Why Visuals Matter in B2B

I’ve talked before about the importance of finding content superheroes but I didn’t list the types of content they should produce. My point was that organizations should be looking at the right sources for content ideas — sales, research, IT, marketing, HR, legal and beyond.

How are you visually telling our stories?

How are you visually telling our stories?

This weekend I read through the latest book to make its way onto my shelf — The Power of Visual Storytelling — written by two true content superheroines: Ekaterina Walter and Jessica Gioglio.

After reading it, there are a few lessons from this book for B2B marketers to consider.

  • Visuals tell stories. It’s a cliche you’ve read many times now, but images help to clarify complex issues and processes. This can be done via a series of images or by a single infographic, but B2B companies, which deal with complexity and long sales leads, can better educate their stakeholders through simple images. Take a look at these 20 examples of B2B brands on Instagram and these five on Pinterest.
  • Images are an investment. Investing in good imagery is just that, an investment. Your overall strategy for images should be long term — with some real-time exceptions — so you can develop a plan to use them online, in presentations, with social media and beyond.
  • Make your images everyone’s images. Social tools continue to build off of the fact that we want to share images. Think of the transformation made by social media’s early platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn and the focus of new platforms like Pinterest and Instagram. As you build your content strategy online you need to be thinking also about how and where your audience will share them online.
  • Mange your images. Do you have an image librarian? Do you have a process for creating infographics? Is there a flow to keeping your images consistent looking and clean? I can think about several other questions to ask you, but you get the point.
  • Think carefully about your images. MarketingProfs said it best in this post, “Be a content brand, not a brand with content.” When you think about the story you are telling take the time to choose the right images as well as the right places you want to share them. What you need is to have an image plan for infographics, charts, graphics and photos.

There are three things that make this specific book from Ekaterina and Jessica valuable. First, the ongoing list of examples of companies and how they use visuals to tell stories and respond in real-time. The book is a treasure chest full of brands to follow and research. Second, the list of resources to consider for creating graphics is wonderful and does not overwhelm the reader. Third, the chapter on developing a road map is crucial as it focuses on ways to build your program and measure your success.

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Curious George Goes to the Office

Use Storytelling to Draw in Customers

Keeping Your Messages Connected

One of the more difficult things to do in communications is to connect everything – integrated marketing communications (IMC). It looks good on a PowerPoint slide, but implementing it can be filled with obstacles. Add to our workload all things real time and digital and the task becomes even greater. Here are some thoughts on how to keep your teams and your channels of communication working well together.

How are you keeping your messages connected?

Keep it Simple. Not your messages (more on that later), but your processes. How do you manage news distribution to all of your channels? What about white papers and research? Do you actively share information internally — an how — or are your teams finding it difficult to know what to distribute? If you have not created a cross-functional team I would suggest you look at how to develop one as a goal (and don’t forget about working with IT).

The Images You Choose Reflect Your Brand. The images you choose for your website, printed materials, blog posts and social channels are important. Please don’t leave the decisions for choosing them to an intern or junior staff member. Remember, you are not the only one posting links from your website and materials online around the Internet — your partners, customers and other stakeholders are as well. Take a serious look at the images you use and where you source them from in order to make them align with your brand.

Leverage What Exists. If you are not posting news stories and information from your website daily you need to change your habits. Consistency today matters and daily reminders of your news, events, research and more sent out via social media can make an impact.

Speak with a Voice. Your messaging matters and you invest a lot of time to keep your spokespeople up to date. Because of this, you’ve had a good group of spokespeople for years and they all stay on message. But what about your digital team? What about your employees? In order to ensure your digital team is in line with your overall enterprise you should consider training them. IN addition, having a clear set of guidelines on how to speak as the company and for the company are important. Write them down. Finally, make sure you are working with compliance and employees are very clear what they can and cannot do in social media.

Don’t Forget Employees. Simply communicating to employees is not enough. Remember, employees will also see your advertisements, social posts, website and news stories about you. This group of stakeholders can be your most passionate group of ambassadors and getting them to help tell your story – by submitting photos, ideas, feedback or content — is an important task for you.

What about your thoughts? What are some ideas, thoughts and tips that help you keep your messages and content connected?

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Are Your Spokespeople Social Media Trained? 

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators? 

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Who are Your Content Superheroes?

Social Media Management

Blogging isn’t Supposed to be Easy

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Recent news of Twitter’s IPO have many stakeholders in social media wondering what’s next. In fact, we should see the IPO filing today or tomorrow according to Quartz. If you plan to read the entire filing, here are five things BuzzFeed says you should look for when going through it. There’s already been lots of speculation on what future Twitter will be, from an emphasis on users to search. There was even a plea for Twitter to just stay weird.

Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what's next post IPO?

Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what’s next post IPO?

So where does this pending IPO leave B2B companies? Some things could change, some may not. Here are three important things B2B communicators need to keep an eye on in the next year.

Advertising. Everyone will be looking very closely at advertising revenue from Twitter’s filing. One thing I hope the company does is put more of a focus on B2B companies and helping them find leads and develop targeted campaigns. While B2C companies (even unhappy airline customers) buy ads to sell new products, coupons and discounts, B2B companies that find value in a platform will invest for the long term and remain committed. LinkedIn is discovering this with its promoted posts. I hope that Twitter does as well.

Influencers. Twitter has already done several things to promote influencers; from verified accounts to a recommended list of people to follow. This FT story summarizes that fact pretty well. The good thing is that Twitter recognizes that its influencers give the platform credibility and an important trust factor. B2B companies need to keep finding ways to leverage what Twitter does here. In the coming year, B2B companies need to learn how to expand on Twitter’s success to be influential by both targeting key accounts and defining/redefining their own.

Expansion of services. No doubt, as a public company they will be pressed to expand services and offerings. This means M&A and there are plenty of attractive targets for Twitter to consider. Keep a careful eye on what they are buying now and will be buying. Personally  I would like to see more investment in analytics and search. While there are a number of free tools for Twitter analytics, I don’t find any of them very useful for B2B (hence, why they are free). As Twitter expands its efforts into advertising and mobile it would serve B2B marketers well to see deeper metrics and statistics to help us use Twitter better.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Matter More

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 

 

 

 

 

What Are Your Future B2B Digital Media Plans?

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What’s in your B2B future?

If you missed it, in June PwC published a report about where the digital media market is going (Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2013-2017) and how companies should think about responding. While this is a report focused on the consumer market there are several findings for B2B marketers to consider.

Here are some key takeaways from the report and what B2B companies should think about.

  • Digital advertising is on the rise and will account for 37 percent of advertising revenues by 2017 (an increase from 26 percent over last year). If you’re not factoring into your advertising spend digital — not banner ads but social promotions and digital partnerships — what is holding you back? On the one end, some of this is new territory and can seem risky, but the investment (for now) is minimal and cannot be overlooked. But digital advertising can open many new ideas and possibilities beyond just experimenting. One of the key benefits can be examining the data you discover and using the findings for future campaigns.
  • The PwC report validates the often discussed idea that consumers expect to read media and view entertainment when and where they want it. That concept is no different in the B2B space, so what are you doing about it? One thing I’ve learned in the past several years from doing digital is that we notice a number of ways people consume our content. We’ve seen content viewed on many devices — cameras, X-Boxes and even on one refrigerator. How is your content consumed? Do you know? Does it matter?
  • Video gaming is growing at a nearly 7 percent CAGR. While gamification may not be for every B2B brand, there are some interesting ideas to consider. Marketing Sherpa offers up six tactics for B2B brands and companies like Autodesk have already tried it. There is definitely more of an investment in terms of time and resources if you plan to explore gamification, but this is a growing trend and several B2B companies will outmaneuver their competition as a result. If you haven’t thought about this yet I would suggest you pull together an internal team to at least explore the concept and see what your industry is doing.
  • The report also shows that the vast amount of content is leaving consumers “confused” as to what to read. This should be no surprise as more platform choices grow and the amount of information being shared increases. The challenge is tying what you do all together — whether through gamification, website, Twitter, email, advertising — is consistent, tells a story and useful. There is a growing opportunity for B2B brands to help stakeholders find, share and use information that matters. Just make sure it’s your brand leading the way and not your competition.

The year 2017 may seem far away, but the reality is you are laying the groundwork this year, this month and this week for how your B2B brand will be consumed four years from now. Will you be ready?

 

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions?

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 

You are What You Read

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

It’s impossible to not talk about data these days. In fact, when I speak at conferences or talk with other communicators the questions and discussions often turn to metrics, analytics, data and evaluation.

In fact, Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report has made the argument that the agency of the future will need to focus on measurement and data. And one of the biggest pieces of news

Do you see opportunities or noise?

Do you see opportunities or noise?

in metrics this year you may not have heard about was the launch of Measurement Standards - a cross-industry effort to simplify and unify the measurement of social media

Before you decide to get a degree in quantitative analysis or fill out a job requisition to hire a data scientist…take a deep breath. Even you, as a non-expert in technical analysis, can play a key role in understanding the onslaught of data you are gathering. Here are three things that you need to consider and start doing today.

1. Understand Your Business Objectives. If you aren’t sure what the business wants or needs, how will you deliver relevant data and information to them? While you are emailing a monthly PowerPoint full of bar charts, pie charts and statistics, I’m not quite sure that’s what they need. Always keep in mind that your goal is to connect the business objectives to your marketing objectives. What good, insightful data can really help you uncover are the three I’s for your business — influence, information, insight.

2. Build Your Team. You wouldn’t create all of your company’s content alone. Why would you do data measurement alone? It’s impossible. If you are not talking with your web team, social media point person and product marketing people you will continue to drown in data and simply not use it (but don’t worry, someone else will figure it out and become a valuable resource). What I’ve found to date is that by getting the right people involved you can eliminate a number of false positives and focus on the data that matters.

3. Are you asking the right questions? I’ve written before on the importance of asking good questions. Here are a few questions that you should be asking that can lead to better discussions about your data: Where did the data come from? How does this data compare over time? What are the areas of weakness about this data? Can we overlay this with other data to show a pattern? What makes this data significant — an image, news announcement or platform used? Does the data include outliers or false information and how did they affect the results? What can you conclude from the data to help decide your next move? What may make your data invalid? Asking the right questions throughout the process of every project is imperative to your measurement success.

Once you know what the business is trying to achieve, you have a team in place and you are focused on asking the right questions, you should be better at delivering results that matter and that help you budget and allocate resources better. I suggest you start small, pick a project, choose your team and see what results you find. If you’re still looking for help you should also consider buying Digital Marketing Analytics.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

Can B2B Brand Inspire? 

Social Influence Matters! No, It Doesn’t!

How are You Measuring Influence?

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Are You a Brand ambassador?

How B2B Companies Can Leverage Events to Build Awareness

Last week, my ability to navigate London was put to the test as I attended four different events across the city. Luckily, I was able to be at most of the activities I needed and wanted to see, and attending them made me think of ways B2B marketers can take advantage of events — either by attending or hosting.

Aaron Pearson and I have written here about the importance of face-to-face time. Here is his post from SXSW. Today, digital helps us bridge the chasm of actually attending events in person by following the social stream, but they both have their advantages and disadvantages.

How are you turning your events into opportunities?

How are you turning your events into opportunities?

Here are some of my thoughts based on last week’s frenzy of events.

Twitter. Keeping on top of events via Twitter in particular can be very beneficial, but there are always limits and challenges. It was very helpful for me to follow the streams from multiple events while I was moving between them last week, but unless there is a regular stream of tweets it becomes difficult. Here are some ideas that I’ve found to be useful:

  • If you want your event to stand out (or if you want to stand out during an event) then make sure you are posting good content. Re-tweeting and adding favorite tags help, but most people are looking for content, so be prepared ahead of any conference and know what you plan to post and when; think of this as your Twitter editorial calendar.
  • If you are adding thoughts into the Twitter stream don’t just think about adding content from the event, but think about the messages and content you already have that can complement the event and topic. We did this effectively last week around a number of our key activities — both talking about the event but then also adding relevant links to information (e.g., research, job openings, blog posts).
  • What makes this easy to do via Twitter is the ability to hashtag each tweet. While hashtags are a great way to join conversations on Twitter and to search for information, I’ve found more than once that some events suddenly have multiple hashtags (which make it difficult to follow) and hashtags can be hijacked as well. Here are some excellent ideas and examples on how to create a useful hashtag.
  • Finally, I like the use of Twitter streams mostly for connecting with people that I either want to meet up with later or follow. If you are managing a B2B event think of ways you can use Twitter to not only push out content but also to connect people at the event and following your activities.

Video. If possible, live-streaming sessions or even having a few of them available to watch after always makes for a good marketing strategy. Last week’s FT Digital Media 2013 Conference did just that, and you can register and view four of the sessions from last week. One thing I noticed in particular among the scores of tweets was that there was very little use of Vine (Here’s my Vine from the FT Digital Media event). The challenge, of course, is that Vine is very limited (six seconds), but thinking of creative ways to use them throughout your event may provide additional ways to promote certain aspects of your initiative. I also found the use of Skype at The Economist Bellwether event a really interesting way to have participation from one speaker who could not attend be interviewed following a panel discussion. This can be a very risky option, but the quality of the video and discussion made it very good on this occasion.

Photography. Another useful way to bring people into your event is through either the use of event photography. The Economist has posted a number of photos online already showcasing speakers and attendees. There were also several Twitpics from people during the event. At the FT Digital Media event there was a live Flickr stream of photos being posted as well as participants posting their own Instagrams and Twitpics. In addition to Twitter, using a social resource like Instagram can give your event more exposure as you can share those photos across multiple platforms. Images provide another way to bring people into your event and visually tell a story, so think about how you can add these to your B2B arsenal.

Networking. The true benefit of conferences ends up in the face-to-face time. I was able to be at our conference booth for both the events at City Week and Profit & Loss and each one allowed me the opportunity to talk with conference participants. If you attend events for your company where you have a booth I encourage you to always take time to play a part in working at it. It’s not as easy as you think and you never know who you may meet. In addition, planning the right types of networking events for participants remains a very valuable part of any event. No matter how large or small of a conference or event you are managing, you should make it a priority to connect people.

Website. One thing that is frustrating by trying to follow an event online is going to the event site and seeing nothing updated. Simple things like adding a Twitter stream and photos are helpful, but more importantly add special announcements, news and links to helpful resources. You want to make sure that you are leveraging your site to keep attendees and non-attendees up to date. Ideally, think of your site as the hub for your event.

Event management is an area where I think social media has really changed the landscape for B2B marketers. Unfortunately, I think they are often an afterthought as communicators chase blogs, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms to tell their story. But events can be a great tool for connecting people to your brand and driving further awareness across both the digital and analog worlds. If you are simply attending or planning to host your next B2B conference, hopefully you will think slightly different about ways to make it more relevant and personal for your stakeholders.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read the following:

Craft work — what’s your B2B expertise?

Do B2B companies need social media?

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples

Social media management

Do most online communities fail?

Social Clutter or Social Clarity?

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

 

Stop Throwing Paint Against the Wall

Social media continues to change the way brands communicate with stakeholders. Its introduction into the our arsenal of tactics has provided many benefits, including the ability to share important information, listen to feedback and connect with others. When I speak at events I continue to be impressed with the growing surge and interest from B2B companies in developing programs leveraging social media.

Last summer I introduced my kids to Jackson Pollack...and then we went and had some fun in the garden.

Last summer I introduced my kids to Jackson Pollock…and then we went and had some fun in the garden.

But the easy path to do go down is building a social media program versus taking advantage of social media to be your brand. There is a difference and the earlier method usually results in the cliche of, “Throwing paint up against the wall and seeing if it sticks.” It’s also very one-way — you throw the paint and it doesn’t come back. The only person I can recall who could do this method well and make it work is Jackson Pollock.

There is nothing wrong with experimenting in social media — it’s cost effective, it can allow you to be more creative, you can learn from your experiences and it should be encouraged at this stage. We’ve experimented many times during the last six years and trust me, not everything works. However, everything we do has a purpose and reason in order to tie into our brand and who we are as a company.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Our latest effort involves Instagram as a recruiting tool and using photographs to tell our history and for people to gain insight into the company. While more brands are using Instagram, we could have easily opened an account and pushed out stock images of graphics and photos we’ve had professionally taken — our paint against the wall approach. But we thought about “why” we wanted an account and “how” it could help promote our company. Our conclusion was that Instagram helps give us a personal touch through visuals, so we wanted to take advantage of that by leveraging our employees to share photos from inside the company as well as people around the world who visit us. Images tell stories and we wanted ours to help humanize and capture the heritage of our brand. We have also integrated our Instagram account with our Facebook page.

No offense to Pollock. He was brilliant and one of my favorite artists, but moving from experimental/one-way “paint throwing” social media into strategic communications is how B2B companies need to think about.

But don’t stop experimenting. Don’t stop thinking about what you can do to leverage social channels and networks. But do think carefully about “why” you want to use them and “how” they can help you. And be patient. B2B communications is not as far-reaching as B2C and it will take time, effort and consistency to be make it work for you.

I did buy the Tate’s “Art in a Box” kit so our next weekend art project may involve Lichtenstein. Stay tuned.

If you enjoyed reading this post you may also want to read the following:

Craft work — what’s your B2B expertise?

Do B2B companies need social media?

Three areas to focus in 2013

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples

Who are your content superheroes?

Social media management

Do most online communities fail?

Where Does Facebook Fit in Your B2B Communications Plan?

It’s been a media frenzy for Facebook surrounding it’s recent IPO and reaching one billion users around the world. Some now believe that Facebook’s target is on professional users, which is a good thing for B2B communicators.

Facebook has done quite a bit to make its branded pages more useful for B2B companies. FacebookIn particular, the recent changes to add promoted posts and global pages are not just tools that B2C companies can leverage. But can it compete in the B2B space with LinkedIn? And what about new entrants like Pinterest and Google+?

I recently had a chance to answer several questions from Arik Hanson about Facebook and how we leverage the platform. You can read the full interview here: Social media case study: CME Group

 

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The Three I’s of Social Business Media

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Content Management Lessons Learned

Please, no more references that content is king. I’ve lived in London long enough and have read my children’s school lessons to know that kings don’t last and the rule usually ends poorly. Yesterday, I spoke at the Financial Services Social Media conference organized by Haymarket Conferences in London and presented on the belief that content is an asset. And even assets are protected and valued by kings.

You have many choices to shape your brand with content; which is right for you?

You have many choices to shape your brand with content; which is right for you?

Content that is valued by the end user, organized well, made shareable and pulled together in multiple formats can shape opinions and drive conversations. But this isn’t an easy task. In fact, it’s one of the more difficult things to manage since so much content about your brand is published out of your control by the news media and on social media. And to add to this challenge you have to get through the never-ending sea of content that comes your way. Yet, done correctly, you can use content to drive the messages that you want to be discussed by others.

More and more we are seeing content take over as the key driver of branding and communication. With more ways to share information today it’s critical that communicators understand the value of content and why it needs to be constantly looked after. I ended my presentation with a list of lessons learned and here are some of those key points:

  • Don’t separate your content from your brand: When I was growing up the warning was, “You are what you eat.” The same can be applied today to brands in terms of content, “You are what you publish.” If your content is not reflecting what you want your brand essence to be than you are not only wasting your investment in branding, you are actually confusing your stakeholders. If you want your company to be known as the greatest at “xyz” then your content needs to be about “xyz”. This will require you to think differently not only about what you publish, but what you read, how you write, what you retweet and how you think.
  • This is not a one person job: No one person can manage all that is said by and about a brand. If you’re trying to do this, stop. Make sure you actively reach out to the people who can give you the most help, whether in HR, products, research or marketing. The bigger circle of influence you can create the better you will be at developing checks and balances for ideas.
  • Repetition is not just okay but required: Social streams continue to grow with more content. More platforms are being developed. More brands and people continue to use social networks. All of this means that if you are posting your content once you are not grasping the power of social sharing. My suggestion is that you review your distribution strategy (if you don’t have one, develop one) and start to put it to use. You can accomplish this by staggering the times to post to networks, re-posting content with unique headlines and, most importantly, re-posting your content later when news happens (making sure it’s still relevant of course).
  • Maintain a consistent presence: The Internet doesn’t sleep. News doesn’t sleep. You have to sleep — at some point. Think about how you can develop a plan where your content lives online every day of the week. If you are thinking in a “Monday through Friday” mentality that may be a very safe way to let your audience know when they can reach you. Just keep in mind your competition will take care of them on the weekends. I don’t mean you need to work 24/7 personally, but as an organization you need to think of ways to feed content around the clock.
  • Leverage partners and vendors: Your company buys a lot of products and services from vendors (or you’re a vendor with lots of customers); are you leveraging them to help you share your stories? There is a clear win-win here for you both and if you have not built those bridges to your most relied upon external resources you are clearly sitting on the sidelines waiting to be put in the game.
  • Measure your success (and failure): This is pretty easy to explain — you need to know what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t have a measurement dashboard in place you are just guessing, and guessing is not a strategy.

No matter what you do in the communications mix, you need to figure out how you can take control of your content management. If you can develop this asset for your brand and harness its power you too will become a valuable asset.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

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Tuning into your industry

Social media management

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Social Media Management — My Point of View

Trying to manage content, technology and time today is a never-ending battle (and one that we always end up losing). So what can you do to manage all that you have to do? I was asked to contribute my thoughts for CorpComms magazine last month and share my ten tips for how I try to stay on top of content, news and information.

Managing social media shouldn't always be a battle; here are some ideas to help

Managing social media shouldn’t always be a battle; here are some ideas to help

You can read the full story here: Managing Social Media

We’d love to know your good ideas and tips as well so add them in the comments below. You can also follow CorpComms on Twitter and their staff.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

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Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Are you ready for these five trends?

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