As we have discussed in previous posts, the key to success in B2B social media is the development and sharing of content that will appeal to your target market. When we work with new B2B clients, we always have an in-depth discussion about content and these critical questions:
1. What type of original content do you already have? Articles, videos, radio show, infographics, presentations, photos, testimonials, whitepapers
2. What type of content will appeal to your target market?
3. What type of original (developed by you) content will be developed on an ongoing basis?
4. Who will be developing the content? A staff member, the owner, a group of people, Mediavine Marketing?
5. What other content can be used to supplement your original content?
6. How often will the original content be developed?
7. Where will the content be placed initially? The website, YouTube, a trade publication?
8. Where will the content be shared? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, social bookmarking sites, etc.
9. Will others be able to share the content as well? In other words, is your website set up to allow comments and sharing of your content?
Once we have established the who, what, when, where and why of content, we inevitably start discussing the details of developing content. Many B2B companies really struggle with this, and understandably so. Most of us will not acquire legions of raving fans who are waiting breathlessly for our next product or announcement.
So, what do we B2B companies share out there? How about thinking in terms of “edutainment”?
We’ve adapted the term “edutainment” from the educational world, but we think it applies well to social media. Edutainment is designed in order to keep people interested and engaged, and the goal is to provide some valuable knowledge to the target market by keeping them engaged with entertaining content. It doesn’t have to be hilarious and earth- shattering, but it does need to be interesting and/or useful enough to encourage further exploration of your digital profiles and even an email opt-in or phone call. Articles/blog posts should have targeted and interesting titles, and the articles themselves need to be written in a more conversational, less “whitepaper-ish” tone. Videos, rather than the “salesly”, long and over-produced showcases of yesterday, should be shorter, authentic and address a “pain point” or offer a way to solve a problem. Think about showing your prospective clients what their success would look like if they work with you. Help them visualize how they would achieve their goals with a short presentation or an infographic.
We have found from experience that edutainment may be the thing that keeps you in your prospects’ minds longer than anything else you have on your website. What do you think about the idea of using “edutainment” for B2B social media?
Last week LinkedIn announced that companies now have the ability to share news with followers of their LinkedIn Company Pages through Status Updates. This ability has been given to administrators of the Company Pages, and the updates appear as coming from the company rather than the individual.
This marks a change in the visibility of companies in the LinkedIn space. Giving companies the means to communicate and interact with followers brings the LinkedIn Company Pages a little more on par with Facebook’s Business Pages or even Twitter (where companies have always been able to share updates). Previously, the Company Pages were virtually static placeholders.
As you can see below, the status update now shows up in your network activity on your home page as coming from the company instead of an individual.
What does this mean for business owners on LinkedIn? The Company Page status updates present an opportunity and a challenge. My company appreciates the opportunity to increase our visibility and engagement through our Company Page. However, we are now challenged to further develop our page, increase our follower base and also deliver content that will be engaging and helpful.
If you do not have a Company Page yet, now would be the time to build one. To build a company page, click on “Companies” in the main navigation. Look to the top right and you’ll see a link called “Add a Company”. It’s a step-by-step process from there.
I haven’t heard that LinkedIn has plans to add more features to the Company Pages, but this may be the beginning of a focus on encouraging companies to build a greater presence on the platform.
Attention Small Business Owners: The Elite SDVOB Network is bringing its 8th National Convention to Chicago on July 20-22, 2011. Organized by U.S. military veterans, but available to all business owners and entrepreneurs, the convention will include workshops and seminars, Business Matchmaking sessions, tradeshow exhibits and dinner and cocktails.
What is the Elite SDVOB Network?
The term “Elite” is taken from military history, in recognition of veterans who have been disabled as a result of their military service and seek to contribute to business enterprise in the U.S. and its territories. The Elite SDVOB (Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Business Network) is a non-profit 501(c)19 corporation that was established over fifteen years ago. After serving their country, veterans have historically found themselves struggling as business owners, so a group of veterans established The Elite SDVOB to advocate on behalf of service-disabled veterans and veteran-owned small businesses. Elite is now in 42 states and Puerto Rico. With chapters continuing to form across the nation, the Elite SDVOB Network has attracted the participation of thousands of companies whose collective voice is gaining attention throughout the federal procurement space.
Some of the this year’s Elite convention topics include:
“Mining Data for Opportunities and Partnerships” – Gloria Berthold, President of Marketing Outsource Associates, which created TargetGov and the Government Buyers Guide
“Doing Business with Large Prime Contractors” – Orysia Bunchan, Lockheed Martin Supplier Diversity Program Manager
“Simplifying Social Media for Successful Businesses” – Michele Rempel, Social Media Trainer and Consultant, and founder of Mediavine Marketing
“Working with the Dept. of Homeland Security” and “Govt Contracting 101” – Dan F. Sturdivant II, Assistant to the Director, Outreach Programs, Department of Homeland Security, Offi ce of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization
“Understanding Request for Proposals” – Joan Fulkerson, Director of Small Business Programs and Contracting Officer at United States Air Force & Department of Defense
“How to Become a Strategic Supplier to the Federal Government” – Richard Hernandez, Certified Professional Contracts Manager and founder of E-MBE.net
“It’s Just a Blue Pen- Keeping Your Business in Perspective” – Jason Meszaros, founder of It’s Just a Blue Pen Academy and the award winning author of Interrogation of Morals
This year, attendees can choose to regsiter for the entire convention or pay a reduced rate to attend any of the workshops, trade show and lunch on July 21st. If you’re a business owner, you’ll find a wealth of information to help you succeed.
For more information on the conference and to register:
Since December of last year, LinkedIn has added some new features that users can add to enhance their profiles, such as Skills, Certifications, Publications and Languages. LinkedIn did not heavily advertise the launch of these new features, so if you haven’t edited your profile in a while, you may not have noticed them.
We recommend that you add as many applicable sections to your profile as you can in order to give more valuable information to other users -as well as make your profile even more searchable, which is critical.
How do I add sections to my profile?
Adding sections to your LinkedIn profile is simple. Just click on the “Edit Profile” tab and look under the blue box where all of your vital information is displayed. Under the right side of the box you will find an “Add Sections” link. Click on that link and you will be taken to a screen where you can choose which sections and applications you would like to add.
Once you click on the section you would like to add, you will be able to enter in the applicable information. After you add a section, it won’t show up on the “Add Sections” page again; however, you will be able to edit the section from your “Edit Profile” page. The most beneficial section to add is Skills.
There is already a Specialities section. Why do I need a Skills section?
Specialities are searchable on LinkedIn’s Advanced Search, but Skills are searchable via the new LinkedIn feature also called Skills, located under the “More” tab (we’ll write more about this cool feature in a future post). Add in as many of your skills as you can. Since you have the ability to include your proficiency level and years of experience as well, you can enhance your profile with a new layer of credibility and keywords.
Can I reorganize my profile so that my new Skills section is more visible?
Yes. LinkedIn has made it easy for you to move your sections around. On your “Edit Profile” page, click on the plus sign to the left of the section name, then drag the tab up or down to wherever you want. It may still be best to keep the Summary section first, since that’s what most people expect to see, but it might not be a bad idea to mix things up. Individuals who are looking for a new job may organize their sections differently from those who are searching for new clients.
For a business to succeed in today’s age of technology, using what social media has to offer is one of the best things you can do. Of course, there are several obejctions that businesses give for why they aren’t using social media, but there are even more reasons why they should.
“Facebook and Twitter can’t really help my business.”
It can and will help your business. For many years, businesses relied solely on word-of-mouth. Most businesses were stuck using direct mail, the radio and print ads and they often couldn’t use much traditional marketing because it was too costly. When the internet came along, consumers were able find out about your company from the comfort of their own homes. However, people were only able to view what you displayed on your web page. Now, as technology has progressed, you and your customers are able to do more through social media. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter let people learn about you from others, connect in open conversations with you and find out what other people are saying. People can contribute to discussions where people can now humanize you, your associates, and your business as a whole. Relationship are built online and made stronger through social media.
“People will post negative comments about my business on my page.”
If people are posting negative comments about your business on your Facebook page, then they are posting negative comments elsewhere on the web. If you can actually read what they are writing about you, at least you have a chance to respond. You have the chance to give the person a reason to reconsider their opinion. If that doesn’t work, at least you will show others that you respond, care, and want to meet people’s needs. If you have several negative postings on your page, then this can also be positive. It tells you that you need to improve something, such as customer service. Take those comments and do something about them. You can then post to Facebook and Twitter that you acknowledged their concerns and have fixed them. Negativity by word-of-mouth was a lot worse. Businesses failed because of it. Today, however, because everything is instant, you can fix any issues or concerns immediately.
“I don’t know what to post on Facebook or Twitter.”
Here is a good thing to remember: 80% of the information should be helpful and informative, and 20% should be promotion. This means that 80% of your posts or tweets should be giving information such as fun facts about your type of business, helpful tips and hints, personal information on management or employees or any other interesting information. The other 20% is reserved for promoting your services. Start posting now and grow as social media grows. Your business should be using social media on a daily basis. Practice using Facebook and Twitter, learn from what your customers are saying and keep on going. It might be difficult at first, especially if you are uncomfortable with computers, but when you start seeing the results of what you have done, you’ll wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
It’s no secret that social media isn’t free. Even though Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other platforms don’t charge users to open accounts or place fees on monthly data usage, it still costs your company to participate in social media in the form of resources (people) and time. If your business is small, then chances are that answering tweets, making status updates, and commenting on industry blogs is something you juggle with your “real,” revenue-generating work. That means any time siphoned off from the customer-facing parts of your work is an opportunity cost.
Are you getting the most out of your investment?
Before you go and delete all of your social media accounts and rue the day you finally figured out how to use Twitter, cheer up. The savvy marketer can use social media to actually get ahead in business, too. The key is knowing what really matters to your business and moves the revenue needle.
A few ways social media saves or earns business:
Earn credibility. To write this post, I took a quick poll of Twitter users to find out how social media had benefitted their business. One person (a Realtor) responded, saying (paraphrased) “Getting to know someone on Twitter is a low-risk way for a prospect to get comfortable with me and build confidence before committing to professional services.” For the Realtor, using Twitter and monitoring target key phrases (like “new house” and “selling house”) lets her connect with qualified prospects in her area. She then gives them simple advice or points them to useful resources, and in doing so demonstrates the kind of helpfulness that lowers barriers to customer acquisition.
Future proofing. Some companies may conclude that social media isn’t a core part of their marketing strategy, but want to have a respectable presence. These days, a restaurant without a Facebook page or Foursquare account could be missing out on some valuable customer feedback. It may pay dividends to maintain a consistent, low-fidelity level of activity (status updates, polls, photos, etc.) while determining just how active and interested your target customers may be. Then you can ramp up (and allocate resources) or down accordingly.
Build goodwill. If you use Twitter or Facebook to discover customer inquiries or complaints online, you have the opportunity to let those 1-to-1 discussions affect 1-to-many. Forget your natural inclination to take a minor complaint or concern offline (hidden). Address it truthfully, with as much humility and good nature as possible right there in the open. In many cases, your very “human-like” approach can dismantle the tension to turn a complainer into an advocate. The good thing about advocates? They readily recommend you to their friends.
In what ways has social media saved or earned you business?
St. Patrick’s Day is March 17, a day rejoiced by those claiming Irish heritage. It’s certainly celebrated by all citizens as a day of lighthearted fun (think: the Chicago River dyed green). Plus there’s the touch of whimsy represented by the display of iconic rainbows, clovers, pots of gold and red-bearded men wearing shamrock-green suits. I’d say the holiday’s timing is about perfect; out with the dreary winter and in with the fresh breath of spring.
Why not entice the little Leprechaun to share some of his good fortune with your small business? This year, let there be green in your pocket as well as on your shirt (no pinching!) with the help of social networking on LinkedIn. Grab some of the grand prize (new customers!) for yourself in the form of business development when you use LinkedIn’s rich features.
1. Company pages are free digital billboards. They allow you to share descriptive information about your company, your operating philosophy, special certifications and much more. Write this text with SEO in mind. In other words, if you offer IT consulting and network planning/installation, you’ll want to include several phrases within the text to appeal to various ways users may label or define what you do. Terms like “IT outsourcing,” “small business networking,” and others may help others relate to you.
2. Showcase your smarts. Company pages allow you to pump in a feed from your blog. If you regularly write good material related to issues in your industry, trends, problem-solving tips, etc., be sure to merchandise it on your LinkedIn company page as well. You never know just how a prospect might discover your business, so reward them right away with something helpful and interesting.
3. Promote your services or products. LinkedIn company pages allow you to set up categories of services or products and include detailed descriptions. This can define what you do into more granular levels. Don’t be afraid to get specific. Using the IT consulting example above, you might categorize your services into Consulting, Planning, Installation, and Maintenance categories. Within each category you can describe precisely what a new client might expect to receive for his investment.
4. Bonus! Get your business publicly endorsed! After you set up your services or products, customers have the opportunity to log in to their LinkedIn account and add endorsements about your company. Someone can write about how easy it was to do business with you, how you made a complex problem simple to manage, your fair pricing, the courtesy of your employees, and anything else. These endorsements are on your company profile 24/7 meaning they help sell your business with real customer stories even when you’re sleeping!
Other ways LinkedIn company pages help: when employees list your company as their employer, their profiles populate another tab on the company page. Prospects can see who your employees are and get to know them a bit online before they ever send an email or pick up the phone.
How will you know if the 2 hours you spent setting up the page is working? Well, LinkedIn has you covered there, too, with some analytics depicting page views and visitors. More robust reporting should be available through your web site analytics package.