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?

What’s on tap for the B2B Voices team in 2011?

With a new year comes new priorities and objectives. Each of us at B2B Voices decided to share with you what we’re working on for 2011, and hopefully in December we can all say we’ve achieved our goals. Share with us in the comments what you hope to accomplish as well.

Allan Schoenberg

In January I relocated to London for CME Group to take on a new role and new challenges for the company heading up all of our international communication efforts. While I will still be managing our presence in the social media landscape, we obviously are looking to expand in that area overseas as well. As our business continues to grow throughout Europe and Asia, we have been aggressively pursuing more ways to communicate our brand attributes and strengths of our business. My expanded role at CME Group is an exciting time professionally and personally for me. So this year expect to see more regular media coverage of CME Group throughout Europe and Asia, including profile stories, product and service news, and having the company more woven into the fabric of the London business scene.

Aaron Pearson

In January, I shivered in the cold while watching with envy as Allan relocated to London. I have a couple big professional priorities for the year. First, I’m hoping not to bomb out teaching an executive education class on social media marketing at the University of St. Thomas with Weber Shandwick Digital Strategist and Vice President Andy Keith (builds on this course). That’s partly why I’ve been doing more social media book-reading – I need to make sure I have a good handle on perspectives and experiences beyond my own. Second, as the head of our vertical market segment, I’m trying to focus a great deal on growing our healthcare IT work.  It’s the hottest B2B vertical market out there and we have a good base of experience to tap. Finally, we’re trying to take more of our clients’ B2B social media efforts beyond pilots to full-fledged efforts that deliver measurable impact. Social media engagement really is perfect for connecting niche B2B audiences into global communities, and yet there’s a lot more experimentation and innovation today on the B2C side. I have a major client playing in a blurry space between B2B and B2C and that should be a great sweet spot for showcasing how this can really work – stay tuned.

Arik Hanson:

For me, in many ways, 2011 will be a building year. On the business side, I’ll be building on the first year of my new digital communications consulting business, ACH Communications. Year one exceeded almost every expectation I had–but in 2011, I’m looking to take that success to the next level. That doesn’t necessarily mean growing my business (although that appears to be happening whether I want it to or not). It means finding ways to work smarter. And stay ahead of the digital curve. And, finding ways to deliver outstanding value for my clients. Professionally, I’m hoping to build on a number of events I helped run or found in 2011. I’m working with PR leaders across the country to formalize the Help a PR Pro Out (HAPPO) organization a bit–we will have big news to share about a great Feb. event soon. I’m working with my colleague and friend Melissa Berggren to take the MN Blogger Conference event and build that out a bit with additional events in 2011. And, I’m hoping to play a key role in BlogWorld again this year (I helped organize the Social Media Business Summit last fall). Finally, personally, I’m hoping to build on our family successes (OK, so the metaphor doesn’t really work here :). I’m planning to take more time with my daughter and son to help them discover their interests and passions. I’m hoping to spend more time with my wife as we continue to explore more restaurants and haunts in Minneapolis (we’re amateur foodies). And, I’m also looking to spend more time on myself as I seek to read more (trying to read 26 books in 2011) and get back in shape (working out 3 times a week–a big jump for me).

Kate Brodock

In January, I transitioned from full-time to part-time at the family business in Rome NY, a manufacturing plant, in order to focus entirely on my social media marketing and content production consulting firm, Other Side Group.  I’ll be reworking the formula I had from 2008 until now, and will be adding a focus on reputation management for high-profile individuals, in addition the existing social media marketing for organizations.  Luckily, my family still loves me, and I’ll be also taking their marketing to a new level.  I’m excited to “get back” into the space full-time, and look forward to working with B2B and B2C customers alike.  I also hope to renew my focus in Girls in Tech in my new role as CMO of Global, and in Meta-Activism Project.  Lastly, I’d like to increase my number of speaking and writing opportunities, as those are two things that really drive me. Oh, and have a ton of fun in life… of course.

You can also follow all of us on Twitter: Allan, Aaron, Arik, Kate or connect with us on LinkedIn: Allan, Aaron, Arik, Kate

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Beyond Social – What’s Next?

Study after study continues to show that companies are integrating social into their communication plans. This year’s study by Chief Marketer found that 64% of 1,300 respondents said they were already integrating social media into marketing campaigns, and 22% who currently are not will be doing so in the next year.

And SmartBrief just recently partnered with market research firm Summus and released The State of Social Media for Business. You can access the top line themes of the study here. One key point from the study, 66.5% of businesses have adopted social media in the past 18 months, but less than 15% of businesses are measuring the ROI of their social media efforts.

As both of these studies show, we are getting closer and closer where all companies in some way are utilizing social tools. Here are a few things I see developing by the end of 2011.

  • Vendors: We’ll see more, not less, of vendor offerings in the social space. As companies continue to use these tools more vendors will emerge with tools and services. Resources for measuring, tracking, managing and content management will not only showcase the rising importance of social media, but also point to an enormous accumulation of data. The challenge for communicators will be choosing the correct vendors to work with based on strategy and content. Your choices will be so you consolidate services with one vendor or do you work with multiple vendors? Both choices have their benefits but they also have disadvantages, so are you starting to plan?
  • You will thank Apple: From the iPhone to the iPad more and more applications are being developed. That’s great, but what’s really been helpful is that more and more C-level executives are using these products. The result is they are asking, “What can we do using apps?” (Read this from CIO Magazine: CEOs to CIOs: We Need the iPad!). Even if your company is based on the popular BlackBerry device they too have a tablet being developed.  If you aren’t thinking about apps, now may be a good time to do some research. I suggest taking your IT and website teams to lunch and start benchmarking what other companies are doing.
  • More integrated social communication: Social media has given a lot of capabilities and in some cases responsibilities to the individual. While your job responsibilities and titles will stay the same, more and more companies are trying to figure out whether to have a centralized or a decentralized social media strategy. I think truly successful companies will adopt a model that works for them culturally (neither model is right or wrong), but also learn that everyone in communications needs to think of how to leverage these tools. By the end of 2011 more people will have social media in their job descriptions but not necessarily their job title.
  • Speaking of jobs…: I think by the end of 2011 we’ll see fewer and fewer job openings at corporations (not agencies) for Social Media directors. There’s a two-fold reason for this: 1.) Most of those jobs will be filled already 2.) Companies will just expect communicators to think and implement social media – it’s just part of your job description, or if it’s too specialized it will be outsourced.
  • Data tsunami: If you think you have too much data now just wait. More of your customers are coming online, more are using social media, and more are expecting you to be social. All of this means you need to have someone (e.g. staff member, consultant) or some tool (e.g. Omniture, Hootsuite – we use both at CME Group) to help you wade through it all. Good communicators will know what they are looking for and how to find it, so start thinking about that now. In addition, if you’re a consultant in the measurement business 2011 will be a very good year for you.
  • Crisis management v. risk management: There is a difference between crisis management and risk management. For crisis management, your team will need to be on top of what’s being said and how to rapidly respond. In order to manage risks you’ll need to integrate social media listening into your existing issues management plan. And you do have both a crisis and issues management plan already, right?

So what are your thoughts? Am I on the right track? Are you seeing something other than what I’m seeing? And of course let us know what you think will happen in this space in 2011.

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Should Investor Relations Teams Use Twitter?

Image representing StockTwits as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

We’ve talked in the past here on B2B Voices about using StockTwits to track and follow what people are saying about your publicly traded clients or company. And recently the company announced it is now offering verified investor relations accounts.The new investor relations accounts launched with three companies: Ford, HP and CME Group (Disclaimer: I work in corporate communications at CME Group and we also partner with StockTwits for our futures products).

So this sounds great. Sign onto Twitter/StockTwits and start tweeting, right? Well, like all things in communications, you need to nail your strategy first. Here are some thought starters on how/why to use StockTwits for investor relations:

  • Objectives: Know what you want to get out of StockTwits first. This isn’t the place to spam users and and not talk back. The network of traders mean business and these are smart people. Before you get involved have an idea of how you plan to use the platform.
  • Monitoring: It’s been said so often but you can’t ignore the fact that people (shareholders) are talking about your company. You need to follow the sentiment. Not that you can use Twitter to change the price of your stock, but if there are false rumors or statements you should correct them.
  • Promotion: Material information (e.g, new products/services, earnings) should be communicated to your target audience of investors and StockTwits allows you to do that.
  • Disclosure: Know and understand both the SEC requirements and your client/company’s policies. If you want to brush up on these issues the fourth annual Financial Markets World conference on social media disclosure is taking place this September.

In addition, if you haven’t been reading the IR Web Report you should. The site if full of useful information for investor relations and public relations professionals alike. For instance, the site recently published a report that 41% of publicly traded companies do not use PR news wire services. This number could decrease as the site points out that, “…rule changes by the New York Stock Exchange and the NASDAQ Stock Market now recognize SEC filings and website postings as fully meeting their disclosure requirements.” This ruling creates a great opportunity for services like StockTwits to fill a void of communicating financial news for companies.

As communicators we have a responsibility to consistently look for new and innovative ways to communicate to our stakeholders. Using tools like blogs, Facebook and Twitter have provided a wealth of options, but I’ve always believed that these tools must fit into your overall business and communication goals and objectives. These aren’t silver bullets to solve your challenges. Services like StockTwits provide us with another way to enhance our efforts and bring the corporate communications and investor relations functions closer together.

My recommended next steps for you would be the following:

  1. If you have clients or work for a publicly traded company go to StockTwits and search for them using their stock symbol. I suggest you bookmark these sites or add them to your RSS feed in order to follow them regularly.
  2. Subscribe to the IR Web Report in your RSS feed.
  3. Review your current communications plan and how you are integrating social media as a communication tool.
  4. Set up a meeting with your investor relations team and discuss how StockTwits can add value to your clients/company.

In addition, don’t just think StockTwits is for publicly traded companies. The company just launched a service to track privately held companies as well. You may want to see if your client/company is listed.

Finally, congratulations to the team at StockTwits for all their hard work, which paid off by being named by Time magazine as one of the 50 best websites of 2010. Another validation for the use of social media in the business world.

What are your thoughts and experiences on this topic? Let us know.

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Mingling in Seattle with Ragan

Last week I attended and spoke at the 2009 Ragan Employee Communications, PR and Social Media Summit in Redmond, Washington, at Microsoft’s campus. I continue to be impressed with the events produced by Mark Ragan (@MarkRaganCEO) and his team as they not only secured a world class venue, but the topics continue to be timely (Disclosure: We’re hosting two Ragan events at the exchange in Chicago next month, so if you plan to attend let me know.).

I’ve been asked by various people since last week to summarize the event and I can summarize it with one word: Mingle. Now, I don’t mean mingling in the network, business card trading sense of the word — I’ll get to that as well — but from a new technology coming from Microsoft to address social networks internally. How new is this offering from Microsoft? Try to Google (or Bing) Microsoft Mingle and see what you find. We were lucky enough to have Frank Shaw (@FXShaw), vice president of corporate communications, Microsoft, kick off the conference and demonstrate Mingle. So what is Mingle and why should you care? Seeing and reading about it are two different things, but here’s a quick rundown:

  • Mingle is a collaboration initiative that will allow for a one-stop network for employees to come together.
  • Essentially, Mingle is an organization’s internal Twitter,where employees can tag or annotate internal *and* external URLs & share with other employees.
  • Mingle can allow for groups to be created among empmloyees based on key words or topics discussed in the live stream, which in turn can connect employees from various locations/departments to collaborate better.
  • Like Twitter and other microblogging tools, Mingle allows employees to move conversations from e-mail to a secure internal community (one of the key distinctions as services like Yammer run outside an organization’s firewall). 
  • Microsoft plans to build more awareness and use of Mingle internally through existing resources like Sharepoint.

Shaw summarized the purpose of developming a tool like Mingle by stating that Microsoft wanted to know where their employees are getting information and then optimizing that information across all employees. What struck me as the obvious throughout the demonstration of Mingle is the fact that Microsoft is getting ready to unleash social media for the masses, which means there will likely be changes to tools such as Outlook, SharePoint, PowerPoint, Excel and other products. When this happens it will be hard for employees to ignore the changes, and it will bring even further changes to how enterprise communicate with employees. How would your organization change if employees communicated more in real time and depended less on email? How will employee communications and human resources have to adapt to these changes? I would suggest you pay attention to Mingle as Microsoft discusses this platform more publicly.

In addition to the Mingle platform I was able to mingle in real time with some pretty amazing people, including:

 Shauna Causey (@ShaunaCausey) — One of the added benefits of attending this event was the opportunity to spend time with Shauna and she’s a professional I admire and look to for ideas. You should too. I connected with Shauna several months ago via Twitter and we immediately bonded. She’s a very sharp communicator who has taken on several cause-related initiatives in addition to her job with Comcast.

 

Finally meeting face to face and mingling with Shauna Causey (@shaunacausey) Finally meeting face to face and mingling with Shauna Causey.

 

Jeff Willinger (@JWillie) and Charee Klimek ( @ChareeKlimek) — I met both Jeff and Charee via the Chicago Social Media Club earlier this year and the three of us seem to show up everywhere together. One of Jeff’s areas of expertise lies in SharePoint, so I know he was doing some serious networking on the Microsoft Campus. Charee is a consultant involved in helping organizations understand how to leverage social networking with employees, which means Mingle has some serious potential for her business. 

 

Charee Klimeck and Jeff Willinger -- a Windy City connection in Seattle. Charee Klimek and Jeff Willinger — a Windy City connection in Seattle.

 

Tony Edwards (@TraderSmarts) — Tony is an independent trader who lives in Seattle and he and I were introduced only a few weeks ago randomly on Twitter. One of the tremendous benefits of using Twitter at the exchange (@CMEGroup) is meeting with so many customers face to face. I often talk about using social media as way to build a fan base of supporters who can support your oganization. Meeting with Tony and learning not just about how and what he trades, but getting to know him as a person, further helps to show the value of social media in a B2B environment. By the way, here was Tony’s tweet last Friday.

Tac Anderson (@tacanderson) and Nathan Misner (@NathanMisner) — Their presentation on influence was straightforward and filled with great ideas. You can view their presentation here.  I was able to spend some time with them before and after their presenation and they are a must follow if you are interested in the power of storytelling and engagement as public relations strategies. They also unveiled Twendz as a social monitoring tool that will track frequency, reach and the influence of people online.

There were many more conversations with the likes of Jeramie McPeek (@Sunswebaster), Shannon Paul (@ShannonPaul) and of course Mark Ragan. If you attended the conference what did you think about Mingle? If you are involved in employee communications how are you managing the change brought about internally by social media? Let us know your thoughts.

Leverage Partnerships in B2B Social Media Too

It seems that partnerships in social media are an overlooked asset. We often rely in traditional strategies and tactics to partner with our customers for case studies, analysts for white papers and media for events. So why not take this approach to social media? This is in fact what we did at CME Group.

I blogged here two weeks ago about the value of using StockTwits for investor relations. Last week we officially announced via video from out trading floor in Chicago that we are going to work closely with StockTwits to partner in our social media efforts to reach traders. With approximately 100,000 users on its network discussing stocks, futures and forex, this partnership is a great social media match for us.

 

Initially we are focusing on some basic, traditional sponsorship activities, such as adding a CME Group logo to your Twitter avatar and placing banners within specific product streams. The real value of our partnership though is to connect the exchange with traders in order to further enhance relationships with our customers. In the coming weeks we are planning to work more closely with StockTwits on an event in Chicago with the goal that in person events will be replicated in other cities. Ultimately, our partnership allows us to build credibility with our customers since we are endorsed by a brand they trust — StockTwits. In addition, StockTwits, which is nine months old, can build its credibility through the endorsement by the exchange, a 150-year-old and trusted organization. I hope to report back on the success of our relationship in 2010.

So what about you? What partnerships — big or small —  have you launched? What other B2B partnerships in social media have you noticed?