LinkedIn Showcase Pages Put More Focus on Customers

I’m a long-time believer in using LinkedIn Groups to create communities for B2B brands. In fact, I’ve been using the group pages for more than six years to post content, connect our people with customers and focus on building conversations. During that time, I’ve noticed that not all groups are created equal; some have very good, active dialogues, while others just linger in a one-way discussion.

LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.
LinkedIn adds Showcase pages.

I’ve always believed that LinkedIn is a great platform for targeted, private discussion groups. Making groups private helps to target topics around specific issues, keep out competition and vendors, and allows you to treat these forums like your own focus group.

But LinkedIn’s new Showcase pages now complement the groups, helps to clear up the clutter on company pages, but could ultimately end up competing with – and possibly ending – most company group pages. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as we try to navigate our way through and manage the growing amount of content on LinkedIn.

I’m excited about this latest offering from LinkedIn since it can help narrow the conversations and topics, which ultimately is what a good B2B sales or marketing person needs to do. Here are my four reasons why I like the new Showcase pages:

  1. The administration feature allows multiple stakeholders to own and manage these groups. B2B companies can now provide multiple owners to pages, which makes sense as social media grows in importance. In addition, well-organized B2B companies will leverage product, marketing and communications teams to oversee showcase pages. This continues to showcase the need for B2B companies to better organize and manage content across functional disciplines.
  2. The sponsored post option is a major bonus at targeting customers by region, title, company and industry. LinkedIn continues to win the B2B marketing game as it focuses on connecting buyers to sellers and sellers to buyers better than any other social platform.
  3. As Mashable points out, Showcase pages allow companies to narrow content onto a specific product or offering and target end users. More targeted content should lead to more insights into what people want from your brand and marketing content, and should allow you to better track what you are trying to measure. And the simple “Follow” or “Unfollow” button makes it easy to start/stop seeing the feed. It’s a small feature, but is definitely more easy than joining or un-joining a LinkedIn group, and face it, any way to make the user experience easier is a plus.
  4. While several posts have pointed out here and here that this is a great way for brands to build content, I actually take the view that this is betters news for customers. Which is the point, isn’t it? This move from LinkedIn actually makes it easier for customers to follow the content they actually want from B2B brands. So, yes, it does help companies, but over time the real focus moves toward connecting with customers. And that’s exactly the point LinkedIn was trying to make.

So far I really like what I see in terms of the ease of use, the consistent look with Company Pages, and the focus on having an easy end-user and brand experience. Like any new social iteration, it will take time to figure out how to leverage the pages and make them of use to your customers. Should you do them across every product line? Or just your services? Do you even need them? And how will you build awareness and community around them? These are all questions you should be thinking about in the coming weeks as B2B companies roll out Showcase page.

Now I’m just hoping LinkedIn would bring back its event/calendar feature — I guess I can’t have everything — but there are alternatives.

We continue to get inundated with new technologies and platforms  As a reminder, my golden rule is do a few things and do them well. You will be better served as an organization and a professional by doing so.

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

Keeping Your Messages Connected

Can B2B Brands Inspire?

CME Group Builds Impact on LinkedIn Using Exclusive Groups

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Now Matter More

What Does Twitter’s IPO Mean for B2B Communicators?

Recent news of Twitter’s IPO have many stakeholders in social media wondering what’s next. In fact, we should see the IPO filing today or tomorrow according to Quartz. If you plan to read the entire filing, here are five things BuzzFeed says you should look for when going through it. There’s already been lots of speculation on what future Twitter will be, from an emphasis on users to search. There was even a plea for Twitter to just stay weird.

Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what's next post IPO?
Twitter recently upgraded its mobile app, but what’s next post IPO?

So where does this pending IPO leave B2B companies? Some things could change, some may not. Here are three important things B2B communicators need to keep an eye on in the next year.

Advertising. Everyone will be looking very closely at advertising revenue from Twitter’s filing. One thing I hope the company does is put more of a focus on B2B companies and helping them find leads and develop targeted campaigns. While B2C companies (even unhappy airline customers) buy ads to sell new products, coupons and discounts, B2B companies that find value in a platform will invest for the long term and remain committed. LinkedIn is discovering this with its promoted posts. I hope that Twitter does as well.

Influencers. Twitter has already done several things to promote influencers; from verified accounts to a recommended list of people to follow. This FT story summarizes that fact pretty well. The good thing is that Twitter recognizes that its influencers give the platform credibility and an important trust factor. B2B companies need to keep finding ways to leverage what Twitter does here. In the coming year, B2B companies need to learn how to expand on Twitter’s success to be influential by both targeting key accounts and defining/redefining their own.

Expansion of services. No doubt, as a public company they will be pressed to expand services and offerings. This means M&A and there are plenty of attractive targets for Twitter to consider. Keep a careful eye on what they are buying now and will be buying. Personally  I would like to see more investment in analytics and search. While there are a number of free tools for Twitter analytics, I don’t find any of them very useful for B2B (hence, why they are free). As Twitter expands its efforts into advertising and mobile it would serve B2B marketers well to see deeper metrics and statistics to help us use Twitter better.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read the following:

Why LinkedIn’s Company Pages Matter More

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

What are Your Future B2B Digital Plans?

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

Can B2B Brands Inspire? 





The Future of Social Media is Not Digital

I spoke at three separate events last week with a focus on how social media has disrupted B2B communications and the way we operate. While there was a lot of focus on what we have accomplished and lessons learned, everyone seemed interested in my thoughts on what’s next. What is the next platform? Is there a new technology we are testing? What are B2B companies going to do next? What should we be looking to do?

I recently talked about the changing role of communicators, but I’m never one to make predictions, especially when it comes to technology. That’s why I read the blogs of people like Howard Lindzon, Armano, the team at Convince & Convert and others.

That’s not to say I don’t think a lot about technology and all things digital. Tools like Twitter and Instagram came out of nowhere and one of the next new technologies will likely do the same. That is a topic I personally follow regularly, and right now, I’m interested in content aggregation, especially in light of yesterday’s Google Reader news, and how individuals wade through the endless streams of information and vertical communities that help focus conversations.

But technology aside, I think the next, next thing in B2B communications is face-to-face communications. That’s not exactly revolutionary, but it is vital. Read what Aaron Pearson had to say about this while at SXSW.

People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media.

There still remains a lot to do in social media. Twitter and Stocktwits continue to evolve their real-time streams, LinkedIn still provides us ways to professionally connect and other platforms give us a variety of choice to leverage our B2B content. These are and will be important business tools moving forward.

Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference
Speaking last week at the Marketforce Social Media in Financial Services conference

But we are coming closer to the point where competing with our competition on social media will be like competing websites, trade show booths or advertising. These tools do matter, but they will become ubiquitous and expected. A few years ago, companies truly gained a competitive advantage using social media, and we still do, but as it makes its way throughout the enterprise it will be more challenging to do so. Will you still be the best brand on Twitter? Will your Facebook page help you stand out against others? Do Slideshare and Instagram show off your thought leadership? Maybe. Maybe not. Does it matter?

Last week continued to demonstrate to me what I have believed for some time since engaging more and more in social media: People want intimate experiences that cannot be filled by any social media. Yes, Google Hangouts can make a difference and hashtags on Twitter create virtual discussions, but that is not good enough.

My coffee break conversations at the Marketforce event were constructive and interesting. I was also able to finally spend some quality time talking with Cristophe Langlois of Visible Banking. The discussions I had with the students from the Hult International Business School and Penn State Harrisburg were vastly different, but they challenged me on many areas of digital and

We are all in a battle for the “hearts and minds” of customers, influencers and other various stakeholders, and while social media helps us connect, it does not replace what we want as people.

Is your company a leader in social media? Great. Is your organization following and trying to understand new technologies? Wonderful. Are you trying to learn what can help make your brand stand out and understood? Perfect.

But how are you connecting with people and creating those intimate moments that matter? If you are not thinking about this yet, then you quite possibly will be left behind by the next wave of social media: building and maintaining relationships.

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

We still need to get together in the real world?

Do we need a social index for businesses? 

Who are your content superheroes?

Tuning into your industry

Social media management

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

What is social media success in B2B… and some examples



SXSW: Vertical Communities Seeing Growth

I attended a SXSW session yesterday called “Professions Go Social,” which looked at how new profession-based social networks have emerged to extend B2B social networking beyond LinkedIn, moderated by Altimeter Group’s Rebecca Lieb. Some of the networks are doing quite well.

For example, Jay Hallberg, the co-founder of Spiceworks, said they have built a community of more than 2 million SMB IT pros, supported by 1,500 advertisers.  Spiceworks designed a very user-friendly place where these pros can talk to IT vendors about what to buy, and also talk among each other. It’s sort of an iTunes for IT. Hallbert says there are no barriers put up to discourage IT pro engagement – no freemium tricks, no charge for charge for support, just totally free.

Another panelist, Kirk Simpson, is a co-founder of Wave, which makes small business financial software, but also launched the Wave Pro Network as a community for these professionals to connect with real professionals in accounting and bookkeeping.

One of the key points was that these specialized communities have been built with the unique workflows of their industries or professions in mind, something a LinkedIn can’t do. I had an opportunity to develop a proposal for a company that wanted to market to golf course superintendents, a niche community if there ever was one. Do they have their own vibrant online community? You bet they do, TurfNet! Their forum not only covers niche topics like irrigation system pressure monitoring, integrated with educational webinars, and with a mobile version for an audience often on the course rather than in an office.

The key with all these sites is to get to a point where a lot of pros feel like they need to be on them. From the in-depth conversations I had with golf course superintendents, I know Turfnet made it, and they actually use a paid membership model. Hallberg indicated that reaching three percent of the addressable workforce segment might be the point at which those positive network effects kick in.


Social Media Week: The B2B Content You May Have Missed

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.

There was a lot of content to consume this year.
There was a lot of content to consume this year.

Hootsuite has added a “conversational” dashboard to help facilitate better real-time collaboration (Disclaimer: I’m a Hootsuite customer).

LinkedIn (a favorite tool of B2B marketers) has rolled out an “endorsement tool”. Why don’t you connect to all of us here at B2B Voices on LinkedIn: Kate Brodock, Arik Hanson, Aaron Pearson, Allan Schoenberg.

Gartner says CMOs better start thinking like CIOs. Speaking of that relationship, IBM has a new study out looking at how CMOs and CIOs need to work more together. If Gartner and IBM are talking about this you better be paying attention (and fine-tuning your technology skills).

You’ve always wanted to take your social media strategy global; no worries, HubSpot has you covered.

Do you know the behavior of your B2B customers? This Buyersphere survey looks at that topic to determine just exactly what is the actual behaviour of B2B buyers (PDF).

If you haven’t started a Facebook page yet for your B2B brand (or haven’t given it attention lately) you better get going. A new study shows that brand pages are getting some serious attention.

I asked you earlier if you were ready for a real-time B2B world, but what does real-time search mean for B2B marketers?

Do you want to be more effective at B2B marketing? Focus on creating better content.

Are you thinking about how your mobile strategy is working? If not, you should because everyone wants it.

The doctor is in and it’s time for a social media check up for your brand.

If you like infographics you will not be disappointed by this one from Brian Solis: The Brandsphere and why it matters.

Last, but definitely not least, are you measuring your influence and what you do? Apparently the C-suite isn’t very impressed with marketers.


Do Most Online Communities Fail?

This is an interesting question. Fortune magazine seems to think they are failing. But the answer is never as easy as the question.

For instance, if you build a community targeting CFOs from the Fortune 100 companies what would determine your success?

  • Would it be 100 percent participation? Probably not since we know most people watch and listen online and getting 100 percent is unrealistic.
  • Would it be an increase in sales from the companies respresented in your online community during the year? Maybe, but they may do that regardless of your online community.
  • How about if you focused on just three CFOs in the group whom you know would receive value from doing more business with you? Bringing in increased sales from two of them could potentially be linked to your efforts.

So determining what you want to get out of a community from the start may not be what you actually get out of it in the end, but that depends on what your objectives are for your community. Adjusting your strategy along the way may help you achieve the results you want, but you may also need to adjust your strategy because the results you desired have changed (You are getting results just not the ones you expected). Yes, communities are complicated, ever changing and complex.

The trading floor community in Chicago

I’ve been lucky that even before the rapid growth in social media I was part of working with a large community — the trading floors.  To get a feel for that you can read some of Jeff Carter’s posts on social media and trading and why he likes Twitter better than Facebook for building his social media trading community.

So what can you do to be successful? One key part of building a good community is letting the community run it. As PR20/20 reminds us, it’s the conversations that make good communities function.  And running a community takes a number of skills – from adaptability to empathy — as the Business 2 Community points out.  Whether you are an experienced community manager or new to it, I would definitely recommend you read Community Spark from Martin Reed.

Having the right resources in place can make a difference in a number of ways for you and your team. Here are some thoughts on what you need to build your success:

  • My suggestion to you is not to spend an overwhelming amount of time choosing what you need. You should have a list of important criteria (e.g., does it have mobile capability, what are the metrics you will receive, etc.) and focus on those. In addition, there are numerous blog posting and online reviews of platforms that can help you speed up your decision process.
  • Not only should you focus on your own content to share, which should be unique, interesting and offer helpful insight, but you should also be a resource to find and distribute third party content that your community may find useful. A good mix of content is challenging but will make you more trustworthy; it also can spark conversations around the topic of choice and should lead you to develop more of your own content. Here were some thoughts on content curation and dealing with social clutter.
  • Have a vision. It’s easy to get bogged down in what you are doing today — posting stories, answering questions, finding new members, etc, but don’t forget to keep thinking forward. Not only will you need to understand changes to social platforms, but you will also need to understand the trends and issues of your business.
  • While not something you can create or build, you will need to enlist the people who believe in what you are doing. I wrote about this concept and motivation as a driver of success earlier. For instance, we’ve found that some people really understand and enjoy LinkedIn vs using another social platform. In this case, we are cultivating the “believers” and getting them to best utilize the platform to meet their needs. Here’s some help about how we use LinkedIn: Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Community management is not simple nor is it easy. It takes a lot of hard work, making personal sacrifices and a constant flow of ideas and conversations. In fact the worst thing a community manager can receive is silence. But if done right, a community will grow, network and provide you with valuable insights and relationships.

So what do you think? Are more communities failing? Or are we measuring them wrong? What do you think makes a community successful that I missed?

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Don’t Overlook the Power of LinkedIn Groups

Content Curation: What Does it Take To Be Successful?

Social Clutter or Social Clarity?

Is Motivation the Key to Success?

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

World-Class social practices for B2B companies

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Using social networking sites in B2B businesses?