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?

Time to Plan Your B2B Social Mobile Experience

Many of the posts on this site are for B2B companies looking for advice on getting started in social media, but this one is for those looking a little further out. Remember how long it took the last time you updated your website? And remember how long it took to get enough traction to get started on the project in the first place? And no matter where you are in your social media planning, execution or success, it is time to look ahead at the next major milestone for your company’s online experience. The mobile web. And it’s going to be social too, so start preparing yourself now.

According to a Gartner report from earlier this year, the number of mobile phones that can access the web will exceed the number of PCs by 2013. And it will only take two more years beyond that for mobile phones to become people’s primary device for browsing the web. Take a cue from this report and plan what can be done now and what will be part of your future planning.

View Your Site on a Mobile Device
The first thing to do is visit your company web site or blog on your mobile device. And look at it on a variety of devices. What is the experience like? The first thing you will probably notice is that you spent all that time developing a horizontal, or landscape, website and most phones initially display the web in vertical, or portrait, mode. Many smartphones can rotate the display to show the web in its more familiar orientation. But the report above refers to all phones that can access the web, not just smartphones. Before you go down the wrong path and develop a site that is inappropriate for its target, develop a profile, or persona, of your customers and prospects that includes what kind of mobile device they use to browse the mobile web. You can confirm this with site analytics which tracks how people access your site.

Planning a B2B Social Mobile Experience
Under the guise of a mobile site, you can simplify your company message and hone in on what is really important to your customers and prospects. You can have a totally different site and experience located at mobile.yourdomain.com that loads when visitors browse your site from a mobile device. This simple mobile site needs to be clean and direct, with only one or two levels of content, easy to navigate, connected to your social presences and provide an easy way to contact your company for more information. Don’t ignore lead generation with your mobile approach, as this smaller site will be doing more and more work in the future. This means your message and your content must be even more compelling than ever, as mobile users have less patience waiting for pages to load and will not spend a lot of time looking for the answers to their questions. They will just move on.

Mobile Optimized Blog
An important part of your company presence is your blog. Frequently, blog articles are shared via social media. Since people access social networking sites on their mobile devices more than they do anything else, you can easily assume that if your content is shared in a compelling manner, it will be viewed on a mobile device. These posts need to be easy to access, read and share on a variety of devices. For WordPress blogs, there is a simple plugin called WPTouch that creates a simple mobile version of a blog that feels like an app by focusing on the content, not the design. This is for touch screen phones including iPhones, Android and Blackberry Storm.

Are you planning your mobile experience yet?

My iPad for Business 1 Month Update

When I bought my iPad, I posted a review of Day 1 using an iPad for business. Reader Christine Thompson left a comment this week asking how it has been going and what other challenges I have run into.

Note Taking
I learned on the first day that I needed a program to take meeting notes and I settled on Pages ($9.99), which is Apple’s word processing program. This is a stripped down iPad version. If you are a whiz at Word and use lots of its nifty functionality, which most people don’t, you will be hampered by this programs. It has all the basics, but that’s it.

As I have continued to attend meetings and take notes in Pages, it has become a bit frustrating. If you are someone who takes copious notes at meetings and constantly refers to them, you would be supremely frustrated. If you want your iPad to be your note taking device, as I do, you want to keep your notes on the iPad in an organized fashion. That is not possible. After you create a new document, an image of it is created in the visual list that you can swipe across. The visual list, with large images of each document, is the only way to access the documents. These are shown in the order that they were created. There is no way to change the order or put documents into folders. To rename a document, click on the default name below the image and change it. Make sure you turn the iPad so it is in portrait mode, as that is the only way to bring up the visual list of documents. And don’t try to combine documents from different programs. Each programs’ documents (Pages, Keynote, Numbers) lives within that program.

The way I approach organization in this cumbersome scheme is to create one document for each client or project and add a date to it with each new set of notes. If that doesn’t work for you, you can always sync these documents to your computer using iTunes, or just email yourself and put the documents in folders as you normally would. This creates version control issues, and you can never be sure which version of your notes contains what you are looking for. The benefit of keeping your notes on your iPad is that you have all your notes together from previous meetings. Again, your frustration level with this is based on the volume of notes you take and how much you refer to them.

Others have used Evernote on their iPads, and this automatically syncs their notes across devices. You can also tag those notes for easy organization. What have your note experiences been on your iPad?

Travel
Last week I took a business trip armed with just my iPad. I agonized over not bringing my laptop, for fear that I would not be able to do certain things (like video editing on the plane), but since it was just a one day trip, I figured I would be fine. I had sent the presentation to the conference organizers, so I didn’t think I would need to present from my iPad, but I was ready anyway. I have Keynote ($9.99). I have the $30 iPad to VGA connector. I even uploaded the presentation to Slideshare as a back up.

The hotel lobby had wifi, so it was no problem connecting to email, Twitter, and even Skype to check-in on our perpetual group chat with folks back in the office. I had written several offline blog posts on the flight down, using Pages, and once I was connected, I wanted to publish one of them. This was a problem. It turns out that the WordPress iPad app does not recognize paste. You can only enter text into the post field. Seriously, no paste. I jumped over to my web browser to log in to WordPress and try it from the dashboard. But no luck. The main panel is not scrollable in the iPad version of Safari. I wound up having to get another blogging app (BlogPress $2.99) to post before I gave my presentation.

Even though I did not present from the iPad, it brought some oohs and ahhs from the attendees. They even joked about a drawing to win my iPad, but I rejected that.

On the flight home, I had wifi, so I tried to take advantage of the Netflix movie streaming app, but it was not to be. The service was not consistent enough for streaming. It was great for email and Twitter, so I went with that.

After using an iPad for business for nearly a month, I still like it’s portability and the ease with which you can carry it around, travel with it, and show others things on the screen. I am not really bothered by the lack of multitasking, because when I am using my iPad, I really don’t want programs running in the background to pop up alert of new messages. And no matter what Steve Jobs says, according to the TSA, when traveling with an iPad, it is just like a laptop and you have to put it in its own bin.

Blackberry Apps for B2B Public Relations Pros

Building off last week’s BlackBerry apps for B2B marketers, we’re back with more BlackBerry apps for B2B public relations professionals.

As our society becomes more and more mobile, it’s even more important for a PR pro to effectively execute his or her main job responsibilities – press releases, speeches, media relations, social media, press conferences and event planning, to name just a few – on the go.

Many of the apps I wrote about for B2B marketers translate well into the PR industry: A host of Twitter clients help PR pros navigate between client accounts, keep an eye out for journalists looking for article sources and stay on top of industry news; mobile versions of WordPress and TypePad streamline live-blogging; and location-based apps such as Foursquare facilitate peer-to-peer networking and media relations.

Here are a few more BlackBerry apps that help PR pros reach the ultimate goal of connecting organizations and businesses with interested journalists and customers:

1. Evernote

Evernote – billed as an extension of your own mind – allows you to organize tasks and To Do lists, record voice memos and instantly synchronize everything from your phone to the Web to your desktop.

For PR pros, this translates into an easy way to keep up with press clips for clip books, manage inspiration for future blog, newsletter and Web content and organize notes from client meetings.

2. AP Mobile

Media monitoring is a key job function in PR, and AP Mobile makes searching content published by the Associated Press (as well as more than 1,000 outlets of its members) simple.

The app also has a local news option customizable by one or more zip codes, and integrates delicious bookmarks, Facebook and e-mail sharing features that let users send articles to clients and co-workers.

Beyond the Associated Press, BlackBerry users can also keep up with Time, Bloomberg, CBS News and Business Week through their mobile apps.

3. Dictionary.com

Just like a mechanic’s set of wrenches, a key part of a PR pro’s toolkit is a dictionary/thesaurus.

The Dictionary.com app, the only free dictionary app available for the BlackBerry, puts more than 500,000 words at your fingertips, and phonetic and audio pronunciations help to ensure a tricky word in that speech you just crafted for your CEO isn’t mangled beyond comprehension.

4. miTimesheet

For PR pros on the agency side, there is nothing more dreaded (beyond a 4 a.m. wake-up call alerting you to a breaking crisis) than keeping track of billable hours for a variety of clients. Enter the miTimesheet app ($3.99), which allows users to track clients by project, as well as export that info via email.

5. Qik Live Video Streaming

Social media tools have given PR pros more opportunities to disseminate content directly to the end-user. With the Qik app, you can live stream video content directly from your BlackBerry, automatically archive footage and instantly share on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. This app would be especially handy for press conferences, tweetups, award shows and tradeshows.

What BlackBerry apps have helped you in your role as a public relations professional?

BlackBerry Apps for B2B Marketing

Sometimes, it feels like iPhones get all the app lovin’ – especially when you’re one of the 21 million people using a BlackBerry smartphone for work and/or play.

As the top mobile phone for businesses, it makes sense B2B marketers would be on the hunt for apps that make their jobs – and lives – easier. Unfortunately, as this blogger puts it, the BlackBerry App store can seem like a pawn shop that only sells used 8-track players, as app development for the BlackBerry hasn’t experienced the same fast and furious push as the iPhone.

Still, the BlackBerry was made with businesses in mind, and its applications can make B2B marketers’ jobs more efficient on the go. Here are a few that touch the platforms marketers are already – or should be – using to connect with customers:

1. Twitter

Twitter has changed the way companies market themselves, 140 characters at a time. There are many great examples of savvy B2B marketing campaigns set to the tune of Twitter, but not nearly as many useful apps to help marketers use the microblogging service on the go. Last week’s announcement of an official Twitter for BlackBerry app may change that, but it is not in full release yet. The app many BlackBerry users are familiar with is TwitterBerry, which was recently rebranded as OpenBeak. Despite the rebrand, the service’s clunky features have placed it behind newcomers with more features.

UberTwitter has become the Twitter client of choice for most BlackBerry users, including myself. This client lets you switch between multiple accounts (a plus for those juggling personal and professional accounts), see Twitter users near you and navigate through a clean, uncluttered interface. TwiXtreme earns points for its colorful layout (tagline: The first BlackBerry Twitter client that makes you happy) and Seesmic for BlackBerry is a good choice for users familiar with the Seesmic desktop version.

TweetGenius ($7.99) comes with a hefty price tag, and even heftier features (including a bit.ly URL shortener, extensive options menu and built-in themes) many users have deemed worthy of its cost.

2. Offline to Online Networking

Much has been made about the importance of online to offline networking, but what about taking “real life” encounters and sustaining them online?

After a day’s (or night’s, weekend’s or week’s) worth of meetings, conferences, trade shows and social events, business cards of potential customers can start to add up. CardSnap ($4.99) takes photos of these cards using your phone’s camera and converts them into contacts stored in your phone.

3. Blogging

Whether you write an in-house B2B blog for your business or contribute case studies, commentary and best-practices to a B2B industry blog, there are BlackBerry apps available for many of the most popular blogging platforms.

WordPress for Blackberry allows users to write posts, upload photos and videos, edit pages and manage comments from its mobile interface. Both WordPress.com and self-hosted WordPress (2.7 or higher) sites are supported. TypePad users can blog on its mobile BlackBerry application, while Blogger users are stuck with posting via email or text messages (SMS and MMS).

4. Location-based apps

They’re still a work in progress, but location-based apps and services are poised to be the next must-add to a business’ marketing mix. According to this article, there are now more than 6,000 location-based iPhone apps, 900 Android apps and 300 BlackBerry apps, putting BlackBerry users in the minority when it comes to becoming familiar with the platforms their clients and potential customers may be using. In addition, nearly half of the location-based service apps in the BlackBerry app store are paid clients, keeping adoption rates even lower.

Foursquare, a leader in the location-based app world that was called “the next Twitter” by Mashable, just introduced a free beta version for BlackBerry 8000 and 9000 series users. The service combines location updates with a user point system, and it has attracted the attention of businesses looking to reward and connect with loyal customers.

Loopt, a similar service minus the gaming aspect, also has a BlackBerry mobile version, and, while not an “official” in-house app, myKite for BlackBerry (previously known as BrightBerry) takes Brightkite on the road.

In the coming weeks, we’ll be looking at other BlackBerry apps that help public relations pros and sales teams better compete in the B2B space. What BlackBerry apps have you found helpful when it comes to managing your marketing mix, engaging on social sites or keeping up with the industry and competitors?