Where is Your B2B Blog?

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A blog can help you focus and narrow your content for your brand.

In case you missed the news, the blog turned 20 years old this year. That’s pretty significant since many of us are still working on our Twitter and Instagram strategies and both of those platforms are less than ten years old. And the blog is far from dead as Neville Hobson points out, in fact, it’s future looks pretty good.

The challenge is that blogging can be a daunting effort and as I wrote before it is not supposed to be easy. It takes time. It takes resources. It takes creativity. It takes perseverance. But the long-term benefits of blogging far outweigh the short-term pains.

I don’t want to complicate this topic or oversimplify it either. There are a number of posts on this topic if you search Google. So, whether you are about to start a B2B blog (or digital magazine) or you want to sit down and review your existing one (always a good idea to step back), here are three reasons why blogging matters and should be central to your B2B communication efforts.

Show you are a leader. No matter what industry you work in, there will always be issues and hurdles for you and your customers. A blog can help take the mystery out of some of these issues — regulatory, complexity, cultural — and let you build a community around topics that matter to you. In a competitive world thought leadership does matter and make a difference in the sales cycle, and both your external and internal customers want to know your position and where you stand. Your blog platform allows you to showcase your opinions and views.

 

Show you are interesting. Blogs help you tell stories. Plain and simple. And that is a huge benefit as B2B companies need to demystify their operations and focus on being understood. Ultimately, a blog will help you build awareness and engage prospects. In addition, you can be more creative with your efforts by integrating graphics, photos and video. We often use newswire services to build a multi-media package for news, and now that can be done regulatory with your own resources. Your blog now allows you to become a brand newswire.

 

Show you are respected. There are two ways to do this both on the front end and in the back office. On the front end, you can leverage your blog for guest posts and views from outside of your organization. Using third-party endorsements has always been a key value point for communicators and organizations. Blogs allow you to tap into your global network and help not only draw readers into your content but also influence your audience. In addition, on the back office you can measure  the effectiveness of third-party content through your data. And data is an ever-increasing initiative to measure what’s working and what’s not working. In addition, other social data allows you to search and find influencers to connect with and contribute content.

What B2B companies fail to understand is that a blog can be extremely flexible. Whether you want it to be video or image intensive to explain how things operate or Q&A focused to make it conversational, a blog allows you the freedom to build on your culture and image. And because of this flexibility you and make it what you want and have it help you tell your story. Some B2B blog examples to follow for inspiration: AccentureCiscoCME GroupGEIntel and Manpower.

Call it brand journalismcontent marketing or blogging. It doesn’t matter in my opinion. What B2B companies need to grasp is that context matters. You can hardly get context from a tweet or an image.

Looking for more help? Here are 10 lessons learned from Hans Kullin from 10 years of blogging. And from Velocity Partners here are a number of ideas for blog content.

Additional content to read (added March 5, 2014):

Embrace the Executive Blog — CIO.com

What I’ve Learned as a Writer — Zen Habits

How to Write Faster — Hootsuite

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

Can B2B brands inspire?

Craft work — what’s your B2B expertise?

Who are your content superheroes?

Social media management

Do most online communities fail?

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?

 

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

 

If you liked this post you may also enjoy the following:

The Three I’s of Social Business Media

Five Lessons Learned from Five Years of Social Media

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Social Media Week: The B2B Content You May Have Missed

It’s been a busy week in social media as cities, brands and people came together to discuss all things social — from Facebook’s initiative to remove bots to Instagram overtaking Twitter on mobile phones. We decided to pull together some of the best B2B focused content from this past week and share it with you. If you have any other links (including your own) that you think we should have included please add them in the comments.

There was a lot of content to consume this year.

There was a lot of content to consume this year.

Hootsuite has added a “conversational” dashboard to help facilitate better real-time collaboration (Disclaimer: I’m a Hootsuite customer).

LinkedIn (a favorite tool of B2B marketers) has rolled out an “endorsement tool”. Why don’t you connect to all of us here at B2B Voices on LinkedIn: Kate Brodock, Arik Hanson, Aaron Pearson, Allan Schoenberg.

Gartner says CMOs better start thinking like CIOs. Speaking of that relationship, IBM has a new study out looking at how CMOs and CIOs need to work more together. If Gartner and IBM are talking about this you better be paying attention (and fine-tuning your technology skills).

You’ve always wanted to take your social media strategy global; no worries, HubSpot has you covered.

Do you know the behavior of your B2B customers? This Buyersphere survey looks at that topic to determine just exactly what is the actual behaviour of B2B buyers (PDF).

If you haven’t started a Facebook page yet for your B2B brand (or haven’t given it attention lately) you better get going. A new study shows that brand pages are getting some serious attention.

I asked you earlier if you were ready for a real-time B2B world, but what does real-time search mean for B2B marketers?

Do you want to be more effective at B2B marketing? Focus on creating better content.

Are you thinking about how your mobile strategy is working? If not, you should because everyone wants it.

The doctor is in and it’s time for a social media check up for your brand.

If you like infographics you will not be disappointed by this one from Brian Solis: The Brandsphere and why it matters.

Last, but definitely not least, are you measuring your influence and what you do? Apparently the C-suite isn’t very impressed with marketers.

 

BMA Report: Social Media and B2B are Peanut Butter and Chocolate

I got to see my friends Jeffrey L. Cohen and Kipp Bodnar, authors of the B2B Social Media Book, last week at the BMA Conference. You’ll recall I published a Q&A with them and a review of their book earlier. As Jeffrey said:

The notion that social media marketing is a business-to-consumer-only activity is most misunderstood. Many conservative B2B companies think that just because there is less volume of conversation around their company, products and industry, that social media is not for them. This ignores the benefits that social media brings to search, and the ability to leverage and share the knowledge and expertise imbedded in B2B companies to build and nurture relationships required for lead generation.

Jeffrey and Kipp had the unenviable task of waking up the crowd at 8 in the morning after what was for several attendees a rather late night at the House of Blue (not for me, but I heard some stories). Of course they did a great job, and kicked off what was a top-notch Thursday.  Here are a few vendors who, in Kipp’s words, are “crushing it.”

BreakingPoint Systems – Check out their blog here.  In the Q&A I had with them earlier Kipp said they were generating a 2,800% ROI on their social media efforts. They sell network testing equipment, which is a high-consideration and long buying cycle B2B purchase, and they have done a great job of SEO and moving potential buyers to action.

Fluke Corporation – Can you believe this manufacturer of test and measurement equipment has 45,000+ likes on Facebook? I mean if you don’t think industrial and social goes together, look at what they do. Lots of video, lots of photos, lots of engagement, really fun.

GE – Admittedly, the products depicted are partially consumer, but there are plenty of B2B products on GE’s Pinterest page too, withy 667 pins and more than 2,100 followers.  How about boards like From the Factory Floor and Making Data Work?  

Great photo on the ClearRisk Facebook page.

ClearRisk – Another successful B2B corporate user of Facebook, ClearRisk provides risk management solutions for the insurance industry. The Facebook presence prominently features their blog and ebook and also includes plenty of multimedia and other valuable content.

Defining the Social Enterprise

Two weeks ago,  I was fortunate enough to moderate a panel at the Finextra social media event in London on the “social enterprise” with three people who are helping define and redefine this space.

Jeff Saul is the CEO of Euroinvestor.com and has a long and interesting career in equity research. EuroInvestor.com was founded in 1997 and is today the leading investor portal in Northern Europe with 1.6m unique visitors per month focused on trading & investing, personal finance and lifestyle products. In February they launched the Euroinvestor Cockpit, which allows users to fully customize how they view the most important market data such as Stock, FX and Commodities prices and news.

Christopher Kelley joined eToro in February 2012, where he is currently UK Channel Manager and his CV includes developing a live trading room platform for FX traders as well as earning a Masters in Marketing with a focus on Social Media Marketing. eToro is the World’s largest investment network with over 2 million members registered to date.  The company brings traders together where they use a range of metrics and rankings used to illustrate the performance of traders within the network. While traders have typically had two analytical tools eToro brings the added element of Social Analysis

Your social enterprise success depends on your vision and strategy.

Giles Andrews is co-founder and CEO of Zopa. Launched in 2005, Zopa connects savers who are looking for a better return on their spare funds with creditworthy borrowers who are looking for a better deal. Its network has now lent £200m to approx 40,000 consumers.

But what is a social enterprise? Is it a business that’s integrated social media platforms into its marketing and support functions? Is it all about social CRM? Are we talking about a larger industry shift or a marketing slogan? Is it about making money? Or all of the above? Like so many things in the social landscape today there are varying views and opinions on how to define the space.

The resounding feedback from the panel; however, was that their success as a “social enterprise” surrounds engagement and advocacy from the networks they’ve built. It’s not just looking at ways to internalize the data nor is it making sure that everyone internally is using social media for the company. The focus moving forward from these three examples is that companies shifting to a more social foundation are doing so because they are engaged with their audience — they listen, they act and they react to customer feedback and information. The challenge in doing so, or perhaps the illusion, is that companies need to give up control of their brand. That most likely is the most difficult part to accept, but it’s more about being involved with your customers than sacrificing control as so many companies have discovered. For those of you who manage social media this transition is not easy as this post from DigiDay — Confessions of a Social Media Manager – reminds us.

As you think about ways to engage your company or clients into not just thinking but acting more social some ideas to consider include the following:

  • Benchmark: It’s always best to show examples from in and out of your industry to prove a point.
  • Strategy: I’ve made this point many times on this blog and when I speak, but you cannot be successful in social media (or any media) without a strategy.
  • Measure: It will take time, but measuring your efforts and showing success will further help to improve your chances of success.
  • Adapt: Great communicators and leaders learn to adapt to changing issues, technologies and business goals; your social strategy will need to change with all of these.

This idea of a more social enterprise is one that will continue to be debated and discussed as more business strategies shift to a social environment. Pulling together the items you need to ensure you can move your company in that direction will help better position you against your competition and make you a more valued communicator to management.

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

Social business or business communication via social media? — Carol Rozwell

Navigating the Legal Road Map of Social Media

What’s your “I” in social media?

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

Do we need a social index for businesses?

Do most online communities fail?

 

 

Is Social Media Central to Your B2B Communications Strategy?

If it’s not, where does it fit? One example of a company who thinks it is central isn’t one that comes to mind when you think of B2B communications companies. But they are certainly a leader and one to follow: The Economist. As told to BtoB Magazine, the media outlet demonstrates how important social is for content distribution as well as driving subscriptions.

In the maze of communication where does social media fit?

So back to my original question: Where does social media fit into a B2B communicators strategy?

Are we at the point now where it at the center and all channels feed off it? After all, most companies now use social media for news release distribution — Twitter, StockTwits, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. Keep in mind that we also still rely on wire services for reaching the majority of our journalist contacts (or email distribution). There clearly has been a shift in the past two years and moving forward there is no doubt that we now think different.

What are your views? Have we hit the tipping point? Or have we tipped?

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

Social drive growth, content for The Economist, others — B2B Magazine

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Still pitching to use social media?

Are you ready for these five trends?

What drives your b2b strategy?

Navigating the Legal Road Map of Social Media

Navigating the social landscape brings a number of challenges. What content should you publish? Do you use platforms like StockTwits that target investors? Do you create private or public LinkedIn groups? And what about those influencers?

Know your way around the law and social media

Know your way around the law and social media

One thing we also cannot forget is collaborating internally. I’ve blogged before about making sure you have talked with InfoSec so both of you understand each other – your goals and their risks. Another department to work with is legal. Mashable has a new post on the five predictions for social media law in 2012. If you haven’t read it you need to, but don’t stop there. If you are continuing to try to convince legal about mapping out the opportunities and value of social media you should do the following:

  • Understand the concerns: Is legal worried about intellectual property? Privacy? Reputational risk? If you don’t know – or just think you know — now is a good time to sit with legal to discuss.
  • Find a legal champion: Someone on the legal team may already use social media (e.g. LinkedIn). Discover who you think may be someone that can help you understand the concerns before you go into a formal meeting.
  • Do your research: The Mashable post is helpful and a good start, but dig deeper. You should have a firm grasp of the concerns and issues so that you can alleviate the risks and make everyone more comfortable.
  • Find working solutions: There are always ways to be more flexible, so be prepared to work with your colleagues and have a variety of idea.
  • Create a dialogue: You can start with the Mashable article and forward it to your legal team. If you start positioning yourself as someone who understands their concerns they will be much more open to listening to you.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

What’s your “I” in social media?

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

Are You Using StockTwits?

Do we need a social index for businesses?

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

With one small update, LinkedIn made the company pages more releevant and more competitive with other social platforms last week. The new company updates feature allows the administrator for a company’s page on LinkedIn to now add news and share links that feed into the page’s stream. In addition, the stream for company’s you like will now be udpated on your own LinkedIn home page. I’ve been a long-time supporter of the group’s feature on LinkedIn to promote our company, and we use LinkedIn group’s as internal focus groups.

Prior to this update, administrators for the page could only update company basic information and facts — addresses, blog URL, number of employees, etc. Not a very compelling reason to visit the page. If you have been following companies you like via the LinkedIn “follow” button you know there is value in connecting with a company and its people. However, there was little incentive to revisit a company page once you started to follow it. As an administrator of our page on LinkedIn we’ve already started using the new updates feature to post and share news and information about the company. The new updates now allow an administrator to play a more active role in promoting the company and brand and makes a company more visible.

CME Group on LinkedIn mobile

CME Group on LinkedIn mobile

Why does this matter?

  • You have a highly targeted audience that is looking for information about your company. You can now share relevant information that matters to you and them.
  • The analytics portion of the LinkedIn company pages continues to get better and adding this feature should help you correlate more data.
  • Using URL tracking and analytics, you should try to develop and track use of the page and how it correlates to your other communications activities.
  • Anyone who is following your company will now see these updates in their own home page stream, which makes your updates more visible to the people who follow it. This should make your company page a more active landing page.

As next steps, if you play a role in your company’s social media efforts you will want to connect with your company’s page administrator and gain access if you have not already. Also, follow other companies that are now using the new update and benchmark your efforts against them. Finally, figure out how you want to use your LinkedIn company page and the new stream — will it be a job posting venue, industry news source, or a platform to promote your product efforts.

You can also connect with me on LinkedIn here: Allan Schoenberg LinkedIn

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

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

What the LinkedIn IPO Could Mean for B2B Communicatons

What’s your “I” in social media?


Mission Impossible: B2B Blogger Goes Rogue

Update: Folks, my previous version implied mom bloggers are in it for opps with Wal-Mart, et. al. Obviously, that’s not true and wasn’t intended and moreover there’s some great opportunities for partnerships with those companies if handled properly. My apologies – my wife blogs too and there’s a lot of great stuff out there, which is really my point.  Look forward to meeting you all Saturday.

Saturday is the 2nd Annual Minnesota Blogger Conference in Minneapolis. I happened to be looking on Twitter when a batch of tickets was release and decided to take the plunge and nab one.

Folks, I’m going to be the ugly duckling at this gig. You’re all B2B marketing people, so you know what I’m talking about, right? What we do is often not pretty, almost never glorious.  Mainstream appeal, not so much. We’re hawking servers, or accounting services, or industrial filters for heavens’ sake. We think this stuff is big-time important, but our kids don’t particularly care.

But so what? I believe there are principles of good blogging that transcend these differences and I intend to find out what they are. In fact, I’ve set a goal for myself:  Be Like Allan Schoenberg.

Plus, I'm on a mission!

Our little operation here at B2BVoices Nation is not big but we do okay – 4,700 views in June has been the recent high water mark.  And Allan’s posts seem to be consistently tops in readership. What if I could be like Allan? What would that do for us, if I pulled my weight for once?

My mission, if I choose to accept it (well, okay) is to try to generate Allan Schoenberg blog post readership. It’s to your benefit folks because it means this stuff will be more interesting for you! Plus, in my last post, I noted blogs trump LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter on influence over business technology purchase decisions, so hey, this could benefit some of you too!  Stay tuned.