A few weeks ago, I attended this year’s Search Engine Strategies (SES) New York Conference & Expo, intent on searching for some useful information for Marketwire customers and prospective clients. Here are a few highlights.
One of the panels I went to treated the audience to a perky case study from the food phenoms at Chicago’s Foiled Cupcakes , who have deftly used social media to extend the gourmet cupcake craze by at least 4,234,982 calories. Foiled Cupcakes employs many best practices I frequently suggest to Marketwire clients, including:
- Making blog a central part of their website and updating frequently
- Coordinating Facebook and Twitter activity with blog
- Including good keywords and multimedia in their posts
- Being creative and posting content that is useful and interesting for their customers, giving them a reason to visit when they are not necessarily shopping for product
And let’s face it, who doesn’t love caffeine-enhanced cupcakes? Nevertheless, I could sense a silent groan from conference attendees who were trying to market something that wasn’t sprinkled with sugar and filled with hope. Fun, fluffy consumer brands seem to naturally lend themselves to cutesy Twitter tactics and enthusiastic social sharing–and obviously Foiled does a great job at maximizing their opportunity.
But what about people who market something less sweet: Products and services aimed at a decidedly sober B2B audience that traditionally thinks Facebook is for teenagers and budding dessert moguls? Better yet, I wanted some quality insight for investor relations, pharmaceuticals and other industries where regulatory/legal concerns seem to take the icing off the social cupcake. What kind of resources should the “no frosting” crowd direct to social media and how can they approach it most effectively?
SES had some great information to offer B2B marketers that helps make the case for a well-thought out social media strategy no matter what your product happens to be:
- Contrary to some perceptions, B2B marketers are actually tackling social media more aggressively than B2C, according to a Business.com study . An impressive 81 percent have company-related profiles on social networking sites. However, under-commitment and over-commitment are serious issues: Sixty percent say they lack a “clear strategy” and 91 percent say they are managing four or more initiatives with the vast majority reporting they devote only a sliver of their workday to the subject.
- Exposure to social media increased product and brand searches at rates similar to display advertising according to a study by comScore. Developing a social media presence creates another way for your audience to find you while, at the same time, encouraging them to look you up again.
I’m no longer thinking about cupcakes. I’m thinking of a chicken with its head cut off running around setting up Twitter profiles while answering hundreds of incoming emails on their BlackBerry. This should help settle things down:
- Make a real investment. Time is money and this is one area where you get what you pay for. Don’t spread yourself too thin with multiple sites that you cannot manage effectively. Define your audience by working backward from your incoming leads and just asking your customers what social media platforms they use and how. Pick out the metrics you are going to use to measure your success and how you will monitor those metrics. Be patient and start with realistic goals. In other words, social media should be an integrated part of your overall marketing strategy that gets ongoing attention–not the haphazard “free” project you throw at an intern. One of the phrases I heard more than once at SES is that, unlike your rotisserie grill, you can’t “set it and forget it.”
- Focus on the metrics that matter to your business: Lead conversions, traffic, backward links, search position, testimonials, etc.
- Focus on the right content. B2B customers want answers. Patricia Neuray of Business.com pointed out that when the B2B audience searches for something, they are often looking for a quick, accurate answer to the problem at hand. Google returns so much varied content these days it can be overwhelming. If you use social media to provide the answers your customers are looking for they will friend, follow and share your information not because it’s trendy, but because it helps them get stuff done. It’s also an ideal way to find out what kind of information they are looking for. So start listening.
- Stay on message. For heavily regulated industries, there is often a concern that too many active channels will create problems related to selective disclosure, adverse event reporting or, simply put, an overwhelming workload. Whether you engage in independent, two-way conversation with your customers will depend on your particular situation and comfort level. But that concern shouldn’t stop you from encouraging viral sharing of your official company message. Marketwire’s Social Media press release , for example, is a great way to engage the social media communities relevant to your industry and present a savvy image without fear of selective disclosure. In fact, the broad distribution makes it the exact opposite.
I have collected numerous speaker presentations from SES so feel free to contact me for more takeaways. Of course, once you have decided to make a real investment in social media to meet your B2B goals, I can help you with the details–and recommend some effective ways to kick off the campaign!
Account Executive Kenneth Weeks is based in Marketwire’s New York office .