3 Unique Ideas from SXSW B2B Social Media Panel

At this year’s SXSW, one of the strongest B2B social media sessions was the panel “Social Media in the Underground World of B2B.” The panel provided eye-opening insight and touched on some unexpected topics, making it an invaluable learning session for B2B marketers.

SXSW B2B Social Media PanelThe presenters included Duane Schulz from Xerox Corporation (@duaneschulz), Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems (@JeanetteG), Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA (@sbenzur), Susan Emerick (@sfemerick) from IBM and Melissa Chanslor from Text 100 (@Chanslor).

The panel opened by covering social strategy and engagement. The panelists agreed that the best place to start B2B social media marketing is where your audience is. Identify areas where key decision makers spend their time. Shape your engagement strategy around where those prospects are. Use listening tools, participate in the conversation, and measure effectiveness.

Unique Idea #1: Use Facebook and OpenID for B2B Website Login
Show the connection from social to sales. Cisco Systems is using Facebook and OpenID for login on their website. It’s led to a 40% reduction in cost and has increased event registration by 20%.

When it comes to participation, find the best social citizens within your organization to enact the social strategy. Enable them to be true representatives of the brand. By recruiting the right subject experts internally, brands can bring value to the conversation. And no one knows your brand better than your employees, so enable them and make sure they reflect your brand properly.

IBM stresses the importance of their people understanding that they represent the brand, and if they do it well, customers will become brand ambassadors too.

Adoption among employees is key. Engaged employees equals engaged customers. So how do you get employees to adopt social media?  Expose them to it.

Unique Idea #2: Conversation Starters
NVIDIA and Cisco System have large LCD screens that display real-time Twitter streams and other social conversations in high traffic areas of their office (meeting areas, near bathrooms, etc.). Employees routinely stop to see what is being mentioned about their brand online. This tactic leads to employee engagement.

When asked about B2B social media challenges, the panelists pointed to ROI and internal resources being the biggest obstacles.

On the topic of ROI, panelists noted that social media ROI can’t always be measured. They recommended creating benchmarks and showing growth over time.  Show that you changed a trend.

Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA provided additional insight: “Your business objectives should guide you to what you should measure. Tie social back to the original objective and use that as the measurement standard.”

Dwayne Schulz said that Xerox is not worrying about ROI for the next 2 years.  Their goal is to create a literate community within their organization first.

Unique Idea #3: Gamification
Many B2B marketers may feel that gamification is only for consumer marketing, but rewarding people for participation and incentivizing behavior are tactics B2B marketers can employ too.  Integrate game mechanics into an interaction to emotionally engage and empower users.

IBM and Cisco are using gamification now. “IBM is using gamification internally to build leaders through rewards and recognition” mentioned Susan Emerick.  And Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems mentioned how they were using it on their blog.  “You can get badges for sign up, reading, commenting, sharing, etc.”

Although the panel covered several other notable points, these topics seemed to generate the most interest from the session attendees.  And with good reason- all are unique concepts that help these notable brands achieve success with their B2B social media marketing.

Are you using any of these unique B2B social media ideas?  Share your thoughts, stories and feedback in the comments.

Top 10 B2B Companies on Twitter

As more B2B companies start using Twitter to communicate with their customers, prospects and industries, they look for examples of companies that are already using the platform. Part of Twitter’s success has been based on its simplicity, and that has given people and companies a wide range of options how to use it.

So B2B companies could have a definitive reference point, we wanted to rank B2B companies based on their use of Twitter. We will review this list on a monthly basis to see how it changes. This is not just a ranking based on number of followers or other single criteria, but a series of measures, which also include using outside measure tools. The list of potential companies are ranked by each of the factors listed below, which are then combined to create a total score.

We only included the main account of a B2B company, and the account needed to be identified as the company, not a person. This left out @MarketingProfs from consideration because it is also Ann Handley’s personal account. Sorry, Ann.

Factors Included: The first factor that makes up the ranking is the number of followers, because companies that can attract a large number of followers have a larger reach to spread their message. This certainly skews the list towards larger companies. Over time, as we refine the rankings, reducing the importance of this one factor can allow smaller companies to break into the list.

So that it is not just a numbers game, we include the ratio of following to followers. This gives some credit to companies that are using Twitter to communicate with other users. While you can certainly send an @ message to any user without following them, the perception that a company is fully participating in Twitter increases when they are following a number of users that relates to the number of users following them.

One of the best ways to measure whether companies are providing value to the Twitter ecosystem is to look at how many times a company has been added to a list. If a company appears on lists, this implies that people want to make sure they don’t miss the messages of this company. While people compile lists for other reasons too, we have included number of lists in the ranking as another data point.

And then to measure factors such as reach, engagement and influence, we turned to outside tools that have established algorithms. Not everyone may agree with how any individual tool measures these factors, but by including several sources minimizes the impact of any single factor. We have included company scores on TwitterGrader (rank, not grade), Klout and Twitalyzer. The potential companies were ranked based on the score from each source, which was included in the final rankings.

So that’s what currently goes into the list, and we would like your feedback on these factors, or other factors that can be considered in ranking B2B companies on Twitter. We will continue to tweak the weighting of the different factors as this list moves forward. If there are companies you think should be included in the list of potential ones that get ranked, please let us know in the comments below.

SocialMediaB2B.com Top B2B Companies on Twitter
(January 2011)
1. Hubspot (@Hubspot)
2. Forrester (@Forrester)
3. eMarketer (@eMarketer)
4. CME Group (@CMEGroup)
5. comScore (@comScore)
6. Cisco (@Cisco)
7. Gartner (@Gartner_Inc)
8. Oracle (@Oracle)
9. radian6 (@radian6) Became @MarketingCloud in 2012
10. Intel (@Intel)

5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Twitter

Just as B2B sales relationships aren’t built over night, sustained B2B Twitter relationships – often the basis for industry insight, lead generation and media coverage – require a commitment to engagement. When considering and crafting Twitter contributor, monitoring and legality strategies to support B2B sales efforts, it’s also important to think about how your company can leverage two-way communication.

Here are five ways to approach B2B Twitter engagement:

1. Original content

While it may seem like a no-brainer, it’s easy to get so caught up in sharing other Twitter users’ original content – such as industry news articles or upcoming conferences – that business accounts can lose any sense of value for existing or new followers. If you don’t have a blog that’s being updated on a weekly basis, re-purpose eNewsletter content, news releases or field updates. The more non-promotional, the more valuable.

If nothing else, take Twitter at its micro-blogging face value: With a blog editorial calendar-like mentality, draft 140-character tips, observations and FAQs that act as mini, distilled blog posts.

2. Retweets

Sharing information on Twitter that you found valuable for your B2B operation helps to both demonstrate your stake in the industry and recognize users you follow on Twitter as valuable sources of information. Retweeting customers, trade and national media outlets, and industry associations helps to build affiliation, trust and camaraderie. When appropriate, offer your own commentary on the tweet or its linked information. However, always attribute the original source for each tweet.

3. On-the-ground updates

The beauty of Twitter is its mobility. While live-blogging and video blogging can sometimes be difficult, Twitter allows users to update followers from wherever they are. For B2B companies that employ sales teams spread out across multiple regions or that attend trade shows to support lead generation, this is a key point.

Instead of posting tweets from a cubicle, utilize Twitter to post “from the field” tweets that offer up information no one else could post. While your competitors might be tweeting about the same trade magazine article in everyone’s feed reader, tweets such as “Just had a great conversation with the manager of Smith Inc. in Atlanta” or “About to head into a keynote speaker presentation – what questions would you have on IT policies for B2B companies?” show your company has its hands in issues and events across the industry.

4. Hashtag monitoring

Just like your company should know the keywords that bring visitors to its B2B website, it should identify hashtags and keywords that your target demographics use to share and find information. People rarely follow broad search terms such as #socialmedia, #business or #distributors. Instead, they focus on niche qualifiers around specific industry terms, weekly Twitter chats, locations and conferences.

Once you know what hashtags are most often connected to the types of information your company is interested in, set up searches on Twitter to passively pull in tweets that mention them. This gives you an opportunity to follow Twitter users who tag their tweets, reply to questions that your business is qualified to answer and get a general feel for how your target audience behaves on Twitter. Twitter clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite make hashtag monitoring easy, but you can also set up RSS feeds using Twitter’s search engine.

5. Personality tweets

Just like you wouldn’t attend a networking event and talk exclusively about your company, tweets don’t have to be straight-up product, company and industry oriented all of the time. Think of Twitter as a cocktail party, where comments about the weather, family, pop culture and general observations help color conversations. Although Twitter gets a bad rap as that “What I Had For Lunch” tool, your followers can better relate and engage with you if you present yourself as a real human being with real interests – that might be outside of your everyday industry updates.

“Personality tweets” often work best when the account is managed by one person clearly referenced in the profile bio, as consistency in tone and voice can help to manage followers’ expectations. However, if your account has multiple contributors, mark tweets with users’ initials to build a similar foundation for personal connections.

What other ways is your B2B company engaging with followers on Twitter?

6 Ways To Generate More B2B Blog Comments

Note: This Post Was Inspired By How to Handle Silence, the Worst Kind of Feedback

When it comes to social media a major concern for B2B companies is negative feedback and managing risk. While this is an important concern, it amazes me that more B2B companies aren’t concerned about something far worse: apathy. Apathy is the thing that will stall social media marketing success faster than anything else. Apathy is what gets executives and marketers fired. Apathy is what stops someone from being an effective leader. Apathy is the social web’s version of silence. It makes your company irrelevant.

Understanding from the beginning that you need to actively work to generate comments and interactions is important when starting a B2B blog. Comments and interactions drive sharing of content and will drive leads. The question everyone wants answered is how do companies get comments and avoid apathy?

6 Ways To Generate More B2B Blog Comments

1. Take A Side
– Being vanilla doesn’t get you comments. A major issue many companies have in social media is they are so worried about risk that they publish content that is not interesting and overly product centric. If you take 5 minutes and look at the business content on the web today that is generating the most comments, the common element of the posts would be that they all pick a side of a issue or debate. The content isn’t offensive and doesn’t generate unneeded risk. It is simply an interesting opinion and perspective. Have you picked a side in a blog post recently?

2. Ask Questions – People love to talk about themselves. Sometimes though they need to be prompted to do so. Asking questions in blog posts is a great way to generate comments. At Social Media B2B we often ask a few questions at the end of each post, but we also include some through out the post as well.

3. Answer Every Comment – Something that companies and blog authors sometimes do not to well is responding to comments. People want to believe that they have been heard and didn’t put a comment into the black hole that is the Internet. Answering comments provides affirmation and increases the chance that a reader will leave a comment again in the future.

4. Mention People In Posts – Bloggers have long understood that if you link to another person’s blog or mention their name, it will often lead to them leaving a comment on the post. This works especially well for B2B companies because more and more organizations are implementing social media monitoring systems that track these mentions, thus increasing the likelihood of a response.

5. Use Social Networks To Drive Comments – Sure you can ask questions in your blog posts, but additionally you can also leverage social networks to ask for comments and position blog posts in different ways that may lead to more interaction. When sharing a blog post on a social network like Twitter or Facebook, it is not an obligation to simply post the title of the entry and a link. Instead you can directly ask for comments or pull a sentence from the post that you feel may generate more conversation.

6. Have Coworkers Comment – The Internet is about momentum. A blog without comments doesn’t have momentum. Think of content on the social web, the same way you would think of how a mob of people acts. People like to gather around a hub of action and pile on to it. So how do you make this behavior happen when you don’t have any action? Generate some initial action yourself. Have employees, business partners and others close to the company leave comments to blog post to show that action exists around that idea.

Blog comments are valuable for many different reasons. They help ideas spread, provide valuable insight, generate offline conversations, etc. How do you generate blog comments for your B2B blog?

B2B’s Biggest Social Media Screw-up Is Lack Of Action

B2B’s biggest social media screw-ups.

Mark Schaefer in his post linked above outlines the 5 biggest screw-ups when it comes to social media and B2B companies. These aren’t five screw-ups, but 5 examples of the same problem.

The biggest problem for most B2B companies in the social media space is that they don’t take action, instead they let others control their brand through some sick twisted case of apathy. It is sad that many B2B companies would rather spend months arguing internally about “sales collateral” instead of actually engaging with its customers. It is this lack of engagement and shear apathy towards customers that we drive businesses to fail.

While Mark was right to point out these examples, there is a bigger issue at hand. Companies that want to succeed in the future need not understand the social web, but instead understand how their customers want to be engaged.