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When New York Times recognized LinkedIn expert Kristina Jaramillo invited me on her B2B Marketing Radio Show, I was thrilled.

She wanted to talk about my book: “42 Rules for B2B Social Media Marketing” (co-authored with Peter Spielvogel and Michael Procopio).

  Kristina Jaramillo's B2B Marketing Interview with Natascha Thomson

The conversations included the following topics:

  1. Learn how you should be integrating social media with your marketing activities
  2. Uncovers ways to avoid falling into the trap of jumping into a new social channel without having a plan
  3. Learn the social content creation mistakes organizations are making
  4. Listen to a discussion and debate on curation
  5. Discover the right way to converse and engage with B2B audiences on social media

You can listen to the radio show recording here.

The top 10 Questions and Answers from the show:

1.     Rule #3 is to understand that B2B social media is different. Why?

The main differences B2B vs. B2C social media marketing comes back to the target audience and the offering.

In B2B:

  • The price for an offering is generally higher than in B2C, hence the stakes are higher. Remember the line “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM?”, that’s because there is high risk in B2B purchases due to the potential deal size and the problem that the offering might solve
  • There are more stakeholder involved, in different functions and on different levels. This makes the sales cycle more complex and longer.
  • Consequently, you can’t run the same Facebook promotion for a B2B as you could for B2C.  You need to reach the influencers and decision makers in the different stages of the buying cycle with the right message.
  • And you need to use the channels where these people are, e.g. B2B audiences are more likely to be reached on LI than FB.

2.     Rule #4 is start with your audience – can you explain why you mean and why?

In my consulting practice, there is a common scenario: A company - it does not matter if they are small or large - wants to leverage social media, so they open accounts on FB, LI & Twitter. They have heard that these are the most popular platforms.  Then they bring me in, as they don’t see the results of their investment. What is the problem?

  • Often, there has been no research done on the target audience. It takes a lot of work to determine and prioritize a target audience, and to understand them well.
  • Only when you know WHO you are talking to, e.g. what their roles and titles are and what types of challenges they deal with can you effectively market to them.
  • In step one; you need enough information about your audience to figure out WHERE on social media they participate. Where do they get information? Where do they engage (if they do)? These are just the basics.

Bottom line: if the people you are trying to reach are not on Facebook, or not talking business on Facebook, you should invest your resources in places that make more sense.  A lot of the time, people don’t make the effort to look for niche networks that might hold their audience, e.g. a community around a particular topic, like Spiceworks for IT. Or they neglect Quora or dismiss Google+.

3.     How can we avoid falling into the trap of jumping into a new social channel without having a plan?

It’s simple: have a plan.  Seriously, start from the top down. Ask yourself what you are trying to achieve.

  • What are your business goals and priorities?
  • How do you measure success?
  • How can marketing supports these goals?
  • With or without social media?
  • Who is your target audience? Or audiences? Prioritize.
  • Create a strategy with tactics that support your marketing goals.

Then measure, fine-tune, and experiment.

4.     Rule #6 is to integrate social media into your marketing plan – please share with the audience how some of your clients have integrated social media into their marketing plan following your guidance.

Example 1:

  • A small Silicon Valley start up hired me to do their social media marketing. Turns out, they have done no marketing to date.

Approach: Analyze their situation and create a strategy.

  • Don’t assume social is the solution but take into account the individual situation of this client: Their goals (one new client or 10,000?), their audience (local or global? Small or large enterprise?), their resources (people, time money), their skills and affinities, their dreams, their infrastructure.
  • What they can do know – low hanging fruit and quick win – and what they can develop long terms; it takes a long time to gain a blog following or build a strong Twitter following.
  • Pick the marketing tactics most applicable, ideally integrating social media with the rest of the marketing plan. Make sure there are social sharing buttons on the website and in each email. Create blog posts on your site that can be tweeted. Create content with social media in mind, not as an after thought. Use your content to answer questions on LinkedIn etc. etc.

Example 2:

  • For large companies, it’s the challenge of not running a social media campaign in isolation. This can be an organizational challenge in a Global 2000. Say you run a Twitter campaign for a product but can’t get product marketing to give you access to SMEs. It’s difficult to be successful on LinkedIn if you don’t have a person who can personally connect and be a thought leader. Don’t fall victim to the impostor syndrome; you can’t outsource everything.

5.     Rule #7 is to be consistent – can you explain how b2b organizations (and if you can provide real examples) are being inconsistent with their social media efforts

I don’t think it would be good for my business if I pointed the finger at any particular company. The inconsistency often expresses itself in small things.

  • Social media profiles: make sure your LI, FB, Twitter, Slideshare, Quora etc. profile send a consistent message. This is the 101 of branding. Don’t confuse people.
  • Choose your focus area. If you tell people you’ll talk about Business Intelligence on Twitter and then you engage in political discussions, chances are, you’ll lose a large part of your audience. Be consistent in your promises and what you deliver.
  • The main point here is that your brand and content have to be consistent so you don’t confuse your audience. They will only catch bits of what you say here and there and it needs to fit together to a nice puzzle.

Example: When McDonalds ran a campaign on how healthy their food is now, it totally backfired. Their public image for fast food and the attempt by marketing to make McDonald’s sound healthy could not be reconciled. They were ambushed on Twitter.

6.     Kristina: Talking about social media content creation, too many organizations especially in the technology sector have content that is driven by product features and benefits. Can you explain the importance of creating stories which is rule #8 and why we should forget marketing speak which is rule #9?

Taking the risk to sound like a broken record, it all comes back to the target audience.

  • You have to do your homework and get to know your audience in as much detail as possible. Only then can you create valuable content.
  • Yes, you can entertain, and yes, you can take advantage of the latest video creating app or other gimmick, but, in the long run, and especially in B2B, people want to value.
  • This means, you have to clearly understand what keeps your audience awake at night; their pain points and what their ideal solution looks like. Where are their information gaps?
  • Then, you need to provide this content to the right audience at the right time; which admittedly is not trivial. Hence, I always advise my clients to start small and build up.
  • But, nobody can get around doing their homework, and I have lost customers who did not want to do that. They’d say: “Can’t we just do social media promotions?” They don’t understand that you have to have something important to say or you go under, or worse, get punished.

7.     Rule #12 is to add gamification to your social content creation efforts – can you share a client example?

I have not, personally, implemented gamification for a client. But, when I worked for SAP Community Network, a community with 3 million members, gamification was one of the key ways to motivate our members to participate.

  • It can be as simple as adding ratings to blog posts
  • Giving points to contributors or badges
  • Or as sophisticated as creating an influencer program in which top contributors get access to executives or conferences.

The key for gamification is to be clear on what you want your audience to do and to incent that particular behavior; this can be harder than it sounds, but vendors like BadgeVille are experts at this.  People always say how sales people are coin operated, that’s because the goals they are given are monetary. What do you want your community to do?

8.     Rule #13 is to leverage user generated content – can you share with us a B2B organization that is leveraging user generated content and how they are benefitting

This is 100% related to the last question about gamification. How do you incent users to generate content for you?  In addition to the above, a company could host contents.

  • For example, at SAP, we had a yearly video contest that culminated in an awards ceremony at the technical user conference TechEd. Any community member could create a video about why they were a community member or really anything they wanted to share in this context. It was a very engaged discussion; funny, and the in-person aspect at the live event made the group even more cohesive.

Another example is Cisco:

  • They allow every employee in the company to blog. As we all know, having fresh content and regular content updates helps with SEO. At Cisco, an employee simply has to get certified in an online training session, and then they can contribute their expertise to the public company blog.
  • It gives employees the opportunity to become thought leaders and makes the company more human; people share in a way that is more accessible than marketing speak often is.

9.     Rule #14 is to curate content. Kristine: I do not advise just taking content and putting it on your website or blog and creating discussions around it. Please share with the audience why you think they should be content curating to reduce workload.

I fully agree. What is the point in that? I call that spam and a lot of Twitter is going that way right now. I hope it won’t bring down the future of Twitter.  When does it make sense to curate?

Scenario 1:

  • You work for EMC and are responsible for the Twitter channel. You are not an SME on everything, plus, it’s impossible for you to create enough content to make the channel compelling. You reach out to other people and organizations in the company to curate content from them.

Scenario 2:

  • I manage a Twitter handle for a Global 2000 client, with a focus on Innovation in Silicon Valley. Every day, I read tons of content on the topic and retweet relevant articles with commentary.
  • I tweet about the work the client is doing with their local non-profit partners in Silicon Valley; charity events; fund-raisers; innovation events; shows and events in the area that are relevant.

There is a good following and decent level of interaction that makes me believe there is an interest in this type of content. The goal: to get the attention for the client in Silicon Valley via thought leadership and useful information; plus, the opportunity to engage with us.

10.  I’d like to give our listeners an inside look at how we position ourselves as thought leaders on B2B social media networks.

  • Providing relevant content.
  • Answering questions.
  • Building relationships.

Click here to listen to the full B2B Marketing Radio Show recording.