9 B2B Marketing Lessons from Judging Online Campaigns

b2b-marketing-contest-judgingI recently judged the online marketing category of an internal marketing competition for a B2B company. The marketers chose their best online marketing campaigns and submitted the details of their strategies, activities, creative work and metrics of success. There were a lot of great ideas and great effort on the part of the marketers. The following lessons are derived from my feedback to the entrants and some reminders for all marketers that occurred to me as I reviewed their entries.

1. Marketing Goals Must Align with Business Goals

Marketing cannot exist in a silo. This is one of the biggest issues that marketers, especially social media marketers, have. They create their own set of goals that are not important to anyone else in the company. While those goals may be important to the marketing team, you also need goals that relate to the high level business goals. These are the things that executives care about. These are the things that you must report on. These are the things that have material impact on the business.

2. Tactics without Strategy Will Only Get You So Far

It is easy for marketers to do things to look effective, and maybe on small levels, they are effective. But unless those small tactics add up to the overall strategy, you will never truly grow the business. Can you get more people to like your Facebook? Sure, but how does it relate to growing sales or improving the customer experience? You need to make sure you understand how to leverage that larger audience to meet the strategic goals. Grow your audience for the sake of having a bigger audience is not going to win any points with anyone. And if your boss wants a bigger online audience just so the numbers look bigger, tell them they are wrong. It’s about more than that.

3. SMART Goals are the Best Way Ensure Solid Marketing

Make your marketing goals:
Specific
Measurable
Actionable
Relevant
Timely

4. Great Results Don’t Count if They’re Not Against Your Goals

Every so often fantastic things happen as a result of a marketing campaign. Maybe you achieved a big bump in sales that you weren’t counting on. Whether or not you can attribute this to your marketing efforts, or it just occurred in the measured time period, you cannot take credit for this success if it wasn’t one of your goals. The point of goals are to plan what is going to happen and what success looks like. So that success can become repeatable. Happy accidents are not repeatable. Your boss might be happy with the extra sales, but if you don’t know how to make them happen again, they are not one of the success points of the campaign.

5. Present the Context of Your Success

Measurement is a key to understanding your success. Did you meet your goals? Did you grow your business? Did you drive traffic back to your website in significant numbers to make the effort worth it? Just like marketing doesn’t work in a silo, neither do metrics. How do your increases compare to a similar period? That could be the previous period or the same one last year. This context is required to understand the success of your marketing. And if you are doing something new, look to industry averages as your baseline. Even if a click-through-rate sounds good to your gut, you need to compare it an industry benchmark to know if it really is good.

6. Let Your Customers Tell You What They Want

Your customers are your marketing audience. Even if you are trying reach new prospects, they are like your current customers. Make sure you know what things are important to them. And not just as they relate to your products and services, but in the running of their business. What are their typical business problems? How do they like to receive information? And how do they communicate back with you? Thankfully we have stopped using fax machines to communicate.

7. If You Can’t Explain the Value of Your Efforts to Your Boss, What Are You Doing?

One of the more interesting evaluation elements of the marketing contest was to view the submission from the perspective of a company executive. This is very different from looking at it from a marketing perspective. Does your boss understand what you are doing? Do they understand the value of it to the business. If not, there could be one of two main problems. There could be a communication problem. You are just not explaining it very well. The other is that your efforts just don’t have real value to the business. This happens when you are chasing the wrong things. The ones that don’t have enough business impact, or they don’t lead to something with business impact.

8. Focus on One Core Campaign for the Best Results

Sometimes marketers get caught up in big, complicated campaigns with lots of moving parts. Not only are these expensive, but they are harder to measure. Marketing campaigns should have a core strategy and all the elements pointing in one direction. Successful campaigns should have multiple elements, but they’ll be more successful if they are ultimately trying to do the same thing.

9. Don’t Get Left Behind Best Practices

Today’s marketers need to keep up with trends in the marketplace. This means paying attention to their own industry verticals, but also marketing trends in general. Social media practices have evolved over the last 5 years and what made sense then no longer makes sense. For example, merely growing your social media followers as an end goal is one of those activities. Nobody cares how many people like your Facebook page. But if you are growing your audience on Facebook and other platforms as a means better serve your customers and drive prospect traffic to your website, that makes sense. As overloaded everyone is, you need to make a little time in your day to dip into some of the top marketing blogs. You will get a better sense of what other marketers are doing and where they are finding success.

Photo credit: Flickr

6 Tips for Managing a B2B Crisis Using Social Media

b2b-social-media-crisisEvery B2B company, regardless of size and industry, will encounter the occasional crisis. Whether your company botches a product shipment or endures a network outage that affects the mission-critical software you deliver, your customers will be upset. In times of trouble, B2B companies can find high-dollar contracts at risk and strategic relationships in jeopardy, and these threats can shake an organization to its core.

Social media has raised the stakes when a crisis occurs, given that customers can communicate their dissatisfaction quickly and broadly. If not managed properly, social media can amplify a crisis and severely damage your business before you have even had the opportunity to troubleshoot the problem. But even though sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn may make managing a crisis trickier, they can also help you communicate with your customers, demonstrate your commitment to them and bolster your reputation. In fact, a well-managed crisis can not only help you retain customers, but it can lead to new customers and additional deals.

Following are six tips for effectively managing a B2B crisis using social media.

1. Develop a Strategy

Crises emerge without notice and leave little time to do much more than react. To respond in a way that is best for your business and your customers, you must develop a crisis management strategy for social media before issues arise. Take the following steps to develop your plan:

  • Gather your key team members and brainstorm the best strategy for responding in times of crisis using social media.
  • Assign someone to draft the various communications that will be required, and determine what additional review and approval will be needed before they post to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other channels.
  • Establish parameters for follow up posts, including how frequently your team will post or tweet updates.
  • Consider using email and your blog to deliver updates.
  • Document your plan.

By the time the meeting is over, your team should fully understand the plan that will be set into motion at the first sign of trouble.

2. Acknowledge the Crisis When it Occurs

At the first sign of a crisis that impacts your customers, quickly gather an understanding of what is happening and set your plan into motion. In your early messages to your audience on traditional and social channels, make sure to communicate what steps you will be taking to resolve the issues, and confirm how frequently they can expect updates.

3. Be Honest and Explicit

Don’t sugarcoat the problems at hand or address them in vague terms. Be honest and explicit, and stand accountable. Social media has ushered in an era of transparency and it is one of the most important values in a crisis. If you receive questions or feedback from customers, respond in a calm, calculated manner to ensure they are aware that you are putting them first and that you understand their needs. All responses in social channels are considered public statements and can easily be shared. Another reason honesty really is the best policy.

4. Keep the Information Flowing

Keep the information flowing, and strive to provide meaningful social media updates according to the schedule and on the platforms that you have established. If there is no new information to report, let your audience know. However, make sure they understand the steps that are being taken. By communicating frequently, and in multiple places, your audience will be confident that you are working as hard as you can to resolve the problems.

5. Apologize and Close the Loop

Once the crisis passes, complete the due diligence needed to understand what caused the problems and create a plan for avoiding similar issues in the future. Once you have this information, craft an apology email or blog post to your customers that provides a full picture of what happened, why it happened, and how you will prevent this from happening in the future. Speak candidly and be direct. This is the stage of the process where you reaffirm your commitment to your customers and the relationships you have with them.

6. Prevent the Same Crisis from Occurring Again

Simply put, don’t make the same mistake again. If you do, you will drive away any of the goodwill that you created through previous crisis management efforts and further damage your credibility. This can prove troubling for existing clients and those considering engaging with your company.

Social media can be your company’s best friend during a crisis, and if used effectively, it can help you provide assurance to existing customers while building your reputation in a way that impresses prospective customers.

What best practices do you use to manage crises through social media?

How To Find the Best B2B Social Media Linkedin Groups

Most people learn how to use Linkedin by building a network of professional connections. Some even take the time to post updates to their activity feed. But if you haven’t noticed yet, not a lot of people hang out in the activity stream on Linkedin.

The lion’s share of real engagement happens in Linkedin Groups, especially for B2B companies. But not all Linkedin Groups. Most are veritable spam fests where unscrupulous marketers spam links to promotions or try to drive clicks to their blog posts.

So how do you find the really good Linkedin Groups? How can you tell which ones are worthwhile, and which ones are worthless?

You could just join a bunch of groups, follow the activity that occurs in each one and learn that way. But that’s time consuming. And since there are nearly 1.6 million Linkedin Groups and you can only join 50 at a time, finding the genuinely worthwhile groups that way could take a lifetime.

As an example, I used Linkedin Group statistics to analyze the three B2B social media groups I’ve been a member of to see which one is the best.

I’d rather spend more time in one Linkedin Group where I can have real discussions with other professionals who are interested in exploring a common topic, then spread myself thin over a bunch of groups, particularly if some of them are spammy.

Here’s how to use Linkedin Group Statistics to see which ones to join.

1. Review the Group

Go to the Linkedin Group you’re considering joining. But don’t join right away.

Instead, scroll down below the “Top Influencers of the Week” box in the right-hand column and find “Group Statistics.” The “3,759” number you see in the image is not accurate. Every group uses the same generic artwork. So ignore it and click “View Group Statistics.”

2. Review the Activity

Once you’re in the Linkedin Group Statistics page, click the “Activity” tab and check out the graph on the right. “Discussions” are new posts left to the Group and “comments” made underneath new discussions. A better way to think about “discussions” is as “new posts,” because if no one comments, they aren’t actually discussions.

3. Compare Discussions to Comments

The chart will give you a snapshot of whether or not people are having conversations. If the number of discussions is much higher than the number of comments, people are leaving new posts, but they’re not starting conversations. Unfortunately, this is the case most of the time in Linkedin Groups.

Now and again, as in the Linkedin Group used in the example above appears currently to be hosting healthy conversations, but not until recently. In fact, comments surpassed discussions just last month. Could it be a fluke?

4. Look at the Conversations

Let’s check it out and see. Just because there’s a healthy conversation going on, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a worthwhile group. A low ratio of discussions to comments is necessary, but not sufficient. So hop on over to the group’s activity feed and see if the discussions are interesting to you. If they are, join up.

As a rule of thumb, closed groups tend to be less spammy than open groups because they are actively monitored by a community manager. Some Linkedin Groups have rules for what they do and don’t allow. If they have rules, the manger will send them to you if your membership is approved.

So which B2B Linkedin Groups are the healthiest?

I compared the following Linkedin Groups:

Here’s what I found:

With more than 200 discussions posted in recent months, both B2B Online Marketing and BtoB Marketing do have more activity. But that’s not an indication of worthwhile conversation because they both have too few comments. There’s almost no conversation occurring there at all in these group, and since conversation is engagement, these are, you guessed it, spam fests.

B2B Social Media, on the other hand, has around half the volume of new discussions being posted, but those discussions most recently have started drawing a healthy number of comments. As of January, the engagement level has picked up sharply. For readers of this site, if you like what you see in the Group’s activity stream, this is the one to join.

Are there other ways you have evaluated LinkedIn Groups, or are there other B2B social media or marketing groups that provided value? Let other readers know in the comments below.

Wow! 500 Posts about B2B Social Media

Some milestones cannot be ignored and this is one of them. In February 2009 we published our first post here on SocialMediaB2B.com. This is now post number 500. So much has changed in that time. Both Kipp and I have gotten new jobs since then (me a few times), but we kept writing. When we found that we couldn’t dedicate enough time to the blog, we enlisted the help of contributing and guest bloggers. The site became too important sit idle.

And even when we wrote our book this past Spring and Summer, we kept publishing posts about B2B social media and marketing. The biggest lesson for B2B marketers is that blogging is about consistency. Start writing about your topic and keep writing about it no matter what gets in the way.

This seemed like a good occasion to review the top 10 posts of all time. The topics range from blogging to Twitter to Facebook. Stats posts, tool posts and predictions have also been popular. They are listed below in chronological order and there is only one post from 2011. It will be interesting to see what the most popular posts of this year are, when we do an end of year post. Everyone talks about today’s post and how people only focus on what is current, but this list shows that search is still a powerful driver of blog traffic to older posts. Popular posts are more popular with search engines too.

Published in 2009
10 Business Blogging Best Practices
3 Ways B2B Companies Should Be Using Facebook For Lead Generation
10 Examples of B2B Facebook Fan Pages

Published in 2010
7 B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of
7 More B2B Social Media Tools You Haven’t Heard Of
28 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics
5 Ways for B2B Companies to Engage on Facebook
10 B2B Social Media Case Studies and Examples
11 Predictions for B2B Social Media in 2011

Published in 2011
Top 10 B2B Companies on Twitter

Thanks for your continued readership, comments and sharing our posts. We will keep publishing content to help B2B marketers find success with social media as long as you keep reading. As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

And by the way, while reviewing our stats to determine these top posts, I discovered another milestone that we are approaching. One million page views. Now that sounds like a big number.

10 Ways to Make Your B2B Trade Show Social

B2B marketers focus on social media as a way to connect online with prospects and customers, but social media offers a huge opportunity to enhance offline events like tradeshows and conferences. Trade shows still make up a large percentage of B2B companies’ marketing budgets, so the following ideas can help leverage those events and make them more successful. And more social.social-tradeshow

1. Use Full URLs for Social Media Profiles
Every booth sign, business card and flyer includes logos for Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Don’t make your prospects and customer search to find you on these platforms. Provide the full URL for your page. If you still have a long and unwieldy Facebook URL, go to facebook.com/username to select a custom URL.

2. Encourage Facebook Likes Via Text Message
Even though smartphones continue to grow, many customers and prospects who come to your booth may still use feature phones. Show them how they can set up their phones to use Facebook via text messages and how they can easily subscribe to your Facebook Page that way. Just text “like” and the Page’s username to 32665 or your specific country code. This way, booth visitors can like your page while they are standing in front of you and continue to get updates on whatever device they use for Facebook, including their computer.

3. Provide Latest Topics from Relevant Industry Groups
Prior to the trade show, review topics and industry issues that are being discussed in LinkedIn Groups, or other online industry gathering places. Provide these topics, along with talking points, to your sales reps and other booth personnel as conversation starters. Yes, prospects come to your booth to learn about your products and services, but relevant, industry conversations can help build a relationship.

4. Post Content on Slideshare
Slideshare is not just for public presentations, although you should definitely upload any slide decks that are associated with talks you or other company representatives give. Create a short, highly visual deck about new product launches, booth highlights or even an industry news update. Share this deck on your social media profiles for those attending the show, and even for those who can’t make it. A keyword-rich description will also help this information get found on Slideshare.

5. Live Blog Keynote Presentations or Education Sessions
Most shows have some keynote address or educational content, even if there is not a full-blown conference track. Pick the most interesting, relevant or controversial sessions and live blog them. You can live blog the event in real-time, where you continue to update a blog post and re-publish with each new piece of information, or you can write the summary throughout the presentation and publish at the end of the session. The key to live blogging is that you publish before you walk out of the room. If you write about the session in note form, and hope to get back to it, it is unlikely you will.

6. Run an In-Person Twitter Chat
Twitter chats continue to be popular for many industries and ideas. Conduct a live Twitter chat, either at your booth or in a separate space during the show. The moderator can ask questions both in person and on the chat, so people can follow along both online and off.

7. Build a Keyword-Based Trade Show Page on Your Website
Create a page on your website that features your presence at the upcoming show. Use your regular keywords on the page in conjunction with words that relate to the show you will be attending. This way, when prospects look for information about the show, your show page also comes up in search. And since social search plays a role, encourage attendees from your company to share the page on their social networks.

8. Connect with Show Organizers
Most tradeshows these days have their own social media profiles, and sometimes the organizers struggle with content or connections on those profiles. Connect with the organizers and offer to provide content they can share with other show attendees. Promote their content on your profiles as well. Talk with them about social media sponsorships, hashtags and informal events during the show. These may be new ideas in some industries and you can become a valuable resource.

9. Run a Booth Contest with Twitter Clues
Use Twitter to announce contests and giveaways at your booth that require winners to come to your booth. They might need to answer a question or share a photo. Make sure you check with your legal department before conducting any contests. You may need to post contest rules on your company website.

10. Conduct Video Interviews
The best thing about tradeshow video is that you can get physical access to lots of people in your industry that are not normally together. This is a great opportunity to interview multiple people about industry trends, or sit down with an industry influencer. You may want to use a camera that has a mic, or find a quiet spot to shoot your interviews. Tradeshow can be very noisy. And with these 10 ideas very social.

What are other ways that you have used social media to make your B2B tradshows social?

Photo: Flickr

4 Ways to Integrate B2B Social Media into Marketing Plans

B2B marketers have long known that to succeed with social media they can’t view it as a stand alone campaign or tactic, but must integrate social media into their marketing plans. Here are four suggestions for doing just that.

1. A Social Website
A B2B website is the most likely destination for your prospects and customers with any campaign. A call-to-action from any source drives a visitor to your website for more information, to download a white paper or ebook, or even to contact a sales rep. The first thing you need to make sure is that your website supports the marketing campaign. Whether you have a landing page for the specific offer, or just a clear path from the home page (which is where people will wind up from anything that is not a click), make sure they can find what they are looking for. Making your website social includes providing other remarkable content, usually on a blog, allowing visitors to share and spread your content, and links to your social profiles, along with what visitors can expect when they follow or like your company.

2. Support Traditional Advertising
There are stil B2B companies using traditional advertising to drive leads into their funnel. If that is still working for your company, and your cost per lead is competitive to other tactics, it is not yet time to discontinue it cold turkey. It is time to review its effectiveness and cost, as you begin adding social media to your marketing mix. You do, however, want to support that advertising with social media. Create a blog post that provides more in-depth information to what was in the ad. If creating the ad featured an interesting photo shoot, post some behinds the scenes shots on your Facebook page. Shoot a video with the product manager talking about the development of the product and some of the customer feedback that was incorporated into the development.

3. Socialize Your Email
An email component is usually part of a larger marketing campaign. These can easily be social by adding social media profile buttons to follow and share, but there is so much more. Use your social meda profiles to encourage prospects and customers to sign-up for the email. Announce a week before and a day before that you have an email going out and ask your followers to opt-in to the message. Many email programs can automatically post a web version of the email to your profiles when you send it out. If your message is highly targeted and includes a specific promotion that you don’t want to send to everybody, you can qualify people online. Use the current email as the reminder to you to post a sign-up request, but send them a more general email, which still needs a call-to-action.

4. Discover Prospects
A marketing campaign begins with a target persona, a prospect list, a customer list or some other way to reach your audience for your product or service. No matter how you gathered this, there are more people out there that can benefit from your message. You can search Twitter for keywords that relate to your target industry, or even specific pain points. People ask questions about new solutions, and even complain about their current situations. Join LinkedIn Groups where people do that as well. No matter the platform, the first contact should be helpful and offer value. Unless it is clear that they are ready to make a buying decision RIGHT NOW, people are looking for recommendations, not sales pitches. Think of this step of expanding your list of prospects for a second phase of a campaign.

What are some other ways you have integrated social media into your B2B marketing plans?

8 Reasons Why B2B Social Media is Easier than B2C

B2B B2C Easy HardAlthough social media is seldom “easy,” there are some distinct advantages that B2B companies have over B2C brands in the social media space.  Here’s a list of 8 reasons why B2B social media is easier than B2C:

1. It’s driven by relationships
B2C marketing is largely based on a product and its price. It tends to be a more impulsive or emotional buying decision than B2B. B2B purchasing decisions tend to be more involved and relationship driven, and that suits social media.

In a B2B sales cycle, businesses tend to interface directly with potential customers multiple times in order to inform and educate the prospect. Social media can play a big role in this process. Through social media you can interact with the prospect and nurture the relationship, which can ultimately influence the final purchase decision.

2. Your practices can lead to sales
Your social media practices can demonstrate your business value which can lead to purchases. Users can see that you are reliable, responsive, intelligent, etc. via your social media practices.

3. You have more control
B2B companies tend to have less people talking about their brand than B2C companies. In most cases that means less content, and B2B typically generates less negative sentiment than B2C. That means B2B companies have less content to control and less negative content to deal with. Therefore B2B companies can maintain more control over their social content which makes it easier to get their message through to the right audience.

4. B2B purchase decisions are more rational
B2B sales cycles can span months or even years. Buyers research products, educate themselves, review competition, seek opinions via referrals or recommendations and in many cases, interact with brands before making a purchase decision. B2B buyers also need the approval of one or more colleagues to make the purchase. Compared to B2C, the B2B buying decision is a much more considered process and it’s based largely on business value.

5. It’s easier to build long-term relationships
The goal for most B2B marketers is to convert prospects into customers. Because the sales cycle is longer, B2B companies need to focus on relationships as part of that process. Communication with prospects, engaging them, educating them and leading them towards purchase creates the foundation for a long term relationship. And in many situations, the social media relationship continues past the sale through support, updates and continuing education.

6. The B2B market is smaller than the B2C market
Compared to B2C, B2B is a smaller, more focused target market. Using social media to identify prospects, connect with them and start building a relationship is faster and easier in the B2B market.

7. B2B buyers trust recommendations and feedback
Because B2B purchases are typically more considered decisions, B2B buyers tend to value the recommendations and feedback they receive from colleagues and other industry professionals. Social media provides a great opportunity to solicit product feedback, which can help influence the purchasing decision of the buyer.

8. B2B content has a long tail
B2B products tend to change less frequently than their B2C counterparts, so the social content you produce for your marketing efforts will create value for a longer period of time. That can make B2B social marketing more effective (and likely less expensive) than B2C.

Do you agree that B2B social media is easier than B2C? Are there any other ways that you feel B2B social media has an advantage over B2C?

Another 18 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics

B2B Social Media StatisticsWith the popularity of our 28 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics post last year, we wanted to make sure we kept our readers up to date on the latest statistics coming out of various B2B social media reports and studies. Here’s a list of 18 additional stats from a variety of sources to curb your stat-hungry appetite.

Usage:

  • More than nine out of ten B2B marketers (93%) say they conduct social media marketing to some extent. (Source)
  • More than two-thirds of B2B marketers already used social media marketing as of December 2010, where the main focus of marketing efforts was brand building. Despite customer acquisition being B2B’s top goal for the year, less than half of respondents were using social media for lead generation. (Source)
  • More B2B companies have been using social media longer (52.6% reported 1 year or more) than their B2C counterparts (46.2% indicated 1 year or longer). (Source PDF)

Budget:

  • This year 78.5% of B2B marketers plan to increase their online budgets. (Source)
  • 69% of B2B organizations are increasing marketing budgets for inbound marketing tactics including social media. (Source)
  • Social media has become an integral part of marketing for B2B companies, with 62.6% of marketers planning to increase their spending this year. (Source)
  • 51% of B2B marketers said they will increase their content marketing budgets this year, and content marketing will make up 26% of overall B2B marketing budgets.  (Source)
  • In 2010, social media, websites and email each received a median of 10% of B2Bs’ online marketing budgets. (Source)

Channels:

  • Among surveyed B2B marketers who conduct social marketing, 26% cite LinkedIn as their single most important social tool, 20% cite Facebook, 19% cite blogging, and 14% cite a customer community as their top tool. (Source)
  • B2C are more focused on Facebook and B2B are more focused on LinkedIn and video. Also note that B2B companies are utilizing blogs more. (Source PDF)
  • B2B companies are significantly more likely to plan on increasing their use of LinkedIn (71% of B2B versus 51% of B2C). (Source PDF)
  • 39% of B2B companies plan on increasing their forum use (versus 34% of B2C). (Source PDF)
  • B2C companies are more interested in learning about Facebook (74%) and blogging (72%) versus B2B (Facebook and blogging: 65%). (Source PDF)
  • 100% of Fortune 500 Company’s have executives using LinkedIn. 50% of LinkedIn’s users are decision makers in their company. 41% people using LinkedIn for marketing have generated business with it. (Source)

Challenges:

  • Asked to identify the top 3 major obstacles to adopting social media marketing, 70% of B2B marketers cite a lack of resources. Such marketers are faced with other obstacles as well, citing the following:
    -  Poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators: 57%
    -  Lack of knowledge about social media: 44%
    -  Management resistance: 22%
    (Source)

Mobile:

  • B2B mobile marketing spending will quadruple over the next five years, rising from $26 million in 2009 to $106 million in 2014. (Source)
  • 64% of B2B decision makers currently read their email via mobile devices. (Source)

Measurement:

  • Some 75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of social initiatives. (Source)

If you know of any other B2B social media statistics please leave the stat and source in the comments below.

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.

12 Social Media Tools for B2B Pre-Event Marketing

Social media has enabled B2B marketers with a wide range of opportunities for promoting their events. Whether it’s a webinar or a multi-day conference, leveraging social media can help event organizers extend an event’s visibility, attendance and pre-event conversations.

Using social media to build event attendance

Most larger events have their own web site and most smaller events have a least a landing page with registration (and hopefully those include social sharing functionality), but very few take advantage of the event capabilities of several social media channels or services. If you are running an event, consider promotion in the following areas:

1. LinkedIn Events
LinkedIn Events

Setting up an event in LinkedIn is a fairly simple process. Once your event is created, invite your connections to attend. LinkedIn users will be shown events that match their specific business needs based on the information they’ve added to their LinkedIn profile (Job Title, Industry, etc.), so your event may show up in their recommendations. In addition, your event will become searchable, and people connected to event attendees will see the event listed in their contact’s profile.

2. Facebook Events
Facebook Events
Facebook doesn’t have the most elegant option for managing events, but it can be effective. If your event or organization does not have a Facebook presence, just set up your event in Facebook Events and invite all your friends. Here’s a good guide from Mashable on How To: Organize an Event on Facebook. It’s a year old but the information is still useful.

If your event or organization does have a Facebook Page, you should create the event through that Page. It is a bit convoluted, but start by going to your Page and click “Edit Page” in the lefthand navigation. Click “Applications” in the left hand navigation. Events shows in your list of applications, and click “Go to Application.” Now you can create the event normally, but it is associated with the Page. This event will appear on the Page Wall, and you can still invite your friends, plus send an update to everyone who has liked the page.

3. Eventbrite
Eventbrite empowers you with simple but powerful tools to manage, promote and sell out your event. It’s free to sign up and get started. Eventbrite provides everything you need including custom page templates and the ability to sell tickets. If you sell tickets, Eventbrite charges a fee, plus you will need to link to a Paypal or Google Checkout account to accept payment. Eventbrite will also list your public event in its directory. You can even track your registration page in Google Analytics.

4. Plancast

Plancast Screenshot

Plancast is the easiest way to share events with friends. Just create an account, add an event and invite people to announce their attendance. Once your event has multiple attendees, people can leave comments, invite their contacts, add the event to their calendar and more.

5. Twitter
Twitter can offer limitless value in promoting your event. Here’s some Twitter event-marketing recommendations:

  • For larger events only, create a new Twitter account that you can update all year long
  • Establish and publicize a hashtag for your event
  • Create separate Twitter lists of event speakers, sponsors, attendees and local restaurants and attractions
  • Use Twitter search to find potential attendees and follow them
  • Tweet about event-specific information including sessions, speakers, exhibitors, benefits of attending, etc.
  • Promote your event by running a contest. For example, give away a free or discounted registration for those that tweet about your event

6. Facebook Page

Social Fresh Cruise Facebook Group

A Facebook Page can provide a destination for attendees to engage with event organizers. Organizers can share their pre-event processes and event updates which will help generate interest. Sharing photos, videos, press releases, media coverage, speaker updates, etc. and receiving feedback on those posts will benefit both the attendees and the event organizers.

7. Blog
Social Fresh Blog

Create a blog for the conference and source content from speakers and attendees. Write posts about the conference and answer frequently asked questions. The blog can even extend beyond the conference and be used as a year-round source of information. Social Fresh and Social Media Week NY are good examples of event blogs that generate marketing value.

8. YouTube and UStream Videos
Create pre-event videos discussing conference topics or featuring conference speakers. Consider a live video show a few days prior to the event to share event information, agenda, speaker bios, and whatever other event-related topics you’d like to cover. Invite attendees to ask questions via Twitter or live chat.

9. Community
Building a community around your event may only be viable for the larger conferences like SXSW, but the value it can bring to attendees is worth the consideration. Within the SXSW community, attendees can research and vote on panel sessions, engage in event-related discussions and prepare their schedule. If your event has the resources and a large enough base of attendees, consider putting a community in your event planning agenda.

10. Mobile

There’s a variety of mobile marketing options to consider for your event. You can use pre-event text voting to get attendee feedback, use QR codes on marketing materials like posters and print ads, and mobile apps can be created to provide event details, agendas, locations and other pertinent information.

11. Slideshare
Put together a slide presentation of your conference benefits, topics or speakers and posting it to Slideshare. Leverage it for other uses too including the event blog, Facebook page, etc.

12. Foursquare, Gowalla and other check-in apps
Ignite Foursquare BadgeTwitter 140 Conf. BadgeInternet Week Foursquare Badge
It seems people will do anything for a badge or other check-in reward. Use this to your advantage. See if you can offer something special at the event check-in for those using a location based service like Foursquare, Gowalla or Whrrl.

So what other ways have you used social media for your B2B event marketing?