Why Spend Money on Social Media? Yes Really.

January 18, 2013


Over the last few days I’ve been interrogating the rationale behind social media. I’ve been suffering from an existential angst that all this social media stuff is at best a kind of ‘branding wallpaper’ and at worst a big waste of company profits. OK, maybe this is an oversimplification, but bear with me while we consider it further.

These thoughts have arisen from a number of conversations with people I respect in various marketing-related areas.

First, in conversation with a published leader in creative thinking and ex Creative Director of several major ad agencies, the prospect arose that “Social Media might just be a big South Sea bubble.” I assume that my co-debater’s rationale relates to the overwhelming hype surrounding social media and the proliferation of platforms, some of which have questionable influence. The same person also cited Apple’s strategy in not engaging in social media – no Facebook, no Twitter, just strong brand building using other channels.

Second, reading an article about new Facebook measurements which set more store by local popularity. The tenet of the article based on the work of a company called Social Bakers was one of “look at who’s now up the list and who has gone down” as if it was some sort of beauty contest.

Third, working with a client whose family business has been running since 1947, who expressed the wish not to be a ‘busy fool’ – he wasn’t specifically referring to social media but the way that various forms of promotion can involve expense, effort and, in the end, er, perhaps not the anticipated profits.

So why spend money on social media? Here are just a few answers to consider:

1. There isn’t another way  to reach your customers and other interested parties such as the press and investors with such reach and immediacy.

2. If you are not controlling the conversation about your brand, someone else will – and it might not be favourable.

3. Social media enables you to engage in a conversation with the market, to learn more about customers’ views of your products and services and to ensure that the market views your company as open and approachable.

That said, social media can act as an enormous money pit and it is important to consider the objectives behind every channel and campaign. As with any off-line marketing, think about audience carefully – as each channel has a different profile – then allocated resources accordingly. Ensure that communications within the channels you choose are fitting in terms of style and tone. Measure all activity using both online tools and offline tools such as client surveys and even just talking to customers to understand where they go for information.

Many of my clients are businesses who make money by selling to other businesses. For these companies, social media is equally important but the channels may vary. Facebook is relevant for some B2B businesses and LinkedIn and Twitter are probably relevant for all.

On reflection, social media should be an important element of a company’s marketing strategy but I’m glad that I considered the question This is because it is easy to become over-influenced by the social media industry. The social media industry is like any other business. It’s there to do a job but it’s also there to make money. Make sure that social media activity is strategic, regular in order to be effective, engaged and well managed. Above all, focus on measurement and the bottom line.

Social Media – Should Companies Adopt Avatars?

December 1, 2010

For Some Brands, A Social Media Avatar Could Work Perfectly

I had a great meeting this week with a bright project manager who thinks that corporate social media works best if the company adopts a character, a sort of avatar, unique to the company. So rather than setting up a Twitter account in the name of a company, it’s even better to use a robot, a games character, or some other type of identifiable personality. The theory is that this makes the company more approachable and more interesting.

Here are some ideas for social media avatars:

  • A robot to represent a technology brand
  • A cartoon musician to represent a music company
  • A young girl to represent a fashion label

Here are the pros and cons of this approach as I see it.

Benefits of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It’s good way to manifest your brand values. Really it’s no different to finding a good and memorable actor to represent your brand in ongoing TV advertising, for example Nanette Newman for Fairy, Jamie Oliver for Sainsbury.

2. It removes complexity around using real people. Real people come and go and may say that wrong thing. A social media avatar is completely controllable by the marketing or PR operation.

3. It can be more entertaining. You can take more risks with a social media avatar but keep it fully in the scope of the brand.

Negatives of Using a Social Media Avatar

1. It can feel a bit trite. Especially in Business to Business (B2B) marketing and PR, clients often expect a more mature approach explanation of messages.

2. It has to work with your company branding. If you represent a fun, perhaps technology driven brand, this could work really well.

3. It may work better with the younger demographic. Younger clients might find it more entertaining and interesting. Older clients might find it a distaction.

4. The copywriting needs to be good. If you start something like this, you cannot adopt a classic corporate copywriting style. The style needs to sound like the avatar speaking to its audience.

So in conclusion, the success of social media avatars depends very much on the brand and audience. I hope you’ve found this thought-provoking. I’m off to find my robot costume and get my picture taken. Anyone joining me?

10 Tips for Good B2B PR

October 6, 2010

PR is About Connections, through Every Channel including Social Media

PR should form a central element of any good business to business marketing plan. Here are ten tips for building a good PR strategy for your business.

  1. Not all PR is worth the time or trouble. Think about who you are trying to reach and be dogged in screening your target publications and websites. It might give you a boost to see your company name in the Isleworth Gazette, but if your target market is Germans in the manufacturing industry, frankly, what are you doing?
  2. PR has changed. You’re not just dealing with seasoned, or even unseasoned journalists these days, you also need to work with bloggers. Put together a target list of publications, websites and blogs that you are trying to reach, together with  contact details for the publications and websites, and website addresses for the blogs.
  3. Assemble your collateral. Ideally, your press kit should include some good photographs of your products or people at work and photographs of your key personnel. If possible, you should also produce video assets but these need to be produced closely in line with your PR strategy and also in close association with forthcoming features on trade websites.
  4. Put together a press plan for the next few months. Work with the company executives and colleagues to understand which stories can be covered and to find interesting pieces. There are going to be changes as events unfold, but make sure that you have a plan of activity as a starting point. Assemble a list of hot topics of the day. Work with your senior management to agree company views on these issues. Make sure thathey are in agreement with your press plan and understand the importance of the PR strategy. Ask them to be available for interviews and quotes when required.
  5. Create well written press releases, written in the third person, that accurately reflect the company in an unbiased style. Journalists hate salesy press releases.
  6. Send your press release individually to journalists and also release it via a PR newswire service. Follow up with the journalists to make sure they have received your release.
  7. Consider optimising your press release for the search engines and publishing it online on article sites. This can be tricky if the exact wording is critical but is beneficial for SEO.
  8. Interact with bloggers by posting comments against their articles. Make sure that these comments are interesting and make a real contribution to the debate.
  9. Engage in Social Media. Use Twitter as part of your PR activity. Post on a regular basis – about three times a day is ideal. See my article on Twitter for more guidance. Use LinkedIn (for B2B companies) or possibly Facebook in certain cases to establish your company identity and interact with your customers. Many of you are trailblazing in this area, but you may find something useful in my next post on maximising the effectiveness of LinkedIn as a PR tool.
  10. Measure your results after each campaign and measure social media at least once a month. Look at relationships generated with journalists, stories published and coverage in social media. With Twitter, be more concerned with the profile of your followers than the number of followers – it’s not a haggis throwing contest.

It is hard to sum up the entire discipline of business to business PR in one post, but I hope that these tips are a useful starting point. It would be great to hear any experiences from readers in this area.

What to do with Facebook?

September 17, 2010

Facebook - Will Businesses Engage?

OK, I’m a seasoned disbeliever in Facebook as a business-to-buiness marketing tool. Or am I? The last few weeks have made me reconsider how Facebook could work for companies, and, most importantly, whether it can – in any way – contribute to the bottom line.

I’ve been conducting a straw poll amongst clients. The opinions I have received have been interesting, and quite mixed.  “It’s completely unprofessional!”, “It could work as a way of connecting us to clients” (this from a media business), “What’s Facebook?”. OK, that last comment was a joke, but it’s not a joke that some clients still are not even Facebook users themselves.

The opinions and arguments expressed in this article are not meant for major consumer brands. For such businesses, Facebook is a major channel to connect with existing brand advocates and potential converts. In B2C marketing, treat your Facebook followers well and you’ll grow sales and understand far more about what makes them tick. In fact, there are now whole companies making a living from supporting brands’ reputations across social media networks.

Yet what if you’re selling aircraft parts to Boeing? Baking ingredients to Associated British Foods?  My current view is that Facebook may not be suitable, and may even be viewed as unprofessional. Editing services to film production companies? Maybe. Facilities houses around London are starting to use Facebook in this very personal business-to-business environment.

All of this raises some interesting issues surrounding privacy. How to separate our business and personal lives? How much do you want to reveal to business associates about your personal life? I was interested recently to see that someone I know, an accomplished author, now has two Facebook pages – one for her writing and one for her friends. Can we all bear to do this? What are the pros and cons? Does Facebook mean anything if we have two personas, or is this simply a better reflection of our real world selves? The person in a suit who goes to the office and the person in jeans who is digging up the garden? For now I’m keeping to one identity – but the Facebook gate remains closed.

The Essentials of Business to Business Marketing

August 20, 2010

Renjith Krishnan http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=721

Marketing is the Path to Growth

This blog is devoted to Business to Business (or B2B) marketing. It’s not meant to sit at the bleeding edge, but to offer some home truths and practical steps for those who need to promote their company without wasting money, hopefully achieving a suitable return on investment for their efforts.

It’s a big topic but I hope that the following tips will get you started, or at least help to create a brief in order to recruit additional specialist help in the form of a Marketing Director or Marketing Consultant.

How to Win New Clients

  • Perform a full audit of your website. Make sure that it explains your services clearly and that you would be proud for potential customers to see it. Second, look at where it appears in the search engine rankings. To improve its positioning, read my blog on search engine optimisation, ‘What’s the Importance of SEO?’ to get you started.
  • Identify your existing and potential clients. If you’re in business to business marketing, the customer base may not be that large. In some industries, and for some products, the potential target client base could be as low as 500 people, yet those people have the ability to make or break your sales figures.
  • Once you know who you should be talking to, make sure that you have up to date information about them. Even three month old data will need rechecking. This is quite a big job, but be careful who you ask to check the data for you. Whoever contacts the companies should be prepared to speak on behalf of your business, so don’t just see it as a job for the tea maker. You can also check client data by visiting online sites such as LinkedIn.
  • Decide how best to engage with your target market – do some of them know you already? What are their views on your company? Which services do you need to promote? Be prepared to segment your target list into even smaller groups. If each target is worth a lot to you, think about personalised mailings combined with very good telesales follow up.
  • As part of this, you’ll need to consider whether you use email marketing or conventional direct mail. Approach this with an open mind, depending on the target market, the message and the best way to explain your product or service.
  • Where possible, try to engage your targets further with an invitation to an event, a gift of some industry data, or anything else that helps you to open up a dialogue. This is where sales and marketing need to work in absolute harmony. Sales calls need to follow marketing activity on precisely the right day and time. Don’t even consider starting this until you have the Sales Director’s absolute commitment to work alongside you.
  • Start blogging and tweeting. They are now essential routes to raising your profile the Web 2.0 era.
  • Think about industry events where your clients are likely to be in attendence. Consider sponsorship, hiring a booth or at least buying a ticket. Be active, be vocal.
  • Develop relationships with the trade press and industry websites. Issue regular press releases and consider advertising in trade magazines.

This is by no means every part of the strategy you could adopt to increase your presence, but it’s a good starting point. If you’d like to discuss your requirements in more detail, I’d be happy to buy you a coffee and talk some more – here’s where to find me.

Why Blog?

August 18, 2010
Easy Blogging for Business

Easy Blogging for Business

There’s so much blogging taking place these days that it’s got to be worth asking why it’s suddenly so popular.

There are many reasons for a corporate blog post and the following is a brief explanation which will hopefully shed light on the reasons that so many of us are now involved in this activity.

Why We Blog

Apart from the admittedly enjoyable aspect of blogging, here are the more practical reasons for writing digestible sized posts on a regular basis.

  • Blogging is a great way to tell customers more about your views and services. I write this blog as it is another way to explain marketing issues in more detail to clients and people I meet. It’s great to be able to send links to people on subjects we might have only had time to half-discuss in real life.
  • Search engines are becoming increasingly fond of new content. Even if you use a separate blog engine, the content should also appear on your company website, thereby helping your website in its crawl up the search engine rankings.
  • Believe it or not, writing will help to get your thoughts in order. It will help you focus on what is of interest to your clients and the wider business community and awill help you answer questions in a straightforward way.

How to Blog

  • Decide on the days of the week that you’re going to blog and then stick to your plan. You cannot expect people to follow your posts if you are not consistent with your publication dates.
  • Create a blog strategy where you work out what you are going to cover in each post. This will make your posts read in a coherent style, from one to the next, and will also enable you to reference future, as well as past, content.
  • Don’t feel that your posts always need to be long but keep them in line with your readers’ expectations  – you are trying to build a following, after all!
  • Write from the heart. OK, you might be blogging about oil pipelines or yeast allergies, but care about your subject and the words really will flow.
  • Even if you have the budget to integrate your own software into your website content management system, use a blog site – it’s much better for search engine optimisation and you can always reskin your blog to match your corporate branding.
  • Be sure to make use of the categories and tags in the blog software to help your SEO.

I hope that these tips on blogging have been useful. It would be great to hear your comments.

How To Use Twitter as a Marketing Tool

August 6, 2010


Twitter as a Leading Form of Social Media

Twitter marketing is a valuable tool for Social Media Marketing. Whilst  it might seem that Twitter would work mainly for business to consumer (B2C) marketing, it is just as powerful when used for business to business marketing (B2B).

The main reason for this is that Twitter marketing provides exposure of your product or brand to Twitter’s wide circle of readers. Get them to follow your Twitter feed, and you have people engaging with your brand and learning about your products.

It’s not really the number of followers that it important (people worry overly about this) but the profile of your followers – how relevant they are to the services that you are selling, and how you engage with them in your Twitter marketing.

A priority of successful Twitter marketing is to post regularly (but not too often). The right amount of tweets per day is about 3. Any more and your followers might feel a little bombarded. Any less and people might feel that you’ve got nothing to say and lose interest.

Be an active follower as well. Seek out companies that are relevant to your services and follow their tweets. Mention their Twitter address where relevant in your tweets, prefixed by the @ symbol.

Use your Twitter feeds to post about your company news, events you are attending, your company’s views on relevant topics and where possible, try to involve your followers in your tweets. The best way to do this is to throw questions out into the audience and always reply to sensible replies. Try to get a debate going if at all possible.

If you are attending any live events, such as trade shows, think about covering the trade event from your booth. This will give a great ‘live’ character to your Twitter marketing. Even better, mention the event organisers in your tweets prefixed with the @ tag. This will attract more of the right kind of followers.

If you decide to tweet on industry issues as well as hot news, you can use a Twitter management software to compile and schedule your Twitter marketing. Software such as Hootsuite enables you to put all of your tweets into one place and schedule when they are released.

Twitter marketing is great for increasing your presence on search engines too, as you can include links in your tweets back to your website. Links are important in improving your Page Rank which will help with your search engine optimization.

Think about the style of your tweets carefully. The style really should reflect your brand. If your brand is very informal, you should reflect this in your writing style. If you are marketing a more business focused brand, your twitter style should be relaxed but businesslike. Even though your tweets may only be a line, you should give them the same attention as a press release. Are all product names and trademarks correctly spelt? Have you accurately reflected the aspirations and brand values of your product? If you are talking about a client or business partner, do you have their permission to mention them? Twitter marketing really is just another form of marketing – just in miniature.

Why Social Media? And Which Social Media?

August 4, 2010
Image showing the social media cloud

How Social Media forms a cloud of communication - good and bad

The world of marketing is rocking and rolling to the sound of social media, and with it the need to publish something, anything across the chattersphere of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and all the other forums of modern communication. Before you go any further, stop. Take a long, hard look at your target audience and really think about who you are trying to contact, what you are trying to say to them, and the type of noise that you want to surround your brand.

So first of all, which social media platforms should you use? This blog is devoted to business to business marketing specialists. To those working in B2B, I would advise a heavy note of caution in using certain types of social media as a forum for client communication. Let me give you an example. My Facebook profile has pictures of me with my friends and family, notes about my favourite music and some frankly silly comments and jokes that I share with my friends. Nothing that I’m ashamed of, but not exactly my professional, 9-5 face with the make-up on. More Face-unbooked than Face-booked. This world is a private world, and not necessarily a world that I want to share with business associates or possibly even with consumer brands, unless I really like them. So why are there so many calls to use Facebook as a business to business marketing tool? Approaching someone about professional services on Facebook is as bad as trying to sell cladding to someone in their dressing gown on a Sunday morning as someone tried to do to me last week. Needless to say, we didn’t buy the cladding.

I’m not trying to be flippant and suggest that social media should be ignored. For business to business marketers, I would highly recommend using LinkedIn. Here you are approaching contacts when they have their professional goggles on. They are ready to engage with someone who seems to have something interesting and relevant to say. Try joining focus groups and blogs and publicising events through your profile. Become a thought leader. Twitter is also turning out to be a surprisingly effective tool for business to business communication.  In my next blog, on Friday 6th August, I’ll be talking about why and how Twitter can be used to promote your company’s messages and help you build your online presence.

This brings me to the second question. What are you trying to say? You should only post information of relevance to your audience. They are busy people. Don’t waste their time. I believe that this includes aimless retweeting of industry facts unless you are sure that they will be of relevance to your audience. There’s too much noise out there already. Say less, mean more.

Lastly I’d like to focus on the type of noise that can so easily surround your brand. It’s very easy to draw attention to your brand before considering the implications. Make sure that every tweet, every post, is written with the same degree of caution as a press release. Make sure it is safe to release any company news, no matter how brief the mention. Also, think about how you will deal with any negative criticism that could arise. Have a policy in place to monitor all responses to your posts and to respond to both positive and negative comments.

So I guess the overall message is that social media, while it might seem like good fun, is a discipline like any other form of marketing. Have fun by all means, but remember your company’s reputation is on the line too.