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

Five Lessons Learned from Five Years of Social Media

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The Trust Economy

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How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

2012: No Predictions, Just Actions

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:

What's ahead for you in 2012?

  • 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.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Finally, a comprehensive B2B social media study

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Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses?

Are You Ready for a Real-Time B2B World?

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.

How are you managing "real time"?

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:

The Economist: What’s in a Tweet

But companies that mine the stream of tweets for marketing and other purposes (see article in this week’s issue of The Economist) get much more information.

The Economist: Sipping from the Firehose

Fed through clever algorithms, a torrent of microblogs can reveal changes in a nation’s mood. Hence the excitement about a new market: the sale and analysis of real-time social-media data.

Think Quarterly (Google): Predicting the Present

Using the publicly available tools mentioned above, we’ve uncovered a number of interesting relationships.

Google: Predicting the Present with Google Trends

Can Google queries help predict economic activity?

Business Insider: What Facebook’s Changes mean for Brands

The key takeaway for brands is that the News Feed matters ⎯ a lot. For most brands, the News Feed is their best chance for interacting with fans (aka consumers).

UPDATE: This story from the WSJ also takes a look at real-time data analysis.

WSJ: Decoding our Chatter

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.

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

The Beat Goes on at StockTwits

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Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

What Google’s Acquisition of Motorola Mobility Means for Marketers

Much has already been written about how Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility might shake up the mobile device market, reshape the Apple vs. Android battle or even redefine the patent landscape.

Courtesy Google

To me, it’s a signal to marketers, including B2B marketers, that it is most definitely time to have a mobile strategy.

Google is offering, what, $12.5 billion in CASH. If the folks in the Googleplex are willing to risk that much in liquid assets, it’s because they expect A LOT of people to do a lot more with mobile devices than they’re even doing already.

By coincidence, last Thursday, I got to hear Dan Grigsby, the founding partner of Drivetrain, and Anders Davidson, the CEO of MobileOn Services, speak to our local Business Marketing Association meeting about mobile marketing. Grigsby was a Minneapolis-St. Paul “40 Under 40,” was one of “MPLS/St. Paul Magazine’s 75 Best Brains,” and his firm just developed the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune’s new iPad app.

Grigsby compares where we’re at with mobile right now to the early days of the Web. The companies that were really leveraging the Web were inherently Internet-driven outfits like Netscape or Cisco or Yahoo.  But now, every single company needs to be on the Web in some capacity. We’re now just starting to enter that mass adoption phase for mobile.  And increasingly, that means tablets, not just phones. In fact, Grigsby claims that by the end of the year, there will be more iPads in the U.S. than iPhones.

Courtesy Apple

Davidson’s firm developed a platform called BuildAnApp that is designed to make it easy and affordable for small businesses and non-profits to develop their own mobile applications. He observes that nearly 50 percent of companies today have neither a mobile site nor a mobile app. His message? Your mobile device “may be a small computer, but it’s not a mini-PC.” As you start to think about just how you’ll participate in the mobile web, remember that people don’t use these devices the same way.

For example, people tend to be more task-oriented on their mobile devices. “Nobody cares about your ‘About Us’ section in the mobile app, or your company history,” he observes. They’re looking to get something done.

Another suggestion: Find the right tool for the right objectives. Davidson offered a B2C example: If you’re a pizza place targeting travelers near the airport, you’re going to want a mobile website. If you’re a pizza joint targeting neighborhood regulars, you just might consider an app.

Grigsby reminded the audience that your customers may already be assuming you have a mobile app, and that might well drive your prioritization. He said 1,000 people downloaded the new Star Tribune app from the iTunes App Store before they even announced it was available. Those 1,000 people simply assumed there was one.  Which means the day before that, 1,000 other people tried and failed to find one, and the week before that, 7,000 people tried and failed to find one. What do your customers expect from you?

Given the richer relationships B2B marketers are often seeking with customers than their more typically  high-volume B2C counterparts, I see lots of mobile app opportunities here and I also see a need for greater personalization. There’s certainly more to be done than simply outfitting the sales force with iPad-friendly presentation decks. More to come, I’m sure.

How to use Google Adwords as more than just a way to pay the two-hour parking meter

I normally don’t like to repeat content, but I wrote a post earlier this week over at Other Side Group on when to start using Google Adwords for their B2B company website. Since some sort of pay-for advertising is pretty run-of-the-mill in many B2B industries, this ends up being an interesting topic.

The case company had a very old, static, and simple website that hadn’t changed in five years, has old and weak SEO, had no metrics or analytics installed or was any web activity being tracked….. yet they were still paying a large hunk of money each month for PPC ads.

So what do they do while they’re redoing their website? Do they stop Adwords?

I use the following analogy:

They’re simply paying the meter to reserve a parking spot, and hope they don’t have a cop come around and write them a ticket or tow the car away. Because that’s what would happen the minute they stopped paying the meter if they’d relied on their existing website.  The Adwords are only giving them short-term benefits while they’re still paying.

What we’re working towards is building their own parking lot where they won’t have to worry about paying the meter: An architecturally strong website, with sophisticated SEO, continually updated content, metrics in place to determine how people are accessing and using the site, and developing more paths for people to get there.

It’s about creating a strong, long-term foundation through an architecturally sound website (SEO, keywords… all that good stuff) and only then supplementing it with the short-term gains felt by PPC.

You can find the full discussion here, and I’ll be sure to update you as we move through the process.

What have been your experiences with Google Adwords?

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