Thoughts about Google Plus to Inspire B2B Adoption

As a preview to its launch of Google Plus last week, Google launched the +1 button last month. In my post at the time, I wrote that one of the biggest problems for the use of the recommendation button for B2B companies was its reliance on people’s Google network, not their professional network. This network exists in their work email and LinkedIn network. I offered a suggestion to bring business network relevance to the search benefit of +1. With the new Google Plus social network, Google already provides a connection to your LinkedIn network as part of your social graph.

From a business perspective, it is still too early to use Google Plus, but you can already start thinking about the benefits and how you will use it for your B2B company. Google has announced that there will be business specific functions coming, but for now Google Plus is based on personal profiles. The following articles provide some context for your inspiration, rather than explain the platform. So many articles have been written and shared in the past week, that I figured if you were interested, you have already read them and are aware of the details.

Remember that at its heart, Google Plus is about tying social to search so Google can provide you better search results based on your social graph. Jay Baer’s post on Convince & Convert below does a great job explaining why this is so important to Google. If you have thoughts about how you can use Google Plus for your B2B company, let us know in the comments below.

The Google Plus 50
from Chris Brogan
If you’re curious about Google+, the new social network platform from Google, you’re not alone. I’ve logged several hours already on the platform, experimenting, testing, and observing. It sparks my attention from several angles: marketing, technology, community, media, mobile, advertising, and more. To that end, I wrote down 50 things to think about with regards to Google+, in no particular order.
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Why Google Has the Hammer To Make Businesses Use Google Plus
from Convince & Convert
My initial, abbreviated take is that Google’s new social toy is essentially a Facebook Twitter hybrid with outstanding ease-of-use and eye-popping potential. In the very first release, Plus has a killer integration with Picasa (Google’s photo service), and its live video chat feature (called Hangout) could very easily become a Skype killer. The most obvious and ballyhooed functionality is the Circles paradigm, which puts segmenting your contacts front-and-center and makes it an easy process via drag and drop controls.
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Why Google+ Doesn’t Stand a Chance Against Facebook
from Social Media Today
So by now, you’ve likely heard Google+ is coming to an internet near you. You may have taken a look at the demo, or gotten an early invitation, you might think this could usher in the next generation of social networking. And you might be right. I’ll admit, I’m anxious to see if Google’s actually gotten it right this time.
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How to measure Google Plus with analytics
from Christopher S. Penn
Right now, Google Plus (hereafter lazily abbreviated as G+) is in its infancy. That said, it’s certainly got the buzz and the shine that social media folks have been craving for some time. It’s got the ease of Facebook plus the asymmetric relationship nature of Twitter. As a result, expect marketers to flock there in droves as they get invited. Shortly after their arrival and spamming of their friends, the inevitable question will be asked:

How do you measure this thing?
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Google+ Invites
from sbdc blog
Traditionally, invites have been handled via a company giving out a set number of invites to beta users who then decide who to send those invites to. But with Google+, they are doing something different. Rather than giving beta users a set number of invites, they are systemwide making invites an option or not. They are turning on the invite/sign up process when they want to add to the userbase, and then turning it off when they think they have enough people.
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3 Private Social Community Options for B2B Companies

What do you do when your B2B company wants to establish a social community but only for a select audience? Well, there are options. Creating a private community environment with the ability to control member enrollment is key, and making sure your community understands that it is a select group of qualified individuals will help keep the environment focused and held in high regard.

Many popular social networking tools don’t provide a logical space for this kind of community organization (like Facebook and Twitter), but there are a handful of options and likely one will fulfill your B2B social media requirements.

1. A Hosted Private Community
Building a private community provides the ability to fully control your community access, while offering a full set of social networking features. There are several solutions that will allow you to quickly and easily establish a social community using third party software and host it on their servers. The most popular options are Ning, KickApps and SocialGo.

The benefits to using these tools include a quick development timeframe (hours, not days) and support is usually readily available from the developer or from other users in forums or message boards. Most technologies are very customizable and the financial commitment is minimal, if not free.

2. A Private Community on your server
If you must retain control of your content for legal or security reasons (you may not want proprietary information on a third party server), you may need to consider developing a community using software you can install on your own webserver. Some of these options are add-ons or modules to a CMS (content management system) package and some are stand-alone applications.

Among the options to consider are JomSocial which integrates with Joomla CMS, Elgg, Pligg and Dolphin.

Setup of the software will require some technical assistance, and then you’ll want to customize the look and feel and the functionality to your requirements. However, once established, the community will operate in a very secure environment and you’ll retain full control over the content.

3. LinkedIn Groups
LinkedIn can also be used for private communities. Simply establish a group and send out invitations. The community creator will be able to control who joins. You can also create subgroups to further organize your members.

A private LinkedIn Group can be setup in no time, and you already have a contact list to use for the initial invitations. On top of this, LinkedIn makes it easy to send weekly messages to the group, create discussions and share information.

Managing Your Private Community
No matter which private community you choose to create, once its launched your work has just begun. Make sure you’re ready to manage it properly. To learn more about managing your community you should read Chris Brogan’s Essential Skills of a Community Manager, 3 Tips for Managing a Social Media Community or get a first hand account from Amber Naslund about Being a Director of Community.

Is a private social community in your plans? What options are you considering? Do you already have one? If so, please share your experiences.

4 Things to Know When Pitching B2B Bloggers

While hundreds of blog posts have been written on the topic of pitching bloggers by both bloggers and communication professionals such as Chris Brogan, Jason Falls and Arik Hanson, not much has been written about the unique requirements when approaching B2B bloggers.

Pitching a blogger is very similar to pitching a mainstream media journalist. Relevance and timeliness remain the two most importance factors in a pitch; in fact, these factors are even more important in the blogging world. Do it wrong and you could be made an example of and outed on the Bad Pitch Blog.

Bloggers tend to be much more specialized than their mainstream counterparts, who, as newsrooms around the world shrink, may cover crime, food and finance beats all in the same day. Bloggers, on the other hand, craft their content more carefully around their passions. This makes relevance even more key, as a blogger can’t e-mail your pitch to his or her co-worker who covers that beat. Similarly, the issue of timeliness in the 24/7, around-the-clock, insta-publish social space brings a new meaning to the news release term “For Immediate Release.”

Some points to consider:

  • Actually read the blog. Whether you subscribe to it in a news reader or do a quick scan once a month, get a handle for the blogger’s tone, writing and opinions.
  • Search for the term “pitch” and “pitching” among the blog posts. This may yield a post that details exactly how that blogger would like to be approached with ideas for content. Check the about page or other pages on the blog.
  • Establish a baseline relationship by following the blogger on Twitter and commenting on his or her blog.
  • Make sure the blogger has access to images, screenshots, link, etc. that will help him or her directly drop those into a post.
  • Personalize, personalize, personalize. Put yourself in the blogger’s shoes – if you received this e-mail, would you immediately drag, drop and delete?
  • Don’t attach a news release. If you can’t relate how your information is important to a blog’s readers in a paragraph or two, reconsider your angle.

What are some things that are different when you pitch a B2B blogger? When you have a story, product, person or example you think could provide great content for a B2B blog, here are some things to think about:

1. Ideas > Products

In the Mom Blogger space, many companies have garnered mentions on influential blogs by sending out products such as toys, food and clothing for review. It’s much harder to send a blogger the latest copy machine or tractor.

Instead, pitch guest posts about your experience in the B2B space. Many bloggers would be hesitant to publish a guest post from a company on one of its products. However, a guest post from a company on its experience with a specific marketing campaign, its social media strategy or its approach to direct mail will be valuable across the board.

“Products” B2B bloggers are interested in: books, upcoming events, software and mobile applications that will make life easier for B2B industry professionals.

2. Logistics

Like B2C bloggers, B2B bloggers probably aren’t blogging full-time. They have a day job, multiple part-time jobs, consultancies and a fast-paced travel schedule. In the B2B space, this is multiplied even further when you consider B2B relationships revolve around much longer sales cycles and much more expensive buying considerations.

Also, make sure you know if the blogger you’re targeting can actually write about your pitch. Is he or she writing for a company blog legally bound not to accept products for review? Does the blogger write a personal B2B blog, but works at a competing company? Investigate this by adhering to the bullets laid out above, or by e-mailing the blogger asking about his or her parameters and preferences.

3. It’s a small word, after all

There aren’t as many B2B bloggers as there are B2C bloggers, especially when you begin breaking things down by industry. While that limits the sheer number of bloggers out there who can create content, use this to your advantage.

Curate a manageable list of B2B bloggers that speak to you and your industry and develop relationships with them on a level beyond comments and retweets. Know the players, and know what topics spark their interests. By putting your name out there and delivering valuable information, you can get on the short(er) list of B2B bloggers’ short list of go-to individuals when they need content.

4. You’re probably talking to a marketer. Remember that.

Jason Falls wrote this post on things bloggers should know about PR and advertising, after noticing some bloggers confusing pitches with paid content. B2B bloggers don’t fall under that category.

While they may not have a strict PR, advertising or even journalism background, the simple fact that they’re talking about B2B on a blog shows that they’re in-the-know on the communication mix. Vista Consulting says the B2B buyer “is sophisticated, understands your product or service better than you do, and wants or needs to buy products or services to help their company stay profitable, competitive, and successful,” and the B2B blogger is no different.

Use this to your advantage: Skip the formalities and don’t be afraid to delve into details. He or she will appreciate that you recognize their expertise and experience, and you’ll get to the heart of your message faster.

If you’re a PR pro – do you have any success stories for what worked when pitching B2B bloggers?

6 Books Every B2B Social Media Marketer Should Read

UPDATE: Since writing this post several years ago a new book has been releases. Kipp Bodnar and Jeffrey L Cohen have written The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More. This book serves as the definitive guide to social media marketing for B2B companies and will teach you how to master social media lead generation. Order The B2B Social Media Book today!

Original Post:
In a world where 500 word blog posts rule our everyday reading and information is discovered through social networks and search engines, is there still a place for the 300 page business book? Yes, information may be less scarce today, but much of the information that is available lacks the depth of thinking that only a thoughtful book can provide.

As we all leverage the possibilities of the social web to help serve as a catalyst in our Business-to-Business organizations, we need reference information to buttress our ideas. We have picked out 6 books that every B2B social media marketer to should read regardless if they are new to social media or a social media veteran.

In no particular order:

Groundswell_ Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies (9781422125007)_ Charlene Li, Josh Bernoff_ Books
1. Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff – By many opinions Groundswell is one of the best written and well received books about the social web. It makes our list because it integrates simple examples with rich statistical information. Published in 2007 many of the statistics are now vastly different, however, Groundswell is an ideal book to help you understand the basics, as well as something that you can give to senior management to read.

Trust Agents_ Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust (9780470743089)_ Chris Brogan, Julien Smith_ Books
2. Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust by Chris Brogan and Julien SmithTrust Agents has only been released for for a few months and has already made its way onto the New York Times Bestseller List. How did a pair of first time authors accomplish this? They used pop culture references and practical business examples to outline how the social web can help build and bolster trust. Trust Agents also offers breakout boxes that empower readers with the step-by-step knowledge they need to set up a blog, monitor social media and a host of other skills necessary to be competitive in today’s online business environment.

Amazon.com_ Tribes_ We Need You to Lead Us (9781591842330)_ Seth Godin_ Books

3. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin – Over the past several years Seth Godin has made a name for himself writing marketing books that help change the way people think about marketing. We did not pick any of those for our list, instead we picked Tribes because it is about leadership. As B2B Social Media marketers you are going to have to sell ideas, convince management and most of all change your corporate culture.  None of these difficult and critical tasks are possible without leadership. Secondly, it is vital to the success of your company that it becomes a leader in its industry, and the social web is only a catalyst to help bolster the leadership abilities of an organization.  In Tribes, Godin shows us practical examples of individuals and companies using the web for leadership and how doing this transforms marketing.

Amazon.com_ Made to Stick_ Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (9781400064281)_ Chip Heath, Dan Heath_ Books
4. Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die by Chip Heath and Dan Heath – Social Media helps to scale word-of-mouth, meaning more information can travel to more people, faster. Though we have this ability to share information, it is still only great, relevant ideas that get spread, while boring and spam ideas fail. The concept of successful ideas is so important that you do need to read an entire book about it. Their is no better book than Made to Stick. The Heath brothers have written the pitch perfect book to explain what makes an idea survive.

Amazon.com_ Presentation Zen_ Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery (9780321525659)_ Garr Reynolds_ Books
5 Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery by Garr Reynolds – If you have read the first four books on our list you have learned about marketing, building relationships, leaderships, and developing great ideas. All of these things are worthless if you can not present them effectively. Whether it is a simple coffee shop conversation or a major client meeting, the confident and clear presentation of ideas is often the ultimate deciding factor of success, even more than the quality of the ideas themselves.  Garr Reynolds has transformed the way many people think about presenting and he can do the same thing for you.

Amazon.com_ Six Pixels of Separation_ Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone. (9780446548236)_ Mitch Joel_ Books

6. Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone Is Connected. Connect Your Business to Everyone by Mitch Joel – Mitch Joel is a master of marketing and ideas. Six Pixels of Separation takes the discussion of branding digital and informs us how digital tools can build brands and new businesses.  Joel’s simple and clear writing style will win over management who are used to the same style from authors like Seth Godin. While this book is written for the general business person, and builds on the basics of the online world, even the most seasoned among us will find some examples of tactics to add to the mix.

We are aware that their are far more than six books that are worthy of the attention of B2B social media marketers, but we had to start somewhere. We hope that you find these books helpful. Please leave us comment below for books that should make our next list!

The CRM + Social Media Problem

“Relationships” is the one word we all hear when talking to B2B sales driven organizations. To the sales team and executives relationships are critical to closing a sale. For this reason most companies use some type of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. CRM software allows organizations to have dynamic records of their customers complete with contact information, business information, notes, etc. CRM data is priceless to many companies, but as the social web develops incorporating user generated content is critical to improving customer relationships.

Social media as moved past a marketing and communications function to become a function important to all aspects of business. I have long thought that integrating data from the social web into CRM systems will be a key opportunity for improving B2B relationships and sales. With the increase in popularity of real-time social applications like Twitter and FriendFeed the issue takes even greater importance. This social data will begin to change the design and features of CRM software and the demand for customized real-time information will become a “need” not a “want” for B2B sales forces.

Though this issue is often under discussed, I want to give create to Chris Brogan and the team at Radian6 for putting together a Rockstars of Social CRM event and then sharing the video on the web for all of us to learn from. The video is below and contains some great information on social CRM, you may want to skip the first minute or two if you already know about Radian6 and their SalesForce.com integration.