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?

Content Marketing Proves to be a Large Part of B2B Marketing Programs [MarketingProf Data]

Highlights of the findings of a study released last month by MarketingProfs and the Content Marketing Institute addressing content marketing for the B2B industry indicate that content production has become and will continue to be a major piece of the marketing mix for B2B marketers.  We’ve seen a huge increase in content marketing – specifically writing (eBooks, blogs, white papers, etc) – from B2B clients (many of them requesting just content) at Other Side Group over the course of the last 12 months, so some of these numbers don’t surprise me, but looking at trends and shifts as a whole is very insightful.

There are several key takeaways from the report.

Content marketing is almost universally used. 90% of B2B marketers used some form of content in their marketing program in 2011, and no individual industry reported lower than a 70% adoption rate.

Content type and its perceived effectiveness is varied.  Marketers are using a mix of content creation and content curation in their programs.  Visual content – in-person events, webinars, video – seem to be the most successful pieces of content, while informational/written pieces – case studies, eNewsletters, white papers and blogs – are also considered very effective as whole.

Creating valuable and consistent content proves challenging. Among B2B marketers largest challenges in content production are creating content that engages prospects (41% of respondents reported this as their largest challenge), and creating enough content (20% stated this as their largest challenge).

More budget is being spent on content marketing, and a lot of that is going to third-parties. While the above stat has changed little from 2010, 60% of respondents said they were going to be increasing spend on content marketing over the course of the next 12 months.  To boot, 62% of B2B marketers use outsourcing for content marketing, a substantial increase from last year’s 55%.

QUICK SUMMARY: B2B marketers are finding content marketing extremely effective, and are willing to put more money behind content marketing programs in order to overcome the challenges they see as most inhibiting.

Around the World in Social Media

A lot has been happening in the world of social media, and I do mean the world. As many B2B companies move into using more social and digital tools we continue to read about case studies involving the big three — LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. But what abo0ut Sina Weibo? Orkut? Hi5? Renren? Are these networks a part of your strategy? Do you know who they reach and what they do? Do you need to expand your reach by using them?

Is your digital strategy stranded at home or are you on a journey to expand your work around the world?

As our business expands and we look to reach our customers around the world I’ve been reading more about the growth of social media globally. Here’s a breakdown of some of the research I’ve found interesting and helpful:



Latin America

But if you’re pressed for time and want a global view of what is happening online, I strongly suggest you download this Slideshare presentation from InSite Consulting and their total view social media around the world in 2011 (NOTE: you will need to request a copy from them).

Is there a presentation you liked that I missed pointing out above? Is there an example of what you’ve learned from your experiences? Is there a fact that surprised you from the information you viewed from the above links? Please share them in the comments.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

World-Class social practices for B2B companies

What drives your social media strategy?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Are you ready for these five trends?

The most important question you can ask

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses?

Top 10 B2B Voices Posts of 2011

There wasn’t a particularly scientific  process to come up with this list, but I’ve put together 10 of our collective posts that have garnered a lot of continual readership over the year.  Enjoy!

  1. What’s Your “I” in Social Media?
  2. HBR: What’s Your Social Media Strategy
  3. Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups
  4. Getting Your Degree in Business Acumen
  5. Public Relations Is….
  6. How Do You Reach the Guy With the Wallet?
  7. B2B Companies Discovering the Value of an Intangible Asset
  8. Case Study: Can Accounting Firms Really be Social?
  9. Visualizing B2B Social Marketing [Infographic]
  10. Still Pitching to Use Social Media? Here are Three Steps to Take
  11. BONUS! Guest Post: How B2B Companies Can Use Video/Photos in Social Media

5 Ways to Increase Engagement With Your Content [Cross Post]

This was originally posted as a guest post on the EditMe blog.  I thought the content would be valuable for our B2B Voices audience!  “EditMe is a wiki where regular people build websites. Add, edit, and delete every web page, image, and attachment from within your web browser. Pick from our gallery of web designs, or customize your own.” Consider checking out their blog and their site.

We’ve all been there: we’ve got a blog, a Twitter account, a Facebook page, you name it…’ve got traffic….. but no one’s giving you any love.  No “comments” love.  No “click” love.  No “Facebook Like” love.  No “Twitter Retweet” love.

Is it you?

Well, it is, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that your content is bad itself.  It may mean you haven’t given people a good enough call-to-action, a reason for them to do more than just read what you put out there and move on.  It doesn’t mean that they walk away dissatisfied, or unfulfilled.  In fact, you may very well have left a good impression on them.  But you could be doing more to get them to interact.

So, you ask, what are some ways I can make people want to *do* stuff with my content?  How can I get them to react to it, or even to share it? I’ve listed a few ways below, and would love to hear from you some of your success stories.

Way Number One: Question Them

Assuming that your content is actually good and offers value to your readers, and that you’ve distributed your content enough that it has eyes reading it, getting your audience to take that one step further and process your content increases the likelihood that they’ll want to react to it in some way.  What I’ve found to be an effective tactic – as a practitioner and as a reader – is asking a question.

Whether it’s in the middle of a blog post or at the end, or as part of a conversation on a social networking platform, a question forces your reader to pause and think about what’s being discussed.  Quite literally, the act of reading a question provokes your brain to actually ask it of itself, and therefore mull over answers. This is a much more active process than simply reading, which can sometimes be very passive as we skim, consume, and move on through the piles of content we see each day.

Additionally, asking a question invites your readers to a discussion, and shows them that you want to have that discussion, while also empowering them as capable and knowledgeable contributors to the discussion topic.

Way Number Two: Connect and Share

One of the biggest ways you can get people to interact with and pass along your content is if you make it super easy for them.  Seems obvious, right?  But it requires taking a good look at each separate platform, recognizing how your content is being presented and the ways in which people can interact with your content from a technical standpoint.  Often times, it’s small details that make the difference.

Have you made it easy for people to leave you a comment, or is it a hassle to do so?  If there are a bunch of barriers up that make it difficult for me to leave a comment, I’m not going to do so.  A simple form and one click says to me “we welcome your input!”

Have you made connecting with you in various ways as easy as pie?  Think about how people can contact you further, follow your RSS feed, sign up for newsletters, follow you on other social networks, etc.  “Interacting with your content” doesn’t necessarily have to mean that it’s one particular piece.  If you get people to continue to come back to future content easily, that’s great.

Are your sharing options clear, and do you have some control over how your content is presented once it’s shared?  For instance, if you have a button on your blog posts that people can click and share on Twitter, you not only want to make sure your readers do as little work as possible, but also that your content – your blog title, URL, etc – are as clear and attractive as possible when shared.

You get the picture here.  You want to make sure that people can connect to you easily, can engage in conversation with you easily, and can share your content easily, while also keeping your content in the rocking form it should be.

Way Number Three: Buck the Trend

Sometimes “taking sides” gets the juices flowing.  There’s no denying it, so, if you can, you might as well embrace it. Now, I’m not saying you should write every post from ontop of a soap-box.  But often times, companies and organizations back off from taking sides because it’s safe to be neutral.  However, if there’s a topic that fits into the theme(s) of your organizations “reason for being” that you feel you can comment on with some authority and take a diplomatic, professional stand, this is usually a good hook for people.

This tactic should follow an internal discussion of your content strategy as to where the line is between “taking sides” and “creating controversy” (which can be detrimental).  This again also needs to be aligned with your branding and your Voice.

Remember, a good way to present your side is to also make it a welcoming conversation for anyone from any side.  This can be done by combining your stance with questions, and asking people what they think.

Way Number Four: Involve Them

This will seem like a pretty easy one once I explain.  Creating a more “official” process by which people can directly interact with you makes them a lot more willing, especially if there’s something in it for them.  Asking them for their stories relating to a particular topic or running a contest on your blog are sure ways to get more participation.

The tricky part here is to make the call-to-action applicable enough to “what you’re all about” so people aren’t just coming, participating, and then leaving and never coming back.  I’ve seen too many iPod give aways that had no thought put into whether or not the participants would come back or not.  They only came for the iPod, and then they left.  The reason to act was not compelling enough to have them stick around.  Some of the more successful campaigns have been something like submitting a story on a particular subject area that fits your organization’s “thing” and offering a prize to the best (whatever you determine best to be) submission.  If you can engage them through company/organization-related issues, they’re more likely to come back after they’ve responded to your official call-to-action.

Way Number Five: Think About the Conversation

Have you ever read an informative, but professionally (read: rigidly) written blog post and really really wanted to interact with it?  If you’re anything like me, the answer is probably no.  I feel more likely to engage with content that sounds like I’m talking to a person.  Now, this doesn’t apply across the board, because your Voice ultimately needs to be aligned with your brand, but I’m of the general ilk that adding a little bit of informality to some of the content you have on social media platforms can have its benefits.  This can complement your more formal pieces of content quite well.

In general, thinking about your content as a piece of a conversation can be helpful in putting it together.  How would you talk about a particular topic?

If you choose to adopt any of these, remember also that it doesn’t mean you’re applying it as the heart of your content production strategy (unless you really want to).  These are meant to be tactical level ideas that support your strategy.  You can use one way one time (or never!) and be done with it.  You can think about doing two of them at once, or try one every few weeks.

There are plenty of other ways you can get people giving your content some love, and I’d love to hear from you what you’ve found most successful, so please leave a comment!

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More Reasons to Like Posterous, especially in a B2B setting

I recently wrote about using Posterous as a tool for social media marketing, and I wanted to take some time to comment on why it’s a great tool specifically for the B2B space.  Three of the nine reasons I had given really stand out to me:

  1. SEO. Whether you’re a cutting edge research firm that only transacts with other businesses, or you’re in a more traditional industry like manufacturing, there are just plain fewer opportunities to really leverage SEO… people aren’t necessarily searching for you in the ways that B2C organizations get searched on.  The concept of outposts comes into play heavily here, and the simple fact that having more places for people to search for content related to you – and ideally from you – the more opportunities you have to associate that content with your website, and the more qualified traffic you can drive to your site.  You can very appropriately (and deliberately) assign keywords to your content that is directly linked to your website, and thus your company.
  2. Inbound linking. Many B2B companies also don’t have a lot of opportunities for inbound linking, especially in the more traditional industries  or instances when you may be just one piece of a long supply chain.  Inline with SEO opportunities, Posterous allows a pretty easy inbound linking opportunity….and one of high authority.  If you’re on a fledgling website strategy and need to boost that inbound link count quickly and effectively, Posterous is a great way to do that.  Additionally, these types of young or underdeveloped websites may have a low authority, and supplementing that with Posterous inbound links can do a lot for your organic SEO.
  3. That means more thought leadership potential. See, it makes a nice little equation, doesn’t it?  With higher SEO, more content sharing opportunities and more inbound linking, it means all of your valuable content is all pointed back to your brand.  If you’re good at what you do – which you probably are – and you identify effective internal content to share, this could mean the start of some great thought leadership opportunities.  And this is where people in more traditional industries can have a big advantage…. if you’re among the first to start really thinking about this equation, you can make huge and long-lasting strides ahead of competitors who aren’t as “up-to-snuff.”

I also wanted to throw out a technical note on calls-to-action.  Again, in the B2B setting, calls-to-action can be a lot more difficult to achieve.  It’s not like someone wants a new pair of running shoes from you.  By using outside content on Posterous, and providing a link of some sort – preferably in the form of “For more information on X systems….” – you can still drive people to your own products or services related to the content you’re posting.  As long as the content is relevant to your company, this is still a good way to be found by qualified leads.

So, a couple To-dos for B2B Posterous users:

  • If you have a blog, post every post up on Posterous, with a link back to the original.
  • Think about calls-to-action, and make sure that every post has one that brings your products/services to the readers’ attention.  These don’t need to be overt (and really shouldn’t be), but can be very effective.
  • In some of the more traditional industries, it may actually be better to have your call-to-action right at the top.  If someone is searching for “copper tracer wire” and really just wants a quote or a price (which is usually the case with a purchaser behind the desk) and they come to your Posterous page in their search results, make it really easy for them to get that done…. through you. They may not have the patience to read through your entire post….
  • Use outside content, and find a way to incorporate an association to your company.  This is an easy one, as the fundamental goal of content production is to provide valuable information to your audience.

What else have you found helpful about Posterous in the B2B setting?  Are there any other To-Dos you have? Do you have a Case Study you’d like to share with us?