How to develop B2B social media marketing brand guidelines

Join me for a special B2B marketing focused online event on 31st January at 15.00 GMT, when I give a 90-minute webinar for B2B Marketing Magazine, the UK’s premier business marketing publication on getting the most from social media for business.

I’ll be running a session designed to help attending delegates

  • Improve their understanding of the benefits and risks associated with social media
  • Appreciate the importance and differing roles of individuals within a business and how all can and should play a part in company social engagement
  • Develop guidelines to maximise opportunities and mitigate risks
  • Present the core elements of a social media engagement plan
  • Place valuable content at the heart of a social media plan
  • Measure and evaluate social media success
  • Effectively use social media channels to build community and grow their business

If you’re smart, you might register one user, set up in a conference room and get your whole team around the screen.

And, if you operate in industrial and trade B2B marketing, look out for a number of examples from a range of engineering and manufacturing sectors that might give you some creative stimulus.

I hope you can join us as it is unlikely this content will be made available post-event.

Content worth a click we 6 May 2011

Here are some great, thought provoking things I’ve been reading and sharing this week. Great content draws people towards you and curation is a perfectly acceptable strategy. So without a wedding dress or a length of Union Jack bunting in sight, here goes.

Seth Godin kicked off my week talking about how all the effort, resource and financial investment is often risked by how your company responds to one phone call, in this blog post called ‘The $20,000 phone call’ . You should sign up for daily inspiration at his blog.

The excellent and increasingly interactive Social Media Examiner blog recently blogged about how bloggers can use book reviews to connect with experts. This is the path to bigger audiences and a great way to consider bigger hitters to take you more seriously. Follow SME on Twitter.

Another of my favourite social media blogs, Social Media B2B delivered a compelling post on social media and content marketing in the B2B sales funnel. Pay particular attention to how good content marketing can influence buyers in the awareness, consideration and purchase stages of the b2b buying process.

And the same blog discussed later in the week how Linkedin really is a critical, and often pooly used b2b social media tool. What do you do with all those contacts you collect, those people you charm in groups and the companies you follow?

More on content came from Econsultancy with a discussion around the importance of creating durable content and a content asset that doesn’t depreciate too quickly. That means avoiding just writing about topical news and events.

What was interesting about Harvard Business’s blog on hiring graduates was the feeling that graduates really need to do more to make themselves look more attractive. I lectured at a UK university recently and was astonished that only student in a group of 40 had a Linkedin profile! You need to embrace social media people and start by selling yourself.

The final one from me this week. More small steps by Facebook in their slow but ultimately and probably all conquering march to social media dominance. The next step in Facebook business evolution was unveiled as Facebook Studio: a creative platform for brands

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Eight reasons why Facebook IS a place to do business

Last week I wrote a blog post arguing why I felt Facebook was no place for b2b marketers. I seeded it in a number of Linkedin groups and it has developed some interesting debate. (Look up the B2B Social Media and B2B Online groups if you are interested).

The intention was to follow up immediately with this post, but the London Marathon got in the way. So by way of redress, here are EIGHT reasons why Facebook should be considered in your marketing mix:

1. You just can’t argue with the numbers. Scale: 600m registered users. Pace: Reached 150m in 5 years when it took TV 38 years. Removing the ‘interruption’ argument, some of your target customers will be amongst them.

2. Facebook remains quite cool and there is still an early adopter advantage. Few companies in traditional b2b sectors are embracing the business services available, the opportunity to build a brand, develop a hub for all online content, drive the creation of an engaged, opted in community and drive transactional traffic.

3. It is becoming increasingly harder to delineate professional-personal networking. Rather than using Linkedin and Facebook in markedly different ways and with different groups of contacts, a rising number of users are simply removing some of the more contentious material from Facebook and using it for professional purposes too. As engagement with brands, campaigns, viral and video takes off, we’ll inevitably see more b2c, b2b, public sector and media brands make the cross over to Facebook.

4. The tie up with Bing brings social-search closer. Let’s face it there was never going to be an agreement with Google. Facebook and Google are going to battle for Internet domination until one of them wins or until another platform rises to threaten them. There is much antipathy to Google around the world so integrating Bing search within Facebook simultaneously increases the likelihood of several things: more Facebook users around the world, users staying within Facebook longer, social media profiles and activity becoming more relevant to search results.

5. Facebook is viral by design. You want your content to spread, get it on Facebook. If it is any or all of the following – engaging, relevant, believable, accurate, amusing – it will be liked and shared. Having a page on Facebook is increasingly useful as it acts as a community creator and facilitator.

6. Facebook Places will inevitably dominate the location based sector. Though slow to take off, in comparison to the innovators at Foursquare and Gowalla, the resource that Facebook can bring to bear on their location based service, coupled with the attraction that an audience of 600 million provides, means it will become the most widely used platform of its kind.

7. And Facebook Deals will be the catalyst for this development as brands tap into the benefits of offering real-time offers to customers based on their location. Though this is largely restricted to big brand b2c at the moment, I’d expect a raft of b2b brands ranging from professional services, building and construction, IT, telecommunications and others to start to see the benefits of this.

8. Facebook offers highly targeted, low cost PPC advertising. Though it has been reported the costs are rising sharply, and the argument continues as to the overall effectiveness, Facebook advertising delivers in terms of reach, cost per impression and cost per click.

There are many more good reasons, and I’m sure there are scores of companies large and small, operating in mass market and the niche who will claim success in this area.

But what is your experience? Have you built a community from scratch? Developed your reach? Made a sale even?

Image: Learnaboutus.com

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Ten reasons why Facebook is no place to do business

Social media, as you must know by now, is not just Facebook. Yet, it is the first platform discussed when businesses discuss their social media options. This might seem provocative, but if you’re in b2b marketing, consider these ten compelling reasons why Facebook  is no place for you to do serious business right now.

1. Facebook was conceived as a social network, not a business network. Think about your own use. Do you use it to source new products, services and suppliers or catch up with friends and family, share photos and video and ‘like’ the occasional link?

2. Just because there are 600m users, it doesn’t mean they are the slightest bit interested in what you have to say to them. See point one. Your brand messages and communications interrupt them whilst doing something else at a time when they have in all likelihood switched out of work mode.

3. Businesses using Facebook in ways that add real value are the exception rather than the rule.

4. Many businesses still outlaw Facebook use during work hours and on work hardware. It is seen as distracting, time wasting and risky. And far from being blurred (as some commentators suggest), there is a case to suggest that the divide between professional and personal networking is wider than ever.

5. Facebook had a great opportunity to create a powerful social-search platform but opted for a tie-up with Bing rather than Google. Google dominates search where Facebook dominates social. This has to be seen as an opportunity lost because Facebook probably wanted to dominate online, rather than offer a truly global service with customer experience at its heart.

6. It gets worse. There are no real SEO benefits. Having a profile might help you in the rankings but all site content is locked behind password access.

7. Facebook Places and Facebook Deals (the company’s take on innovative online players like Foursquare and Groupon) are inevitably b2c and retail high street focused. How will the immediacy of making a passing purchase in b2c translate to the slower, multi-stakeholder influenced b2b buying decision? Arguably not well and not very quickly either.

8. Highly targeted, low cost pay per click advertising might appear attractive, but if you’re not paying a lot for your clickthroughs, it suggests aren’t getting many. And if the news is correct, the cost of Facebook advertising is about to soar.

9. Websites remain the primary platform of choice for companies and brands to inform and engage customers. Throughout all stages of research, shortlisting and selection of suppliers, websites rank highest in all information resources. And doesn’t it seem a little absurd to send people to a Facebook page which then presumably wants to send them back again?

10. Ultimately, I think if you want to use Facebook for business you have to be a business falling into one of two categories. A hyper-local business operating in a clearly definable geography with a compelling retail USP which can use a friend network as word of mouth is one. Another is a significant b2b brand which, like a Blackberry, can draw on the brand cache of a consumer market and engage thousands of people. For everything in between, you might be disrupting people in their downtime and risking your long term reputation.

But that’s just my view, and the landscape is changing daily. What’s your experience?

Image: Bizmarkblog.com

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The social media advertising conundrum

You want people to raise awareness in your product and service, so you advertise. Seeking to build credibility, you look to PR to provide some perceived third part endorsement.

You create websites with information on the benefits of your products and services so visitors can self select and seek to engage with you further. And, cleverly, you optimise your websites so people can find them when they go looking on the Internet.

Once you have access to some customer data, you use direct marketing techniques to interact and take some fledgling interest further.

Its all a big investment and a real pain but it’s worth it because you know you can’t please all the people all the time so you set your stall out to talk to those who might be interested in what you do.

Then social media comes along. Big platforms. Huge audiences.  What potential. But its all so… social. If only there was a way to leverage it for my business?

Targeted advertising. Yeah, I can bash people using social sites in their downtime with messages about my brand. I’ll get massive ‘opportunity to see’ and a huge amount of click through. Right?

Wrong. A recent survey by Addvnatage Media in Marketing Week showed that 79% of consumers claim to rarely or never pay attention to adverts on social networks.

There are ways of making social media work but in my eyes intrusive targeted, behavioural advertising isn’t it. You might see a short term spike, but you’re doing a whole long-term worth of harm to your brand and reputation.

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Image: Wired.com

Top Tweets of the Week (wc 15 Nov)

Here are some of this week’s links worthy of your attention. Have a great weekend when you get to it!

Tuesday: RT @AronStevenson: Management Is Not Leadership http://bit.ly/9RFkxy #businesstips

Wednesday: This is awesome: How marketers are utilising Social Media in 2010 http://bit.ly/aXQXFP [infographics]

Wednesday: MUST READ: How to Get Started in Content Marketing http://bit.ly/cULlB8

Thursday: Excellent RT @B2Bento: Five Social Media Trends To Watch in 2011 by @JasonFalls http://bit.ly/dfllaK

Thursday: Savvy on ‘What makes on ideal b2b marketing client?http://ow.ly/3bJBs

Friday: Useful…RT @sejournal 12 Tips For Using Twitter to Grow Your Business | Search Engine Journal http://bit.ly/9lFrXx

And finally, because its Friday…RT @GemmaCocker: Need a smile? …this is without a doubt the best vid I’ve seen all month: http://bit.ly/btXumX

Best b2b social media tools: white papers

White papers aren’t just for politicians and scientists looking to publish policies or complex findings from clinical studies. They are a great tool for helping businesses position as expert in a specific field of influence.

White papers are becoming ever more commonplace, being used as a way of trading some information for free in return for permission to make contact with the recipient. They are increasing used as a data collation tool, placed and promoted through carefully selected industry websites and portals. Adopting the free or ‘freemium’ model – where some content is offered for free, but more is available behind a paywall, subscription or data collection device – is a powerful way of engaging people with what you have to say, but also what you have to offer too.

Why?

White papers are great for b2b brands because they provide information and we know that most business professionals use the Internet as a way to improve their awareness, knowledge and understanding in respect to suppliers, products and services they are interested in procuring.

White papers work best when they are used to discuss the latest trends in a sector, offer solutions to a common problem or position a new idea or way of working.

What?

The best white papers act as a summary of information on a given topic. Think about any service you offer and rather than trying to sell it, think of a problem or myth related to it that might be in your customer’s mind. Maybe there is a barrier to engagement? How can your knowledge of what you do best be presented in a problem solving way?

If you are struggling for inspiration, check out the news, information and community portals in your sector. What are the big issues? What are the headaches? What are the things that keep getting talked about? What legislative challenges exist? If that doesn’t help, hit the blogs and the corporate sites of your competitors. What are they talking about? What opportunities exist to impact the industry discussion?

How to get started?

Designed specifically to inform and educate, white papers are usually 8-12 pages long, and are laid out in an easy-to-read format. This means succinctly presenting the objectives of the white paper and clearly navigating the reader through the content.

Thinking about the issue or problem you want to tackle often results in a white paper that is based around Best Practice, a ‘How-To’ guide, Top Five Best ways to achieve something or the Five Things to Avoid Most about something.

Style them so they look professional. This is important as the first download may go viral through an organization, with your material potentially seen by very senior management in target organisations. They are called white papers for a reason. Use page headers, titles and footers and break up the body copy on each page with high impact sub titles. In addition, they should not be overly promotional, but it is permissible to brand them and offer further contact details on the cover or at the end.

White papers are often provided in Adobe PDF (Portable Document Format) as this is a free to use format freely available to all computer platforms and Internet browsers. Documents set up in most word processing and design packages can be easily converted into PDF format. Using the PDF format also ensures that the document is compressed down to as small a size as possible to facilitate speedy download and sharing by email.

Examples

White papers (and webinars, which will be discussed in an upcoming post), are used to good effect by b2b companies in a range of sectors.

In the food trade for example, companies like Danisco, Brentag and Palsgaard host white papers on key food ingredient websites and within e-newsletters like Food Navigator to ensure targeted delivery and a high take up.

Brands like Mettler and Toledo are releasing white papers through sites like Packaging News to drive interest from packaging professionals.

Similarly, in the information technology sector, companies like SAP, Oracle, HP and Genesys use sites like ComputerWorld to build engagement with their brand by positioning their expertise.

And, Slipstream and Eloqua, demand generation specialists use the B2B Marketing Magazine website to promote their knowledge based services.

Summary

If you want to generate quality leads, position yourself as expert and distribute some free material by adding white papers to your marketing arsenal now.

Top Tweets of the Week (wc 8 Nov)

Some links I thought might be worthy of your click. All self explanatory. Enjoy.

Monday: RT @ThisIsSethsBlog Seth’s Blog: Do more vs. do better http://bit.ly/9pvn0N

Wednesday: RT @BtoBSocialMedia: 6 Social Media Marketing Goals You May Be Over-Looking http://bit.ly/aTqcX0

Wednesday: A must read: Six steps to thought leadership http://ow.ly/37i4R

Wednesday: RT @markwschaefer Ten reasons to blog even if nobody reads it http://bit.ly/dxAgcO

Thursday: How to Use StumbleUpon: Your Comprehensive Guide http://bit.ly/aFZZQC

Thursday: How to Explain the Value of Content Marketing http://bit.ly/9lJlHX

And finally: A candidate for the cheekiest touchdown ever? http://ow.ly/36nLQ

Best b2b social media tools: Blogs

Why blog?

With over 130m blogs in existence and rising, blogging is the cornerstone of any self respecting content marketing strategy – providing an interactive platform where ideas and opinions can be expressed, shared, countered and, above all, engaged with.

Blogging regularly on specific topics increases your search engine visibility, as you routinely include certain critical keywords in your content. This in turn builds your reputation on these topics and the blog will build an audience. If that doesn’t inspire, how about the fact that it is the easiest to self publishing and other than the time involved, it is free most of the time.

What to blog about?

The challenge to the b2b marketer is to develop a blog that offers relevant and insightful comment rather than corporate news and views. That’s what the web news stream is for. Instead, use your blog to create a personality for your business. Offer an opinion on the industry news of the day. Comment on business news at large. Survey your customers, assess trends, run polls and competitions and publish all the findings on your blog.

Blog posts which gain notable traction often discuss issues and problems, offer how to guides and approaches to issue resolution. Provide links to other articles, blogs and contents you’ve seen, liked and rated, positioning yourself as a true content provider.

How to get started?

Create a free blog at www.wordpress.com. Over time, this can be ported to the self-hosted www.wordpress.org, but it serves the needs of most bloggers as it has a number of bespoke design themes, requires no programming expertise, offers a range of interactive options and analytics, and allows you to start writing straight away.

Before you write anything, create a calendar. This will focus the mind. Think about a number of blog posts and start drafting them. But don’t publish anything. The idea is to create a pool of articles so you have content in reserve. Schedule a blog post fortnightly and post it at the same time of day so people over time become used to seeing it / receiving it. As your confidence grows, and resource allows, move to weekly, then perhaps twice weekly. Writing every day is incredibly demanding and should be avoided in the early months.

Writing and posting a blog article takes a little longer than you might think. The content itself might be straight forward but you need to consider the title, tags and a relevant image. I’d recommend keeping posts to 200 words. It’s a good approach to try to include some keywords that are used by your target readers in the title and copy.

If you need some direction, check out content and titles on high traffic blogs like Mashable and SocialMediaExaminer, who offer useful insights into the sorts of titles that encourage people to read.

Blogging demands integrated use of social media tools to drive traffic and provides a great objective to using a wider portfolio of tools. As posts go live, email the link to your database, your colleagues, post it to Twitter, relevant industry Linkedin groups and any other social and business networks you use. WordPress.com analytics can provide extraordinary data on where traffic comes from so this can be refined over time.

Check out my other posts on blogging…

Blogging in hindsight – lessons learnt from my own experience

Marketing Metrics 7: News and blogs – using news and blog functions to generate and distribute content

Stepping into the blog spotlight – read last, its about ramping up your exposure

Image credit Why?,

Selecting the best b2b marketing social media tools

Let’s think for a minute. Before introducing social media tools to your b2b marketing arsenal, think about your customers, who they are, what they look like, and where they congregate.

Doubtless, your target customers probably have a Facebook profile, but do they want their social downtime interrupted by your ‘targeted’ messages? Would you?

They might be using Twitter. Professional services and big finance will certainly have profiles, but most industrial manufacturing and engineering businesses haven’t bought into it yet.

Are the customers you want to reach active and easy to find on Linkedin? They may have a profile but the degree to which they engage and be visible through Groups, Answers etc is probably difficult to quantify.

Tapping into the need for information

So it would appear they need a little more teasing out. What we do know is that business professionals use the Internet increasingly as a source of information. Search is dominated by requests for information about products, services, suppliers, distributors and recruitment. Much of this still channels browsers to corporate sites rather than faddy social media sites despite search engine optimisation via social media growing as a credible online strategy.

Targeting customers using social media tools is further hampered by the fact that for all the search that goes on, most browsers stick to a routine, clearly defined, and limited set of websites for their information. Why? Perhaps, because there simply isn’t the time to take in the scope and scale of information that the Internet can now provide – and because personal security online makes browsers nervous of trying new sites.

Content marketing

So, for social media in b2b marketing, I believe we’re talking about providing information. Useful, timely, relevant and engaging information. It isn’t social media in the way the term is flagrantly used. To me, we differentiate and focus on smart, content marketing.

That means making best use of blogs, white papers, presentations for Slideshare and webinars, video and Linkedin. All generated from material should already exist within your business. It goes without saying that there is an archive of press relations material to delve into – giving you something to specifically ‘refine, refocus and repackage’.

Posts will follow on why I think these are the best social media tools for b2b marketing. Bookmark the social media thread to stay up to date.

Image credit: http://realtimetoolbox.com/marketing-tools.html