What Are You Doing About China? Six Steps to Take Now

Hello China

Hello China

RenRen. Weibo. QZone. Baidu. YouKu. If these names are not familiar to you then you have some homework to do.

Chinese Internet companies  continue to make news as they seek to grow via IPOs. If that’s not enough (and it probably isn’t by itself), read what Mary Meeker has to say about China’s Internet growth. B2B companies thinking globally need to start really elevating their presence in China, and social media can be an extremely effective way to do this.

What’s driving this growth in China? Cicero has just published a new report that is worth reading and here are two highlights to understand:

  • The improvements in Internet infrastructure have developed rapidly, making it easier and better for people to connect around the clock to mobile devices.
  • Local social media platforms have truly benefited from the blocking of social media platforms from the West, such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

I’ve written before about the importance of looking more closely at Asia, and the continued growth means Chinese social networks no longer should be ignored by you. So what can you do? Here are six steps to take:

  1. Do your research. From Mary Meeker’s latest report to Cicero’s research there is an abundance of information to review and learn. 
  2. Talk internally. What are your business objectives in China? What is your firm’s five to 10 year business plan? What resources do you have? As with any communication plan, you need to understand the business reasons before choosing what tools to use. We have been using Hootsuite now for our Weibo stream and it helps us get a better look at what is working.
  3. Have a plan. How are you going to use these platforms in China? Are you there to educate? Create awareness? Build thought leadership? My suggestion to you is to think about an editorial plan and calendar well in advance of launching and talk about it internally with your China team.
  4. Seek outside advice. There are a number of agencies and consultants for you to connect and network with and you do not want to get this part of your social strategy wrong. This is a strategic investment and you need to make sure you have the right plan in place and understand what you need.
  5. Think mobile. Mobile, mobile, mobile. Got it?
  6. Measure and benchmark. Just like you do now with your social tools find out what is working and what is not. Cut your losses on the things that don’t work and fine tune the ones that do. These tools look similar to the social tools you have now, but don’t be fooled by that since the user base in China (and other parts of Asia) use them differently.

China business opportunities can be enormous and your digital efforts need to be an investment in time and resources. Global B2B firms that are not looking seriously at China need to change that thinking now. What are you thoughts? Let us know what you are doing that works or what you want to know in the comments below.

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

How do you define impact?

Where is your B2B blog?

Can B2B brands inspire?

Craft work — what’s your B2B expertise?

Who are your content superheroes?

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

Do most online communities fail?

How Do You Define “Impact” in B2B?

This week Paul Gillin and I discussed on the latest episode of FIR B2B the “impact” of social media. As Paul pointed out, a new survey finds that CMOs expect social media spend to grow from 7.4% of budgets to 10.1% in the next 12 months. That’s a trend we have seen in recent years as organizations dive more into digital. That number will continue to increase; however, the challenge according to the study results is that firms are finding it difficult to measure. I think it’s safe to assume we are all in that camp. Why is that? Is it a lack of resources? A lack of direction?

As Jay Baer pointed out back in 2012, not measuring ROI is your fault. This remains a great read for all of us as we think about metrics.

In my opinion, measuring “impact” will vary from firm to firm and even within firms from division to division. We each have different ideas of what success looks like and how it will matter to our organizations. To measure impact or ROI in B2B you always need to understand what you are trying to achieve first. I have always leaned toward breaking down what to measure into three categories: awareness, education or sales. Hootsuite outlines three steps to achieve ROI. Just always remember, no social media ROI measurement is perfect or comprehensive, which is why narrowing your focus and knowing what you are trying to achieve ahead of time is so important.

To measure impact, B2B firms should focus on what they want to achieve ahead of time.

To measure impact, B2B firms should focus on what they want to achieve ahead of time.

I like to think that metrics come into two categories: Attention or Influence. These are broad categories but I try to break down how they can help you can do. If you’re still looking for way to measure impact, Glenn O’Neill has an excellent post listing five resources on communicating evaluation results. I particularity liked the toolkit from the Pell Institute and the evaluation guide from the CDC. Altimeter also offers a great ROI Cookbook that’s worth reviewing. Personally, I think when it comes to metrics and measurement you need to always think about asking the right questions.

What do you think makes is most difficult to measure ROI? A lack of resources? A lack of direction from the business? Too much data? Let us know in the comments.

A B2B Marketing Wishlist for 2014

I’m never one to make predictions on this blog and I tend to shy away from them in general, especially as so many other leaders in this space make them. As I’ve stated before, I’m more focused on what to accomplish and what to do. If you’re still looking for a good list of B2B predictions for this year here’s a list of five things to watch.

What ideas do you have for 2014?

What ideas do you have for 2014?

Looking into this year there are several positive signs in the economy. One of them is the fact that B2B companies are planning to increase their spending on marketing. With a surge in spending occurring this year where should B2B marketers invest? Here are four areas where I think communications can have the biggest impact to your organization.

  • Blogging. I’m a believer that blogging should be a central component to any B2B digital strategy. In fact, if I could only choose one social media tool to use it would probably be blogging. This not only includes writing your own blog but also contributing to other blogs. And with LinkedIn opening up its Influencer platform you now have another platform to develop written content.
  • Be Interactive and Listen. This opening sentence from the Harvard Business Review sums it up: Smart companies recognize that both their marketing and their broader business strategy need to be informed by carefully gathering customer insight. How are you listening to your customers? Online forum groups that are private can offer great opportunities to hear from your customers. In fact, we’ve talked about this time and time again here at the importance of LinkedIn groups. If you don’t have a system for gathering and sharing stories, trends and comments internally you may be missing out on valuable insights.
  • Focus Your Images. Telling stories with visuals has to be something you are looking at doing more of this year. If you are struggling with this go by the book The Power of Visual Storytelling to help you out. Visually telling your stories through charts, graphics, images and video not only raise awareness but also appeal to people’s senses and emotions.
  • Think Sales Leads, Not Just Sales. B2B sales has changed and cultivating a constant flow of sales leads is vital to the growth of every B2B company. From a social channel, LinkedIn wins in this category from its company pages to just using the platform to network. But there are many ways to build lead, including email as well as white papers, case studies and webinars. The options are overwhelming, so you need to really do our research on your customer segments and find out how to best reach them. Still need help? Here’s a helpful guide (or click on the image below) at the ways B2B marketers can choose what resource to drive awareness or sales.

Where do you plan to focus your communications strategy this year? Let us know what you think in the comments. 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?

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

Do most online communities fail?

infographic_b2bmarketing

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?

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.

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

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Curious George Goes to the Office

Use Storytelling to Draw in Customers

Takeaways for B2B Companies from the PR Week Social Summit

Moderating at PR Week (photo credit: Stacey Strothard)

Moderating at PR Week (photo credit: Stacey Strothard)

Yesterday, I moderated a panel at PR Week’s Social Summit on social media management and where it fits within the public relations department. My panelists include Nicola Dodd, Cancer Research UK; Craig Hepburn from Nokia; and, Justin Hunt, Social Media Leadership Forum.

Some thoughts on where we are going this year and topics I planned to discuss based on my research included the following:

  • Big data meet content marketing. It’s no longer enough to have an editorial calendar, you need to better understand the content that works
  • Authenticity, trust continue to be critical. This is further highlighted in this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer.
  • Real-time marketing matters and not just for the Super Bowl. Today PR departments need to constantly monitor social channels for trends, issues and opportunities.
  • Where does social sit? Does anyone own it? How does is work across functional departments?  Altimeter found although 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team but only 26% of companies say they have a holistic approach to social.
  • Social media jobs are in abundance: SEO Specialist, Social Media Strategist, Online Community Manager, Social Media Marketing Manager, Social Media Marketing Coordinator, and Blogger or Social Media Copywriter are many of the job titles companies are looking to hire.

We didn’t talk about everything I wanted to ask the panel, but two things stood out to me from the panel discussion

Content: Everyone seems to be getting their arms around content and how to manage it. Both Nicola and Craig spoke in terms of their teams and how they have essentially formed news organizations. I continue to believe that content can be extremely useful to differentiate your B2B business, whether that’s through thought leadership, innovation, humor or customer service. Successful brands big and small recognize that content is an extraordinary piece of their strategy and planning, thinking and responding like a news organization makes a difference. This year, brand journalism remains a top priority for organizations and it’s something to embrace.

Culture: A topic that we kept coming back too during the panel, and one that seemed to be a theme of the event from other speakers, involved the importance of corporate culture in adopting social media. Has social media changed your culture forever? Does being a good place to work impact a company’s results? From my own experience and being involved with an innovative culture I firmly believe it matters. If you want to know more about the importance of culture this report from McKinsey — Givers Take All: The hidden dimension of corporate culture — is worth reading. You should also read this from Mitch Joel on social media and corporate culture.

As a side note, Nicola’s team worked on release of Play to Cure™: Genes in Space and it’s worth a look if you are interested in health sciences or gamification.

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

How to Think Like a Content Manager

Three Ways to Explore Big Ideas

Who are Your Content Superheroes?

Social media management

 

FIR B2B: A New Podcast on B2B Communications

I’m excited to be joining Paul Gillin as this week we launched the podcast FIR B2B as part of the For Immediate Release network run by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson. You can listen to Episode 1 of FIR B2B here.

In the first episode we discuss a recent McKinsey research report that indicates business leaders – not communicators — need to be taking the lead in social media adoption. We also have a bit of fun discussing a number of facts from ad agency Earnest that produced a collection of facts and figures about B2B marketing. Finally, we talk about the ongoing success of email, and how reports from McKinsey and Experian indicate we should be sending more e-mail.

We hope you enjoy the series and of course Paul and I will be looking for your ideas and thoughts on guests and our commentary.

 

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B2B Communications in a Haiku #B2BHaiku

 

A caption haiku? It is possible to do I need more coffee

A caption haiku?
It is possible to do
I need more coffee

Write a haiku. It sounds easy. It’s not. Here are some of my thoughts on B2B communications in haiku form.

Content marketing now
Pulling together ideas
Make it count for you

 

Do you know your ROI
Sales leads helps drive revenue growth
Build LinkedIn strategy

 

Email marketing
More effective than social?
The “in” box still works

 

A long sales cycle

Focus on relationships

Time will pay returns

 

Social Listening
Track other brands and people
Build understanding

 

A B2B example
Building a community
Go TerraCycle!

 

B2B brands can inspire
Images, thought leadership,
Social media

 

Does B2B need social?
Crises, recruiting, educate
Examples to do

 

Big Data worries
Ask your team the right questions
Focus on your goal

 

 

Go ahead and write your #B2Bhaiku and add it to the comments.

 

What B2B Communicators Can Learn from Bruce Lee

 

This weekend my son and daughter stayed up late with me and we stumbled upon the TV movie, “I Am Bruce Lee.” The three of us were mesmerized by the flow of the show and biography of Lee. It was a great documentary about his life and philosophy and as I watched it there were some great analogies to use for B2B communicators.

Here are a few quotes from Bruce Lee that hopefully make you think a little differently about how you approach your B2B efforts.

“A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.”
Bruce Lee

What type of goals have you set for yourself and your organization and how often are you reviewing them? Are they about sales and lead generation? Or do you focus mostly on getting content right? Do you view your goals as an end point or as a way to build on your progress? In my opinion, both are correct, but you need to have a goal and work toward what you want to achieve. It’s just as important to define goals for a team as much as it is for a major project. My advice is to make the time to write down what it is you want as a result of your work and share that with the people who need to know.

“To hell with circumstances; I create opportunities.”
Bruce Lee

In today’s digital world taking risks can be rewarding or punishing. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take them, but you need to assess them properly. As things move more quickly and B2B content is driven by more people on the move via mobile devices, you should try to focus on making your message more shareable and assess the risks properly. But at the end of the day are you simply creating things to create them or are you focused on building opportunities? For example, does your brand’s Twitter feed create a community or just push out links?bruce lee

“I will live the way I please and achieve inner harmony and happiness.”

Bruce Lee

 

“Use only that which works, and take it from any place you can find it.”

Bruce Lee

It’s great (and easy) to benchmark against so many other brands today. Keep in mind that your efforts — whether digital or not — need to fit within the brand and culture of your own organization. If you decide to copy or emulate another company and what they are doing try to make it fit with what you are trying to do, otherwise you won’t be fooling anyone but yourself. Here’s a look at the most recent B2B benchmark study from MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute.

“Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind.”
Bruce Lee

“Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own.”

Bruce Lee

 

We saw a lot of changes in 2013 in content marketing, metrics and lead generation, so knowing what you want to achieve in 2014 can be difficult to define sometimes and we already know the landscape will change — from the tools you use to the new competitors. As a leader of your team are your efforts flexible too? If you’re not the leader of the team are you building ideas and selling them internally? One major change coming is the CMO CIO Alignment Imperative that Accenture researched. How are you handling that? Exploring big and small ideas will continue to be important. There are lots of tales of brands that remained inflexible and resisted change, so learn from their lessons and try to build change into your regular routine. If you don’t, your competition will.

“Be happy, but never satisfied.~

Bruce Lee

You should take pride in your work and what you accomplish and be motivated to find new ways to inspire. The B2B landscape can be extremely competitive and the sales cycle very long. With the resources we now have available from blogs, on Twitter, via YouTube and more we can continue to learn and improve on our past performance.

This is my last post for the year and here’s a look back at the most popular posts. Once again, thank you for reading and sharing all of the things you felt were helpful. Have a great Christmas and see you in 2014.

 

Stop Ignoring This Valuable Piece of Content

There has been much ado about content — from curation to evaluation – and the rapid rise of content management is no mistake. Content has become central to so many B2B brands.

When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.

When you build your content you need to focus on your boilerplate as well.

But content isn’t just about the heavy lifting pieces of text around thought leadership or trends/issues. It can also come in small but significant pieces of text. Like your company boilerplate. Yes, your boilerplate should be a key part of your content strategy. Why? For two reason.

  1. It tells the story of who you are and what your company does that should be embedded throughout all that you write and communicate about your company.
  2. It’s everywhere (or should be). It’s that one paragraph you produce that gets shared everywhere: your website, brochures, social media, email and over the newswire over and over and over and over.

I’m not going to give you ideas on how to write your boilerplate. If you want that advice you should read these three posts:

How to Write an Effective Boilerplate — Diane Rose

How to Make Your Boilerplate Sizzle — Jeremy Porter

Build Better Press Releases — Stacey Miller

So, when was the last time your read your company’s boilerplate? Maybe now is a good time to read it again.

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