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 Next Chapter for Social Finance and Three Things to Consider

Some of the biggest news the past two weeks in social media surrounded the SEC’s announcement and Bloomberg’s news around social media. But what does this mean for communicators? While this is a big win for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, it means we need to be even more engaged as communicators with these platforms. First, let’s look at a round of each announcement.

Gotim2

Securities Exchange Commission

The Wall Street Journal does a quick FAQ on the news and what it means. Over at CNBC they tell investor relations professionals to relax and enjoy some sleep. And Dominic Jones points out that the “devil is in the details” when it comes to interpreting the guidelines. So while the guidelines are meant to help companies, did anyone think of investors? Managing the information is important and Hootsuite offers some thoughts (we’re a Hootsuite client — and here’s a list of financial services firms currently using Hootsuite).  In 2010 I wrote about why investor relations professionals need to use StockTwits, and Howard Lindzon sums up his approach to what they have done and the SEC’s announcement:

“No matter what others call us or think, Stocktwits is a NEWSWIRE. Information is flowing from one to many, all day, every day and it is full of context.”

Gotim1

Bloomberg Terminal

The others news came from Bloomberg and that they were now adding Twitters posts about companies to their terminal feeds. Mashable offers a screen shot of what this will look like. And Venture Beat points out that this won’t be a “firehouse” of tweets, so we’ll need to see what is chosen and what is not. With many financial companies still blocking social media, the importance of this is that people in the markets can now gain access to tweets that matter. And as Joe Weisenthal pointed out during the crisis in Cyprus Twitter was beating most other sources.

Why This Matters

Back in 2011 I pointed out that social finance had arrived. Traders, analysts and financial firms were already mining Twitter for data. The news this month continues the evolution of social finance and further emphasizes the importance and seriousness of the information that is being shared. Here are three things B2B firms need to think about as the SEC and Bloomberg help advance the significance of your posts.

  1. It’s time to revisit your guidelines and disclosure rules. If you haven’t sent the news about what just happened to your compliance and investor relations teams then stop reading and do that now. If you are still pitching internally to use social media this will show that you are on top of the news and give you further leverage to discuss how you can build your social media strategy. At the very least, it should continue to build your relationships internally, and that’s always a good thing.
  2. What you post matters (even more). Think carefully about how you word, when you post and what you want to say about your firm. And don’t be afraid to repost extremely important information. As information gets posted in more venues, and now pulled into the Bloomberg terminal, content management gains in influence. I would also continue to pay attention to what Bloomberg does with social media and integrating it across all of its media.
  3. Register for StockTwits. It’s value as a company just went up, but more importantly for you it’s value as a reputation tool to promote and protect your brand just increased. If you are not using it for your company then integrate it with your Twitter account (and don’t forget to add your Hootsuite account). And if you’re a PR Newswire client (we are) you get the added benefit of having StockTwits on your side too.

I’m a long-time believer that social media can be a catalyst for change within B2B organizations — from sales to investor relations to content management — and this month was significant. The amount of discussions online around what the SEC and Bloomberg have announced, both in agreement and disagreement, makes the value of what has been accomplished in the past decade of information exchange and disclosure both challenging and exciting. As communicators, it’s just discussing “why” we should use these tools but the thinking has advanced to “how” we use them.

Do how do you think this news changes social finance? Or is it business as usual? Let us know.

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

What drives your social media strategy?

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

Five lessons learned after five years of B2B social media

Do most online communities fail?

What drives your B2B strategy?

Tuning into your industry

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

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

 

 

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?

B2B Creativity is Not an Oxymoron

One of the myths around B2B communications is that the industry lacks creativity – or the drive to be creative. I can’t think of anything that’s farther from the truth. And while it’s true that B2B companies don’t buy the flashy Super Bowl ads or use various mascots to win over customers, we are challenged day in and day out to think differently.

Another Lego creation at home.

Just like with B2C companies, creativity can be driven by a company’s culture. We’ve always been focused as an organization on innovation, which is why we’ve been so successful at trying new things, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and mobile devices. Ben Parr over at Mashable posted last year how B2B companies will be using social media as part of their creative campaigns. And Aaron Pearson just posted here on B2B Voices a post on world-class B2B social practices that’s a must read.

But there are some rules and guidelines to follow.

  1. Your ideas should always be in line with the brand you are trying to convey. Don’t be creative just for the sake of being creative. While this can work more in the B2C space, it rarely works with B2B companies. We have fewer opportunities to sell our products and services and every opportunity counts. In addition, B2B purchases are usually long-term investments by companies and they want to trust you. Any creativity — whether its very smart and interesting or immature and insulting — will reflect back on your organization.
  2. Study the competition — and be better — don’t copy or instigate them. Your competitors can always give you new ideas and thoughts, but I’ve seen B2B companies try to take on their competition head to head in ads and direct mail. That’s hard to pull off successfully (it can be done) and I always feel it’s better to focus on your strengths than your competitors weaknesses in paid campaigns. Save your competitive arguments for non-paid mediums such as your website and the media.
  3. Always be thinking about driving sales for the organization — this means being fully integrated. We know in B2B the sales process and cycle is much longer than in most B2C decisions, so you will need to think long-term for your campaign. If you are thinking of a new creative campaign it needs to play out online, at trades shows, through direct mail and in person. “One hit wonders”, like a weekend sale, are simply not the norm for B2B campaigns.
  4. Take risks, but know your limits. Good creativity helps you to stand out, but as you think about how creative you should be and how you will use the ideas read points 1 – 3 above.

Here are some other ideas from Marketo on being creative in B2B communications. It’s worth a read if you are looking to learn more about this topic.

I’ve been lucky to work on both national and international B2B and B2C campaigns in my career and personally I’m glad I’ve gravitated into strictly B2B. The creative challenges are different. They are more demanding. They require more time to succeed. And they need more buy-in from the organization. Not to take anything away from B2C creativity, it’s still demanding, but I’ve always liked that challenges and pressure as a professional of being more creative in B2B communications.

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?

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

Need a Strategy? Start by Playing Games

Using Social Networking Sites in B2B Businesses

Business Tech Buyers Are Using Social Media, But Twitter? Not So Much

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.

Here’s Forrester’s blog post.

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.