A Look Back at 2013

With the continued rise of digital in 2013 some of the themes and posts here reflected what many people were asking: How do I create and manage content? With so much data coming in what matters most? Where should we focus our efforts? What’s next?

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

With so many changes in resources, data and issues B2B communicators in 2013 needed to constantly be looking for ways to leverage digital.

Here’s a look back at the top posts from 2013:

Do B2B Companies Need Social Media?

Craft Work: What’s Your B2B Expertise? 

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

How B2B Brands Can Leverage Events

What’s Ahead? The Changing Role of Communications

A Manifesto for B2B Communicators

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Other Voices: An Interview with Ann Handley of MarketingProfs

Thank you again for your continued readership and interest in B2B Voices.

 

 

 

 

LinkedIn Showcase Pages Put More Focus on Customers

I’m a long-time believer in using LinkedIn Groups to create communities for B2B brands. In fact, I’ve been using the group pages for more than six years to post content, connect our people with customers and focus on building conversations. During that time, I’ve noticed that not all groups are created equal; some have very good, active dialogues, while others just linger in a one-way discussion.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

I’ve always believed that LinkedIn is a great platform for targeted, private discussion groups. Making groups private helps to target topics around specific issues, keep out competition and vendors, and allows you to treat these forums like your own focus group.

But LinkedIn’s new Showcase pages now complement the groups, helps to clear up the clutter on company pages, but could ultimately end up competing with – and possibly ending – most company group pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we try to navigate our way through and manage the growing amount of content on LinkedIn.

I’m excited about this latest offering from LinkedIn since it can help narrow the conversations and topics, which ultimately is what a good B2B sales or marketing person needs to do. Here are my four reasons why I like the new Showcase pages:

  1. The administration feature allows multiple stakeholders to own and manage these groups. B2B companies can now provide multiple owners to pages, which makes sense as social media grows in importance. In addition, well-organized B2B companies will leverage product, marketing and communications teams to oversee showcase pages. This continues to showcase the need for B2B companies to better organize and manage content across functional disciplines.
  2. The sponsored post option is a major bonus at targeting customers by region, title, company and industry. LinkedIn continues to win the B2B marketing game as it focuses on connecting buyers to sellers and sellers to buyers better than any other social platform.
  3. As Mashable points out, Showcase pages allow companies to narrow content onto a specific product or offering and target end users. More targeted content should lead to more insights into what people want from your brand and marketing content, and should allow you to better track what you are trying to measure. And the simple “Follow” or “Unfollow” button makes it easy to start/stop seeing the feed. It’s a small feature, but is definitely more easy than joining or un-joining a LinkedIn group, and face it, any way to make the user experience easier is a plus.
  4. While several posts have pointed out here and here that this is a great way for brands to build content, I actually take the view that this is betters news for customers. Which is the point, isn’t it? This move from LinkedIn actually makes it easier for customers to follow the content they actually want from B2B brands. So, yes, it does help companies, but over time the real focus moves toward connecting with customers. And that’s exactly the point LinkedIn was trying to make.

So far I really like what I see in terms of the ease of use, the consistent look with Company Pages, and the focus on having an easy end-user and brand experience. Like any new social iteration, it will take time to figure out how to leverage the pages and make them of use to your customers. Should you do them across every product line? Or just your services? Do you even need them? And how will you build awareness and community around them? These are all questions you should be thinking about in the coming weeks as B2B companies roll out Showcase page.

Now I’m just hoping LinkedIn would bring back its event/calendar feature — I guess I can’t have everything — but there are alternatives.

We continue to get inundated with new technologies and platforms  As a reminder, my golden rule is do a few things and do them well. You will be better served as an organization and a professional by doing so.

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

Keeping Your Messages Connected

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

Download: Aligning Campaign Effectiveness and Content

From The Oriella Digital Journalism Study study

From The Oriella Digital Journalism Study study

 

I continue to be impressed and enthused at the quantity and quality of B2B-focused content online. The discussions around content and analytics continue to drive B2B conversations. Here’s a weekly rundown at what you may have missed.

@b2community: The Evolved 3 C’s of Marketing [Infographic] http://t.co/6YkIcar09W

@juntajoe: Great example…How to Spark a Meaningful Connection Through B2B Content http://t.co/GZBdC6Efkz via @CMIContent

@btobmagazine: Study: Marketers question online advertising effectiveness http://t.co/3wHXjvL7tk @Adobe

@eloqua: 9 Internet Trends Charts You Need To See  http://ow.ly/lWiZ7 via @BrennerMichael

@pauldunay: B2B Lags Behinds B2C in Online Customer Satisfaction http://t.co/MvhQbpXKCs

And more content you should read:

@PaidContentUk: Global study shows more journalists embrace social media — Germans not so much http://t.co/vpUMA9Ltjp

@pgillin: How the world has changed: Economist survey finds #analytics now most desired #marketing skill http://ow.ly/m0wOj

@journalismnews: Twitter opens up its analytics platform. Now everyone can check the performance of their tweets http://t.co/wT5LT34RTk via @tnwtwit 

@donbart: Comments encouraged! New Post: A New Framework for Social Media Metrics & Measurement http://ow.ly/lXIn3 #MeasurePRt #SMMStandards

 

How to Share a Great Story

I believe very strongly in an approach to campaigns that my agency, Weber Shandwick, calls Content Fusion.  It basically says instead of starting with, “Hey, we need a news release about X,” we should start with the story and THEN determine the all the ways in which we can tell that story effectively.  It works like this:

  1. Every company (or brand) has stories to tell.
  2. Every story can be told in a variety of formats – video, text, images, audio.
  3. Every formatted story can be carried in a variety of content vehicles – news releases, blog posts, ads, bylined stories, etc.
  4. Every story ultimately finds a home in a variety of destinations – including “owned” spaces like your website, “shared” spaces like your Facebook page, and “earned” spaces like a news site or third party blog.
  5. Social sharing and compelling content should lead to conversation that refreshes the story and continues to spread it through the online ecosystem.

I get asked, however, whether this works for B2B or just for Coca-Cola?  And if it does work for B2B then does it only work in theory or can you actually get the organization to embrace this approach?

First answer:  Yes, it works brilliantly for B2B. Look at the pick-up of this video about 3D printing.  Only it’s not really about 3D printing is it? It’s about people. Content Fusion is only as good as the story.

Second answer:  To do this well, the organization’s marketing and communications leaders need to empower people to think outside their “lanes.” If a client comes to me needing a media relations solution, which I still hear all the time, then we’re already in trouble.  There’s nothing wrong with media relations at all – it’s critically important for most organizations. But now we’re already in a box. We’re already cutting ourselves off from two-thirds of the possible destinations for our story.  We’re also probably not being given the budget to create compelling content because you wouldn’t go to all that work and investment just for media relations.  It only makes sense when you have the whole online ecosystem to work with.

I get excited when a client says something like this:  “We have a problem.  We need to launch into a new market space, and we’re not known for that, and the influencers and potential customers might view our intentions with some skepticism. What should we do?”

Or this:  “We really need to build our reputation for understanding how the consumerization of information technology is disrupting businesses and how to harness that disruption for good.”

Give us a communications or a marketing or corporate reputation challenge and give us the freedom to literally architect a solution and see what we come back with.  Hopefully we’ll come up with an amazing story, package it in multimedia fashion, publish it from Sharepoint to YouTube (or whatever is appropriate), and support it with paid search or social ads plus some good media relations work to ensure it’s seen, then finally we’ll listen to our audiences to discern how they’re engaging with our story and be prepared to respond or adjust fast. That’s how it works.

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:

What drives your social media strategy?

Tuning into your industry

Social media management

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

 

Education & Thought Leadership Will Drive Most B2B Content Production Plans to Be “Brick Heavy”

Last week, Chris Sietsema wrote a great post on Convince and Convert about creating a content production plan with a combination of “bricks” and “feathers” that makes sense for your company, asking us all “should you be focused more on building substantial content productions or presenting your audience with a steady array of minute snippets that define your brand and message?”

Quick definitions:

Bricks are larger content productions such as research reports, events, white papers, video series, mobile apps, etc. They typically require decent budget and time to produce but have the potential to make a larger splash when executed and promoted correctly.

Feathers are comprised of simple text and photo content published via popular social media tools likeFacebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, etc. Less intensive than bricks from a production budget standpoint, feathers are created consistently to maintain an ongoing stream of communication between a brand and its audience.

Many B2B companies focus on providing helpful or educational information for their audience, focusing less on creating social signals than providing enough of a reason to convert (whatever “conversion” may look like for you).  They also often include thought leadership as one of the primary ways to achieve their business and marketing goals.

Additionally, short, consistently valuable pieces of content are often more difficult for a B2B company to sustain, and may not be as compelling for their audience. As Chris says, “Those brands that simply cannot provide entertaining, enlightening and/or educational content on a daily basis (e.g. law firms, insurance companies, some medical facilities, etc.) should focus more on building bricks for the purpose of conveying their value to prospects and influencers.”

Because of this, it’s likely that producing more Brick Content will strategically align your B2B content program with your overall marketing goals.

Larger, more in-depth pieces of content allow a company to support the agenda of a thought leader and information provider.  Blogs, white papers, video series etc are an opportunity to showcase well-formulated, first-party, expert-driven ideas.

This is not to say that Feather Content is not helpful.  Short-form content and third-party content are excellent choices to reinforce Brick Content.

I did a quick and dirty numbers check on Other Side Group‘s portfolio, and about 85% of the Brick Content we write is for B2B companies – with the exception of blogging, which is about 60% to B2C companies vs 40% B2B companies (this probably due to the fact that blogs can come in a variety of formats….more on this later perhaps).  Some of those clients supplement their Brick Content with Feather Content, and some don’t (please note, this isn’t necessarily statistically significant, but certainly directional).

We’d love to hear more about what your Content Marketing Strategy is?