Find a B2B Social Media Internal Champion

As social media finds its way into more B2B marketing plans, being a lone advocate for customer engagement and sharing valuable content online can be a difficult situation. If you are charged with creating the social media part of that plan, it would help if there are others within your company who understand the value of social media and can spread the word. These are not necessarily executive level champions, although those need to exist if you are to be successful, but people in other departments who have begun using social media. Here are some ways you can find other internal champions within your company.

1. Talk to Colleagues
Depending on the size of your company, you may already know who in your company is using Twitter or has an industry blog, however, if you don’t, start by asking others. If someone is using the social web to connect and communicate with others in the industry, it is very likely people in your company are already aware of it. Since a big part of social media is sharing, these bloggers are certainly sharing their posts with colleagues.

2. Host a Lunch and Learn
Company meetings to present information and share the latest topics relevant in your industry are great ways to find other social media advocates. Present a basic social media overview, and those already using it will attend to see what you have to say. It will be obvious by the questions and comments that some people are already adept at using social media, so make sure you seek those people out after the meeting. That is, if they don’t seek you out first.

3. Seek Out Smartphone Users
Keeping up with social networks, especially in a corporate environment, is easily done on a smartphone. While many corporate folks are constantly checking their email on their BlackBerry, look for those who seem to be checking Twitter, Facebook and maybe even checking in using location-based apps on their smartphone.

4. Search Twitter
Use Twitter search tools to find people tweeting about your company and industry. Sometimes it will surprise you to find that there are internal people talking about your company to the industry. They understand the platform and are building an industry network to communicate with. These are people who can assist in the company’s social media success by sharing relevant company information and explaining the value of social media to others within the company.

5. Search Industry Blogs and Forums
In any industry there are people thinking and writing about relevant industry topics. By searching blogs, forums and other online spaces for your company mentions and other key industry terms, you may find a leading industry blogger who works for your company. If they do not identify with your company by name (for example, a leading technology company), don’t assume they will move their blog within the corporate marketing space. There is value for both them and the company to be an independent blogger. You may also find company employees blogging about non-work related topics. As people who understand the platform, they may be willing to start blogging on a company site about industry topics.

6. Ask the Intern
It is a common misconception that younger employees are fully versed in social media, but that is not always the case. Even so, don’t overlook company interns as people who can help execute social media plans, with guidance, of course. They are also a good resource to identify others who are using social platforms.

What are some other ways you have identified social media practitioners within your company?

4 Ways to Bridge the Social Media Gap With B2B Sales Team

The common disconnect between B2B sales and marketing teams has recently been amplified by the emergence of social media. When it comes to B2B social media efforts, salespeople often have very little exposure and experience with both professional and personal usage of social sites and new media.

As this blog post points out, the two segments have different cultures, mindsets and compensation structures. Although sales staff may not understand the ins and outs of marketing strategies, timelines and budgets, they were at least familiar with more traditional approaches such as public relations, customer service and advertising, and understood these methods have proven returns for their overall sales goals.

As B2B communicators begin to use social media to support lead generation, it’s important to provide tangible measurements and examples of how sites such as Facebook, company and industry blogs, Twitter and LinkedIn can build new customer relationships, foster existing connections and, ultimately, move product out the door.

Here are four ways to begin to bridge the gap between B2B social media and B2B sales teams:

1. Create regular social media updates

Your sales force is constantly seeking information about new prospects, market news and sales forecasts, leaving little time to catch up on the latest social media news, scan competitors’ blogs or do a Twitter search on an upcoming tradeshow. A regular newsflash – sent weekly or monthly – can keep the sales team up to speed on general and industry social media news and up to date on internal and competitor updates.

Not sure what to include? Recap breaking social media news from the previous week (such as Twitter Ads or Facebook’s new “Like” feature) that could impact internal social media efforts; round-up blog posts from industry thought leaders; link to transcripts of applicable Twitter chats; point out changes and updates to competitors’ social media sites; highlight a post on the company blog that received more attention than usual; and suggest new blogs and Twitter accounts that could help the team learn more about sales, the industry or social media in general.

2. Leverage existing communication tools

If your PR staff is doing its job, your sales team has discovered communication tools that pull double-duty by satisfying brand awareness and supporting lead generation at the same time. Perhaps you’re already sending out a quarterly e-newsletter to influencers, providing special offers to new customers or hosting a monthly networking event for industry members to meet and mingle, and the sales team has seen measurable results.

Find ways to integrate social media efforts into the communication tactics your sales team has already bought into: In the e-newsletter, drive readers back to your blog for more information on a new product. Post those special offers on Twitter and Facebook. Record and tag videos and photos from networking events on Flickr and YouTube, which provides another touch point for sales to reach out to potential customers.

3. Track leads that come from social media

Your B2B sales staff is already tracking the source leads in your CRM system. The sophistication of this system depends on the size of your company, but it is still important to know whether leads are from your Web site, tradeshows, advertisements, referrals or press releases. Similarly, it’s also important to track when leads stem from social media efforts.

Make sure your organization’s sales team can note when a lead comes in from the company blog, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn pages. Close the loop by routing this information back to the PR and marketing team, especially if those leads result in sales, so the data can inform future social media efforts. It may sound simple, but this small step will begin to show B2B salespeople the sales impact of social media.

4. Provide monthly analytics reports to sales team

Just like B2B social media pros use weekly and monthly analytics to measure sentiment and create content strategies, salespeople have specific numbers and measurements that will help shape their own goals.

Find out what information would be helpful to them. Do they want to see blog visitors broken down by location? Would knowing the ages of Facebook fans help them better target their B2B sales efforts? What page within the website receives the most traffic from Twitter, and should it be beefed up with a lead generation form? Knowing the measurements your B2B sales team is interested in will help you provide them with more targeted numbers.

What techniques have helped you communicate social media’s value to your salespeople?

5 Ways to Create Core Content for B2B Blogs

For all blogs, content is king. Between status meetings, financial reports, marketing planning and sales team ramp-ups, however, creating regular B2B blog content can be daunting.

“5 Types of Posts to Feed Your Business Blog” was a Hubspot blog post that compared five very different types of food to the different types of content that best populate a business blog. Author Rick Burnes maintains that between spinach posts (longer posts that showcase your expertise) and roast posts (in-depth posts that require research and showcase data and analysis), all bloggers need some raisin bran:

Raisin Bran – Useful, Everyday Posts

Most of your posts should be raisin bran. They’re very practical and usually framed as how-to advice. Serving dentists? How should they use new tools? Serving restaurants? What’s the most efficient reservation software?

You should work hard to make sure you’re good at these posts — that you can whip them out, and that your readers engage with them and like them.

No matter what industry you’re in, these types posts will serve as core content, round out monthly editorial calendars and allow more time for your staff to focus on “big picture” blog posts. These planned features, which could be included weekly, bi-monthly or monthly, provide readers with regular, expected content.

Here are five core content ideas to start with:

1. News roundups

B2B companies seek and receive news every day, whether it comes from a daily monitoring e-mail sent put together in PR, a Twitter stream, mobile news app or (gasp!) the newspaper. You’re always on the lookout for breaking news, feature stories, columns and opinion pieces that affect your company, your competitors, your customers and your industry. So why not share it?

Putting together a weekly news roundup post helps your readers (and potential customers) stay on top of of the same issues you are monitoring, and provides added value to them by putting all of the week’s important stories in one easily shared post.

Make it happen: Monday is a great day to post a news roundup, as many people are actively seeking news to start off their weeks. Pull together five to seven news articles or blog posts from the week and bullet each out, including the article title, source and a brief excerpt or summary.  Take it one step further by adding your own thoughts and engaging readers by asking a question about each article.

2. Twitter roundups

Similar to a news roundup, a Twitter roundup highlights the people and organizations you find valuable to follow. Memes like Follow Friday exist for a reason: Just like in the business world, it’s worthwhile to recognize and thank people who are valuable contributors.

Make it happen: Use the “favorite” option on Twitter to flag tweets that make you pause, think, disagree or set off a lightbulb in your head. Pull those tweets together at the end of each week and use the data in different ways: The first week of the month could be a list of key industry tweeters to follow; the next, a collection of linked screenshots that connect to interesting blog posts. Feeling extra adventurous? Post tweets that offer up advice, suggestions and opinions sans links – it’s hard enough to relay a worthwhile idea in an entire blog post, let alone in 140 characters or less.

3. Meet the team

Use what – or, this case, who – you’ve got.

Social media helps put a voice, face and name to organizations, making it easy to spotlight employees in your organization who make your business successful. Using an interactive medium such as video breaks up the usual text-heavy paragraphs of blog posts and makes an employee more than just a voice on the other end of a phone call.

Make it happen: Invest in a Flip Cam for less than $200 and use it to interview members of your staff. Blogs are about personality, so dig deeper than questions such as “Where did you go to college?” Use the opportunity to let employees show off their expertise, passions, hobbies and anecdotes. Let them deliver first-hand stories about their experience in the company, without relying on canned talking points. In the text of the post, offer up their contact information so readers can continue the conversation. If your organization is small, use subsequent weeks to check in with team members to see what they’re doing, their thoughts on industry news and predictions for coming months.

4. Mailbag

Think of this feature as an interactive version of the FAQ page on your Web site, and use it to point out features, services, Web site pages, contact information and facts about your organization that readers may not know.

Make it happen: Utilize your sales team – they’re on the ground, talking with customers everyday. What questions do they hear most often? What misconceptions do they run into about your product or services? Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are also good places to find out what kind of information people are searching for.  Invite people to leave their own questions for future Mailbag posts in the blog’s comment section.

5. Social media and (your industry here)

If readers are finding your blog (and using Twitter and Facebook to get there), chances are they’re interested in social media. Spotlight non-competitors, customers, researchers, educators, media and others in your industry who are engaging in social media. This builds relationships, gives the person you interview a reason to link to and promote your blog, and helps you learn something along the way.

Make it happen: Keep an eye out for good candidates and approach them with an interview request. If they’re from out of town, send them a few questions via e-mail, record a podcast over the phone or get extra mileage out of that Flip Camera and interview them in person. Focus on takeaways other could implement from their experience, and ask them how they feel the social space is impacting the industry. When you post the interview, send him or her the link so they can promote it on their sites, and tweet it out using their Twitter handle.

What other types of core content do you use to build out your B2B blog’s editorial calendar?

Business Blogging Isn’t Dead: 4 Reasons Blogs Are Critical To B2B Social Media Success

The coolest thing to do on the Internet, in case you haven’t noticed, is to “kill” something. You see articles each week that declare an application or online practice “dead” because some new shinier application has hit the street to grab all the attention. Most of the time these articles are pure hype designed to drive more traffic to the sites on which they appear. Over the past few months, I have seen too many of these articles, as well as messages on Twitter declaring that blogs are “dead”

I am here to tell you that I think all of those people are wrong, especially when it comes to B2B. In fact I think that the application and implications of blogging for B2B organizations is nearly limitless. However, for today, I am going limit myself to sharing four reasons why blogs are critical for business-to-business organizations.

For B2B organizations Blogs Can:

1. Create An Organization’s Public Hub On The Web
– To have any type of communication, either internal or external on the web, you need a hub of information. This means, one place where your thoughts, insights and expertise exists in its most complete form on the web. For many reasons this hub needs to be a blog. Ask your self these questions. where am I going to send people from Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other networks who want more detailed information about an issue? The answer is your blog.

2. Allow Organizations To Have Ownership – In the world we live in, power and income is directly related to the things we own. The social web is no different. Having a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account etc is like renting an apartment. When you rent an apartment, you have a safe place that is worry-free and you get to spend time with people near by, but ultimately you end up paying for someone else’s building. That is what you are doing for those other services, helping them make money. You are giving up your control. You could be on Facebook for a year and then they could decide to remove your account. It is their right.

Having a blog on your company Web site is like owning a home. You have complete control of what it looks like, the features it has, and most importantly, the information posted to it. You own it and every day you are getting a direct return from your investment. You are seeing an increase in your search traffic and page rank because of the blog, seeing direct lead generation and you have complete control over the site’s analytics. So would you rather rent or own?

3. Make Your Company Human
– One of the things I hear most when it comes to social media for B2B is that organizations say: “we are a manufacturing company, we make X product. Nobody cares about us.” That statement can be perfectly true, but it has nothing to do with the products you make. People don’t care because you haven’t given them a reason to yet.

Part of the way to get people passionate about your company, is to get them involved and show that they have a stake in the final product. That they as customers have a role in making the product better. They want to be connected to your staff and get an inside look at what you do. A blog can be the window into this world. One that you customers may not even realize right now that they want.

4. Facilitate Direct Lead Generation – At the end of the day you have to move the needle and make sales. On the social web blogs provide the best opportunity for lead generation, again because they provide complete control. For example if someone subscribes to get updates from your Facebook fan page on their phone, you can’t send them a message outside of Facebook. This is because Facebook doesn’t give you their number, it sits in Facebook, but can be integrated into your lead generation funnel.

Do you want this? No. Through search traffic and control of actions available on a blog it is possible to generate better quality and more complete leads than through other social platforms.

Blogging isn’t right for all B2B organizations, but it is far from dead.

What are other reasons you blog?