popular in your industry, that customers or prospects just have to be a part of? Would they pay for that privilege? Companies pay to sponsor corporate events? Is this idea that different?

8. Team

You may be a social media team of one, but always look for additional support from other teams, even on an ad hoc basis. If you are successful, you will need additional people. It seems like Buzzfeed’s structure is flexible and as teams get too big, they break apart into smaller teams. Make sure you have the right balance between strategy and execution as a team grows or changes. In a team of one, it is mostly about execution with a little bit of strategy, but you can control how the team grows by who that next person is.

9. Focus

And finally, hard as it may be to believe, there are lots of things that Buzzfeed doesn’t do. They focus on their core activities and soundly reject ones that don’t help drive them to their goals. Focus on goals that are important to building your social presence, important to other company marketing activities, like lead generation or customer retention, and important to executives. Single-minded focus on what matters is how you can succeed.

And just to honor Buzzfeed, here’s an animated GIF of two corgis playing tetherball. I can watch this for hours.

The Four Pillars of B2B Content Strategy

Click to enlargeI was approached the other day by one of our clients, the CMO of a technology firm who asked me my thoughts on his company’s content strategy. The CMO said, “We have a lot of smart people who develop a lot of good content, but something tells me we’re not really getting value out of our content efforts – what are your thoughts?”

After taking a look at what they were doing, I agreed that they had a lot of good content. I also agreed there was much more they could do. When thinking about B2B content strategy, you should consider four main pillars.

1. Space

What space do you want to own?

The first pillar of content strategy is Space. In other words, you must determine what space you want to own as it relates to content. This is different from defining your positioning strategy, and it is also different from determining your value proposition. Positioning and value proposition refer to the solution you offer. However, the space you want to own is about the problems your target market faces. You want to be known as a company that is highly knowledgeable about both the problem and its related solutions. You want to provide thought leadership, insights, ideas and education.

The beauty of gaining clarity on this pillar is that it informs both your positioning strategy and your overall marketing plan. It also defines your SEO strategy.

Think about the problem your potential customer has, and brainstorm how you can provide value through your content; then serve it up to them, thereby owning that space.

2. Production

How do you make it easy to produce?

You almost certainly have a lot of content available to you. That content is currently locked inside the heads of the smartest people in your company. The trick is to get that content out of their heads; that is called Production. Production is the second pillar of your content strategy.

Sometimes your thought leaders can write clearly, effectively, and engagingly. But most of the time, thought leaders need help with that production. Not only do they need an easy way to get the information out of their heads, but they need someone who can take that information and put it into a compelling and coherent message.

The companies that are most successful at producing excellent content use a marketing services bureau approach to pulling that information out of the heads of thought leaders. In your case, the marketing team should play this role.

The key to this production model is to make it extremely easy to get the raw material out, whether that’s through an interview, by drafting documents or by creating an outline.

It is then up to the marketing team to take that raw material and use it to create the best first deliverable. After that, it’s time to think about follow-up deliverables; and that is the third pillar.

3. Repurposing

How do you repurpose it to get the most out of it?

If you are engaged in a content strategy, it is very likely that you are so focused on content development that you’ve missed one of the greatest content strategy opportunities – content repurposing. Content repurposing is where you take the raw material discussed earlier and present it in a different way.

For example, when you interview a thought leader, your objective is to create raw material. Frequently, someone already has a specific deliverable in mind for that raw content. It could be a blog post, a presentation or an article, but it’s usually only one of those things, rather than all of them. Here is where content repurposing comes into play.

Once you’ve mined that raw material, you should start with the highest value output and go from there. For example, you might be producing the content for a blog post related to a product launch. Marketing can help the thought leader develop the blog post. But the next step is to repurpose that blog post. And that step is imperative.

If it’s a long blog post, it could be repurposed into several smaller blog posts. Create visuals to help tell the story. Why? Because visuals are what create readership and increase sharing. Those visuals, along with the text of the blog post, can be turned into a presentation. That presentation can be turned into a video with voiceover. That video with a voiceover can be turned into a podcast. The possibilities are endless. The point here is that you should put just as much energy into repurposing as you put into creating the original content.

4. Promotion

How do you promote it to maximize its value once it exists?

You may feel that producing content is good enough and that once it’s been published, the content will be found. This is a mistake. You need to promote that content and get it seen. Promotion isn’t difficult; it’s the discipline around promotion that is difficult. Using the example of the raw material that turned into a blog post and was then repurposed, here are some ways to think about promoting that content.

Use Social Media
Create a posting cadence across all of your social channels to alert people to the availability of your content. In other words, tweet about it, and post it on Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn more than once. Post at different times of the day, and spread your effort out over days, weeks and months. Too many people are worried about posting material more than once. Social channels need to be looked at like a waterfall. Once that water has passed, no one is going to see it again, so when your readers revisit the waterfall, you want to present them with material they may have missed before.

Publish on Other Social Properties
Try to get your material published on other (non-owned) social properties. Not only can the deliverable be published, but that thought leadership content could be an enticement to get your thought leader interviewed for a podcast, a webinar or even for a speaking opportunity.

Engage with those who Curate Content
Be sure to develop a relationship with the people who curate your content. Don’t just promote the content in front of you. Rather, think of promoting a stream of content that comes from that thought leader and your company. This means that people who curate your content today will pay attention to content you produce in the future. It’s important to acknowledge their curation and create engagement with them.

Approaching your B2B content strategy by leveraging these four pillars will increase the impact of your thought leadership, and help you achieve your marketing goals.