10 Ways to Drive Traffic to Your B2B Website with Twitter Influencers

b2b-twitter-logoFor B2B marketers, Twitter can a very powerful tool to build relationships and drive traffic to your blog. But most business marketers still don’t get it.

How can you cut through the noise? How can you get your tweets seen and even clicked through on this massive site?

Influence marketing.

Influence marketing is getting your industry social influencers to share your content to their Twitter followers. 92% of us trust peer recommendations for product choices and brand preferences. Use prominent influencers in your sector to gain reach, trust, and drive traffic to your website.

Here are 10 ways to act on it:

1. Find your influencers

Do a Twitter search to find your industry leaders, and influential customers. Your customers are some of your most powerful influencers these days. They can be the most passionate about your brand, and can easily spread the word about you through Twitter. Check out popular niche hashtags to find top tweeters of your keywords. Follow them.

2. Make influencer lists

Once you’ve found your influencers on Twitter, make Lists to follow your their updates on the site. You could make a few influencer lists, such as:

  • Industry leaders
  • Influential partners
  • Influential customers

b2b-twitter-list

3. Retweet your influencers

Share your people’s tweets, when they post valuable content for your own followers. Retweet inspirational quotes and images, with links. Especially retweet content to their blog.

4. Use @mentions

@mentions get your tweets seen by your influencers. They’re the tweets that most busy tweeters check, and they’re much more effective than a Direct Message. Connect directly by showing your influencers you value their insights – ask a question in their area of expertise, or share good news about them.
b2b-twitter-connect

5. Tweet their blog articles

Show that you read your leading influencer articles – and that you appreciate their knowledge. @mention when you do, with your own positive comments, to build a more personal relationship.

6. Favorite tweets

You can also Favorite influencer tweets, to develop relationships, and show that you read what they’re tweeting. They’ll notice when you’ve engaged with a like of their content.
b2b-twitter-favorite

7. Respond to @mentions

When an influencer, customer (or anyone) mentions you on Twitter, respond. Keep the dialogue going to network with your connections.

8. Write great blog content

As a business, you need to write blog articles – and they should be good quality content. The better your content, and more relevant to your market, the more likely your blog will be tweeted by your influencers. Getting your blog tweeted by influencers drives traffic to your site.

9. Write about influencers on your blog

Give a shout-out to your influential customers and industry leaders. You could:

  • Write about customer success stories
  • Quote tips, inspirations, or product reviews of leaders
  • Crowdsource your content by asking industry leaders for their views on a subject – then compile a list of the best responses

Source your influencers in your article, by giving them links back to their site. Then tweet it to them. They’ll likely share it with their followers – with a link back to your site.

10. Network for guest blogging opportunities

Guest blogging can drive traffic to your site. Network with influential bloggers in your niche. Use Twitter to develop your relationships, and share your previous articles. Ask to submit an article for their blog. They’ll likely tweet your post to their followers – and their readers might too!

I’ve found Twitter to be an incredibly cool way to meet my industry influencers – around the world. I hope you’ll act on these tips to get your business better connected too!

Do you have any more ways that you connect with influencers on Twitter? Let me know in the comments below.

Use Social Media Statistics to Find Your B2B Audience

B2B marketers often use statistics for their social media presentations. Whether these are educational decks for internal or external audiences, or slides to prove the need for an investment in social media, this is a very limited use for all the statistics that are available online. Why not use these stats to understand more about our target audiences and gain some insight into their online behaviors. The Pew Internet and American Life Project has conducted an ongoing series of surveys about social media adoption of US internet users. The latest version of the survey was just released, so let’s look at some other ways to use this survey.

We have a tendency to focus only on B2B related surveys, but a general audience survey can be helpful in providing guidance and discovering your audience on social media channels. To paraphrase a line from the funny Tim Washer, all B2B prospects and customers are people, so their general internet usage is something to consider.

Let’s look at some of the survey results with a bit of thought around each stat and how it applies to a B2B audience.

67% of US Internet users use social networking sites

That’s two-thirds of all internet users, so when someone says that your prospects and customers are not on social networks, they are wrong. They probably are. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are looking for business-related information on social networks, but if you can connect with them and provide value (through content), you can build and nurture these relationships.

71% of women surveyed use social networking sites

If your target personas are women, or even skew more towards woman, take another look at how you are using social media to drive lead generation. Women are more likely to use social networking sites than men, so a better understanding of how they use it and the kinds of content that appeals to women will attract more prospects. I don’t mean make all your ebooks pink, but think about the differences in the way women and men solve problems, gather information and share information on social networks when developing your content strategy.

83% of 18-29 year olds use social networking

We all know that a greater percentage of younger people use social networking sites than older people, but the next age group of 30-49 is still at 77% usage. It slides all the way down to 32% when you get over 65. If your goal is to reach older executives on social networking sites, that will be a challenge. They are just not there yet. But as prospects are researching online for business solutions, social networking can play a part for anyone. If an intern or a junior employee is the one who seeks out information about your products, or fills out lead forms, what kinds of things are they searching for? These would be less technical results than what an engineer would look for.

16% of US Internet users use Twitter

With the overemphasis on Twitter in marketing and media, it is hard to accept that only 16% of US internet users are on Twitter. And the demographic data shows that is skews younger and more urban, so that does not necessarily provide much guidance for finding and reaching a B2B audience. Many B2B companies start with Twitter because they think it is easy to tweet, but they quickly run out of things to tweet without a plan. Twitter’s best use is to help amplify your own short and long-form content. It is also worthwhile to ask your customers if they are using Twitter, and what value they get from it. This can help guide you in connecting with prospects on the social network.

20% of US Internet users use LinkedIn

While the study mentioned above did not report LinkedIn usage, a previous Pew study did. And I can’t write a B2B article without talking about LinkedIn. This is a surprising result in certain business circles. It seems that every business person is on LinkedIn. Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are on LinkedIn. But with usage at only 20%, there are certainly B2B prospects are not on it. Use this information to dig more into your customers’ behavior to understand how to maximize your LinkedIn efforts.

67% of US Internet users use Facebook

The percentage of Facebook users matches the overall social networking usage numbers. While it is not an exact one for one match, you can interpret this to mean that your audience is on Facebook. It is possible to use Facebook grow your audience, build connections and drive leads, but it requires content creation, compelling images and sponsored posts to increase the reach of those posts. It is work, and it takes times, but you can get results from Facebook.

How else would you look at these statistics to find your B2B audience on social media sites?

Photo credit: Flickr

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?

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.

15 Useful Twitter Tools for B2B Social Media

With Twitter such an important social media platform and with so many Twitter tools available, we thought we’d highlight a few that could be valuable to the social media managers in your B2B organization. Here’s a list of 15 tools you may find useful:

1. BirdHerd
BirdHerd is Twitter made easy for groups and teams to update a single Twitter account. Posting is as easy as sending a direct message. BirdHerd lets you choose who is authorized to post from your group Twitter account.
Cost: Free

2. Twtpoll
Engage Your Customers. Ask Questions. Get Feedback. Use Twtpoll to gather responses from your Twitter followers and let Twtpoll tabulate the results.
Cost: Free

3. TweetChat
TweetChat allows you to follow a Twitter chat based on a hashtag. It’ll auto-append the hash to tweets that you lend to the conversation. Try it on Thursdays at 8:00pm ET during #b2bchat!
Cost: Free

4. Backtweets
Twitter’s standard search has its limitations. One of those limitations is that it can’t find tweets that have linked to your website (or any site you want to track) unless it contains specific search terms that you track. Backtweets solves that problem. You can enter a URL and it will return a reverse-chronolical list of tweets that contain your domain or link.  It’ll even resolve any links using link-shortening services.
Cost: Free

5. GroupTweet
GroupTweet helps groups communicate privately via Twitter. Twitter allows Direct Messages from one person to another, but if you want to send to more than one person you’re out of luck. GroupTweet can fill that void by allowing you to DM multiple people at once.
Cost: Free

6. TweetBeep
TweetBeep will send you hourly Twitter alerts via email so you can keep track of conversations on Twitter that mention you, your products, your company, or anything else important to you. You can keep track of who’s tweeting your website or blog, even if they use a shortened URL.
Cost: Free

7. StreamTwitter
StreamTwitter is a small lightweight web-based script used for streaming Twitter on video sources such as TV’s or projectors. It’s perfect for your next trade show, conference or other event. And it can be customized to look the way you want.
Cost: $19.95

8. ReFollow
Use ReFollow to drop followers that haven’t tweeted in X number of days or use it to find Tweeps that have mentioned or re-tweeted you that you are not following.
Cost: 10 free follows/unfollows, then plans from $5/month and up.

9. TweetAdder
TweetAdder is a suite of Twitter automation tools for promotion and marketing. Manage multiple accounts, autotweet RSS feeds, auto follow/unfollow, generate automated tweets or DMs, automate Tweet search and much more.
Cost: Free Demo, $55-188 one time fee depending on number of profiles

10. TwitBlend
TwitBlend helps you search for tweets and arrange, color, share and put it on your website using the TwitBlend widget. Grab tweets from anywhere, drag and drop tweets to create conversation and post it to your site.
Cost: Free

11. TweetStats
Graph your Twitter Stats including tweets per hour, tweets per month, tweet timeline and reply statistics. It’s useful to help you understand if you are only tweeting on certain days/times.
Cost: Free

12. Twazzup
Get real-time results for any search on Twitter. The results page includes not only tweets but pictures, news, top links and more. Search your name, company, industry keywords or competition and see what shows up.
Cost: Free

13. Twitterfeed
TwitterFeed allows you to automatically tweet new RSS items to your Twitter accounts. Enter the RSS feed URL into TwitterFeed and it’ll send a tweet every time a new article or blog post is published.
Cost: Free

14. Tweetreach
Find how far your tweet traveled. Search a URL, name, phrase or hashtag, and find the reach and exposure data for those tweets.
Cost: Free. Pro version available with monthly fees.

15. Tweetymail
Manage Twitter via your email inbox, including tweets, retweets, follows and direct messages. Set-up alerts and notifications too.
Cost: Free with limited features. $2.99/$4.99/$9.99 per month for pro features.

Are there any other Twitter Tools that you find useful when it comes to managing social media in your B2B organization?  If so let us know in the comments.

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?

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?