Three Areas for B2B Communicators to Focus in 2013

Another year and another post to avoid making predictions for next year. Frankly, there are too many…some good, some not. Last year, I used this space to talk about what actions were on my calendar for 2012, and I’m confident to say we accomplished many of my objectives. This year, I want to take this space to talk about the things we should focus on for 2013.

And there are some interesting trends to watch this year. The idea that your B2B brand

Do you find time to focus?

Do you find time to focus?

needs to think like a media company is one that is changing our landscape as communicators. Even CIO magazine has provided thoughts on how social media is affecting the IT enterprise. And reading Armano’s thoughts on what to watch in the year ahead is always a must read.

And to look forward sometimes you have to look to the past. I’ve learned a lot from the past five years of managing social media, which has made me think about what I need to do next year. Doing this is no easy task as there have been a lot of moving pieces in the world of communications in 2012. We’ve seen the rise in how powerful photography and images and

  • We live in interesting economic times. As the economy continues to struggle, communicators are being asked to do more with less. Our landscapes are much more competitive as our customers are prioritizing where they invest. We’re seeing more opportunities to communicate as social media allows us to deliver our message across many many platforms. So, as we struggle with priorities and marketing investments, we are provided with an enormous amount of options. You have to get better at making choices. This means you really need to roll up your sleeves, collaborate across your company (e.g., HR, IT, legal, marketing, sales) and understand the key drivers of your business, the competition, opportunities and outside threats (a.k.a, SWOT analysis). Maybe now is a time to really dig through your company’s intranet and read what is happening (I make time every week to do this).
  • Learn good data management. I don’t mean organizing all of your data into columns of traffic trends, but I mean really learn to understand it. Are you tired of hearing about big data? Yeah, me too. But the reality is that we live in an era of expanding data and most of it is ambiguous. We need to fine tune our analytical skills to better understand what works, what doesn’t and who to reach. Google Analytics can help us better calculate ROI. I feel that we still need to get better at social listening and gaining better insights from our audiences. That means turning data into actionable items. I’ve found that focusing on a few things helps to provide better thoughts and knowledge.
  • Ask the right questions. Good business people, not just communicators, know that asking good questions can reveal a lot and open doors. I wrote before about the importance of asking questions, and I can’t emphasize it enough. You may accomplish a lot if you don’t, but if you don’t focus and come prepared to ask tough questions, push the boundaries and think differently you are just implementing everyone’s ideas. I like to think our role as communicators is part cultural detective where we piece together the stories, participants and stakeholders to find the solutions.

We have a lot to do and a lot of choices. Prioritizing what we do and how we do it will be critical to our success as communicators not just in 2013, but in the years to follow. What are you focused on in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

The Three I’s of Social Business Media

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How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

LinkedIn Becomes More Relevant for B2B Communicators

LinkedIn continues to be enhance its platform for B2B communicators. Last month the company announced that companies could stream news and information from its corporate page. That was a small change and a much needed addition. But a much bigger change has just happened.

When LinkedIn went public I wrote about some new things for the company to invest in and focus on, and one of those was a dashboard. Yesterday, the company announced that an analytics dashboard is now live within groups. This is a game changer for LinkedIn but also for all of us.

LinkedIn Dashboard

It’s no secret that I am a believer in the power of LinkedIn Groups. We use them extensively at our company. But the lack of data and information have made them a guessing game for marketers and human resource managers. LinkedIn says the dashboard for groups will be updated every day — something that would be expected and critical to the success of this tool.  The addition of data points about group members can help in two key ways:

  • Demographics. You can now see by title, demographics, industry and function who is in your group. For highly targeted product groups like we do, if you’re trying to reach senior managers in the Ukraine in the agriculture market you now can get a clear view. For larger groups that are more focused on a topic, the dashboard gives you an accurate display of who is interested in order to help better facilitate conversations and connections.
  • Discussions. Views on comments and discussions posted help show how active the group is and if you are facilitating conversations among the group. While this is a great view, this part of the dashboard still needs work in order to better drill down. I would like to see the dashboard to start to include information on who is most active at posting, commenting and sharing information. It would also be helpful to see which posts are most read by the group in order to focus further content.

One thing I also like is that you can see the data for any group. LinkedIn did not fence this data just for group managers. As a member of several groups on LinkedIn, I like that openness and transparency since I can now better determine which groups are worth my time and effort.

It was only a matter of time before this tool became available and there’s no doubt more changes will be coming. This initial launch was well done by LinkedIn and has already helped me get a better understanding of the groups we manage and how we can further achieve our sales and marketing goals.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

What the LinkedIn IPO Could Mean for B2B Communicatons

What’s your “I” in social media?

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

What the LinkedIn IPO could mean for B2B communicators

Tomorrow marks another milestone for social media with LinkedIn’s IPO. You can catch up on the latest news here: Forbes, Fortune, Deal Journal, TRB, Term Sheet, Mashable. But as this story in Bloomberg details, LinkedIn gets “70 percent of revenue from business subscriptions, a model that’s similar to Salesforce.com.” So perhaps instead of treating LinkedIn like social media perhaps its future is more like the CRM model. With that in mind I wanted to offer my thoughts on how it can make improvements as a better resource for marketing and sales.

For those of you who read this blog regularly and know me, I am a long-time supporter of LinkedIn. The network, more so than other online platform, is a transparent resource for businesses — I can see your work history, your real name and what people are saying about you through recommendations. With a reputation for catering to recruiters and job seekers for so long, the company has really made some great improvements in the last two years to become much more useful to communicators. And they will continue to build these services out post IPO.

With a fresh round of cash in its coffers expected tomorrow — estimated at $340 million — what’s next for the social med…er…CRM company? Here are a few things I hope they are considering:

Company Pages

The company pages section in my opinion seems to be the most lacking in functionality for LinkedIn. You are fairly limited as to what you can do on this page and I would like to see that expanded. For instance, having our Twitter feed on this page would seem like an easy add-on given their partnership. As much as I understand this is a career networking site, the profiles they feature are not very useful. What would be helpful is if they could show those people’s status updates, groups they’ve joined and other relevant information. The space these profiles are taking up is valuable real estate. I would also like to see the ability to add more RSS feeds. Finally, I would to have the ability to customize this page — let me choose which items I add and where to put them. The analytics they provide to this page are excellent and I hope they continue to build that out for the benefit of recruiters and marketers.

Group Pages

We use the Group Pages functionality in many ways and I’ve written here about not overlooking groups for B2B companies. One change they made for groups that I wish they would use in Company Page is the scrolling headline of posts. This is extremely useful to see who and what’s been posted. And similar to my thoughts on the Company page, I would like to have the ability for more customization. One thing that Facebook has done really well with the company pages is just this — the ability to add and delete tabs and features. Facebook makes me feel as if our company page is our company page. On LinkedIn I still feel that our pages are us on LinkedIn. LinkedIn also needs to look for more add-ons to the group pages. I honestly feel like we could do so much more with polls, events and even careers. Finally, where they really need to step up is in analytics for group managers. This option is simply non-existent and the company needs to figure our a better way for us to analyze, evaluate and measure our group pages. At this point it’s a guessing game with no historical evidence or info to measure against.

Build a Dashboard

The company clearly does a great job at connecting people, but they need to do a much better job at connecting information. What I mean is that I wish they would do a better job connecting all of the things I do on LinkedIn. Not only do I manage several of our group pages, but I’m also a member of other communication groups, formers employers’ groups and university groups. I would like LinkedIn to figure out what all of this means not only to me but to the people and groups I’m connected to. For the most part, I feel inundated with information from LinkedIn — from email notices by groups and posts, connection notices, the stream on the site, the addition of the news feature — forcing me to make sense of all of this does no one any good. In reality, the company should build a dashboard that I can customize (e.g. think MyLinkedIn as your home page) and view with real-time information.

Make Me Pay

Yes, that’s right. I’d pay. Similar to the model for recruiters who have to pay for services this model should be used for marketers as well. If the company goes down the path of integrating with Salesforce.com, provide deeper analytics and gives me useful options to add content I’d pay.

What did I miss? Let me know what you think.

We’ll see how well the market receives the listing in 24 hours. And of course, if we aren’t connected on LinkedIn let’s do so. You can find my profile here.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Don’t overlook the power of LinkedIn Groups

What’s your “I” in social media?

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses

Finally, a comprehensive B2B social media study