Facebook has done quite a bit to make its branded pages more useful for B2B companies. In particular, the recent changes to add promoted posts and global pages are not just tools that B2C companies can leverage. But can it compete in the B2B space with LinkedIn? And what about new entrants like Pinterest and Google+?
It’s been a busy week in social media as cities, brands and people came together to discuss all things social — from Facebook’s initiative to remove bots to Instagram overtaking Twitter on mobile phones. We decided to pull together some of the best B2B focused content from this past week and share it with you. If you have any other links (including your own) that you think we should have included please add them in the comments.
Everyone seems to have dusted off their crystal balls the past few weeks as the predictions for social media in 2012 are plentiful. I stopped reading them. There are only a handful of people who are making predictions that I would trust, and after seeing so many most are not taking into account the current economic climate and the themes are too repetitive.
Instead of adding to the overcrowded space of predictions I want to focus on actions. The path for next year is clearly lined with more questions than answers. So, what am I looking at in 2012, a year clouded with economic uncertainty and promises for social media nirvana? Here’s a rundown of what’s on my agenda and questions you may need to ask yourself:
Digital Content: We’re doing a lot more with digital content on our website and that will continue. What we’ve learned from the past few years of doing social media is that we have become our own media aggregator with original content that cannot be captured anywhere else. Whether it’s our blog, our online magazine, our media room or our education center, various stakeholders look to us for content and we will continue to drive more of that next year. What are your plans for digital content in 2012? Have you developed an editorial calendar? Do you have an editorial team?
Mobile: This was a great year for us and using mobile devices as we expanded our iPhone/iPad offering to the Android and Blackberry. In addition, we introduced an app specifically for our annual Global Financial Leadership event. Our research continues to show that users are moving more and more toward accessing our site from mobile devices and we know that consumers in general are digesting more information via their mobile devices. We will continue to enhance our mobile strategy in 2012 not only for distributing content through social platforms but also for giving people access to our information. How are you integrating mobile into your marketing strategy? What type of research do you have on people accessing your content from mobile devices?
Real-time matters: We’ve been using Twitter since 2008 and are one of the few verified brands. In our line of business, real-time news and information matters and for the markets and finance this won’t change. David Meerman Scott’s latest book on real-time marketing captures exactly how we approach this world of instant news. Where we’ll be looking at improving on what we’ve already accomplished is with our partnership with StockTwits. Messages about our products and services in the past year surged from 15,000 a month a year ago to more than 40,000 a month last year on their platform. Does real-time matter to you and your business? Are you targeting the right people on Twitter? Do you have a plan for how you can leverage StockTwits and the messages about your company?
Social networks: Facebook will still be a part of our plan and remains a great way to connect with customers in a more static environment. We can create very topical conversations around news and events on our page and that won’t change. We do know that Facebook fans are passionate about topics and the stream has changed our approach to this platform and has helped in creating more awareness about our offerings. We can’t ignore either of those facts. The challenge for 2012 will be to figure out how to use our Google+ page, but first I think Google needs to figure out Google+ for brands. I don’t see a lot of focus there yet from Google so do not plan to spend much time there. At the best right now it’s an experiment in SEO. How are you going to handle new technologies that come out in 2012? Do you have an assessment plan or team in place?
LinkedIn: I am a long-time fan of LinkedIn for the B2B market and am very excited about 2012. The company has made some great changes to the corporate pages managed by companies and added a much needed dashboard for group managers. Both of these additions have been much needed and further enhance LinkedIn as a social business platform. We continue to leverage the groups and the private feature has allowed us to create a 24/7 virtual focus group environment where we talk with our customers. We will putting more emphasis on LinkedIn in the coming year and finding ways to better improve what we do for the benefit of our customers. How do you leverage the groups on LinkedIn? Is your company page a place where potential employees view you as a thought leader? How do you get others in your organization involved in LinkedIn?
Video: We do have a YouTube presence, but our video strategy continues to focus on bringing people to our location. Our website continues to be populated with video content in a number of places and videos allow us to visually tell our story through our spokespeople, customers and thought leaders. We’ll continue to build content that includes video as a key component and through our social platforms bring this content to our followers. How are you leveraging videos? What is your distribution plan? Do you use video to complement content?
Metrics: I’ve always believed that in order to manage content you have to know what is happening. So metrics and measurement continue to play a very active part of what we do and this will continue to be the trend for us in 2012. We have a number of tools that we use that include both qualitative and quantitative metrics for us to better understand what we are doing. Are you measuring the right information? How are you making decisions based on your data?
Experiment: We did a lot in 2011 to try new things and apply new technologies. For example, we integrated Facebook comments onto our digital magazine, started using Google+ brand pages, launched our Weibo account in China, and made several changes to our LinkedIn company profile. In the coming year we will continue to do the same and experiment where it makes sense. New technologies and enhancements are now the norm and finding ways to leverage them will be a challenge. How do you stay on top of the latest information? Do you have a social team to review and plan for new initiatives? How do you prioritize what to implement and where to hold off?
A Social Business: In 2011, we continued to integrate our social media with our business. One of the best posts I’ve read on this topic is from David Armano and Demystifying Social Business. When I started using social media at the company in 2007 it very much was a silo channel for us, but in the past year we have made great strides as an organization to integrate it throughout the company. That will continue in 2012 with our sales force, marketing activities and with our employees. How do you communicate your social initiatives internally? Have you implemented any training or education programs? Do you have social guidelines for employees and if so when was the last time you reviewed it?
The coming year promises to be another exciting year for communicators. We will not only face a global economy that has numerous challenges for our businesses, but we are being inundated with new and various tools to communicate with our stakeholders. Finding the balance between those two will help determine success for each of our enterprises and I wish you all the best of luck.
The past two weeks may have been an eye opener for firms who tend to ignore the “real time” world. In fact, we may be reaching a tipping point as more and more data comes online via social media. That tipping point comes in the form of a competitive advantage for some. Some companies, like StockTwits, took this trend seriously three years ago and developed ways for B2B firms to use social media. We are now seeing more and more B2B companies, such as the hedge Fund Derwent Capital, put this data to use.
And while companies like Twitter and Google (search only since Google+ brands pages have yet to officially launch) have been leading the way for B2B brands to look at and use real-time news and analysis, recent changes at Facebook are now under scrutiny by brands. With these three firms firmly racing to be the platform of choice for sharing information, as communicators in the B2B world we need to think about all of the options to meet the needs of our brand.
A number of stories and posts have come out in the past week showing how the mining of real-time data is making many companies and brands take notice. Here’s a sampling of the stories you should read:
Want to monitor an earthquake, track political activity or predict the upds and downs of the stock market? Researchers have found a bonanza of real-time data in the torrential flow of Twitter feeds.
So what can you do now armed with this info? Here are two takeaways from the recent news:
Now is a good time to take another look at your social media strategy and reassess what you are doing and what you are posting. We do this on a regular basis as new trends and technologies are introduced, but also as we connect with new users.
Share this info internally. But don’t just share this with the marketing and communications team, make sure the right technology and research managers know that you are watching this trend. You want to continue to push these changes internally and to ensure you can help evolve the business case around real-time information.
One objective of this blog is to continue to raise the business relevance of social media in B2B communications. We continue to look for examples and ways that companies are doing this in order for all of us to learn. Hopefully, we’re helping accomplish that and we can continue to build on this objective. Stories like I mentioned above add further evidence to the important of real-time information, which is taking place more and more online in public forums. As these stories develop we will share our thoughts with you and look for your comments.
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I’m at least a month late in reviewing Forrester’s annual 2011 Social Technographics for Business Technology Buyers report, by Kim Celestre (@kcelestre). As I was last year. 🙂 It’s still worth doing. Forrester has conducted this survey for three years running and for those of us looking for the impact of social and digital media on B2B tech, this is about as good a study as we have available to us.
This year’s report appears to show a real maturity in the behavior of technology buyers in social media. Basically, there was no substantive change in what percentage of their audience were social media spectators, critics, conversationalists, creators, etc. I’d venture to say that the average buyer here has pretty much found their comfort zone with social media engagement and is settling in on a specific style of engagement.
Twitter and Facebook are at the bottom of about a dozen online and offline sources.
The good news is that the average level of engagement is higher than for a typical consumer. For example, nearly a third are content creators online (for business purposes), while only 23% of the general population describes itself as such.
Where are they, though? Forrester also looked at the sources of information these business technology buyers use, and guess what? Twitter and Facebook are at the bottom of about a dozen online and offline information sources. (Only 5% claim they use Twitter for business purchase decisions.) It turns out more traditional channels like your website or conferences remain hugely important, if someone less so each year. However, there are real opportunities to find larger segments of your target audiences if you can find niche communities online (LinkedIn does a bit better for instance) or if you can create a private community of your own customers. For what it’s worth, e-newsletters remain important too.
I would also note that blogs appear to be fairly important sources of information. (Of course, I would say that!) This longer-format, “old-school” social media channel may be particularly well suited for discussing the complexity of B2B technologies. I would also argue Twitter is often a great channel for reaching influencers and opinion-leaders.
Bottom line: Technology marketers should assume their target audiences are using social media, and probably more than just for consumption. However, they should consider nurturing more targeted online communities and ensure social media engagement efforts are seamlessly integrated with other marketing channels, including media relations, events, advertising and the website.
Today marks the launch of Social Media Week around the world and there’s a lot going on. I’m hoping to get to one or two events this week in London. With so much taking place around the world it’s clear that the days of not paying attention to social media are over.
To me the foundation of social media — any media for that matter — is the concept of listening. Who is talking about your brand? What are they saying? Why should you care? What can you do? The rapid growth of technologies makes it far more easier to discover the answers to these questions, but my advice is don’t just use anything. Find the right tools. Here are some that I particularly like and have used to help us.
StockTwits: I’ve talked for months about the value of this network from an investor relations perspective. But the platform brings a much richer experience than traders just talking about puts and calls on your stock. This is a constant stream of investors who are also talking about your executives, products and services. You should register and tune in.
Hootsuite: I like what Hootsuite has done with its dashboard in terms of metrics and its ease of use. Because of the platform and how simple it is we can really take a deeper dive into specific topics and the people talking with us and about us. There’s also an ongoing debate around Klout, which is integrated into Hootsuite — I’m following the discussion closely. In fact, I just started an online poll about Klout the other day — http://twtpoll.com/s4luaa
14 Blocks: This is a very simple tool that looks at the time your followers on Twitter are most active. The free trial is useful and does give you a good indication of when to engage with your audience.
Facebook: We continue to gain a larger audience on Facebook and I continue to be impressed with their analytics. I think they could improve them with more information about topics that our followers discuss, but I’m sure they’re working on that. And if you haven’t tried Facebook ads yet I would encourage you to do so. I think you’ll be surprised.
Omniture: If you’re not talking to your website team about this you should make it a point to do so this week. Their tools for your website can give you a much better picture of social media traffic and how you can improve your programs. Your web team will also appreciate the attention and how they can help. It’s a win-win.
There are lots of other tools and resources out there. In fact, my good friend Ken Burbary has created a Wiki of social media monitoring resources to use. So what are you using to listen and why to you like it? Let us know.
If you didn’t read Socialnomics, by Erik Qualman, when it originally came out in mid-2009, a revised and updated edition just came out in November. It’s worth checking out.
Qualman is an unabashed cheerleader for all things social media, which for someone with a skeptical bent like myself can be a little hard to take at times, but most other social media authors are no different – as Gartner analysts would say, the depths of the “Trough of Disillusionment” for social media are not yet upon us (though 2011 may be the year). This book is written primarily as a guide to social media for marketers and entrepreneurs. Like most, it comes at it with a B2C emphasis, with the rare exception. But that’s nothing new. The fact is that B2C is still ahead in social media so those of us focused more heavily on B2B need to learn from those experiences.
Here’s Qualman at a recent TedX event.
Word of Mouth to World of Mouth: This is the heart of Qualman’s thesis and it’s hard to argue with. As I’ve said on this blog ad nauseum, every bit of research I’ve ever encountered shows word of mouth as the most powerful influence on the purchase decision-making process. This is at least as true for B2B purchases, and maybe more so. But traditional word-of-mouth influence is slow and each individual only influences a few of the people they know. Grease word-of-mouth with social media and suddenly reach and speed explode with little loss of impact. He calls that “World of Mouth.”
Silence is Not Golden. Qualman cites a study by the Strategic Planning Institute that found that 96 percent of dissatisfied customers don’t bother to complain, and yet 63 percent of those silent dissatisfieds will nevertheless not buy from you again. Yikes! Thanks to social media, it’s getting much easier for those customers to complain when something doesn’t go right. The author emphasizes for skittish companies that this is An Opportunity, a chance to take that feedback to make your product or service the best it can be. Of course, you also don’t have a choice because you can no longer hide the things that aren’t working. It’s better to face up to reality.
Stats. Those of us who have to give presentations on social media are always trying to keep track of key trend stats, and not only has Qualman peppered the book with many, as you’d expect, he did us the courtesy of assembling most of them in the last chapter of the book under Eye Opening Statistics. Oh, okay, I know you want a couple right now. One out of eight couples married in the U.S. last year met via social media. Also, 50 percent of the mobile Internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook. There are pages of these handy stats. (Too bad they’ll all be hopelessly out of date in a year, but so it goes. Maybe he’ll keep updating this.)
Thoughtful Case Studies, without clear villains, just like real life. Sometimes the big companies get it right, sometimes they get it wrong, sometimes there’s more than one winner, and sometimes it takes two tries to get it right. And when we think we get something right, inevitably hubris sets in. I loved the travel example, where ACME Travel, a big player, gets something right on Facebook, but not quite right. A newcomer, Where I’ve Been, one-ups ACME. In turn, TripAdvisor tries to buy Where I’ve Been, but the latter gets a little greedy so TripAdvisor builds their own travel sharing app for less than it would have cost to acquire Where I’ve Been. In the end, TripAdvisor ends up with the most users. Fascinating story.
The Not So Good:
It’s Not All Rosy. Although Qualman does acknowledge that there may be some downsides to social media, he doesn’t try very hard to think of many. I’m certainly a fan of the concept of “Socialnomics” but the fact is there are threats posed by social and digital media besides the possible decline of interpersonal communications skills in some young people. One of the great things about social media – really the Web in general – is we can really open our eyes to new ideas if we want to. On the other hand, you also have the opportunity to surround yourself only by people who think as you do and to read news and information that only conforms to your narrow point of view. This can actual reinforce socioeconomic and cultural isolation. Here’s a New York Times piece about that from way back in mid-2009.
The Future is Not the Present. This is mainly something for marketers to be cognizant of. Qualman will often state emerging trends as if they are already the current state of affairs. He notes, for example that the media now do interviews via email instead of by phone or in person. Well, some industry media do, in some instances, but certainly that’s not the way any tier-1 journalist conducts interviews today. (TheWashington Post ran such a story today on Chinese President Hu Juntao, but not because THEY wanted to. Rather, Hu insisted.) The author also says, “People are now living their own lives rather than watching others.” Presumably, because you see other people doing cool and amazing, you’re less satisfied spending days working, washing clothes and mowing the lawn, and are now taking up skydiving and treks to the South Pole. I’m sure some are but it feels more like wishful thinking.
Search Engines Subsumed by Social Media. Qualman’s concept here is that I care more about what my neighbor thinks than what Google thinks (true) and so we don’t need to go hunting around on search engines. I would note that most searches on search engines are not for products. Look at Bing’s top 10 searches of 2010 and none were product-related. And most of what we buy, we never did find on search engines. A B2C example: I want a new car. I don’t know about you but before social media, I wasn’t punching in “four-door sedan with good gas mileage” into a search engine. I was talking to my dad over coffee and emailing my friends. Doing that via social media doesn’t strike me as a radical change. A B2B example: Did I ever hire an accounting firm by trolling search engines? I don’t think this trend is as big as he makes it out to be.
It’s Weber, Weber! Sorry, I’m the only one who cares about this, but in his Social Media Rolodex, Qualman gives a nod to Larry Weber, who founded the Weber Group, which merged with us to become Weber Shandwick. But it’s “Larry Weber” not “Webber.” Had to be said.
Bottom Line: If you read a lot of books on social media, you’ll have heard most of this before. If not, this is one of the better ones for describing the fundamental impacts of the social media era on business and society. Plus the sources and references in the back are handy. Just go easy on the Kool-Aid.
You can follow the author on Twitter at @equalman.