Analysis of Top 7 Social Media Channels for B2B

I was invited to speak at the Social Media Intelligence 2012 conference put on by the Altamont group. This is my third time speaking at this event and it’s always a rewarding experience.

Here’s a copy of my preso.

One area I often think about in Social Media Marketing is how to use each social media channel to its fullest potential. All of our resources are constrained and social media channels have a relentless hunger for content updates and time. In your social media strategy plan, it’s critical to pick the channels that are most appropriate for your audience and your communication objectives.

In the B2B space especially, not all social media channels are suitable for the type of content we publish. For example, I’ve seen B2B technology marketers post their IT whitepapers on Pinterest – a channel which features beautiful photography and reaches mostly a female consumer audience. Can you do it for extra syndication? Sure, it’s free, why not? But, it’s actually not free. It took 5 minutes of someone’s time to post it. Multiply that by the number of content pieces and the number of channels and it adds up fast. So, it’s critical to understand which channels your audiences use and how they use them.

The most useful discussion on this topic was from Dorothea Bozicolona-Volpe, Social Espionage. Below, I’ve captured some of Dorothea’s presentation and added my own colored commentary based on my own experience in social media marketing.

Top 7 Social Media Channels

 Google +

Strength: Great opportunity for follower growth, segmentation starting, creating nuanced messaging, highly search engine optimized.

Weakness (IMHO): Make sure your audience is there. There’s been a lot of hype about G+, but make sure you don’t spread yourself too thin, especially if you only have a few SoMe folks on your team. Test and compare it to your Facebook presence.

LinkedIn

Strengths: Huge audience, 161M people, 2 new members every second, Members did nearly 4.2 billion searches on the platform. There’s a lot of targeted advertising opportunities which can be highly successful. Ideal for Job openings, big announcements (at the company level). Extremely useful for appending information to your contact database.

Weakness (IMHO): Advertising opportunities are available on LinkedIn, but social media opportunities (earned) are elusive for marketers. I.e., it’s a private network; people have complete control over your ability to reach out them. Try creating a “Group” as a way to get started.

Twitter

Strengths: Also huge audience, 500 million active users, 340 M tweets daily, 55% of all Twitter users user the service to share links to new stories, 53% retweet, 182% Increase in number of mobile users, 34% of marketers have generated leads using Twitter, 20% have closed deals.

From personal experience, Twitter is a fantastic way to promote, amplify and syndicate other content such as blogs as well as build an audience. Great way to reach an audience fast.

  • Scott Monty, example of an executive who loves social media and understands the brand
    • @scottmonty

Weaknesses (IMHO): Lots of spam, sales folks and other marketers following your account which doesn’t really count as audience reach. Difficult to segment, you don’t have a lot of information about who is actually following you.

Pinterest

Strengths: Enormous growth, 1.36M daily users – grew 4733% since May 2011, 3rd most popular, April 2012 Board “Covers” were launched. If your audience is female, Pinterest is the place to be. Great opportunity if your products have a visual appeal.

Weaknesses (IMHO): Not ideal if your audience is male and /or you have non-visual products. I’ve seen marketers post whitepapers on Pinterest, but it seems a bit out of place. Consider Slideshare (the anti-Pinterest) for this.

YouTube

Strengths: 106.7M UVM – over 3B hours uploaded, 60+ hours of new videos are uploaded to the site every minute, 70% of YT traffic outside US, more than 1 trillion views in 2011. THE place to be if you have video content. Good data on metrics (thanks Google).

Weaknesses (IMHO): If you’ve got video content, it’s ideal. But don’t try to pin your hopes on creating a “viral” video. I’ve tried viral videos in the past when it was trendy. It’s really hit or miss and has the potential of going WAY off if your brand doesn’t naturally lend itself to the stuff that people like on YouTube (funny, raunchy, or entertaining). Just do what you do and make it useful.

Facebook

Strengths: Huge reach 955 M monthly active users in June. Over ½ of these users are active on a daily basis. (based on TechCrunch, 2012 stats), Facebook is ideal for engaging directly with your audience, allowing them to share their experiences, content. There is a wide range of applications including contests, customer service, and promotions. Facebook also offers strong advertising opportunities and targeting (as you may have heard in the news).

Intuit does a nice job on their Facebook page for quick books. It’s a combination of product updates, helpful tips and Q&A. They’re very responsive to customer questions as well.

http://www.facebook.com/IntuitQuickBooks

Weaknesses: In the B2B space, you may have audiences that are not inclined to share their activities (eg Governments, financial services). Therefore, isn’t ideal for every B2B use case.

Slideshare

Although this was not covered in Dorothea’s talk, I thought I’d throw it in because it’s highly effective for B2B.

Strengths: In B2B, many companies think in PowerPoint presentations. SlideShare has proven itself not only as a home for your slideware, but an effective way to drive leads.

  • You can “gate” your content so that people need to register to download your slides, thus driving leads.
  • Great way to syndicate your customer presentations.
  • In SlideShare, you can also do a voice over and slideshow mode.

Here are some more stats from Slideshare courtesy of TechCrunch.

  • Women use fewer slides on average (22 per slideshow) than men (26).
  • Popular presentations contain more images (37, on average) than other presentations (which contain 21).
  • The most popular tech companies mentioned in presentations are Facebook (39.9%), Twitter (28.6%), Google (19.1%), Microsoft (5.7%), and Apple (3.8%)
  • Only 1.7% of all presentations are done in Apple’s Keynote software, but Keynote makes up 8.2% of the most popular presentations.
  • The Japanese and Chinese use more slides on average than slideshows in any other language.

Source: “TechCrunch Readers Love Slides (And Other Stats From SlideShare)”, January 17, 2012

Weaknesses: I can’t think of any. Send me comments if you have ideas of Weaknesses.

Social media can be such a huge time investment, it’s critical that you carefully evaluate and measure effectiveness of each of these channels for your business before spreading yourself too thin.

What’s worked for you? Tell me what you think.

  • Share/Bookmark

Web 2.0 Summit Roundup

Vic Gundotra and Google CEO Sergey Brin interviewed by John Battelle at Web 2.0 Summit. Credit: CNet.

I was lucky enough to attend The 2011 Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this year. This is not one of those pay-to-speak conferences in which we hear from sales reps all day. This is a who’s-who of social media. Sergey Brin, Michael Dell, Steve Ballmer, Mike McCue, Flipboard’s founder, Mary Meeker — They were all there expounding the state of the industry and predicting its direction.

The theme of the conference this year was “dataframing,” in other words everything is about data – what we mine, what we learn, what we ignore, separating the signal from the noise.

Beyond being awed by the quality and intelligence of John Battelle’s guests and their amazing technologies, I thought the most useful nuggets come during Mary Meeker’s presentation. When she got up to the stage she proceeded to machine-gun spray the audience with facts and figures so fast that the Tweeters commented they couldn’t keep up. Here are some of the key insights from her study:

  • The mega-trend of this century is that people are being empowered by mobile devices.
    • 85% percent of the world’s population has mobile coverage
    • Yet only 80 percent is on an electrical grid.
  • Social Media and the Internet are not at all just a US phenom. 81% of Internet users are outside the U.S.
  • Social media in the U.S. in terms of time spent per user is lower than others. Israel and Argentina top the chart.
  • 24% of trade is cross-geography, compared to 10 percent in 1960s.
  • We are seeing two technological breakouts, the growth of the Internet, and the mobile Internet. The growth comes despite a recession which is significant because it underscores how important the movement is.
  • The Android market is growing faster than the iPhone market
  • Mobile shopping and online commerce is changing the dynamics of consumer commerce. New applications such as Flipboard are making it possible for shoppers to get a high quality experience online.
  • Meeker was bullish on Web advertising.

My big take aways

  • Too much data, not enough intelligence: many of the new technologies being launched and in the future had to do with making sense of it all, automating, allowing scale
    • Google analytics launches new visualization graphics feature based on Sankey data flow
    • Bit.ly demonstrated how they can use patterns of activity and interest from people clicking on shortened URLs to derive intelligence about trends
    • 23andMe a genetic data analytics company is driving consumerization of genetic mapping by offering a subscription to analyze your genes
  • Big egos, big players trying to shape the industry:
    • Google+ vs Facebook
      • Google’s already past 40 million users. Some such as Napster founder Sean Parker feel that Facebook’s “Network Effect” of 800 million users is beyond reach. Other’s (like Sergey Brin), think Google+’s simple functionality and lighting fast growth rate will win.
    • Microsoft vs Google
      • Interesting that Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer still has the same desktop/app/client point of view. Everything will somehow flow through some sort of community. Vague answers about social media.
    • Visa vs. Amex
      • I had no idea what differentiated these guys, but they both agreed that data mining/analytics is a big deal.
  • Mobile devices and apps are rapidly changing the way we interact with the environment, social media and each other. Check out this Pew Research Study:
    • 28% of cell owners use phones to get directions or recommendations based on their current location—that works out to 23% of all adults.
    • A much smaller number (5% of cell owners, equaling 4% of all adults) use their phones to check in to locations using geosocial services such as Foursquare or Gowalla. Smartphone owners are especially likely to use these services on their phones.
    • 9% of internet users set up social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn so that their location is automatically included in their posts on those services. That works out to 7% of all adults.

How does all this relate to B2B? I believe that all of our B2B customers live in the same world and will come to expect the same functionality from their work environment, from sales people, from marketers.

Coolest technologies launched or announced.

Storify 

Storify empowers users to combine social media, traditional media, and their own text on a powerful storytelling platform. It makes it easy to post a blog around big events where lots of Tweets and Social Media content is being produced. 

I had dinner with Xavier Damman, the Belgian founder. I wish him the best of luck and can’t wait to try his technology. 

Flipboard 

If you’ve got an iPad, then you probably know this one. Flipboard, CEO Mike McCue talked about how we’ve “engineered the soul out of the car” comparing a beautifully sculpted 1950′s Jaguar with a new Honda electric car. Mike is determined to put the soul back in our content consumption with this well-designed iPad app. 

23andMe 

This service perfectly fit into the theme of the DataFrame. For only $399, you can subscribe to have your DNA analyzed and get alerts on discoveries made about your DNA over time. 23andMe also provides free testing without subscriptions fees to individuals that qualify for certain research initiatives such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Sarcoma, Myeloproliferative Neoplasms, 

A bit creepy IMHO, but nonetheless amazing. 

Oink (wonder how much he paid for the URL) 

Kevin Rose,formerly of Digg, started a company called Milk to work on a series of small projects. Their first release is an app called Oink. Think of Google “Places” or Yelp. Those only rate actual places. But what if you wanted to rate “things” like your favorite cup of coffee in SF, or your favorite Ferris wheel. There you go. (Kevin didn’t get the Milk URL) 

Foursquare announces location-based coupons 

Foursquare allows people to use their smartphones to interact with their environment and other users. If you’ve got a smartphone, you got to try this. 

At the conference, they announced a new feature called “Radar” which notifies you when you come in proximity with something that’s on your “to-do” list or perhaps a retail coupon offer. For example, if you enter Walmart, it could start ringing or vibrating as you approach certain items. (Again, slightly creepy IMHO.) 

According to Wikipedia, the company had 10 million registered users in June 2011, 750 million check-ins, with an average of about 3 million check-ins per day. 

Best Quote 

When Steve Ballmer responded to not buying Yahoo for $44 million… 

“Times change”, the CEO said. “You ask any CEO who didn’t buy something big before the market crashed [in 2008, they'll probably say], ‘Hallelujah!’”. But, in a twist of fate, the U.S. economy dipped into one of the biggest recessions in history in 2008, and had Yahoo accepted Microsoft’s terms, perhaps ironically, the deal would have been settled right around the time that Lehman collapsed, he said. 

“Sometimes you are lucky”, Ballmer admitted, grinning. 

Biggest Surprise - M.C. Hammer Gets Into Search 

Back from selling records and ca$h4gold, MC Hammer takes on Google and Yahoo! single-handedly. He’s working a new search engine they call WireDoo, which performs “deep search” or “relationship search,”  

“The engine crawls and the algorithm is designed in a way to get all of the related information to your query and then package it consistently in one environment,” Hammer said. “Kind of thinking, right? The way you would think. If it’s a car … it’s not just about the word ‘car,’ but it’s about insurance, it’s about the specs, it’s about mileage, it’s about style, it’s about all these things. So that’s the way it works.” 

I guess…

  • Share/Bookmark

Web 2.0, It’s About Cloud Computing, Now Buy Our Stuff

Last week, I went to Web 2.0, a conference in San Francisco at the Moscone Center looking for B2B stories. The last time I went in 2007, I was hoping to find some B2B case studies of which I found none. It was filled with companies all promising to be the next YouTube. All their names had x’s and z’s in them. This year, the exhibitors seemed much more grounded and the mood much more muted.

Outside Web 2.0 at Moscone Center, San Francisco

I found three general categories of exhibitors:

  1. The blue chips: HP, Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, Adobe.
  2. The Web 2.0 platform suit vendors: Blue Kiwi Software, Tableau,  Opera Software
  3. The cloud plays: DAAS.com (datacenter as a service) specializes in ready to go Cloud Computing products. Clustrix - a brand new highly scalable database appliance.

In 2007, there were many more see-what-sticks consumer ideas, video on demand, parking space finders, widget download companies. This year, Cloud Computing was the magic word. I was impressed at how far the Web 2.0 space has developed. It seemed as though the recession cleaned out some of the never-gonna-make-it businesses (or at least limited their event sponsorship budget).

So what B2B stories did I find?

I got the pitch from the person in the Cisco booth, let’s call him Jim. This is how Jim’s story went:

  • Have you you ever heard of the human network? We’re enabling people to connect with each other in faster ways.
  • We believe that Cloud Computing will enable more possibilities for these connections.
  • Our routers, switches, and now this new blade server here (points to server) provide the backbone for businesses to create a Cloud infrastructure.

Being a marketing person myself, I felt that if I closed my eyes I could visualize the different departments’ and organizations’ messaging paragraphs as Jim told me the Cisco story… The first about about the human network comes from corporate, the Cloud comes from the worldwide marketing team and the last section comes from the product manager. The transition between the Cloud Computing story and the point about the blade server was so jarring, Jim seemd to have trouble connecting the two.

Just to show that I’m an equal opportunity critic, the HP story at Web 2.0 also went from Cloud Computing very quickly to the gear that we had on display at the conference. With hardware products, it’s often difficult for marketers to get from the customer problem and solution, to why they should by our gear. Since I’ve been working in HP Enterprise Services (formerly EDS), I find that they are very good at understanding the customer point of view, as mentioned in previous blog posts. Maybe a mashup or the two approaches could yield an effective story which combines the relevant points for the customer with the value proposition of the gear.

What is your experience?

  • Share/Bookmark

Getting your executives onboard with blogging

At a recent event in San Francisco, I spoke with a CMO from Telco manufacturer in Texas who was wrestling with a common problem: he’s the only one in his firm who thinks social media has potential as an effective communication channel. His peers look at him like he’s nuts when he says he writes a blog. I’d like to share some of my experience from HP “outting” content experts and executives into social media.

At HP, we are making significant investments in trying to get everyone – all of our content experts – to dive into social media. For an executive or content expert, the most logical place to kick off his or her debut is through a blog. From my experience, about half the time, an executive blog starts off with great enthusiasm. Everyone’s delighted to bring their executive in the 21st Century. However, after a few entries, the exec runs out of time or patience. Don’t let this happen to your executive!

With only so many hours in the day, the most common concern is “Where am I going to find the extra time? What’s the ROI? Will it sell more product?” These are all great questions which don’t have easy answers. It really depends on the executive, the company culture, and the communication objectives of the company. Here’s an easy litmus test to determine whether you or an executive should start a blog. Choose the question that best fits your situation, then write down the number on a piece of paper.

Company Environment

  • Is your company a startup eager for PR and Buzz? (2) 
  • Do you work at a larger organization with a sizeable marketing budget (1)
  • Do you work at a company that handles highly confidential or regulated information (0)

Executive Patience Level

  • Does your executive have a strong point of view or a passion about his or her business? (2)
  • Is your executive somewhat interested in social media, but have very limited time? (1)
  • Does your executive have little interest in blogging (0)

Communication Objectives

  • Is it very important to be perceived as a thought leader or have differentiated products? (2)
  • Is awareness an important communication goal? (1)
  • Is every ounce of communication resource focused on driving sales? (0)

Executive Availability

  • Is the executive able to spend 1 hour a week on blogging? (2)
  • Will the executive only participate if he/she has a ghost writer? (0)

Add up your score…

Score 6 – 8: you’ve got a shot. Give it a try.
Score 4 – 5: Perhaps your exec can write a guest blog entry on a prominent team blog rather than starting his/her own.
Score 0 – 3: don’t bother.

I would not set expectations about expected results at the beginning. Some executives are able to have amazing successes with their blog, some flop. Don’t set yourself up for failure.

Please post your thoughts and comments.

Alex

  • Share/Bookmark