Why Does Facebook Hate B2B Companies?

With the constant changes to Facebook’s platform, B2B marketers are already challenged to connect with customers and prospects on the platform. Now they are talking about making it worse. It makes me wonder why Facebook hates B2B companies. Was Mark Zuckerberg bit by a B2B company when he was a kid?

Social media site Mashable published an interview this weekend with Brad Smallwood, Facebook’s head of measurement and insights, where he discussed potential changes that Facebook is considering for measuring advertising success on the world’s largest social network.

Advertising on Facebook is currently measured using click through rates (CTR), as is most other online advertising. Smallwood is working with Nielsen to develop a system that considers the result of people’s exposure to the advertising, and if it changed people’s awareness of the product or the message. This sounds like he wants to bring the unmeasurable brand advertising of television to Facebook. You know where Nielsen got its start, right?

Facebook has created a platform where it doesn’t value its users and their privacy. They are just the creators of the product (their data) that is sold to advertisers. And businesses who don’t advertise are given a system of tools that is stacked against them of ever connecting with their customers and prospects.

B2B companies need the rigor of data to track their success in the online world. They are not coming to Facebook for a brand lift. They are looking to generate leads or new business from existing customers. One of the ways to break through the ever changing “Top News” algorithm is by using the advertising platform. They need to be able to track clicks on the ads as the first step to the top of the sales funnel. Whether those ads direct prospects to content on Facebook or on the company website, it is critical to have the click data.

Facebook CTR is low by online ad standards and if you start measuring intent for the already small audience of many B2B companies, rather than clicks, it all becomes irrelevant. If you have a B2B company that can benefit from this change in tracking, we would like to hear about it. If you think I am off-base, or I’m missing something, let me have it in the comments.

Photo: Mashable

5 Ways to Find Your B2B Company’s Online Fans

If your B2B company has been diligent in its product research, sales relationship and customer service development, it has developed a core group of fans. These fans love your products and services, and would gladly recommend them to their co-workers, clients and business contacts.

In the music business, street teams have long been an invaluable group of superfans that papers cities with upcoming concert flyers, spreads the word about new albums and recruits friends as new fans. Your B2B fans can act in a similar way in the online space, retweeting brand news, suggesting your B2B company for friends’ business needs on LinkedIn or tagging your company in a Facebook page status update.

Social media allows for B2B companies to locate, empower and task those fans on a direct level, without the go-between wall of media, email marketing or advertising. But before you can reward these fans and ask them to advocate on your B2B company’s behalf, you must first figure out who they are and where they interact with others online. Here are five ways to locate your B2B brand’s biggest supporters:

1. Use services designed to tune into online conversations

Find conversations about your brand using free services such as Kurrently, which tracks keywords on both Twitter and Facebook. If your B2B social media team has already set  up an RSS feed using Twitter’s search engine or specific search term columns in applications such as Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, keep an eye on users who post frequently about your brand. Build an internal list of users who frequently share information around your company, individual products or management, or interact often with your social media posts. Additionally, be sure to actively check in with these followers to build relationships beyond sales and promotions.

2. Review your blog comments
Advocates and fans of your B2B company are likely to be engaged on your company blog and are the ones leaving comments. This is true with any blog that receives even just a few comments. There are people who regularly post comments because they are engaged with your company. Since most commenting functions require an email address, it is easy to contact them and start the advocate conversation. If you are not encouraging blog comments by asking a question at the end of every blog post, here’s another reminder that you should be doing that.

3. Simply ask

You never  know if you don’t ask. If you’re already engaging on social media, send out feelers to your current followers. Schedule regular tweets that let followers know you’re looking to share insider information with people who want to be the first to know your B2B company’s news and get exclusive social media-only information, discounts and announcements.

4. Gather social media information from other marketing segments

If people are engaged enough with your brand to sign up for your email list, chances are they’ll also want to follow along on social media. Incorporate optional fields such as “Twitter handle” and “LinkedIn profile URL” into the sign-up process, and ask current registrants if they would like to be part of the action.

5. Take offline fans online

Be sure to leverage “real life” fans. Use face time at meetings, conferences and networking events to identify your B2B company’s fans, and carry those connections into the online world as well. Ask your B2B public relations, customer service and sales teams for positive media, customer and client encounters that could be continued and shared online.

Just like building an effective media list is key to pitching the right media contacts, identifying your B2B company’s online fans is important and takes time. Only after you have built a list of your company’s online fans, sorted them by their specific interests and engaged with them beyond the normal sales pitch can you begin crafting strategies and tactics to leverage those real – albeit online – relationships with you company’s fans.

How do you locate your B2B company’s biggest fans?

75 of the Best B2B Facebook Marketing Tips

Many B2B marketers approach Facebook with the knowledge of how to maintain a personal profile, but still shake their heads at how to get results from a business Page for their B2B company. There are two basic things you need to know about managing a Facebook Page for a B2B company. The first is that you must post compelling content that people who like the Page will engage with. This is especially true since Facebook introduced the EdgeRank algorithm, which only shows popular content in the newsfeed. The second thing to know is that you need to include calls to action, both on the Page and ones that drive traffic back to your company website.

Next week I will be presenting a session, along with Deirdre Walsh and Susan Solomon, about Facebook Marketing for B2B Companies at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum. In the process of preparing for the presentation, I found and reviewed lots of recent articles that provide tips that can help B2B marketers manage Facebook Pages. Here is a link to the complete list of Facebook resources, but I have selected and organized the best tips from each article. A link to the source of each tip is included if you want to read more. If you have any additional tips to share, please leave them in the comments below.

Liking the Page

1. Ask your staff, customers, vendors, and partners — who already know you and like you — to “Like” your Facebook page first. (source)

Facebook Content

2. Share lots of photos, and ask your fans to share photos. Facebook’s Photos remain the most viral feature of its platform. (source)

3. Write for the newsfeed, not for your wall. (source)

4. Don’t worry about writing too little. (source)

5. Be strategic and pay attention to signal vs. noise. (source)

6. Write posts that encourage sharing across the network. (source)

7. Boost your comments by asking questions, but stay away from simple Yes/No answers. (source)

8. Mix it up a little between videos, photos, questions and information (source)

9. Use the 80-20 rule to determine how much other people’s content to post versus your own. (source)

10. Use @ tagging strategically. (source)

11. Target by location or language. (source)

12. Tailor your content to mobile users. (source)

13. Diversify your team’s voices. (source)

14. Open the door to user content — but not the floodgates. (source)

15. Keep posts 80 characters long or shorter. (source)

16. Don’t Be Afraid to Show You’re Human. (source)

17. Have a Unique Voice. (source)

18. Diversify Your Content. (source)

19. Post original and relevant content. (source)

20. Post industry articles and blog posts fresh from your newsreader. (source)

21. Share exclusive, behind the scenes information. (source)

22. Write simply and plainly. (source)

23. Think mainstream for content. (source)

Analyze and Optimize Content

24. Use Edgerank to find your best & worst days. (source)

25. Monitor which posts attract the most Likes and comments (eyeball), and use Insights – Facebook’s own analytics tool – for data. (source)

26. Track the Performance of Your Posts. (source)

Calls to Action

27. Treat your Facebook “Like” button or link to your Facebook Page like any call to action – make it easy to spot. (source)

28. Encourage others to share your calls to action, so they show up in their newsfeed. (source)

Tabs and Landing Pages

29. Make creative use of Tabs. (source)

30. Choose a “landing tab” wisely. (source)

31. Have calls to action on your landing tab. (source)

32. The landing page should be relevant to the ad driving visitors there. (source)

33. Offer incentives. (source)

34. Keep it up to date. (source)

35. Provide interesting content. (source)

How and When to Post

36. Watch Your Post Frequency and Timing. (source)

37. There is a short window of opportunity to gain traction with an update. (source)

38. Be careful with automated posting services like NetworkedBlogs or syncing updates through your Twitter feed. (source)

39. Establish a regular schedule for your brand’s Facebook updates. (source)

40. Post towards the end of the week (source)

41. Weekends are more Facebook sharing friendly. (source)

Audience

42. Know your audience well, and when you make a mistake, quickly own up, do right by your audience and fix the problem. (source)

43. Don’t forget to send an update to fans. (source)

44. Allow your fans to tag photos on your Page. (source)

45. Put Your Fans in Charge Every Now and Then. (source)

Interaction off the Facebook Page

46. Integrate Facebook outside of your Fan Page, on your website, in as many places as you can. Create more compelling opportunities for people to buy your product based on their friends’ Likes. (source)

47. Find synergy with other organizations and entities, and then work together to promote each other’s Facebook pages so that everyone benefits. (source)

Optimize Your Facebook Page for Search

48. Link to your Facebook page from your website home page, using your brand in the anchor or alt‐text. (source)

49. Use your brand name in your posts. (source)

50. Get links to your Facebook Page by driving social engagement and “likes.” (source)

51. Use Facebook Shares and Likes to improve rankings of any page on your website. (source)

52. Interlink your directory pages with parallel Facebook pages. (source)

53. Integrate your website broadly with Facebook Social Plugins and Facebook Connect. (source)

Facebook Advertising

54. Restrict ads to people that don’t Like your Page. (source)

55. Invest in sponsored stories – they work. (source)

Resources

56. Find the resources to respond to your fans questions and inquiries. (source)

57. Accept you won’t work a 9-5. (source)

Miscellaneous

58. Assess the business value of your Page. (source)

59. Hold real-world events. (source)

60. Make use of “Add to My Page’s Favorites.” (source)

61. If you have a physical location, use Place Pages and Deals to drive traffic through your doors. (source)

62. Respond to comments. (source)

63. Polls delivered directly to users’ news feeds are not only effective in their reach but also in their ability to drive engagement. (source)

Facebook Mistakes

64. Broadcasting Content. (source)

65. Not Investing Adequate Time. (source)

66. Being Boring or Predictable. (source)

67. Failing to Learn About Facebook Mechanics and Tools. (source)

68. Violating Facebook’s Terms. (source)

69. Assuming People Go To Your Fan Page Versus Seeing Your Posts In Their News Feed. (source)

70. Expecting Welcome Tabs To Get You Lots Of Fans. (source)

71. Overestimating Apps and Tabs. (source)

72. No Budget For Ads To Acquire Fans. (source)

73. Posting In A Self Centered Way, Not Trying To Get Likes And Comments. (source)

74. Not Optimizing For Impressions And Feedback Rate. (source)

75. Over-Selling and Hard-Selling Without Conversing Or Arousing Desire First. (source)

Study: 93% of B2B Marketers Use Social Media Marketing

According to a recent study by BtoB Magazine, 93% of all B2B marketers are engaged in some form of social media marketing, with most putting their focus on the most popular channels (LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter).

The Big Three

B2B marketers overwhelmingly favor “the big 3″ social media channels, with LinkedIn being the most-used channel (72%). Facebook (71%) and Twitter (67%) are close behind, with those three channels forming the core of most B2B social media marketing efforts. Other channels used by B2B marketers include YouTube (48%), blogging (44%) and online communities (22%).

When asked to cite their single most important channel, LinkedIn again rose to the top with 26% favoring it. Most respondents identified lead-generation as the most valuable result of LinkedIn marketing. Facebook was the most important channel for 20%, while blogging (19%), online communities (14%) and Twitter (13%) rounded out the top tools. Facebook was cited as being a channel where users “pay attention”, while blogs and communities were cited for their customer feedback and engagement.

Despite being used by 67% of B2B marketers, Twitter was only the top channel for 13%, perhaps showing that Twitter is an important piece of the overall social marketing picture but not the best channel for B2B marketers to find value. According to survey participants, many marketers only see Twitter as a way to support website traffic and product/event promotions.

Challenges:

When B2B marketers were asked to identify their top three obstacles to adopting social media marketing, 70% identified a lack of resources as being the biggest obstacle. Other challenges faced by marketers include: poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators (57%), lack of knowledge about social media (44%) and management resistance (22%).

Measurement:

One of the most interesting statistic to come out of the report is the lack of measurement by B2B marketers. About 75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of their social marketing programs.

The Study:

This results of BtoB’s exclusive research study Emerging Trends in B-to-B Social Media Marketing: Insights From the Field focuses on how B2B marketers are leveraging social media. Conducted in March 2011 and based on the responses of 577 B2B marketers, this study not only looks at the demand for LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter but how marketers are using the unique applications to their best advantage across all marketing functions.

Does this data match your social media experience for your B2B company?

Even More B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of

B2B Social Media ToolsWe’ve had a lot of interest in our previous posts on B2B Social Media Tools (see 7 B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of and 7 More B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of) so we’re providing another set of 7 tools you may find useful for your B2B business. Give these a try and let us know what you think.

1. Timely
Timely is a Flowtown product that helps you schedule tweets for maximum impact. It will analyze all your tweets and figure out what times of day you get the best engagement. And Timely continues to learn as your followers grow.
Cost: Free

2. ReSearch.ly
Find the conversations and influencers that matter to your business. ReSearch.ly creates instant communities for whatever you’re interested in or writing about on the social web. Quickly search and filter based on community, sentiment, geography, time, and relevance. Find what communities already exist around your ideas. And with instant analytics while you write or search, ReSearch.ly gives you critical data to better understand the social stream in real-time.
Cost: Try for Free, Plans from $9-$999

3. Namechk
If you haven’t secured your username across all social channels you’ll find Namechk to be a useful tool. Namechk allows you to see if your desired username or vanity URL is still available at dozens of popular social networking and social bookmarking websites.
Cost: Free

4. Brizzly
Brizzly is a reader that works with Twitter and Facebook. It simplifies your browsing and updating experience by putting a lot of features in one interface. It can also assist with communications. In Brizzly users can create “picnics” – private conversations between multiple users (think group chat) that can integrate multimedia such as photos and video. And Brizzly’s mute function allows you to temporarily turn off people without unfollowing, which can be really useful for those friends of yours who are at that conference you don’t care about.
Cost: Free

5. MentionMap
MentionMap is an really interesting (and addictive) way to see Twitter connections. In an animated visual interface you can see what people and hashtags users have mentioned in recent tweets. It’s a great way to find new people to follow and hashtags that may interest you. Check out the @smb2b MentionMap.
Cost: Free

6. Kurrently
Kurrently is a real-time search engine for Facebook and Twitter. Just enter in a search term and get a constantly-updating stream of mentions.
Cost: Free

7. All Facebook Stats
All Facebook Stats provides Facebook analytics for your business. With All Facebook Stats you can track and compare the performance of Facebook Pages and Places. Analyze your Facebook page fans, interactions and content, benchmark your page against your competition and track and compare Places check-ins. Dig into the results, customize your dashboard and save time reviewing all your Facebook metrics.
Cost: Free for 3 pages, paid plans from $69 and up for additional pages.

Are there any other social media tools that you use regularly?  Let us know in the comments and we may include it in an upcoming post.

Continue Learning with these B2B Social Media Posts

As I gather a handful of relevant B2B social media posts that have either bubbled up through Twitter or from my RSS reader, sometimes I start with a theme and other times one emerges. It certainly makes things more interesting. Today, two themes emerged. The first is the continuing importance of education in the B2B social media space. As we reviewed our 2010 predictions, we found that while the adoption curve has been slower than anticipated, more and more practitioners are building a foundation from learning. So all these posts derive their content from events, both live and online. They include presenters’ perspectives, attendees perspectives and information that was presented, but relayed in a blog post. As I also presented at and attended a conference this week, it is instructive to see people’s takeaways.

Which brings us to our second theme. It doesn’t run through all the posts, but several of them. As today is the opening of the new Harry Potter movie in many parts of the world, there is a British slant to several of the posts. How could I not include a post that includes the line “Powerpoint is rubbish.”

As always let us know in the comments if you have read anything this week that was not rubbish.

Facebook Pages for B2B Social Media Marketing
from TopRank Blog
Yesterday in Auckland, NZ I gave an all day workshop to 150 marketing and communications professionals on Social Media Content Marketing & Strategy at Social Media Junction. One of the questions that came up was whether B2B companies are successfully using Facebook Fan pages. I shared a few of our client Fan pages like Marketo & McKesson Medical Imaging (forgetting to mention our own completely) but wanted to share a few more examples here.
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B2B Social Media – Plus Ca Change?
from Ketchum Blog
Earlier this month on a balmy autumn morning, Ketchum Pleon had the pleasure of hosting a PRmoment conference on Social Media in B2B Communications. Adding to the resulting posts from Ben at PRmoment and others, I thought I’d share some personal reflections on what really stood out from the event and some quick research we did off the back of it. I was always a fan as a kid of join the dots, so can you see what picture emerges when you connect the conclusions below that emerged from the conference?
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Destroying the 7 Myths of B2B Social Media
from Convince and Convert
B2B social media is one of the most nettlesome of all social media marketing topics. There are plenty of half-truths and misunderstandings about what, where, why, and how B2B social media works (or doesn’t).
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What I learned at the B2B Marketing Annual Conference
from B2B Marketing Online Blog
The great and the good from the world of B2B Marketing gathered in London yesterday as B2B Marketing Magazine hosted its annual conference: ‘A Brave New World: Digital Marketing in the 21st Century’ ‘I was also there as part of my relentless quest to seek knowledge, learn a thing or two and enjoy a fancy lunch served in a box.
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Q&A Excerpt: Driving Leads with Social Media
from Funnel Focus
In Tuesday’s webinar Social Media Integration into Marketing Campaigns – Does it Drive Leads?, Manticore Technology Demand Generation Manager Emily Mayfield examined her own successes and failures with social media in a recent, multi-touch marketing campaign featuring The Quintessential Marketing Automation Guidebook. In this Q&A excerpt, Emily Mayfield and VP of Marketing Christopher Doran will answer audience questions regarding integrating social media into a marketing campaign to successfully drive leads.
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Reviewing Our 2010 B2B Social Media Predictions

Before we start looking forward with predictions for 2011 in B2B social media, we thought we would look back at our predictions for 2010. It is worth looking at these predictions not to determine our skill at predicting the future, but to see how quickly or slowly various aspects of social media were adopted or ignored by B2B companies.

1. Sales Staff Get Social Media Savvy
This is something that definitely started to happen in 2010, but not to the extent that we might have thought. The first steps of this occurred, which are the education and awareness of the benefits of social media to a sales force, and a big part of that is through the growing online conversation about sales 2.0 and social CRM.

2. Inbound Marketing Gets Cash
Spending is definitely increasing around areas that bring customers to online destinations, including social media. According to the CMO Survey, social media spend is expected to be around 10% of the marketing budget for B2B companies within one year, and up to 18% within five years.

3. Location-Based Fills In The Gaps
Location did not happen for B2B companies in 2010. The value of the check-in, and even the growth of location-based coupons, did not adapt well to the complex relationship-building process for B2B social media. Even Foursquare, the leader in location-based applications, acknowledges a consumer retail focus and prevents non-retail businesses from claiming their venue on the site by stating “we’re trying to limit foursquare specials to places where people meet, socialize and linger. Think: cafes, bars, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, theaters, etc.” This limits experimentation of non-traditional approaches of checking in.

4. Social Media Lead Generation Becomes Common Place
While social media lead generation is definitely happening across multiple platforms, this is not a common occurrence. Many B2B companies are still challenged how to move beyond engagement to lead generation.

5. Social Media Publishing Gets More Multi-Media
The growth of audio and video content has been huge in 2010. While every successful campaign like the Old Spice Guy encourages clients and bosses to ask for viral videos, causing marketers to cringe (because you don’t make viral, it happens), they do increase the awareness of video as compelling online medium.

6. Influencer Marketing Gets Even More Important
With the decline of traditional media, marketers are looking for other ways to share their messages, and influencer outreach is definitely a growing approach. With sites like Klout to measure online influence, as well as other determinations based on site page rank or offline industry influence, many in the B2B space are learning who to reach out to.

7. Mobile Can No Longer Be Ignored
It is hard to find any statistics that don’t point to the growth of mobile in the US and around the world. Look at growth of smartphones, sales of iPhones, the growing Android platform and even a Gartner report from earlier this year that says the number of mobile phones that can access the web will exceed the number of PCs by 2013. More B2B marketers are understanding the importance of a mobile experience, especially as it relates to communicating on social networks and driving traffic back to their content.

8. Corporate Web Sites Get Social
Some B2B companies who understand the importance of connections through social media have made corporate web sites more social. This is not something that has gotten very pervasive, but there has been a large adoption of social media follow badges and share buttons across many B2B sites.

9. Social and Real-Time Search Drive B2B Social Media Adoption
More B2B communicators became aware of the importance of real-time information and the required response using social media and other outlets. Google, Twitter and even Facebook pushed the notion of real-time to the top of their platforms, which helps B2B companies see the importance of social media adoption.

10. B2B Gets Smart About Social Data
Most B2B companies are still overwhelmed with the amount of user generated content created around their customers, prospects and industries, and there just have not been good solutions for mining this data for actionable information. The beginnings of this are happening with social CRM platforms, but it is very early in that space.

11. The Firewalls Start To Come Down
Many B2B companies started 2010 by blocking access to social sites on their corporate networks. Not much has changed in those instances, but as social media matures, B2B companies will start to understand the business value of employees accessing sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. If companies are worried about employee productivity or inappropriate online comments if employees have access to social media sites, that is an employee problem, not a social media problem. And with the continuing growth of mobile, employees will bypass corporate networks entirely when searching social sites for business recommendations or polling their networks for information.

How does this compare to what you have seen in 2010 in your B2B companies? Let us know in the comments below. And look for our 2011 predictions next month.

4 Ways to Start B2B Blogging Without Tech Support

Any marketer who works in a B2B company, no matter the size, can have run-ins with the I.T. department as they start social media planning. Forget locked down devices, blocked social media sites, control of digital assets, and what do you do if you want to start a blog. Many would suggest that the blog be created as part of your website so you can get maximum SEO benefit from your blog. I would be included in that category.

But let’s say you are never going to get anywhere with the I.T. department, or maybe you work for a small company and you just don’t have the resources to go back to your web development shop, and you need a non-technical solution to starting a blog. There are many other benefits of starting a simple blog that is easy to manage. You can create an editorial calendar and learn what it is like to create and curate content on a regular basis. With a content hub, you can begin sharing information with customers and prospects. Link an email newsletter to the new blog and create some interaction with your subscribers. Include calls to action in each post to drive traffic to landing pages or back to your main website. All these solutions allow multiple users to post, so you can develop of team of bloggers. The following are four solutions for non-technical based blog platforms.

WordPress.com
One of the most confusing things about WordPress when B2B marketers learn about it is the two different versions: WordPress.com and WordPress.org. The first one means that WordPress hosts your blog, while the second one means you need to host it yourself. If you know you will eventually move to a self-hosted blog, WordPress.com is great solution. It will allow you to get used to the platform and how many of the features work. While the basic hosting is free, there are many add-ons that carry a fee, including using your own domain name instead of companyblog.wordpress.com. There are a limited number of themes available to style your blog, and you cannot change the design code of the site (CSS) without paying extra. But that’s okay for a non-technical approach. Another limitation is you need to use the integrated statistics package in WordPress, and you cannot run Google Analytics, which has become the base standard for managing websites. Many major websites are hosted on WordPress.com utilizing their VIP package. Here’s a getting started guide for WordPress.com

Tumblr
Another hosted solution for an easy blog platform is Tumblr. It provides more theme options, plus it has the ability to fully customize themes. You can use your own domain name, rather than companyblog.tumblr.com without an extra charge. It also supports Google Analytics, so you can become familiar with the platform if you are not. It is super easy to post any type of content to a Tumblr blog from the platform itself, email, a smartphone and a browser bookmarklet. You can even have content from other sites like YouTube automatically post to Tumblr through RSS. There is a huge community aspect to Tumblr where people can easily re-post things they find on other Tumblr blogs to their own. While you may not be learning a similar platform, if you eventually plan to move to self-hosted WordPress, you can export all your posts so they can be imported into WordPress.

Posterous
Posterous is another really easy platform to get started blogging. You can post by email, which is great way to share mobile photos, audio podcasts or videos from your smartphone. Make sure you remove your email signature before sending, or all your contact information will appear at the end of the post. It’s great for short posts written on the go, or fully developed posts that you write at your desk. Posterous integrates with other social platforms, like Twitter and Flickr, and your posts can autopost to your other sites. A limited number of themes are available, but you can customize the look of the site. Your own domain name and Google Analytics are available. And again, all your content is movable to WordPress if you decide to do that later. Or you can just integrate Posterous with WordPress and have it update your WordPress blog.

Facebook Page
And finally, the simplest solution for blogging for a B2B company with no technical overhead is a Facebook Page. Once you create the page, you can create an editorial calendar for content, links and status updates. You should do this for any Facebook Page anyway. You and your team can still write posts that you can publish as notes on the page. These posts can have calls to action that drive traffic back to your website. You can still encourage comments and engage with customers and prospects who are interested in what you and your company have to say. More and more B2C companies are driving people to Facebook as a primary means of engagement, so it makes sense to communicate with B2B customers on the platform if they are already there.

Have you tried any of these blogging solutions or any others that have worked to created a simple, non-technical blog?

Measuring the ROI of B2B Social Media

Any time people start talking about social media for B2B companies, the question always comes up about how do you measure the ROI, or return on investment, of it. There are lots of opinions of the value of this calculation on both sides of the argument. On one side, if you can’t measure the monetary value of what you are doing in either increased sales or reduced cost, it is just not worth doing. And the other side of the argument is that social media is a way of communicating that companies cannot ignore, and measuring the ROI of it is like measuring the ROI of having a telephone. I have even recently heard someone compared it to measuring the ROI of pants.

But no matter which side of the argument you land on, social media marketing is a highly measurable activity, and like other marketing tactics, unless you establish goals of success from the outset, you will never know if you have succeeded. So before we go any further, we must ask the question, are you currently measuring the return on investment of your traditional marketing programs? If not, establish parameters for those measurements before scrutinizing your social media programs, because ultimately you want to measure your social media success as a component of your marketing success. And you need to establish commonalities across all channels.

The following thoughts about measuring social media and its ROI are based on a presentation by Kim Williams that I sat in on at ConvergeSouth this past weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina. While this post is not exactly a summary of his session, the measurement approach comes from his talk.

Each of the following four sections are stacked vertically and shaped like a funnel, with Reach as the largest section at the top, narrowing as it moves down to conversion. This idea matches a sales funnel where the top is total awareness to your message and the bottom is where people take a final action where they become a lead or a sale.

Reach
Reach is the largest category and includes your whole audience. This is made up of everyone you have contact with: email subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook Likers, LinkedIn connections and followers on any other social platform. Track the growth of each one of these numbers. Set goals for how you want these numbers to grow, and pay attention to what makes these numbers grow. These are the easiest numbers to both track and grow, but they also have the least business value.

Engagement
Engagement is the quantity of the reaction to social media messages. Again, most of this is easy to measure, as it is things like Twitter re-tweets, Facebook wall posts, blog comments, LinkedIn Group comments. This is how people are responding to your content, whether by sharing or adding their own thoughts to the conversation. One way to understand engagement is to test different content, for example tweets, and measure the effect of how it drives traffic or elicits action.

Sentiment
Sentiment is the quality of reaction to the either the content you post online or content others post online about you. These can be positive, neutral or negative. The majority of comments online are neutral, but the negative ones are the most important, as they most likely require action. And while many tools can find and score the sentiment of online comments, this is one measure that requires human intervention to make sure it is correct.

Conversion
And finally, the bottom of the funnel is the conversion. You need to measure the value of the reaction to the reach. In most B2B environments, this is a lead, but in some instances this could be a sale. Once someone becomes a prospect or a customer, social media has been shown to be very successful at retention of those customers. The measurement of these leads, or sales, must be a part of all marketing efforts so you can properly understand the success rate of social media versus other channels.

ROI
Once you have your established metrics for each stage of the social media funnel, you need to develop an equation to measure what each category costs. Since many social media sites are free, companies don’t always think about the time involved as being a real cost. But to truly understand numbers like cost per lead, you must factor in creative time to develop messaging, engagement time, monitoring time, as well as the cost of any paid tools or outside resources required. The total cost divided by the number of leads, or other number that represents conversions, is the cost per lead. As these leads go into the normal sales funnel, and get qualified, you will see the return on your social media investment.

How have you measured the cost and return on your social media investment?

5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Facebook

Recently, I looked at 5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Twitter. If the micro-blogging tool is often cited as a social media marketer’s golden child, Facebook may just as often be considered the red-headed stepchild. Jeff’s post Facebook is Doing it Wrong for B2B Companies touches on many of the ways Facebook is ignoring marketers’ needs, in addition to its shaky privacy policies and recently ill-received Places launch.

However, Facebook has more than 500 million reasons for B2B companies to create and foster an interactive, informative community for employees, partners, customers, retailers and distributors. Here’s a starter kit for B2B companies to better engage on Facebook:

1. Original Content and Industry Content

The design principle “Keep it simple, stupid” also applies to content you’re already spending time to create. Have a newsletter, magazine, newsroom or blog? Repurpose that information on Facebook, making sure it’s relevant and interesting to this particular community. Take advantage of the Facebook status update’s 420-character limit, but keep your Twitter hat on and be concise.

Consider these types of posts reflections of your blog and Twitter editorial calendars, and find them in similar ways: Make sure your feed reader is full of relevant industry blogs and sites, and curate helpful Twitter lists and hashtag/keyword searches.

2. Questions

Sometimes, all you have to do is ask. There’s a reason many Social Media B2B blog posts end with a question – a call to action is a simple thing that often goes forgotten. Make it a habit to end status updates by asking your followers what think about a particular article, industry trend or new product.

On the lighter side, use questions as a conversation starter. Fun topics such as company or industry “Did you know…?” trivia or even a simple “Good morning! What did you do this weekend?” can go a long way to making your Facebook page a community destination instead of a promotional content dump. People enjoy talking about themselves and their experiences – let them do it on your page and learn from what they tell you.

If you’re asking your Facebook followers for feedback, remember it’s a two-way street. Be sure to check back often to reply to others’ questions and be part of the conversation yourself.

3. Photos and Videos

There are many applications such as TwitPic and TwitVid that facilitate the addition of photos and videos on Twitter updates. Facebook, however, gets a leg up on those tools’ shortened URLs by putting photos and videos straight into Facebook users’ news feeds. Photos and videos are welcome breaks from text-heavy status updates, and let businesses tell their stories with images and sound.

Take advantage of the provided status update space to give background on these types of media, and start dialogue by asking followers their thoughts, reactions and favorites.

4. Behind-the-scenes and VIP Info

People “Like” Facebook pages to have another way to track their favorites brands, products, people and places. Make your company’s Facebook updates stand out by offering up valuable information and interactions they won’t find anywhere else, such as behind-the-scenes photos, sneak-peek product announcements and Facebook-only contests.

Be careful with Facebook promotions, however. Facebook updated its promotions guidelines at the end of 2009 to better regulate contests held and promoted on its site. Here are a few things to keep in mind: You can’t make contest entrants perform any other action on Facebook other than “Liking” your page; be mindful how you frame Facebook and its images in the contest; and, as always, pay attention to local and national promotion rules. See the full guidelines straight from Facebook here, or check out this post on the Inside Facebook blog.

5. Tagging

Similar to Twitter’s “@ mention,” Facebook allows fan pages to tag other people and pages in status updates. This comes in handy when status updates touch on key partners and demographics such as trade media, associations and trade shows. For example, if you post an interview Trade Magazine Weekly did with your company’s CEO, include a short status update intro above the link that mentions the media outlet. This will show up on the outlet’s Facebook page Wall and will be visible to everyone who visits its page.

Similarly, when other people and pages tag your business, it will appear on your page’s wall. These posts break up your page’s usual stream of content, and show that others find your Facebook page (and company) worthy of a mention. Boost these types of mentions by regularly tagging others yourself, and asking employees, partners and followers to tag you in their posts.

How is your B2B company engaging with your Facebook community?