Top three takeaways for B2B social media

The Explore Minneapolis conference was a B2B social media confab.

I along with several colleagues from Fusionfarm, an advertising and marketing agency in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, recently took a trek up north to Explore Minneapolis, a B2B social media confab.

Since I’m relatively new to the social media for business game, at least from a professional standpoint, I want to share some of my top takeaways.

It all starts with content marketing

Leave it to the owner of a fiberglass pool company to sum up content strategy and content marketing into as few words as possible.

“They ask. You answer,” says Marcus Sheridan, who also is the author of the free eBook Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy.

His basic philosophy on content marketing boils down to this: Take every question you ever get from a potential client and turn it into a blog post or article on your site. It’s OK to talk about your problems and always address pricing. Don’t let a visitor leave your website without the critical information they need, Sheridan said.

The reasoning is simple. Clients are no longer making the decision about spending money with your business when you meet them in the conference room. They’ve decided long before that based on the information they’ve discovered.

Sheridan has it broken down for his pool business. If a potential customer visits at least 30 pages on his website, he has an 82 percent chance of converting that person into a sale.

How many businesses know that number for themselves?

Audit and adapt often

“Always be optimizing and auditing,” says Jolina Pettice.

“Always be optimizing” was the quote from Jolina Pettice, the director of client accounts for TopRank Online Marketing.

Social media is 24/7, and so are your potential customers.Today’s marketers are not like the Don Drapers of the world where everything was about the creative. Today, marketing is about technology, social media, writing, websites, mobile sites, etc., and figuring out the best way to monitor and optimize those for leads.

Setting goals is a given in any campaign, whether its your own or for a client. Analyzing and adapting to what you learn can set you apart. It’s called follow-through.

Pettice, in her talk in Minneapolis, emphasized the importance of the campaign audit. Tweaks to code, calls to action and keyword terms based on what’s working. Changing content techniques based on referrals to targeted pages. Discovering what is most shared across social channels.

“A marketers job is never done,” she said.

Measure ROI consistently and know how to communicate it

A study cited at the Explore Minneapolis event says that 73 percent of executives think marketers don’t understand business objectives.

“If you want to explain your job and get more in your budget to do it, then speak ROI in executive language,” said Nichole Kelly, who I am paraphrasing. Kelly is the President of SME Digital.

To take that further, Kelly emphasized the need to know your audience and how to effectively communicate ROI to it. Executives, for example, care about sales volume, revenue and cost. Others have a different view. Cater the message since the landscape of understand social media is so varied.

We know social media is a tool for businesses to grow. Tailor the RIO message so its best heard accurately.

Links & Resources

On reaching critical mass

Great quote from Dalton Caldwell.

Social networking tech press reminds me of The Three Stooges. Pretty much every day we get to read about Moe, Larry, & Curly poking and slapping each other with growth & engagement metrics. It’s entertaining, but the entire discourse is centered on who among them can build the most profitable-seeming vanity metrics from the perspective of Wall Street and advertisers.

Critical mass vs network effects

Online communities need software and people

I’m a firm believer that you can’t teach social behavior. You either participate and are active in that aspect of society or you’re not. Software can provide the tools and break down barriers, but it’s never enough.

I’m amazed at the number of times reporters at media companies use the same sources or cover town meeting the same way they have for years. Being a part of a highly engaged  and active community is a personal choice and requires living, working and playing in different ways with new behaviors.

Every workday is going to end with an hour of learning… reading Kawasaki and Godin and Ries and Trout, talking with invited experts, meeting with members of the community about what worked and what didn’t worked. Everyone who joins the program (and survives for a year) will come out with an almost supernatural ability to take a dead, lifeless site on the internet and make it into the hottest bar in town. That’s a skill worth learning for the 21st century.

Modern community building – Joel Spolsky

Modern community building -Fred Wilson

A local, social-first approach to the bin Laden story

I’m still a bit out of it from a lack of sleep but it’s worth sharing a few notes about a local, digital approach to covering the announcement that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces on Sunday.

I had a unique perspective since Sundays are the day I’m responsible directly for online content updates – which feed mobile – user submissions and the conversations that occur on social channels for brands associated with a local newspaper and television station.

I first learned that President Barack Obama would give a major national security address via Twitter shortly after watching the Tampa Bay Lighting defeated the Washington Capitals in overtime, 3-2. (As a Penguins fan who knew the night was going to get any better).

I turned on CNN and the first thing Wolf Blitzer said was that the announcement would not be on Libya. My gut reaction was bin Laden is dead, which makes it a relevant story for just about every American, and that was soon confirmed.

My first thoughts from a local news perspective likely aren’t surprising. Information is spread on social networks faster and with more emotion than any news site. Some go as far as calling it a people-first approach.

I immediately turned to Facebook and Twitter. My thinking from a local perspective was simple: What outlet allows me to reach the best audience and add the most value? It helps that our followings are strong. The TV branded Facebook page has more than 19,300 fans and the newspaper brand has more than 7,500. Twitter followers are 5,400 and 3,400, respectively.

It started simple with a social update that Obama will give a major address on national security and answering questions from people wanting to know what’s happening. The second update was the confirmation and opportunity to interact with others on the news while giving access to more opportunities to consume information as it happened.

At this point, once the news was confirmed and I had access to an Associated Press update I then posted a story, photo and links on the two news sites.  That was immediately followed with a social push asking for our local community’s reaction and offering a place they could talk to one another.

And the night and early morning hours progressed in similar manner between content updates and conversational opportunities on social channels.

My coverage wasn’t perfect by any means, and I know of at least three opportunities I missed.

Here are some of the things I learned. What did you learn?

  • I read every comment on Facebook and every response on Twitter to direct questions that I posed. It helped me learn the next move and what content updates may be useful.
  • The audience on Facebook and Twitter changes so much hour-by-hour that the amount of responses and engagement stayed consistent.
  • I could feel people’s emotion via the comments on social networks, which was a better gauge than any online metrics could provide.
  • People from the local community were more apt to click on link to value-added and analytical information than the latest news update.

By the numbers

  • 13 Facebook updates
  • 437 Facebook comments
  • 1,223 likes
  • 17 Twitter updates
  • 28 Twitter responses

Two very relevant quotes from former TBD chief Jim Brady

I’ve watched, like others, with interest the process and progress of TBD.com and its effort to change the landscape of local news in Washington, D.C. in terms of audience, engagement and revenue.

Below are two quotes from former TBD general manager Jim Brady from an interview with Sarah Hartley. Brady speaks to a major problem at media companies, and sheds light on some solutions that I think form a blueprint for success.

In my opinion, 2011 is going to be filled with more local experiments like TBD using aspects of the solutions outlined below.

What was the most difficult thing about setting up TBD and how did you overcome it/them?

“. . . I think the issue any web site faces when it’s connected to an existing legacy brand is the steely desire of some on the legacy side to preserve their own way of doing things, and by extension, their own existence. That’s a difficult battle to fight, since the legacy folks are entrenched, better-known than new folks coming into an organization and — not insignificantly — still working for the parts of the business that generate more of the revenue. Frankly, it’s a battle I’m not interested in fighting anymore. I want to be somewhere where everyone is pulling the same direction, a direction set clearly and uncompromisingly by senior management.”

What did you want to achieve with TBD – audience, revenue, engagement? And how close is it to achieving those goals?

“All of the above. I think what I was trying to do — and the great staff that’s there is still trying to do — is build a local news site that’s of the web, not just on it. That means having a real conversation with readers via social media and commenting. That means working collaboratively with the community by linking with them and, more importantly, working with them via the blog network we built. It means being aggressive in mobile, and producing a mobile site that take into account what information people want when they’re detached from a desktop or laptop. It means understanding that, in any major metro area, people only care about certain areas and you should try and get that information to them by using smart curation and geo-coding. By using curation, social media and excelling at breaking news, you can build engagement, and that eventually builds audience and revenue. Also, having geo-location features and mobile positions you nicely on the business side, especially for local sites.”