Social Media Marketing: The Challenges and Opportunities

Social media has transformed the way we connect with each other both personally and professionally. It allows us to share our thoughts, opinions, experiences, and ideas with the world.  What does this mean for businesses? People are educating themselves and forming opinions about brands by listening to what others have to say. They are comparing prices, rating products, and writing reviews on line about their experiences. Businesses can’t afford to ignore social media.

What are the challenges businesses face when taking a brand social?

UNDEROne of the biggest challenges businesses face with social media, is a lack of understanding of how to properly connect with customers. Schaefer (2012) notes that “people are sick of being sold to, marketed to, and tricked into clicking on links to unwanted products” (p. 19). Businesses must realize that the way to connect with their customers is through sharing meaningful content. In fact, Schaefer further states that “content is the currency of the social web, and sharing that content is the catalyst to new relationships and business benefits” (p. 16).

listening600Li and Bernoff (2011) conclude that “your brand is whatever your customers say it is, and in the groundswell where they communicate with each other, they decide” (p. 78). In order to understand what customers think and what their needs are, businesses must listen.  The abundance of social media sites can be overwhelming. Tools like Hootsuite provide the ideal solution to monitoring multiple platforms at once.

CONTROLBusinesses struggle with loss of control and the fact that their content is copied, edited, and passed on across the web. Once information is published, it can’t be retracted. People can say anything they want about your brand. This is where listening comes into play. The faster a company responds, the better. A disaster plan is critical.

RESOURCES2Allocating resources is another issue facing businesses. Social media must be taken seriously, and resources must be dedicated to it. Top management buy-in is essential to success. Experienced individuals with a solid understanding of the business, marketing, and social media should be appointed to oversee social media efforts and create an effective social media marketing strategy.

EMPOWERINGMany organizations resist empowering their employees to engage with customers online for fear of interacting inappropriately or releasing proprietary information. Companies fail to realize that by restricting access, they are not only demotivating employees, but ignoring potential brand ambassadors!

RETURNCalculating return on investment can be difficult.  Below are some ways businesses can measure engagement:

  • Monitoring incoming web traffic from social media
  • Message amplification (# of retweets/1000 followers, # of retweets/day)
  • Conversation rate (# of replies sent daily, number of replies received daily)
  • % increase in followers over time
  • RSS feed subscribes
  • Number of comments
  • Revenue

Now let’s talk about the challenges businesses face by not participating in social media:

lack of involvementWhether you like it or not, people are talking about your brand online. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation? A negative review could be a PR nightmare. It’s better to be involved and be able to take action quickly.

who are my customersMissing out on these conversations limits deep understanding of who your customers are and what their needs are.

missed insightsNot participating in social results in over-looking valuable customer insights that can be used for product development, modification, and innovation.

LOST BUS OPPSSocial media is a great way to develop new relationships, and it helps to drive business by creating awareness and linking to a company’s website.

BRAND RECWith its global reach, social media can quickly build brand awareness.

fewer ambassadorsBy not taking a brand social, companies risk missing opportunities to create brand ambassadors through satisfied customers and empowered employees.

REDUCEDSEOSocial media content is public and indexed on search engines, thus improving the likelihood of a higher page rank.

Clearly, it makes good business sense to participate in social media. In order for it to be successful, however, social media must be taken seriously and a strategic plan should be created.

References:

Brogan, C. (2013). Google+ for Business. (2nd ed.) Indianapolis, IN: Que Publishing.

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Schaefer, M. (2012). The Tao of Twitter. McGraw-Hill.

Stelzner, M. (October 7, 2013). How Google Analytics is Impacting Business . Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-google-analytics-is-impacting-business/

Watson Helsby (2010). Digital Communications and Social Media: The challenges facing the PR industry. [PDF file]. Retrieved from http://www.scribd.com/doc/31722606/Digital-Communications-and-Social-Media-the-Challenges-Facing-the-PR-Industry#download

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The Power of YouTube for Business

Video sharing is gaining in popularity, and predictions indicate that we’ll see big gains in visual and content marketing in 2013, particularly through videos and images (socialmediaexaminer.com, 2013).  In fact, YouTube boasts that viewership is up 50% since 2010 with over 4 billion videos viewed daily. The site goes on to report that video uploads have increased 37% in the last 6 months with over 60 hours uploaded every minute. YouTube also reports that mobile use has tripled in the last year with 400 million views a day!

YouTube Global Monthly Visits

YouTubeAppGoogle’s mobile YouTube App is available for iPhones, Android, Blackberry, tablets, and iPads. It offers some slick features including easy channel browsing, sharing videos with friends on social media sites, and access to major label music videos (Newton, 2012). The app also offers a personalized experience with subscriptions, access to playlists, personal recommendations, and uploads. Other features include video suggestions on what to watch next and live stream closed captioning.

No matter what business you’re in, whether it’s B2B or B2C, YouTube is popular. Let’s face it we’re all busy, and it’s easier to watch a how to video rather than plow through a lengthy instruction manual.  And, with a YouTube app, we can watch videos on our phone, anytime, anyplace.

We’ve established that YouTube is popular and the mobile app is cool and convenient.  So, how can YouTube be used by B2B companies to drive business?

Cisco Systems, Inc., a global leader in networking systems, has had great success with B2B videos. In fact the company has over 3,500 video posted on YouTube with over 46,000 subscribers and 6 million + views! In an interview with Grant Crowell of Online video.net, Leslie Drate, Cisco’s Social Media Team Leader, attributes this success to creating meaningful videos that apply to each stage of the sales process including a call to action. For example, to address the awareness stage, offer a thought leadership type talking head video. For the consideration stage, use an industry trends video. Use a product solution demo video in the design stage, and offer a training video post-sale. (Crowell, 2012).

Incorporating videos into the marketing communications mix is a great way to strengthen and increase brand awareness and educate customers on product solutions.

Watch this video on how YoutTube can help build your business.

Here are some other ways B2B companies can drive business with videos on YouTube:

  • Videos can engage viewers by capturing emotions and feelings through strong audio and visual imagery and can leave a lasting impression of the brand, product, or service.
  • YouTube is a global site and a video has the potential to be viewed by millions. Companies can reach a mass audience for the relatively low cost of the video production. Plus, a video with unique, compelling content has the ability to go viral, resulting in huge success for the company.
  • Videos can be optimized for search engines with titles, descriptions, tags, and keywords, all of which will increase the likelihood of the video ranking high on relevant searches. Since Google owns YouTube, YouTube video search can be conducted directly from Google search.
  • Businesses can use videos to showcase product features and benefits, training, how-to guides, testimonials, recruitment, and company capabilities, all of which represents valuable content that can point customers to a website or landing page for further information and/or purchase options. Viewers can also share these videos easily with their social networks.
  • Businesses can advertise on YouTube videos and create campaigns with GoogleAdwords.  Audiences can be targeted by keyword, topic, or demographics such as geography, language, gender, or age. Advertisers are only charged if someone chooses to watch the video. Campaign management and detailed reporting is available on view counts, length of views, and demographic data. Companies can also remarket to individuals who have visited their website.

Business can measure the success of their videos and calculate ROI by monitoring views, click thru rates, website visits, impressions, referring URLs, web and social media mentions, likes, shares, tweets, follows, channel subscriptions, form submittals, and purchases.

In closing, YouTube is a powerful tool for business. Its broad reach enables companies to engage, connect with, and quickly spread their message to a global audience, who in turn, can share that message with their networks.  YouTube helps companies leverage their brands, create awareness, and drive business on a global basis.

References

Crowell, G. (2012). B2B Video Marketing Best Practices and Tips from Cisco. Retrieved from http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/10/b2b-video-marketing-best-practices-and-tips-from-cisco/

Drivingbusinessonline.com (n.d). 5 Reasons Why Your Small Business Should Use YouTube. Retrieved from https://www.drivingbusinessonline.com.au/articles/5-reasons-to-use-youtube-for-business/

King, C. (2013). 21 Social media predictions for 2013 from the pros. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2013/

Newton, C. (2012). YouTube Launches New iPhone App Ahead of iOS6 Release. Retrieved from http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-57510030-93/youtube-launches-new-iphone-app-ahead-of-ios-6-release/

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Which Social Media Sites do B2B Companies Prefer?

Business to business companies still lag behind business to consumer companies when it comes to social media use. In fact, 68% of B2B companies reportedly use social media compared to 79% of B2C companies (King, 2013).

What’s the reason for the gap? Ramos (2013) attributes it to the fact that “you just don’t see the big reach, eye-popping creative or exuberant engagement with B2B social marketing that you do with programs focused on consumers. Money and resources are clear limiting factors, B2C outspends B2B by leaps and bounds…the specificity of B2B audiences and differences in social behavior and expectations while on the job will likely cause this gap to remain for longer than B2B marketers would like to admit.”

In terms of social media platform preference, Stelzner notes in his 2013 Social Media Marketing Industry Report, that B2C companies are using Facebook more, whereas B2B companies are focusing more on LinkedIn and Blogging. In fact, 78% of B2B companies plan on increasing their use of LinkedIn as compared to only 54% of B2C. Additionally, 71% of B2B marketers plan on increasing their blogging activities vs. 62% B2C (p. 30-31). The report goes on to say that “B2C marketers are more interested in learning about Facebook (64% B2C vs. 52% B2B), Twitter (54% B2C vs. 50% B2B), and Pinterest (52% B2C vs. 43% B2B) than their B2B counterparts, who are far more interested in learning about LinkedIn (63% B2B vs. 51% B2C)” (p. 37).

B2B vs. B2C Social Media Use

Comparison of B2B vs. B2C Social Media Platform Use

Marketingcharts.com reports that LinkedIn was the most effective channel for B2B companies with 65% indicating they had found new customers through the platform as compared to B2C companies at only 51%. Furthermore, 77% of B2C companies indicated that they had acquired new customers through Facebook vs. only 43% reported by B2B companies.

New Customer Acquistion

B2B and B2C New Customer Acquisition through LinkedIn and Facebook

Linked is one of the most popular global social media sites for B2B companies. It is available in 19 languages with 225 million members. Users can create detailed profiles complete with work history and education.  They can upload videos and presentations as well as recommend each other for skills and expertise. LinkedIn has evolved into more than a recruiting site, and is now a powerful business tool. In fact, LinkedIn is now focusing on the mobile market and offers apps like Cardmunch, a tool that allows you to scan business cards to upload contact information, and Contacts which merges all of your contacts into a single data base making organization easy. The company is also reinventing itself as a publishing platform with the introduction of its daily digital newspaper, LinkedIn Today, which has become a source of referrals for business periodicals like the Wall Street Journal (Hempel, 2013).

Businesses can create groups where they can leverage key content such as white papers, articles, and videos to encourage conversations around relevant topics. These conversations originate with the users, thus enabling businesses to become thought leaders at the forefront of key topics.  The critical point here is that the individuals involved in these discussions generally have similar profiles creating an entire ecosystem. LinkedIn is a great tool for businesses to interact with people on a professional level, and in many ways, the platform has replaced “cold calls’ since chances are, someone in your network is connected to the person you are targeting (Howells, 2013).

Watch this video on how B2B companies can use LinkedIn to generate leads with Wayne Breitbarth.

Blogs are also used frequently by B2B companies with 60% reporting new customer acquisition through blogging according to Marketingcharts.com. Blogging is a great way for businesses to publish compelling content that readers will find valuable and want to share. Meaningful content helps businesses become thought leaders and trusted resources for industry related information. Keyword-rich content will improve search engine optimization, resulting in high organic rankings on search results pages.  Other social media channels can be used to drive readers to a blog post, because that’s where the deep content is. An effective way to generate leads is to offer a call to action that refers readers to a landing page to retrieve something of value such as a white paper, article, e-book, or free pass; or to a website to make a purchase.  Blogs can also be used for customer support, thus eliminating phone calls. In addition follow buttons can be added to the blog as well as Like, Tweet, and +1 buttons for readers to endorse and share the content (Bodner & Cohen, 2012).

What does the future hold for B2B social media marketing? The Social Media Examiner predicts big gains this year in social media spending, a focus on the basics of ROI, customers, leads and sales, as well as gains in both content and visual marketing. Keep an eye on Instagram, Google+, Slideshare, and podcasts.

What are your social media predictions for 2013/2014?

References:

Bodner, K., Cohen, J. (2012). Why you are already a business blogging expert. In The B2B social media book. (p. 77 – 96). Hoboken: NJ. John Wiley & Sons.

Hempel, Jesse. “LinkedIn: How it’s changing business”. Fortune, 01 July, 2013: 69-74. Print.

Howells, C. (2013). Social media in B2B marketing: Publish or perish! Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/insead/2013/06/21/social-media-in-b2b-marketing-publish-or-perish/

King, C. (2013). 21 Social media predictions for 2013 from the pros. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/social-media-predictions-2013/

King, R. (2013). Manufacturers sign on to Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.wsj.com/cio/2013/01/05/manufacturers-sign-on-to-facebook-linkedin-and-twitter/

Marketingcharts.com (2102). Frequency of blogging makes a difference for customer acquisition. Retrieved from http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/frequency-of-blogging-makes-a-difference-for-customer-acquisition-21276/

Ramos, L. (2013). Live from B2B magazine digital edge live. Retrieved from http://blogs.forrester.com/laura_ramos/13-03-21-live_from_btob_magazine_digital_edge_live

Stelzner, M. (2013).  2013 Social media marketing report [pdf file]. Retrieved from http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/SocialMediaMarketingIndustryReport2013.pdf

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How do Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ Compare When Used for Business?

FTG logoscopy

Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ are among the most popular social networking sites, but how do they stack up against each other when used for business? Let’s examine how each compares on features that drive business.

ProfilePageImageBusinesses can create pages on Facebook and Google+ to share their company information, post photos, videos, and apps. Facebook offers Facebook Pages and Google+ offers  Business Pages.  A nice feature of Google+ is that it is tied to Google search, so the business page, profile image, and recent posts are likely to display on the right hand side of Google search results on a relevant search, making it easy for customers find.  The business location will also show up on Google Maps.  Twitter profiles, on the other hand, don’t allow for as much information as they are limited to 160 characters. Photos and videos can be uploaded and placed in an album that is viewable on the Twitter profile. Enhanced profile pages are available to businesses on Twitter for a sizeable fee (Hamburger, 2012, n.p.). One unique feature of Twitter is messages are kept to quick snippets which is great for businesses to give followers quick updates.

magnifyingglassDiscovery is somewhat easier with Google+ and Twitter than it is with Facebook.  Google+ profile and location information displayed on searches makes finding businesses easy.  Twitter Profiles and Facebook Pages also show up on public searches, although not as prominently on Google.  Google’s Communities  and Facebook’s Groups are areas where people with similar interests can gather and share information; hence, posting in these areas will enhance discovery.  Twitter’s hashtag feature allows tweets to display on Twitter searches for that keyword. This is a great way for companies to broadcast messages on topics relating to their business, such as a tradeshow for example.  With Twitter, you can follow any person or businesses and their tweets will display in your feed. Similarly, if you add someone to one of your circles in Google+, you can see their public posts. This allows businesses to keep up with customers, benchmarked companies, peers, and competitors. Conversely, Facebook is not as open – you have to be friends in order to see information.  Businesses can attract new followers on all three platforms by adding follow buttons to websites, blogs, and other communications.

LikeFollowbuttonsPersonal recommendations go a long way. Companies can drive business by adding Like, +1, and Tweet buttons to their websites and blog posts.  When visitors click on the buttons, they are essentially endorsing the product. The Like, +1, or tweet will be visible in the person’s timelines and feed. The comments associated with these endorsements give businesses valuable information about how their products are viewed and can drive product modification and innovation (Facebusinessworld.com, 2011, n.p.).

Each platform also offers a location service for users to let friends know where they are and what they’re doing.  Users can check in at establishments to leave recommendations and comments. Businesses can use this as an advantage to run promotions and offer discounts.

Dollar SignNext, let’s talk about advertising opportunities. Facebook does offer advertising, and businesses can target audiences based on profiles, likes, locations, as well as information from third parties.  Smart technology, cookies and apps allow ads to appear on and off Facebook. Twitter allows businesses to advertise through promoted tweets by targeting keywords in timelines, interests, geography, and gender. Twitter is also planning to allow companies to send promoted tweets to anyone who opens the Twitter mobile app near the business (Delo, 2013). Google+, on the other hand, doesn’t offer advertising; however, if you are an Adwords customer and you have a Google+ page, you can take advantage of Social Annotations where searchers will see information on your ad from your Google+ profile, such as number of followers and +1s.

One feature that is unique to Google+ that is worth mentioning is Hangouts which is a free video conferencing service that can be recorded or hosted live, and used both internally or externally by businesses. It’s a great way to get feedback from customers, or host a meeting.

Each of these popular sites offer benefits and unique features that allow companies to drive business.  The key to success on all of them is customer engagement,  offering  meaningful content that followers will want to share, and being responsive when comments are received. Customers today want to be heard, and it’s important for companies to listen.  Having a presence on all three is a good idea, because it’s likely that your customers do.

References:

Delo, C. (2013). Twitter is Developing Geo-Targeted Ads for Retailers. Retrieved from http://adage.com/article/digital/twitter-developing-geo-targeted-ads-retailers/242725/

Facebusinessworld.com (2011). Retrieved June 28, 2013 from http://facebusinessworld.com/about/facebook-like/button-uses-for-business/

Hamburger, E. (2012). Twitter’s Enhanced Profile Pages for Brands are a Big Waste of Money.  Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/twitters-enhanced-profile-pages-for-brands-are-a-big-waste-of-money-2012-2

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The Role of Marketing

 The role of Marketing is to identify customer’s needs and wants and promote the idea that a product/service can satisfy those needs and wants. Marketers can’t actually create the need, but they can create awareness in the customer’s mind that a need exists.  Some customers may not be aware that a need exists.  The role of marketing is to educate the customer on the existence of a problem or need and offer a solution that will enhance the customer’s life or make their job easier. Marketers do this by creating and promoting a value proposition which is basically a set of benefits that will satisfy identified customer needs. Marketers identify customer needs and wants through research.  They segment markets and identify distinct customer profiles to position their product/service as the best solution to meet that particular customer’s need. Good marketers have their finger on the pulse of their customers.  So, in essence, marketing identifies the needs and wants of customers and through value propositioning, portrays a particular product/service to satisfy those wants and needs. Customers then have a choice as to whether to purchase a particular product or service based on all of the information they have gathered pertaining to a solution to their need/want.

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