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.

Big Data Provides Insights from B2B Social Media

In a recent post from eMarketer about the importance of companies managing their big data, there was not even consensus on the definition of big data. And 21% of those surveyed admitted that they weren’t really sure what big data meant.

IBM defines big data by example. “Everyday, we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data–so much that 90% of the data in the world today has been created in the last two years alone. This data comes from everywhere: from sensors used to gather climate information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos posted online, transaction records of online purchases, and from cell phone GPS signals to name a few.”

As digital communications, in all forms including social media components, grow for B2B companies, more and more data is available to make better decisions. The biggest challenges cited by companies related to resources, especially manpower and time required to sort through the data, and the volume of data.

The top three uses for analyzing data are competitive monitoring, brand monitoring and pricing/product information. These are key elements of a marketer's job. What are my competitors up? What do customers and prospects think of my brand? How are people responding to my company's products and pricing?

It is no longer enough to rely on interns and anecdotal data. B2B companies, even those who have not started social media marketing plans, need to implement formal data gathering processes and dedicate the analytical brain power to determining the business ramifications. There have been several large consumer brands that have recently responded to a large social media backlash regarding pricing charges, including Netflix, Bank of America and Verizon. If your company were in a similar situation, would you have had anything in place to collect and understand the reaction?

According to a McKinsey report about big data, it “will become a key basis of competition, underpinning new waves of productivity growth and innovation.” The report includes seven insights from their research in five domains—healthcare in the United States, the public sector in Europe, retail in the United States, and manufacturing and personal-location data globally.

What have you done to address the gathering of big data for your B2B company?

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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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’.
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Why the IBM Watson Jeopardy Challenge Is the Greatest B2B Campaign Ever

Nearly 10 million Americans tuned in to the venerable Jeopardy quiz show on February 14, forsaking their Valentine Day activities for a half-hour to watch a computer battle to a standoff with the two greatest Jeopardy champions of all time. Nearly as many tuned in the ensuing nights to see the IBM machine, called Watson, soundly thrash Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at the game they have dominated for the last decade.

Back at IBM, marketers were all smiles. What had started as an evolution on the 1997 contest between a computer named Deep Blue and world champion Garry Kasparov had become a cultural phenomenon, one that will be paying dividends for IBM for years to come. Thanks to a group of anonymous computer scientists, and a marketing organization that understood the power of their grassroots appeal, IBM had just pulled off the greatest B2B marketing coup of all time.

The Watson Jeopardy challenge wasn’t strictly a social media campaign, not by a long shot. IBM paid dearly for the chance to align itself with the Jeopardy brand and even footed the bill to create a television studio in its Yorktown, NY labs so that its computer could compete in climate-controlled environs. But many of the principles that IBM embraced in its grassroots promotion for the campaign represent the best of what social media has to offer.

Full disclosure: I’m a contractor to IBM on the project that is unrelated to the Watson Jeopardy challenge. I have no financial interest in the program’s success, but my role did permit me a bit of an insider’s view on the social activities that led up to the contest.

Beyond the Golf Course
Make no mistake about the fact that this was a B2B campaign. IBM has no consumer business, and its choice of Jeopardy was meant to find a crossover between mass-market and business constituents. Jeopardy was a gateway to selling computers to the Fortune 1000.

B2B companies have always struggled to find mainstream media channels to a business audience. Mostly they’ve settled for golf tournaments and news programs. The genius of the Jeopardy challenge is that the program combines highbrow content with mass appeal. It was also the perfect place to showcase state-of-the-art artificial intelligence technology in a context that makes sense to ordinary humans.

The 1997 chess match, in which an IBM computer beat the reigning world champion, received international coverage, but the game itself excited little interest in the US. In contrast, every American has watched Jeopardy and respects it for the mind-bending challenge it can be.

Scheduling the show during the frigid winter months following the Super Bowl was smart. Even smarter was that production schedules gave IBMers a month between the taping of the three-show series and their airing. While everyone who witnessed the taping was bound to draconian nondisclosure terms, there was nothing to stop the Watson marketers from putting the promotional wheels in motion, fully aware of the favorable outcome.

This is where the social component came in. IBM did relatively little mainstream media advertising for the event. Instead, it leveraged “owned” and “earned” channels at modest cost. A dedicated website featured background and video interviews with Watson’s creators, as well as an aggregation of social media buzz. The PBS program Nova was enlisted to air a documentary a week before the contest. IBM even cooperated with former BusinessWeek editor Stephen Baker on a book about the contest, with the final chapter set to be released immediately after the third program. IBM was able to piggyback not only on promotion for the book, but also on Baker’s popular writings on Huffington Post. A series of viewing parties and informal tweetups brought key customers into the fold.

Watson’s frequently updated Facebook page has more than 17,000 “likes” and its Twitter account has more than 6,000 followers as of this writing. On YouTube, IBM posted more than 30 short videos in the months leading up to the event, racking up more than 1 million views. It chose to feature the researchers and engineers who built the computer rather than the corporate suits.

Spotlight on the Little People
The company chose as its chief spokesman Dr. David Ferrucci, the attractive, articulate and disarmingly likable chief scientist on the project. Ferrucci’s ability to explain technology concepts in plain English without sounding arrogant was an asset to a project that was at constant risk of swamping its audience with technobabble. The final video in that series, which features the engineers speaking of the computer in the same way a parent speaks of a child, can almost move you to tears.

I can only imagine the restraint it took the suits at IBM not to hog the limelight, but letting Watson’s creators own the story. This lent an everyman tone to a project of incredible complexity.

About two weeks before the contest aired, IBM marketers began turning the conversation to business. It rolled out YouTube videos speculating on the technology’s applications to healthcare, customer service and finance. A week before the contest, press releases told of customers who were already lining up to apply the technology. As the media asked “What’s next?” In the wake of Watson’s victory, IBM had the answer ready.

IBMers were active in nooks and crannies of the Internet. The research team chose Reddit, a social news site with a small but enthusiastic membership, to answer the top 10 questions about Watson and the contest. Ferrucci and others used TED.com for a live webcast the day after the contest ended. They also live-blogged during the Nova program.

Finally, IBM tapped into its own social media resources, including more than 130 Twitter accounts and a hard core of IBM bloggers who have attracted their own followings over the years. There were no mandates from on high. IBM made it easy for its internal communicators to get the information they needed and its people blogged proudly and extensively about Watson in the weeks before the contest.

The Watson Jeopardy challenge was a huge financial bet for IBM, but the company will reap the rewards for years. Technology vendors compete fiercely for talent, and Jeopardy will keep IBM’s recruiting pipeline full of budding computer scientists. More importantly, the company’s B2B clients got a glimpse of technology in a context that sparked visions of possibilities in their own industries. Over the past week, IBM has been swamped with inquiries by corporations, universities and government agencies wanting to get their own taste of Watson.

Yes, it was a very good campaign.

This Week’s Inspiring B2B Social Media Posts

If you work in B2B social media and you have some of the same search terms and feeds set up as I do, you may have already seen these posts flash by your field of vision. Just in case you missed them, here are some recent posts that you might find relevant. It is a diverse mix of posts about general social media B2B, ROI, advertising, sales and hiring. If there are other recent posts that have been particularly inspiring to you this week (including your own), leave them in the comments below.

3 Reasons B2B Social Media Makes So Much Sense
by Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) on the Radian6 blog
We’re talking about social media for B2B this month. (We wrote a nifty eBook about it just in case you missed it). It’s something that comes up over, and over, and over in conversations in our industry. There’s an impression sometimes that in business-to-business companies, social media just doesn’t have a strong case. But that simply isn’t true.
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ROI Absent From Yet Another Marketing Meeting
(also titled: Where In The World Is B2B Social Media ROI? when syndicated on another site)
by Jeremy Victor (@JeremyVictor) on B2BBloggers.com
Is this a familiar scene? Are you spending a lot of time talking about B2B social media and content marketing, only not acting because you can’t find ROI?
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B2B Ads: Women click, men act
by Rebecca Lieb (@lieblink) on Econsultancy
How do businesspeople interact with online ads? Women click on them, men act on them, and both genders do so at vastly differing times of the day (and night).
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IBM’s social media skills initiative for partners
by Walter Adamson (@g2m) on Customer Think
IBM is often ranked in the top 50 of US companies in terms of social media savviness, but like most companies which sell indirect that savviness does not necessarily translate down through the channel. This means that channel partners are actually missing the opportunity to leverage the investment that IBM is making in social media to help grow their business.
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Six Tips for Recruiting a B2B Social Media Hire
by Elizabeth Sosnow (@ElizabethSosnow) on Spin Sucks
Public relations recruiting can be tough, but B2B social media recruiting activity almost put me into an early grave this year. We spent months searching for someone who understood how to marry the complexities of thought leadership creation and hands-on digital skills.
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SXSW: How IBM Uses B2B Social Media

Adam Christensen is the social media manager at IBM and we spoke at the SXSW Interactive Conference in Austin TX about IBM’s implementation and uses of B2B social media.

IBM focuses their social media efforts on getting their employees talking outside the firewall to surface their expertise. The idea is that the best way to represent the brand is to showcase its people and their knowledge. Many of their social efforts began internally as a way for employees to learn from others and collaborate, and some of the internal tools even became products offered to the marketplace.

There is a video platform where any employee can upload internal videos and podcasts. They have also done work externally by changing the corporate stereotypes of B2B video. And for those getting started, Adam recommends getting started in social media by proving success on an internal pilot project. Follow Adam on Twitter at @adamclyde.

Thanks to Ryan Boyles, part of the IBM WebSphere Software team, for connecting me with Adam.

9 B2B Social Media SlideShare Presentations Worth Watching

In the world of business-to-business companies presentations with slides have become a staple for internal and external meetings. Because many of us rely on slides, we often need inspiration and help putting together the perfect deck. Recently I have become a fan of SlideShare.net, a site that allows users to upload and share their slide presentations with others. I have found it a great source for presentations on a wide variety of topics.

Today, I wanted to share with you some of the best B2B social media slide decks on SlideShare in hopes that they can be educational, and perhaps helpful, when you have to put together your own social media related presentations for management and other internal groups.

1. Dell B2B Social Media Huddle By Neville Hobson – This presentation mixes solid usage facts with larger strategic concepts that could be useful in selling social media internally, but also for creating a sound strategic framework.

2. B2B Social Media Marketing Techniques: Measuring the Impact from Creation to Closed Deal By Kyle Flaherty – Kyle outlines clear points for developing content that creates engagement that can lead to measurable results.

3. IBM Case B2B Social Media By Tim Washer – These slide walk through the IBM Mainframe case study and showcase the results created when B2B Social media is executed well.

4. LaPointe: B2B & Social Media: Performance, Measurements, and SEO Benefits By LIFT Summit 09 – Social media, tied to SEO and examples of good content, make this a useful presentation for helping to understand the bigger role of social media for inbound marketing.

5. B2B Social Media and Twitter – an Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs By Andrew Spoeth – This presentation includes an audio interview that provides valuable insight from Ann Handley of Marketing Profs. Worth listening to to understand how Ann balances her time and uses social media for her business.

6. Community with Social Media and Web 2.0 – A Cisco Product Launch Case Study by LaSandra Brill – Cisco provides a great walk through of how they marketed a specific hardware product using social media. Often you see many examples of social media at the corporate level, it is helpful to see one that is product specific.

7. Building the B2B Business Case for Social Media By Christina Kerley – From influencer engagement to connecting social media to CRM, this presentations highlights the high-level B2B social media issues that companies will be dealing with in the coming years.

8. B2B Social Communications Case Studies – Intuit By Business Development Institute – I saw this case study presented live this past fall. It serves as a great example of leveraging social media to reach small business owners and the business results that can be translated from this type of program.

9. Social Media Strategy and Execution for Branding, Engagement and Recruiting By Polly Pearson of EMC – We can often forget that current and perspective employees are an important audience for social media. This presentation from EMC focuses on the employee relations aspects of social media.

Did you find these presentations helpful? Are there others that you have found helpful or provided inspiration?

All B2B Companies Need Social Media Policies

With social media policies in the mainstream news from both the Washington Post and the NBA, this is a good time to look at social media policies as they relate to B2B companies and their communications efforts.

This post is filled with examples from large companies that sell products and services to other companies. These are good models to review as you develop your own social media policies. There is not much difference between social media policies for B2B and B2C companies. In both cases, employees are representing their companies, whether on company-sponsored platforms, on other third party blogs, or on social networking sites. Even in instances where employees are expressing their own views which don’t represent the company’s views, they are still part of the company’s online presence.

The first place to start is with the need for social media policies. No matter the size of company, there needs to be an understanding of how employees can use social media. This can be formal or informal, but without even the most basic guidelines, misunderstandings are sure to occur. Even if you are operating a sole proprietorship, you need a social media policy for how you present yourself to clients and prospects.

With larger companies, these policies are hammered out by committees that frequently include HR and legal, and are shared either on an intranet for internal access, or on public-facing websites for all to see. In the age of transparency, many companies want these policies public, so customers can understand a company’s approach to social media.

A social media policy represents a company’s culture. Sun begins their policy with a very clear statement about the company’s thoughts on social media. “By speaking directly to the world, without prior management approval, we are accepting higher risks in the interest of higher rewards. We don’t want to micro-manage, but here is some advice that we expect you to follow to help you manage that risk.”

Some companies acknowledge that their employees are adults and take a professional approach to representing their company on social media sites that is no different than staffing a booth at a trade show. For example, Cisco reminds employees that “common sense is the best guide if you decide to post information in any way relating to Cisco,” while Headset Bros makes it a little more personal: “Never post anything you would be afraid for your Mom to see.” And finally, Gartner reminds employees to “be personable and have fun. Web participation is about enjoying personal interactions, not delivering corporate communications.”

One of the earliest social media policies was created by IBM in 2005. This policy was created by employees to best determine how to participate in the blogging conversation. IBM continues to update their online, and very public, document as the social web changes and grows. They view this participation as critical to company operation. “IBM is increasingly exploring how online discourse through social computing can empower IBMers as global professionals, innovators and citizens.”

Many companies would like their employees to clearly identify themselves as an employee of the company, however, they must acknowledge that the thoughts and opinions are personal and do not represent the companies views. This is even true on many company blogs.

Your Internet posting should reflect your personal point of view, not necessarily the point of view of Cisco. Because you are legally responsible for your postings, you may be subject to liability if your posts are found defamatory, harassing, or in violation of any other applicable law. When posting your point of view, you should neither claim nor imply you are speaking on Cisco’s behalf, unless you are authorized in writing by your manager to do so.

As transparency continues to be important, Intel wants its employees to acknowledge mistakes. “Did you screw up? If you make a mistake, admit it. Be upfront and be quick with your correction. If you’re posting to a blog, you may choose to modify an earlier post—just make it clear that you have done so.”

Here is a growing list of social media policies, which includes the above B2B examples, as well as examples from other categories. If there are other examples of social media policies that you have used to create yours, let us know in the comments below.

IBM Embraces Video to Connect With Businesses

This post is a recap of a case study presented at the recent B2B Social Communications event held in New York City. Tim Washer (@timwasher), Social Media Productions – IBM Communications, shared examples of how IBM uses video and social media to achieve their B2B communications objectives.

Video is an effective medium for creating awareness to a message or a brand. As the above video entitled The Art of the Sale shows, video, and especially humor, can be used by B2B companies to share a message.

As with any new corporate marketing program, you must first get agreement on the rules. A team of bloggers, marketing, public relations and legal gathered together to establish guidelines. In the early days of social media, employees were encouraged to experiment within the firewall. This IBM mainframe program was conducted in 2006, so there was a lot more latitude to be creative and there was much less understanding of social media on the part of management. It was also still the early days of YouTube, so much of the sharing was done via email. And as the program got some big hits, they promoted that success.

There are a variety of approaches to video in a business setting, but you must start by finding your most compelling stories. This is coupled with having you most compelling experts tell your story. These stories can be presented in a news format or in the reality show/ documentary style that has been popularized by shows like The Office. The sample video is in this documentary style. In an attempt to “go viral,” or spread widely beyond your company’s network, you can use nonsense, humor or absurdity.

The objectives of the Art of the Sale campaign, and these were business objectives of the mainframe division, were to create awareness for a new mainframe value proposition. IBM had a new, more efficient mainframe available for $100,000. This was significantly less than the $1 million price tag customers were used to. The other objective was to increase awareness of IBM mainframes with college students.

The video was posted on YouTube for easy embedding on IBM blogs. Blog traffic increased 25 times, and the campaign received mainstream press coverage. It showed that story trumps messaging and targeting. Social media is the perfect medium if you have engaging stories to tell about your business. IBM is now using video to tell its stories about a smarter planet.