A B2B Social Media Turning Point

Today’s posts for B2B marketers seem to have a negative tone. I didn’t pick them with that in mind, but these are some of the posts that resonated with me this week. This indicates to me that we are at a turning point with B2B social media. According to many statistics, there is a high adoption rate, but marketers are unsure how to proceed to get results, how to measure those results and how to share their successes. Too many companies have “dipped their toe in the water” of social media, and answered yes to survey questions that they are using social media. Many executives are convinced there is no additional cost to social media, because the platforms are free. If you are a B2B marketer struggling with any of these issues, it is time to go outside your organization for additional resources.

The articles below may help inspire you to move forward in a way to achieve measurable results, but on this rainy Friday (where I am), it should at least get you thinking that there is more to social media than pushing out corporate messages.

And thanks to Alan Belniak for his shout-out in the article below about adding Twitter buttons to specific items in a post or ebook. It’s a great way to get your community to share your content.

Survey: 71% of CMOs Feel Unprepared For Today’s Market
from B2B Marketing Insider
As CMOs go full-force into planning mode for their 2012 marketing strategy, a recent report suggests that they are ill-prepared for the changes taking place in the larger business world. This is according to the Global Chief Marketing Officer survey from IBM.
Continue reading

Does Good Content Matter Anymore?
from Direct Marketing Observations
We’re content starved. The emergence of tablets and mobile devices has only enhanced our desire to consume digital content. There’s a problem though. When content producers cannot meet the demands of a ravenous public, things can get ugly and the public walks-digitally speaking.
Continue reading

12 Reasons Your Business Blog is Failing
from Hubspot
Let’s say that a couple of months ago, you decided to really start drinking the inbound marketing Kool-Aid, and you took the plunge: you started a business blog. You put in the time to get it going, published a few posts, and waited for the leads to start rolling in.
Continue reading

Still Pitching to Use Social Media? Here are Three Steps to Take
from B2B Voices
Social media in B2B continues to rise in use. In fact, research from BtoB magazine shows that more than 90 percent of B2B companies are now using some form of social media to communicate with stakeholders. Before you present that B2B social media plan to executives or a client, the best thing to do is prepare. Here are three ways to ensure your pitch is a success.
Continue reading

How to Pre-Populate A Twitter Status On The Web
from Subjectively Speaking
You may have come across a site like this before: you see a nice bit of text (a quote, a joke, something with a hashtag in it) that is shareable. Next to that text is a Twitter icon. You click it, and it bounces you to your browser, opens a new window, and pre-populates a tweet for you. All you need to do is click ‘Tweet’ or make an edit or two, and then click ‘Tweet’.
Continue reading

62% of B2B Marketers’ Biggest Challenge: Lack of Resources

B2B marketers are always facing challenges in their marketing efforts, but in today’s competitive landscape and tough economic climate those challenges are more pronounced than ever before.

In a recent Marketing Sherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, B2B marketers were asked to identify their top challenges in their marketing efforts. The results (click to view larger version):

B2B Marketing Challenges Chart: Marketing Sherpa

The most identified challenge for B2B marketers is the “lack of resources in staffing, budgeting or time.” It was 23% higher than the second biggest challenge, “lack of ability to stop executing and think strategically.”

The report also shows that even the most effective B2B marketing tactics such as website design, SEO and email marketing saw up to a 50% decline in their overall effectiveness from the previous year.

So what does this mean for B2B marketers?  Will B2B marketers embrace solutions that save time or money? Do you have any tips or tricks that you use to make up for lack of resources, time, or budget?

6 Ways To Beat Your B2B Competition Using Social Media

B2B Social Media WinnerB2B companies looking to get a leg up on their competition should consider how social media can help. Through strategic use of the various social media platforms and tools there are several tactics you can implement to help your business position itself ahead of your competitors.

1. Do Your Research
Using social media to thoroughly research your industry and competition will alert you to exactly what is happening in your business space. Setting up the tools and keywords/phrases to monitor your industry is imperative. Cast a wide net of search terms including your business and products, your competitions business and products, industry terms, events, people’s names and Twitter handles within your organization and your competitors, authors and bloggers that cover your industry, twitter hashtags, etc.

2. Identify Opportunities
When you see a topic or trend gain popularity or when you identify a need for a new feature or service, take advantage of the opportunity. Promote your capabilities in that area or get your team working on a solution that you can offer to those that need it.

3. Produce More Educational Content
Realize the decision-makers are doing more research online, and social media is helping facilitate that process. Provide more content to help buyers learn about your products and services, inform them why your solution solves their problems and give them the takeaways they need to educate their colleagues within their organization.

4. Showcase Your Service And Support
B2B customers expect to have their issues resolved when they happen. B2B companies that excel at providing prompt, courteous service and support should highlight this during the customer buying cycle. Because service and support can make or break a B2B purchase decision, demonstrating your competency in this area can put your company at an advantage over another.

5. Ask For Feedback, Then Use It
Customers are always a great resource when you need to see where you’re doing well and where you’re falling short. Asking for feedback can help you identify new opportunities and correct any negative experiences. There are many ways to use social media to solicit feedback, including your Facebook page, Twitter feed and LinkedIn Groups. You can also set up polls or surveys and use your social media connections to request participation.

Once you have the data, analyzing and acting on it is key. If you can satisfy your existing customers, then you’ll meet the needs of new customers as well.

6. Engage Your Customers
Once you have a customer, use them to your advantage. Make sure they connect with you in as many channels as possible, and try to get them to engage frequently. Studies have shown that customers who follow you on social channels are considerably more apt to promote your brand to others. If you can get your customers speaking on your behalf in your social channels it will help immensely as buyers deeply consider customer reviews and testimonials when making purchasing decisions.

Are you using social media to help you beat your competition?  What other tactics are working for you?

Organize Your B2B Social Media Content By Audience

As you create content for the social media outlets of your B2B company, whether they are a blog, Twitter or Facebook, think about who your target audience is for each piece of content. Many marketers clearly define their target audiences in marketing communication plans, but when it comes to social media, the content audience is not always defined as well as it should be. Below are some basic categories of content that are based on your audiences.

For Your Industry
A common content category for B2B companies is content for your industry. As traditional trade publications have folded and reduced their coverage of many industries, companies have an opportunity to provide industry expertise and position themselves as authorities in their space. This type of content needs to focus on high-level industry coverage, not your products or company news. Develop content that would interest the average person in your industry. While many companies are reluctant to discuss competitors, a weekly news round up can include information about competitors.

For Your Customers and Prospects
This is the easiest content to understand, and the category that most people think about when creating content for social media sites. A content plan would include providing solutions to your customers’ and prospects’ problems and answers to their questions in a search-friendly form. That’s a blog driven by keywords, search results and knowledge of the questions customers and prospects are asking.

For Your Customers to Use
Another content creation category is to provide content for your customers to use to help sell your products or services. Think about these as traditional sales tools, but updated for social media implementation. For example, if you have created a total cost of ownership calculator for your products, create a widget version that your customers can put on their own sites. The more social tools and information you provide your customers, the more likely they able to promote your products or services.

For Your Consumers
B2B marketers who are used to communicating with companies suddenly see social media as a way to connect with consumers as they never have before. While many B2B companies have very little to say to consumers, those that do, need to carefully plan their messages. In many cases the relationship with the consumer is held by those further down the distribution chain and consumers have no relationship with the manufacturer. Even though they may be brand advocates for your products, look for small ways to connect with them. The informal nature of a Facebook Page is one way, while a contest or other public submission area of experiences with your products are other ways to begin to engage with consumers.

Are there other audiences you have developed content for?

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?

How To Handle B2B Content When It Is Not Worth Your Time

When talking about social media the word “content” is constantly thrown around because it is at the center of all forms of content. The Internet is filled with blog posts that tout content as king. Content is king, but what is it is not worth your time to create it.

For many B2B executives and professional service business their hourly rate is hundreds to thousands of dollars an hour. Is a blog post worth a thousand dollars to a lawyer? This is an issue many business are faced with currently. How do I participate in social media when I have already maxed out my time and my time is valuable?

Expediting Content Creation For Social Media

Option 1:

For the sake of an example let’s use a blog as the type of media that is being created and we will use a merger and acquisitions lawyer as the example author of the blog. In this example the B2B lawyer would have an extremely high hourly rate and very little free time. What does the lawyer have? Money.

Step 1: The lawyer buys a pocket video camera such as a Flip Camera or Kodak Zi8.

Step 2: Then he schedules one hour of his time each month.

Step 3:
During this hour he records himself blogging. He says post titles and then talks as if he were writing a blog post. Without having to type and account for typos he can likely get a month or an least a couple weeks of blog posts recorded in the hour long video.

Step 4: Then he pays to have the video transcribed and the blog posts separated.

Step 5: Finally someone in his office can help format and add any needed images or media and publish on the web.

This method saves the blogger time while still letting him blog in his own words and helps him communicate in his own tone.

Option 2:

Option number one in this post is all about saving time. Option number two is the opposite approach. If you make your money by billing hourly you are limited in the money you can make by the number of hours you can work. The only way to make more money is to increase your hourly rate, OR add revenue that isn’t tied to hours.

Let us take the lawyer from our first example. He has very specific knowledge and expertise, which is valuable to businesses in certain situations. However, it is also likely that some of those businesses cannot afford his hourly rate. The solution is for the lawyer to offer paid content in the form of documents, guides, tip sheets, etc. All of these materials only have to be created once and then can be sold thousands of times, unlike the lawyers time.

This approach creates a direct stream of revenue that can be tied to blogging so the lawyer can make a determination how to best manage his time to maximize revenue.

Workflow Tied To Business Objectives

While both of these ideas can work together or a part, they may not be right for everyone. The larger issue here is that with little time and significant money at stake workflows have to be created to make time investment equal to the value of the content being produced.

How do you solve the problem of creating content when time is tight?

20 Ideas For B2B Blog Content To Drive Traffic and Boost SEO

We have written about blogs a fair amount on Social Media B2B lately because it seems to be a good way for business to business companies to begin to understand the social web and the building of a community around their business. A new blog is started with lots of ideas and energy, but invariably, you hit a wall where you don’t know what to write about. Sometimes that happens after just a few posts, or it may happen after a few months, but at some point in the early life of a blog, you will wonder what to write about. And business blogs are saddled with the additional responsibility of needing to drive traffic and enhancing the search results of your site. So we offer the following list of ideas for blog content for your B2B blog:

1. Write about trends in your industry
2. Profile your customers
3. Review a recent trade show or conference
4. List the top ten twitter users in your industry
5. List the top five blogs in your industry
6. Write how-to posts about your product or service
7. Start a contest and ask for submissions
8. Profile your employees
9. Explain industry terms for either the novice or the industry veteran
10. Interview industry leaders using emailed questions and responses.
11. Respond to a current event relevant to your business
12. Discuss the latest industry research in the context of your business
13. Use Trendrr to create graphs of industry information
14. Ask a question on Twitter and blog the answers
15. Interview journalists and analysts that cover your industry
16. Share outrageous product stats and specifications
17. Compile the top ten blog posts on a specific industry topic
18. Post teaser pictures of new products in development
19. Giveaway product samples, service trials or company swag for comments
20. Share a list of ideas for other B2B bloggers to use to help creative content for their blogs

Please leave additional ideas for good business blog content in the comments. And if you have used any of these ideas and have increased the traffic to your site with them, please let us know.