B2B Social Media – Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

B2B Social Media - Answers to 10 Most Fundamental Questions

Midas Touch, the company I run, is a B2B Specialist, digital and social media marketing agency. Through that, over the past few years, we have got an opportunity to interact with hundreds of businesses offering products and services to other businesses – also called as B2B services. A few years ago, businesses were almost convinced that social media does not work for B2B. However, things have radically changed now. Several studies, stats, research, and experiences have convinced organizations that if they have to survive in today’s competitive marketplace, they have no option but to adopt social media optimally.

The challenge, however, occurs when the team handling their social media does not understand the intricacies of B2B social media – one needs to understand that it is very different than B2C social media and needs some special expertise.

As a starting point, I am sharing answers to some of the most fundamental questions about B2B Social media –

What is the importance of a blog for a B2B business?

In our experience, we have seen that the blog section is typically one of the top three most viewed sections on the website. The blog offers you a great opportunity to create fresh content for your website (Google loves fresh content), it allows you to answer the latest questions of your target audience, it helps you establish your thought leadership, and it helps you appear as a knowledge expert in your industry. I would highly recommend having an active blog section on your website.

Can the in-house subject matter experts write the blogs?

Before I answer this question, let us first understand what is a relevant and appropriate blog article. A relevant blog article should answer the questions of your target audience, it should educate your audience (and not sell), it should talk about the solutions to the buyer’s problems (and not the features of your product/ service), and it should make the reader the hero (your product should not take the center stage). B2B content writing is a specific skill. I have earlier written about the traits of successful B2B content writers. If you have subject matter experts who are skillful writers and understand all these aspects, they can absolutely write the blogs for your business.

What all types of content can I create?

B2B businesses think that blog posts are the only form of content which they can create. However, that’s not true. There are multiple other options such as infographics, eBooks or whitepapers. Infographics are highly visual and extremely useful for establishing thought leadership. You can use these to create awareness and start conversations with your target audience. Whitepapers and eBooks are very good authoritative reports and more in-depth than a blog. They can be used to address specific business issues in detail with in-depth research and original point of view. These are excellent sources to demonstrate technical knowledge or business information. These can be your very good weapons for specific targeted campaigns and lead generation. You can also use other forms of content such as webinars or podcasts.

What is the role of webinars and podcasts?

Webinars and podcasts are great mediums to generate awareness about your brand and also to get qualified leads. These are brilliant tools to move the prospects up in the interest ladder. You can conduct webinars with your customers or industry experts. Product webinars are also very effective for keeping the prospects engaged.

Which are the most relevant social channels for B2B content promotion?

LinkedIn is the most active and vibrant social channel for professionals. People use LinkedIn not only for job search but also for professional connections, social selling, thought leadership (through LinkedIn Pulse) and group participation. So you definitely have to consider LinkedIn, LinkedIn Company Page, and LinkedIn Groups as your prominent social channels. Next, I would recommend Twitter. Twitter is extremely effective for sharing your content, easily connecting with industry experts and influencers, and joining the ongoing conversations. SlideShare is an another good channel for lead capture if you have very high quality, educational presentations. The tight integration of SlideShare with LinkedIn makes the promotion of those presentations easy. If you have very good quality videos, you should consider using YouTube because that’s the second most used search engine. In the B2B context, you can upload your conference speaker videos or product videos on YouTube. There are many other channels as well and the choice depends on where your target audience is. However, these four would top my list in most of the scenarios.

Is Facebook relevant for B2B?

It’s very tempting to say “It depends”. But let me elaborate more on this. Facebook is a great channel to reach out to the audience outside your sphere of influence. However, remember that people are on Facebook to connect with their families and friends. When they are on Facebook, they usually have no intent of doing any research or study for their business needs. Therefore, while Facebook makes it a great channel if you are running a restaurant, eCommerce site, or a salon, it is not a great medium if you want to reach out to serious buyers when they are looking for solutions to their problems. Having said that, Facebook is a great platform for talent acquisition and talent branding for B2B businesses.

Within how much time can I start getting leads from social media?

Let’s understand this – Social media and content marketing are (crucial) parts of your overall sales funnel. These are not the ONLY channels for your sales. B2B sale is a complex process where multiple stakeholders are involved and they are evaluating the vendors at multiple stages for various things. You, as the vendor, need to ensure that you are in front of the buyer when she is doing her research, you are helping her in her decision making, appearing as a knowledge partner, and creating a positive impression about your company. Let’s be honest here – It is quite unlikely that someone will read a piece of content written by you and immediately fill out the contact form on your site (aka convert into a lead).

How should I measure the RoI?

Almost everything about social media is highly trackable and measurable – which, of course, is good. I would highly recommend you measure both the qualitative as well as quantitative RoI. By qualitative RoI, I mean things like who is engaging with you, what are the questions people are asking you, which hashtags are working for you etc. By quantitative RoI, I mean you can track things like impressions (which is a great measure of visibility), overall engagement with your content, visits to your site, time spent on your site by the people who are coming from social channels, downloads for specific items like eBook and whitepaper etc.

What is the best way to integrate the offline events with social media?

Social is a great way to leverage the offline events like conferences and events. For starters, you can always create online buzz about your event through social platforms by creating specific event hashtags. If you are attending a conference, you can engage with other people who are talking about the conference. You can also engage with specific speakers or exhibitors since almost everyone is on social these days. Twitter works very well for all such things. The other way is to do live promotion of the event – as the easiest option, you can do the live tweeting. Post the conference, you can share your experience and learnings through blog posts.

What is the role of personal branding of the founder?

People connect with people and not with companies. In the B2B context, therefore, it is very important to remember that your company brand also needs a face. People want to know who are the people behind the company, their backgrounds, and their expertise. Having a well-developed LinkedIn profile is just the starting point. The founders of the companies should focus on building their personal brand through blog articles, active online presence through LinkedIn and Twitter. I have shared more detailed views on the importance and how to of personal branding, here.

I hope this article helped you in getting answers to your common questions. If you have any more questions, I will be happy to answer those. Just post those in the comments below!

Add Content & Social Media – An Integrated Approach To B2B Lead Generation

No one claimed Lead Generation was easy – especially when you are in the B2B space. There are so many moving parts that a key problem becomes how to get them all pulling in the same direction. You may have one or more of the following teams contributing to demand generation:

  1. Research team keeping track of market developments
  2. Contact discovery or database research team building the lists
  3. Content creation team responsible for collateral, campaign drafts etc.
  4. Social Media team
  5. Inside Sales and / or Telemarketing team
  6. Pre-Sales and / or Sales team

You may be getting a sense of the possible complexities just looking at this list. Pretty much every organisation I have spoken to over the last 3 – 4 years has people doing some of these activities. The problem I have usually found is that they all work within their own individual silos. The activity levels are always high and each individual team is usually capable but the result when they come together is generally somewhat underwhelming. My own view is this happens because there is usually no “big picture” view being taken. If you get all these groups working towards a common goal chances are the synergies will lead to much better results.

Let’s consider the example of an organisation that has services to offer to companies in the Cloud space and how an integrated approach would work for them.

  1. The team keeping an eye on the market could come up with a finding that of late cloud file storage companies seem to be attracting funding.
  2. This could be the trigger for the content generation team to start putting together collateral that would be of relevance to this sector – say a white paper about a technology trend and it’s applicability or a user case study of a success story in the same or a comparable space
  3. The next step for the content team would be to start working on reasonably customized crafted emails targeted to sub-segments within the larger Cloud File Storage segment.
  4. While this is going on the Contact Discovery team could be hard at work building a database of companies and individual decision makers within those organisations who could be receptive to the message.
  5. On getting sufficient content ready the next step is to make it available on the specific social media platforms the target customers are likely to gather on to inform themselves. In the context of the example this may be Cloud focused LinkedIn groups as an illustration.
  6. There is also a case for tracking specific influencers in the Cloud Storage space – say the CTOs of the target Cloud Storage organisations. The objective would be to build a map of their social media life – their Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, their blog and so on. Sharing what they have to say in a great way to learn from their experience as also to get on their radar. This is a longer term strategic activity – the objective is to connect with them and engage with them at their own terms on ground they feel comfortable on.
  7. Now it’s time to launch the outreach campaigns – first email and then telemarketing, assuming that is right for the business. The chance that someone will respond to the outreach is proportionately greater if they have encountered the company or some useful content in the digital or social world previously.
  8. Key is integrating the outreach program into the sales process – not only to ensure that any leads that get generated receive the prompt attention they demand but also to be able to build any feedback received at any stage back into the appropriate point of the process.
  9. Rinse and Repeat!

My personal view is that if the end objective is that more people should respond positively to your outreach efforts then it’s pretty much mandatory that an integrated approach be followed. Chances are otherwise the results will more often than not be lower than the quality of the team and the visible activity level would suggest.

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

10 Mind-blowing B2B Social Media Stats and What Those Mean for B2B Companies

A few years ago, when I started Midas Touch, I found myself explaining to companies and business leaders what social media is and what is its relevance for businesses. Fast forward a few years, today, businesses come to us saying that they want to do social media but not really sure how to do it and what exactly to expectfrom it.

I know that all of us keep on reading a lot of stats and quotes around social media and get impressed, confused, overwhelmed, or worried by those – because sometimes, we don’t understand what those mean to us or to our business.

At Midas Touch, we specialize in B2B social media. We work with B2B companies to help them with their social media, digital and content marketing strategy and execution. I, therefore, very curiously and enthusiastically read various stats and quotes around #B2BSocialMedia.

Here I have picked up 10 such stats and let me take this opportunity to talk through each of these and what these mean for B2B businesses.

  1. 80% of all B2B social media leads come from LinkedIn (Source)

Well, this does not surprise me. LinkedIn is one of the largest professional social media networks. Most of the business decision makers at least have a presence on LinkedIn and they use it for professional networking. LinkedIn offers interesting options in the form on LinkedIn Pulse and LinkedIn Groups, which, when used properly, can immensely help in building thought leadership, connecting with the relevant audience, forming a positive impression about you/ your company in front of your target audience, and also driving traffic to your website. We have ourselves seen some phenomenal results through interactions in LinkedIn groups for our clients. As a B2B company, LinkedIn is a must-have for your B2B social media strategy – and mind you, it is not limited to creating a LinkedIn company page.

  1. 94 percent of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before purchasing a business product (Source)

Surprised? Don’t be. Think about it. As B2C buyers, we all do a lot of online research before any product purchase. Why should it be any different for B2B? Today, the B2B buyers are very clear about their requirements and what they are looking for. They are doing research online to find answers to their questions. If during their research, you appear in front of them and are able to create a positive impression, then your chances of appearing in their shortlist are much higher. This can very well be achieved through a strong content strategy and social media marketing on the platforms which are relevant for B2B companies.

  1. Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads. (Source)

A lot has been written about why and how of content marketing. Adopting content marketing is no more optional. It has become almost mandatory for B2B businesses to have a strong content marketing strategy and a solid execution in place. You need to, however, remember that B2B content writing is fundamentally different that B2C content writing. Therefore, look for B2B content writer specific traits in the writers whom you hire for writing the content. More about the traits, here.

  1. 55% of B2B buyers say they search for product/vendor information on social media (Source)

Yes, social media is no more a channel just for networking or fun. People are doing some serious research and connections on social media. As a B2B business, therefore, it is not only important for you to have an active presence on social media (on channels like Twitter, LinkedIn or SlideShare) but it is also important that you create the right impression and connect with the right people through the social channels. The theme, tone, quality and quantity of social updates need to be carefully defined and executed.

  1. 80% of business decision makers prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement. (Source)

As the old saying goes “No one likes to be sold; everyone likes to buy.” Today, B2B buyers want to make an informed decision. So rather than going by what is simply “told” to them, they like to read up and get “convinced” before making the decision. This further reinforces the need for content marketing for B2B enterprises. A note of caution here, though – writing a blog about your product features and benefits is also a form of advertising J You need to focus on answering the questions of your buyers rather than focusing on selling your products and services.

  1. 75% of B2B buyers and 84% of C-level or vice-president level executives use social media to make purchasing decisions (Source)

Another myth is busted! If you thought that the top level executives are not on social media, you are wrong. They are extremely active on social platforms, seeking information, connecting with the relevant people and engaging in interesting conversations. You just need to find them and engage with them in a right way.

  1. 57% of purchase decisions are made before a customer ever talks to a supplier, and (Source)

Yes, gone are the days when the sales person could drive the conversation and the decision making. Today, the B2B buyers want to be well-informed even before they contact the vendor. As a B2B vendor, it is, therefore, your responsibility to appear as a knowledge partner to the buyer, be available and active on social platforms, listen to the needs and problems of the potential buyers, and connect with them in a non-intrusive way.

  1. By 2020, 80% of the buying process is expected to occur without any direct human-to-human interaction. (Source)

This means that the buyer is going to expect all the touch-points to be online. In a way, it is a good news and challenging as well. Good news because you get a level playing field. Your chances of being in front of the buyer are as good as any other vendor. Challenging because the onus lies completely on you to create the right online impression in front of the buyers and be able to connect with them through online medium.

  1. 90% of B2B buyers say when they are ready they will find you. (Source

It has become extremely important for B2B companies to understand the buyers’ journey and align their marketing and sales efforts on those lines. Today, the buyers’ journey is digital. They are already aware and in some cases, they are already in the consideration phase and ready to make the purchase decision. They are developing their vendor list, doing a social media analysis, engaging with possible vendors, and exactly know what questions to ask. Are you ready to be found?

  1. There may be 7-20 people involved in any given B2B purchasing decision. (Source

Not surprising, right? B2B purchase decisions are more complex, affect a larger set of individuals, and have a bigger business impact. It is obvious that multiple people will be involved in the overall decision-making. What the vendors need to know is that they should be able to talk to all these people – of course, online. They should be able to provide answers to the questions of all the decision makers and should be able to connect and engage with all of them. This means that you will need to rely on a variety of content types such as blog articles, whitepapers, case studies and also depend on a wider variety of channels such as social media, emails for connection and engagement.

 

Have you come across any such compelling stats? Do share as comments and I will include all the relevant ones in the article – of course, with due credits to you!

Prospecting for Contact Gold

An ancient Chinese saying goes that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. While it is unlikely that Lau Tzu was thinking of Lead Generation when he said that in the best traditions of timeless wisdom it leaves us free to draw from it what we will. I look at this to mean that in the long sales process a considered first step is of critical importance to ensure success. Especially in B2B sales that first step being the creation of a prospect list of-course. Whether you call it a contact list, a prospect base or a database its quality will ultimately determine how effective your contact efforts are. You want a database populated with names, contact and all other relevant information of decision makers and other influencers from your target organisations and here are a few rich seams that can be mined for these nuggets of information.
1. Company Website: Once you have identified the organisation you wish to target, the first port of call is its website – obvious I know but you would be surprised how many “contact discovery” efforts ignore this basic first step. The “Management” tab on the website offers up a complete list of the officers for you to pick those most likely to be receptive to your specific message.
2. LinkedIn: The inevitable next place to look in this age of social selling. There’s been enough and more written about the search capabilities within LinkedIn – I will just add that I have found LinkedIn most valuable in seeking information about middle-level contacts and perhaps not always so when looking for the “C” level contacts. These mid-level managers are the people not usually represented on the company website or other such sources. The well-known capabilities of LinkedIn to search for an extended network of connections allows an almost organic growth in the contact list once the first few contacts are unearthed.
3. I have personally found events a great source to mine for contacts and information. The list of “speakers” has double value – not only can you get information about the speaker (name, title, role in the organisation) but also their specific area of expertise.
4. Company Publications: This is a great place to look for people in your target companies with very specific areas of interest. Given the emphasis on Content Marketing, most companies have an abundance of publications in the public domain like Papers, articles, technical papers & filings, blogs and the like and these will almost always be credited to specific individuals. If their area of expertise coincides with yours then an obvious match-making opportunity exists with a ready-made opening line to go with it.
5.  Other social media channels: In building a contact list LinkedIn is no. 1 to no. 10 in the top 10 social networks to consider but there are other channels also that can be useful on occasion most notably Twitter. Looking down the list of people who follow your target company’s official Twitter handle or are listed as contributors to the Twitter feed could throw up some names worth researching and adding to the contact database.
6. Something I have found useful sometimes is “News” from your target companies especially about things like product releases. Such news is often accompanied by quotes from the officers directly connected to the product line – useful from the point of view of being able to pin down a name as well as a likely area of interest.
While these are great places to look for names of decision makers in your target companies that’s just the first step (there’s that first step again) – there is a lot of good practice associated with keeping the database accurate, fresh, updated and, well alive but let’s leave that for another day. For now, let me end by asking what do you think of this list? Are there any other sources not listed here that you have mined productively while building a prospect list?

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

B2B Social Media Marketing 101

Of course branding and awareness are also roles that can be played effectively by B2B marketing, but from my point of view these are only supporting roles—secondary to the primary objective of helping drive sales.” — Mac Macintosh

If you ask how is B2B social media different from B2C social media, I believe this quote summarizes it all. In B2B social media, influence matters over popularity. Relevance matters over numbers. More than the features and functions of the products, businesses want to do business with trusted advisors.

Gone are the days when the sales person of the vendor could dictate and decide the flow of information for the potential buyer. Today, buyers have become much more informed and aware of what they want. They are doing their own research online, searching for the answers to their questions – it is important for you, as the vendor, to ensure that through your content marketing and social media, you are found and are in front of them when they are looking for the information. As per SiriusDecisions, 70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete before the prospects even engage with a salesperson.

Let’s understand the various aspects of B2B social media – any B2B business wanting to start with their social media initiatives should consider all these factors

Objectives

The first and foremost thing, like all strategic initiatives, is to identify and finalize the goals and objectives. “Getting more leads” is a good and obvious objective but remember that it is a long-term objective. Do note that social media offers many great opportunities and you should not miss on those – aim for things like “establishing thought leadership”, “getting in front of more audience”, “engaging with prospects and customers”, “driving more traffic to the website”. As Chris Brogan has very aptly said: “Marketers need to build digital relationships and REPUTATION before closing a sale.”

Content Marketing

Yes, any conversation about B2B social media is incomplete with the mention of content marketing. You have heard stats like “88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy”. But content marketing is a lethal weapon and needs to be used accurately. B2B content marketing is a different ball game altogether. It is about telling stories. It is about not about you or your products. It is about your buyers, their problems, and solutions to their problems. It is about telling stories where the potential buyer is the hero. B2B content marketers need to have specific traits. Apart from being skillful writers, they are process oriented, they are storytellers, they understand social media, and much more. (You can read more on this here).

The importance of choosing a right channel

You might be very comfortable using Facebook, but does it make it the best social channel for your business? You don’t know of many success stories with Twitter, does it make it an irrelevant channel? How can you leverage LinkedIn? There are 700+ social channels and putting your energy in leveraging the right channel is very important. Our experience at Midas Touch has been that Twitter and LinkedIn are very effective channels for B2B social media. Twitter is a great medium to connect with prospects, customers, and influencers. It is a wonderful medium to share the content which is relevant to your industry, show your interest areas and also share your own content. LinkedIn, of course, is undoubtedly the number one professional network and, therefore, very relevant when it comes to B2B social media. LinkedIn company page and LinkedIn groups can be very well leveraged for engaging with the prospects and opinion makers in the industry.

What to expect?

Of course, the end objective is to get more leads to the business and that’s where social media is going to help. But if you expect that people are going to read your content and are going to fill out the contact form on your website immediately, then, that’s not how it works in the B2B space. Social media and quality content will help you establish your thought leadership, be in front of the right audience when they are looking for answers to their questions, and help the vendors form a positive opinion about you. The key is being patient with the efforts. At the same time, constantly measure and monitor the results and the impact in terms of visits to your website, engagement with your content, social connection etc. Remember, social media is a strategy and not a campaign.

Keep your customer at the center of the social media strategy is – leverage the best channels, have a strong content strategy and use an integrated approach. You are sure to benefit from it!

The Best B2B Content Marketers have These Traits

The Best B2B Content Marketers have These Traits

Is content marketing a secret marketing weapon today? Not really. It is the backbone of most of the marketing communication. It is the gasoline for your social media efforts. It’s an opportunity for businesses to create an image of a knowledge partner. It is a way to earn respect and trust of the potential buyers.

Demand Metric states that 90% of organizations now market with content. According to Marketo, organizations with over 1,000 employees have a budget of $1,057,300 and those with fewer than 1,000 employee set aside $335,200 for content marketing!

Considering the seriousness towards content marketing, it is obvious that businesses are cautious and particular when they select the content marketers they work with. Here is an effort to make your search simple. Look for these traits in your B2B content marketers –


#1: They are Process Oriented

Perfection has to do with the end product, but excellence has to do with the process.” – Jerry Moran

I am yet to see a successful content marketer who is not process oriented. A non-documented content strategy is a non-existent strategy. Good content marketers will start with strategy definition and ensure that it is well documented and has the buy-in of the stakeholders.

Secondly, content writing is not something which you can decide in the morning and start executing it. Content marketing is an integral part of the overall marketing plan and therefore needs to be well thought of and well-planned. For example: If the marketing focus for the month for an organization is going to be on the outreach to a particular audience, the content marketing needs to adapt to that and that’s where planning plays a big role. The content marketers have a well-defined plan in place – well in advance. It is part of their editorial calendar.

#2: They are skillful writers

You don’t write because you want to say something….you write because you have something to say” — F. Scott Fitzgerald

Good content writers live by this mantra. They don’t write for the sake of writing it. They write insightful, entertaining and useful content. Their words and style are their most cherished assets. Their writing serves the reader. They put their content in context with the use of solid data, research and facts. Their content has logic and structure which serves to clear the confusion from the minds of the readers. Even if the business is complex, good writers make it simple and easy to understand.

#3: They are great at managing internal subject matter experts

With rare exceptions, all of your most important achievements on this planet will come from working with others-or, in a word, partnership.” — Paul Farmer

Many a times, B2B marketers need to work in industries like technology, manufacturing or engineering. These industries have complex products and difficult concepts. Writing a compelling piece of content which appeals to the desired target audience in such cases is a difficult task – it involves extensive research, discussions with SMEs and getting their buy-in. Good content marketers not only need the knack of working with such multiple stakeholders aka SMEs, but also need the understanding of optimally using their time.

Here is what has worked best for me personally – Based on the social listening, I identify the theme or topic for the content. Then I do my research to finalize a list of few keywords which need to be used. Based on the keywords, I prepare a set of questions for the SMEs and once this homework is done, I meet the SMEs for 20-30 minutes to get answers to my questions. The SMEs have abundant knowledge and the real trick is in capturing the knowledge and presenting it in a publishable and promotable format.

#4: They are awesome storytellers

Storytelling reveals meaning without committing the error of defining it.” – Hannah Arendt

Marketing is noisy and the Internet is full of content. How do you make your content stand out from the clutter? Storytelling is the answer. Today, nobody wants to see your company brochure presented in the form of a blog article. Your product or service CANNOT be the hero of your story. The buyer/ reader needs to be the hero. The best content captures the attention of the readers, resonates with them, answers their questions to get them ultimately engaged with the content and share it.

#5: They provide answers to questions

Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” ― Dr. Seuss

Nobody is interested in your product or services. People want answers to their questions. They want solutions to their problems. This has got reflected now in the search patterns as well – earlier people used to search for keywords, now they search for answers. If your content provides answers to their questions, chances are that the search engines will rank your content higher and more importantly, people will appreciate and read your content. It will create your image as a knowledge partner and expert in the field whom they can go to get solutions to their problems.

#6: They understand Social Media

Knowledge is of no value unless you put it into practice.” ― Anton Chekhov

There are 700+ social networks and each social platform is different. While all the social platforms follow an underlying philosophy of two-way communication and interaction, there is a lot of difference in the way each platform works – Facebook is more visual, Twitter is 140 characters and has got immediacy associated with it, LinkedIn is more professional, Pinterest is highly creative and so on. The awesome content marketers understand the nuances of each platform and instead of using the same content all over on all the platforms, they tailor-made the content based on the network they are going to promote it. They repurpose the content based on their understanding of the platforms. For example: They might convert a blog post into an infographic for publishing it on Pinterest or they might include some tweetable stats in the blog post to make it easy to share on Twitter.

#7: They are tech-savvy and leverage various tools

It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” ― Godfrey Reggio

Godfrey has said it very aptly. We live in a hyper-connected technology world and marketers can’t afford to keep themselves away from technology. By being tech-savvy, I mean that they use technology tools, mobile apps to make themselves more effective and productive. There are many apps to help in finding, curating content, getting ideas for content topics, promoting the content and so on. Here is a supremely brilliant image which every content marketer can choose to make the desktop default wallpaper 🙂

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

The Secret Weapons of Online and Social Media Marketing

Marketing channels have evolved a lot – from print, TV, radio, websites, emails, online to now, social media. Today, online marketing and social media have become the most preferred channels for most of the businesses. But as anyone would agree, these are still evolving and many businesses are trying to figure out what works and what does not work for them. Having said that, while it is natural to stick to the commonly used marketing activities such as SEO, email campaigns, paid ads and social media, I always suggest that businesses should be open to explore the newer and powerful avenues too.

In this post, I am going to talk about few such online marketing activities which, when used right, can deliver great results – but unfortunately these are not talked about a lot.

# Webinars

I am a big fan of webinars. Webinars offer a great opportunity to learn from experts – without worrying about geographical boundaries and right from your work station. All you need is good Internet connection and a headset. Hundreds of experts are happy (and many a times, for free) share their expertise and experiences through webinars.
Now let’s talk about it from the business perspective. How can businesses leverage webinars? Well, in many ways –
  1. Customer Webinar – You know your customers love you and are raving fans. They really appreciate your work and you have made a significant difference to their business. Why not invite them to speak about their experiences, their business and their expertise through a webinar? Don’t you think others in the industry will value it? If you host one such webinar, you can reach out to many more prospects from the same industry and invite them to attend it. Since it is a purely educational exercise, you won’t appear salesy but at the same time, you will get an opportunity to reach out to a larger set of audience with something really credible.
  2. Industry Leader Webinar – People always love to hear the views and opinions of the industry leaders/ gurus. They offer industry insights and their opinions are unbiased. You can organize a webinar with an industry leader on a latest topic from your industry (which aligns with your offering) and invite people to attend that. Being associated with an industry leader will go a long way in positioning your business. Remember, I am not talking about being a mere sponsor for such webinar. The webinar should be organized and hosted by you and it should show that you have invited the speaker to speak.
  3. Product Webinar – If you are a company selling software products, then chances are that your sales teams give multiple product demos to the prospects. Why not cut it short by organizing product webinars every week? You can have multiple webinars covering different time zones and different industries. If you organize an industry-specific webinar, it gives you an opportunity to customize the webinar content for that specific industry. Such webinars can be pre-scripted and well thought out. You can build a good scalability in this model by training multiple people for the webinar. Having a fixed schedule displayed on your website will create a good impression in the minds of the prospects. You can also choose to make these webinars interactive by allowing the attendees to ask questions so that you get an opportunity to handle objections.

# Podcasts

Podcasts are small audio bytes popular amongst people who prefer audio over text/ images. There has been a trend of people using their commute time in listening to podcasts.  So what can the podcast be about? Like the webinars, podcasts can be with customers, industry leaders or even with your internal expert team. Pick a theme and record podcasts around it. While I have heard podcasts of 30-40 minutes also, I prefer the shorter podcasts– say around 12-15 minutes at most. What are the advantages from business perspective? Well, many advantages –
  • You get an opportunity to connect with influencers from your industry and be in their eyeline and establish connection with them
  • You get valuable content to share with your target audience. This content be then reused in many ways – through your website, blog, newsletters, email campaigns, and so on and that too on a continuous basis.
  • You get to take a position in the industry as someone who is interested in the latest topics and taking efforts to assist the community through knowledge sharing.

# Influencer Marketing

With social media, it has become easy to connect with anyone. But there is a difference between connection and conversation. If done rightly, you can meaningfully connect with influencers from your industry, engage with them and then take the conversation to next level. Influencer marketing is often misinterpreted as celebrities endorsing your brand. That’s a very superficial way of looking at it. Influencer marketing really means – identify a list of influencers from your industry, map their social presence and interact with them on the platform of their choice. Interaction does not mean asking them to RT your link 😉 Let’s think – Who can be the influencers for you? These are the people who are decision makers in your industry or the people whom you care to connect with. For example: For an organic food store, chefs could be the influencers and for a solar power energy company, possibly the environmentalists could be influencers. You got to identify these and map their social presence – some might be active on Twitter, others might have strong LinkedIn presence. You need to first study that and then engage with them on those platforms. Once you establish a relationship with them, you can take the conversation ahead by requesting them to write a guest blog, invite them for a webinar or record their podcast.

# LinkedIn Groups

Having a profile on LinkedIn does not mean that you are active on LinkedIn. There are many more ways in which you can leverage this powerful platform. LinkedIn groups are very powerful to connect with like-minded people and establish your thought leadership in front of a targeted group of individuals. As a company, you can start your own LinkedIn group around a theme or a topic – note that starting a group in your company name is not useful. The group needs to connect people with similar interests. They should derive value from being part of your group. As an administrator of the group, it is your responsibility to keep the group activity relevant and ongoing. While it is an effort intensive and long term activity, if done well, it can be a brilliant way of creating a community of people with similar interests. In case you are interested to understand this in more detail, here is a great presentation on dynamics of starting and maintaining your own LinkedIn group.

Don’t get  so swamped in doing regular activities that you forget to take advantage of such secret weapons. Always keep  room for growth in your digital marketing plan.

* This post was originally published on YourStory.

Seven Deadly Sins of Startup Social Media Marketing

Seven Deadly Sins of Startup Social Media Marketing

Yeah, I made mistakes but…life doesn’t come with instructions.

Sure it does not. But that’s not the case with social media – there is certainly some good advice out there to help you avoid blunders on social media. After all, mistakes are meant for learning and not repeating, right?

So what are some of the common mistakes which companies, especially startups, make while defining and executing their social media strategy? Here is what I have found –

#1 Incorrect Platforms

Agreed – Facebook has 1.44 billion monthly active users (as of Mar 31, 2015). But you can’t have the whole universe as your target audience. In today’s time and age, when everyone is spoilt for choice, the most important marketing decision you need to make is defining the target audience. Targeted marketing is the key of the game – and targeted marketing is by definition exclusionary. You need to clearly define your target audience and once that is done, you need to identify the platforms on which YOUR target audience is active. Remember – nobody searches for a job on Facebook or looks for a Hotel review on LinkedIn. Being present on the most popular platform does not make sense if your target audience is not active there. Here is some quick help when it comes to popular platforms:

Facebook – It’s a good platform when

  • You have highly visual content.
  • You want to leverage the community effect
  • You want to build trust in the minds of the users by leveraging their friends network
  • You are ready to spend on ads – the recent changes in Facebook algorithm have made it very difficult to organically reach out to the fans

Twitter – It is a good platform to

  • Broadcast your message
  • Join the on-going conversations
  • Connect with thought leaders and people that matter to you
  • Build a position for yourself

LinkedIn – Consider using it when

  • You are a B2B company
  • You want to connect with the professional audience and establish your thought leadership within a group of homogeneously targeted audience

Google+ – Good platform to

  • Help you with your SEO efforts
  • Participate in Google communities to connect with like-minded people

Pinterest – You can use it when

  • Your primary target audience include women
  • You have highly visual content to share

These of course are just guidelines. You need to do a more thorough research and brainstorming to finalize the social platforms for your brand.

#2 Doing Too Much or Too Little

Once you choose a social platform, you need to commit to it. Having an inactive presence on any of the platforms creates a bad impression. Having the last tweet date as 2 years back is worse than not having a Twitter handle. You need to show activity on the social platforms and need to have consistency. The opposite is also true – you just can’t do too much. Don’t bombard your LinkedIn company page followers with 10 updates a day just because that will give you more number of impressions!

#3 Ignoring Content Marketing

Content marketing is the gasoline of your social media efforts. You need to have good blog articles to showcase your expertise. You need interesting infographics to share with your audience. eBooks are good to share as a free giveaway. Whitepapers are excellent way of establishing your thought leadership. You need content. Period. Just don’t ignore it from your social media strategy. Not having enough bandwidth to create content cannot be an excuse today.  

#4 Inappropriate Content or Self Promotion

Each platform has different content need. Don’t make the mistake of pushing the same content on all the platforms just because there are tools available which allow you to do so. Each platform requires different tone of messaging and different type of content. More importantly, you also need to mind the timing of your updates. Your audience is not going to be present on all the platforms at the same time. Social media does require some serious time and attention commitment and it demands that. Don’t get away with easy options of auto schedule without giving it a serious thought or having a proper plan in place. Another thing to keep an eye on is the type of content you share. Too much of self-promotion is a big turn-off. Just because you are excited about your product or services does not mean that you can talk about it all day long. Have a good balance of education, industry insights, engagement, and self-promotion in your content sharing. 

#5 No Personal Branding

People relate with people – and this is especially true for startups where people are buying the services from the founders more than from the company. So it is important that startups include the personal branding of their founders in their social media planning and strategy. You need a face for your company.

Personal Branding
Photo Courtesy: http://bit.ly/1P0yIp6

#6 Canned Responses to Negative Comments

Lot of companies shy away from social media because of the fear of negative comments. But note that negative comments are in-fact good opportunities for you to build trust in the minds of your readers. Read more about it here. One of the foremost thing you need to remember while handling negative comments on the social platform is that you should NEVER give a canned response to any negative comment. Be personal and show genuine interest in solving the problem. Acknowledge the issue, take genuine actions to resolve it. If the there is a mistake, accept it and take all efforts to resolve it. Check this example here from Zappos – simply brilliant. Isn’t it?

Photo Courtesy- http://bit.ly/1dNplZm

#7 Not aligning with the target audience in terms of tone and messaging

Try and align as much as you can with your target audience – if you are targeting the youth, introduce some quirkiness in your overall messaging. If you are targeting CXOs, maintain a professional tone. Just make sure that your marketing tone matches with your company culture. After all, today, marketing is no more the job of marketing department only. It is the job of each and every person representing the company. Here is a latest brilliant example of this –


Do share your experience on what worked and what did not work for you. It’s all about sharing knowledge, isn’t it?

This article was originally published at YourStory.

Personal Branding for Startup Founders – A Practical Guide

Did you know that the “About Us” section is the second most viewed page after the home page for most of the websites? Today, when a lot is being talked about creating the company brand and image, it is equally important to have a strong personal brand of the founders – this is especially true for startups because for many startups, the founders, CEOs and the people behind the company are more known than the company itself.

Think of Apple. Think of Microsoft. Think of Google. Although these are large organizations, there are some strong personalities which come to our mind when we think of these companies – Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. We don’t ‘live’ in a virtual world – we live in a world where we speak with humans, we build relationships with people and we engage with people. So it is very important that founders think of their personal branding very seriously.

But how do I go about it?” – I get it asked many times. So rather than preaching more about why it is important (I am hoping that you are already convinced!), here are some practical ways of leveraging some of the popular social media platforms for building your personal brand.

LinkedIn

If you have to choose one platform, choose LinkedIn. It is THE most important professional networking platform. First and foremost, it is crucial that you have a well-developed LinkedIn profile. It should very crisply and clearly list your education, experience, expertise, passions and likings. There are lot of articles available online on how to create a powerful LinkedIn profile, the do’s and don’ts and best practices. Follow the advice there. If you think you don’t have time or expertise to write a killer LinkedIn profile, take external help – but do it. It’s mandatory.

You cannot stop after creating a LinkedIn profile. You should aim for following

  • Post at least one status update every week – this could be about your company, your offerings, an interesting insight, your views about industry updates and so on. This is important for being in front of your connections.
  • Join relevant groups which interest you and start getting active there through participation in ongoing discussions.
  • Occasionally, start ask thought provoking questions and elicit responses.
  • Leverage LinkedIn Publisher platform – It allows you to write long updates or articles. You can use this platform to demonstrate your expertise or knowledge.

Twitter

No, Twitter is not for kids or for people who don’t have any work. Twitter is gaining popularity and is being used as a prime network, even in B2B segment, for news, updates and information sharing. It’s a myth that Twitter is time consuming. You don’t need to have Twitter app in ‘always on’ mode on your smartphone. There are schedulers such as Bufferapp or Hootsuite which you can use to schedule your tweets. You can choose to share interesting industry updates, your opinions on latest topics, news about your company products or services. You could also appreciate your employees and motivate them. You can join ongoing conversations through hashtags. It is easy to create an image of a curator of interesting information or opinion-maker on Twitter. Don’t hesitate to show your personal side by way of some casual updates about your vacation or personal interests like
photography, poetry or sports.

Blog

You obviously have lot of knowledge about your industry and domain or technology. Use blogs to share that knowledge and demonstrate your thought leadership or expertise to the world. Based on my personal experience, finalizing the blog topic is the most difficult task. What I do is, pick up the pain points of my customers and write a purely educational post around that. Try it, and it might work for you as well. Don’t try to sell your product or services through your blogs. Genuinely solve people’s problems or provide answers to their questions. A blog written in a simple language which honestly provides relevant and useful information is always appreciated. If your customers approach you after reading your blog, they will approach you as knowledge partner and not as just another vendor.

Pinterest

Yes! Don’t be surprised to see it listed here. Pinterest can very well be used for personal branding – here is how. Suppose you run an exclusive boutique or a cafe, there is no better place than Pinterest to showcase your passion, products and services.  It’s very visual, the interface is very cool and most likely, and your target audience is already on Pinterest! You could also pin other interesting stuff like your office photos, customer testimonials, the books you like, your favorite vacation spots – flaunt your creative side and pin about your passions. There is no harm in showcasing your personal interest on social networking sites.

Quora

If your knowledge of Quora is limited to the email notifications you receive when someone “follows” you there, then it’s time to change it. Quora is a brilliant platform for personal brand building. It is increasingly becoming popular and it seems to be favored by search engines too! Lot of discussions (yes, serious discussions) happen on Quora. Since it is a question and answer format, if you have a point of view about something or have some good pointers to share, there is no better place than Quora. Join interesting conversations and respond to questions. Occasionally, your responses could be supplemented with the blog articles which you have written – I have seen examples where people have seen a steady flow of traffic to their blog coming from Quora.

As we know, Personal Branding is nothing but creating a right kind of emotional response when people hear your name, see you online or meet you in person. Ensure that they find consistency everywhere 🙂 Always make sure that your offline persona matches with your online image.