Don’t be prejudiced: b2b is the future of social media!

Time and time again, I have heard people say that b2c is better suited to social media than b2b. As a matter of fact, I am not at all sure about that. The fact that there are fewer b2b brands jumping on the bandwagon is probably more due to the maturity of that sector than the fact that the medium is not adapted to b2b.

Indeed, if one wants social media to have an impact, one needs to foster collaboration and create communities, which is generally done through 3 main things: passion, mutual help and common benefit. These 3 common ingredients of collaboration and social media are in fact very commonplace in the b2b arena; communities are often smaller, more specialised, but also very focused on their abilities to deliver and

illustration & maps by Mongabay.com

always ready to debate on technical points, points of view etc.

Besides, business to business is far less exposed than consumer marketing. In the recent Nestlé example, in which the Swiss firm has not quite been able to appraise the situation and deliver appropriate responses, online fighting with Greenpeace and other activists on social network is an unfair battle for b2c brands. The leeway that brands have in such cases to defend themselves is not very significant – and the case made by Greenpeace is a bit overwhelming too (see maps on the right hand side, courtesy of mongabay.com). Indeed, Nestlé uses Palm oil, which is both an issue from an ecological and dietary point of view, granted; but all mass producers of foodstuffs use palm oil because it’s cheaper and plentiful (now we know why). When activists target a company like this one, the result can be terrible, even though I am not at all certain that Facebook will have the best of Nestlé, the effect on brand equity is still very bad at the very least. At the end of the day, the Swiss manufacturer has yielded to pressure, but instead of turning this into a customer benefit, it’s more a matter of acknowledging their “mistake” and trying to catch up with the criticisms.

As far as b2b is concerned, there is less resentment, clients are more prone to negotiate than complain online, and they also know that when complaints are voiced too crudely online, it’s not always good for your own – and your company’s – reputation either. Besides, in b2b it is also easier for clients to make their points directly to sales and/or marketing. I have heard example in the United States of software vendors (I cannot quote brands) having problems with former employees who avenged themselves by becoming trolls (that is to say online detractors on forums ands social media), but in general the b2b environment is more straight-laced and more likely to trigger responsible discussions.

One may argue that you might get fewer comments on b2b social media and blogs in particular (at Orange Business Services we got 1,500 in 2009 only, so it’s not too bad in fact) but when we get some they are a lot better and more interesting than most of the comments that you get in b2c. Most of the time, they are passionate discussions about in-depth subjects, including complex points of views and explanations. How complex can you get on a consumer product? Usually, it doesn’t get very far or it gets round in circle. In b2b, co-creation and co-innovation is already old-hat, so why not use the Internet to pursue the discussion online?

Such discussions and comments enable one to improve one’s products (it happened to us 4 times in 2009), and it can even help us improve our knowledge when an Internet reader remarks on one of our articles, corrects our mistakes and helps us improve our points of view and visions. A little counter intuitively, I would even venture to say that b2b is the future of social media, because it is b2b brands which can actually most benefit from the use of these tools. We established the proof of this with our @orangebusiness twitter account by placing our brand in the top 10 French brands on Twitter, right behind worldwide renowned brands like Louis Vuitton or Yves Saint Laurent (source:  [Fr]01 informatique, May 2010) and even above Air France. Yet, being popular on the web with a brand like Air France is a lot easier when you think about it, the competition should even be unfair. No, it is unfair; but such is the passion triggered by what we did collectively that we are on the verge of building what is the nirvana of social marketing: a community (Air France already has one, it was created by one of their fans but it’s hard to admit that you have to relinquish the responsibility for your brand even though this is the right thing to do when a community already exists).

http://twitter.com/orangebusiness is the 6th French brand on Twitter (source: 01 informatique May 2010, April numbers)

Lastly, it is difficult for a b2b firm to do traditional advertising and namely TV commercials. Often, budgets are tight and TV commercials require vast amounts of money while delivering sometimes variable results. Into the bargain, most b2b players are reluctant to spread the word about niche products on popular TVs networks. Social media, on the contrary, proves an efficient and economical way to market b2b products: in other words, Nestlé less needs Facebook than we need Twitter (mark my word, I didn’t write does not need Facebook).

B2b is really well suited to social media even though this is not what you will find on the headlines because its subjects are more technical and — if taken at face value — less pertinent for consumers. But at the end of the day, this is also what keeps trolls at bay!

And this is also why a lot of b2b marketing budgets are dormant due to the lack of new ideas whereas so much can be done.

note : the illustrations and pictures are from Microsoft clipart gallery

(3/10) My top 10 tips for implementing social media

Social media landscape - Fredcavazza.net

note: this is the unabridged version of a post originally published at http://bnet.co.uk of which I am a regular contributor

Tip No. 3: avoid social media proliferation and do away with renegade initiatives

As Social Media is becoming more popular, it seems that everyone else wishes to create one’s twitter account. But how many twitter account does a company need? More than once, I have seen such efforts fail anyway, because communities aren’t created without effort and one has – as Tara Hunt would put it – to work on one’s whuffy first. Those who forget about these fundamentals are bound to fail anyway. They will also cause aggravation and havoc amongst social media enthusiasts and there will be a price for this.

My 10 top tips for Social Media success in businesses in 2010

Social media landscape - Fredcavazza.net

note: this is the unabridged version of a post originally published at http://bnet.co.uk of which I am a regular contributor

2010 will be year 6 of the Social Media era (née Web 2.0). Needless to say that 6 years is a long time in the Internet business world. For those who can remember those days, it more or less fits in with the time at which the Internet started to be really popular (if we assume that we first heard about it in 1994 and that 2000 was the most exciting moment of all). Both moments are similar in a way, and at the same time very different, because this time there is no financial bubble, or at least, if there is a financial bubble, the Internet has got nothing to do with it. This is why 2010 is going to be the year of Social Media, the moment at which expectations are going to be at the highest, usage is about to peak, and those who know how to use it will reap the harvest they have sown (and those who haven’t will start regretting it).

Other signs are unmistakably showing that this is going to be so: I can hardly bump into a marketing manager these days without him talking to me about social media even though he might not know much about it. This is a clear signal. At the same time, this will also be a challenge, a time in which social media experts will have to be even more careful about their code of conduct.

Here are my top 10 tips for you to prepare for this Social Media tsunami:

Tip No. 1: hold on to your code of conduct

As social media moves into the mainstream, there is going to be a huge risk for traditional marketing managers to seize this opportunity and try to recycle old recipes which already stopped working a long time ago. At best, traditional methods will lead to failure when transposed to social media; at worst, there will be attempts at “infiltrating social media”. As I have pointed out many times, this is an absolute no-no. More than ever, it is time to remind people of the fundamental rules of disclosure, of which Andy Sernovitz and SMBC are rightfully so fond. Besides, the FTC is now ensuring that this kind of malpractice is made illegal (in certain Eureopean countries like France, “infiltration” techniques have already been deemed illegal, online and offline).

Tip No. 2: structure your teams

There has been a natural tendency to work with limited or even very limited social media teams in the past. Indeed, Social Media initiatives have most of the time been started as grassroots types of projects but they are now endorsed much more broadly and officially by Management. Besides, before moving to the next phase, Social Media had to prove its effectiveness first. Now is the right time to change some of your teams’ jobs descriptions slowly but surely, in order to industrialise what you have just started.

Tip No. 3: avoid social media proliferation and do away with renegade initiatives

As Social Media is becoming more popular, it seems that everyone else wishes to create one’s twitter account. But how many twitter account does a company need? More than once, I have seen such efforts fail anyway, because communities aren’t created without effort and one has – as Tara Hunt would put it – to work on one’s whuffy first. Those who forget about these fundamentals are bound to fail anyway. They will also cause aggravation and havoc amongst social media enthusiasts and there will be a price for this.

Tip No. 4: from presence of engagement.

For the past few years, many enterprises have experimented with social media, even if it only meant that they were carefully dipping a toe in cold waters; whereas it is okay for an enterprise to create content and develop its community online and initiate debates, there will soon be a requirement for them to use social media to move beyond top-down approaches in the very near future and foster community feeling and engagement. Social media users demand engagement and not old-style marketing, as the recent demise of the Eurostar has shown. Once again, this is an area in which well-meaning Social Marketing initiatives could suffer from traditional, badly managed approaches.

Tip No. 5: industrialise video and enforce UGC

More or less every sensible enterprise has experienced with video in the late 2008 and 2009. 2010 will also be the time for us to move into a more mature way of producing videos. Similarly, resorting to UGC videos will soon become easier and easier thanks to the introduction of new generation HD hand-held cameras such as the Flip or the Kodak Zi8. As long as sound capture is improved dramatically though…

Tip No. 6: from video to radio.

As pointed out by Cisco’s John Earnhardt in late 2008 at a blogwell conference, vlogging (i.e. video blogging) introduced a new and easier way of delivering original content at a very reasonable cost. Yet, if videos were easier to produce than blog posts, certainly radio content is even simpler. Mainly, with tools like Blogtalkradio or Saooti [Fr] or for instance. This is even more true for those companies which are spread across continents like Orange Business Services: recording a video with an expert in Sydney and another in Vienna is utmost impossible. Web radio studios make that type of fresh new content available to all; not having the picture is only a minor hindrance. Should we name that rlogging? I’m not sure about that, there is probably a limit to silly 2.0 compound names.

Tip No. 7: get ready for the rise of Facebook in the enterprise

2008 and 2009 have been great years for Facebook. Usage has soared, and their business model is being fixed. There is only one thing wrong with it – notwithstanding its quirky interface – and it’s the fact that Facebook can not be seen behind firewalls. This is not just bad for b2b players who would want to use Facebook for Marketing, but also for b2c players (where do office workers get to consumer websites during the day if not behind their company firewall?). Gradually, US corporations are opening to the use of social media in the workplace. I expect it to happen in Europe as well. Little by little, MIS admins will lift the ban on Facebook usage and this will enable greater reach for enterprises and social marketing. The next step is to then hone one’s social media marketing skills on Facebook, therefore preparing for the future of marketing and learning by doing. Facebook marketing for dummies by Paul Dunay is a good place to start in order to grow these online business skills and prepare for the rise of Facebook in the workplace.

Tip No. 8: Time to get back to the ROI/ROE question:

This is a subject on which we have already touched quite a few times in the past (here and here again for instance), social media ROI or ROE dashboards (I definitely prefer the return of engagement approach because it emphasises these things that weren’t possible before) will need to be created or improved so as to demonstrate a proven benefit. Apart from the traditional and less traditional analytics tools which let you measure visits and popularity, I also suggest social media managers emphasise the amounts of money that they have been able to save thanks to User Generated Content (UGC). As far as I am concerned, my assumption is that UGC has made it possible for Orange Business Services to generate something in the regions of $300,000 worth of content in 2009. I would have never been able to develop that much quality content without social media and the UGC approach. That’s what I call ROE (return on engagement).

Tip No. 9: community management has to be improved and industrialised.

Community management is also high on the agenda although I believe that most agencies and clients have the wrong ideas about it. Community management is in my eyes much closer to old-fashioned application coordination and facilitation than hiring armies of staff in offshore companies to send more or less standardised responses to comments (as a matter of fact, Tara Hunt is even more radical as she declares that she is torn on the question of whether enterprises require community managers at all). Much of community management has to be in-sourced I believe, in order to make it real because clients are fed up talking to robotised helpdesk agents. Social Media should be about real people and real engagement. What is certain is that Social Media teams and the other people working with them cross-organisationally will have to learn by doing as well as get more and more professional about this function which is a cornerstone of Social Media activities.

Tip No. 10: beware of forecasts – including this one – and get ready for changes and innovation … but not too much!

In this day and age, new social media stuff appears on a daily basis, if not more. Yet, shrewd marketers have a sixth sense for knowing when to and mostly when not to jump on a bandwagon. New social media tools are being created every day or so, but it doesn’t mean that all social networks would be should be tried. Be selective, and yet open-minded.

A Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) survival guide for marketing managers (part 1) – unabridged

note: this is the unabridged version of a post originally published at Bnet.co.uk

SEO is a serious marketing tool

Of all the topics surrounding the web, there is one which tops the list from a marketing point of view and it’s Search Engine Optimisation (aka SEO). It is indeed one of the most important levers for bringing traffic to a site. I can barely think of a Marketing manager I have bumped into in the past 18 months who isn’t obsessed with the fact that his products will or will not show in search engines. This is obviously a valid request and a lot of expectations are set on the improvement/optimisation of web pages to be more search-engine friendly, and a lot of pressure is put on web site owners like yours truly. There is nothing wrong with that though, I believe it all boils down to getting the right explanation across to our managers and explaining what SEO really is and isn’t about. In essence, it’s not about cheating; on the contrary, thinking that optimising your site for ‘free products’ when you sell expensive products is not only daft, it’s pointless. So I won’t take any of your time debating on whether SEO is cheating because it’s not. Or at least it’s not a side of the business that I’m interested in.

My conclusion is that education is at the heart of that matter and I have developed a little web owner survival kit in which I have included some of the fundamentals of SEO, to help Marketing managers and site owners with their daily task of improving their web content and better serve their visitors. This post and slideshare presentation will complement nicely our previous manual on the subject of Internet content.

Your SEO is more than just about  web pages: it’s a matter of strategy

My aim here is not to depict the complete picture of website optimisation. This would be an impossible task. Search engines vary their rules on a daily basis, and narrowing down our attention to Google only wouldn’t be sufficient to simplify our work. What I have attempted to do in this article is to focus on the fundamentals of search engine optimisation. I have used this canvas in the field and I have found it pretty effective in order to evangelise about SEO and get marketing managers to take ownership of this task, as a means, not only to improve their web pages, but mostly to improve how their products/services are presented: well, in essence I could sum it up by adding that improving your SEO will also help hone your marketing strategy, therefore killing two birds with one stone.

When Marketing managers come to see me about their web page SEO they often have grievances about the Internet, or the website or even the webmasters, but none of these are really to blame.

_ “I can’t see my products when I type ‘0800 numbers’” I was told by quite a few marketing managers (just change the keyword/product name, you’ll always get the same problem)

_ Ok, I replied, “but why isn’t your page named ‘0800 numbers’ then?”

_ “It’s normal he answered, we don’t call it that way internally!”

As a natural result, the name of a product which is only internal will never show outside the web because a website isn’t done for internal people, it’s meant for external visitors, who need to be addressed with their vocabulary, not yours. Actually, this means that the marketing manager in question is going to have to step into his visitors’ shoes and stop interpreting the world through his own cultural references. In essence, this is what marketing is all about, and it has nothing to do with the web.

part 2 of this SEO survival guide for Marketing managers will be about our 10 steps for improving your SEO dramatically and simply.

The Blog Council | Here are a few trustworthy corporate blogs

Blog Council members working hard under Andy Sernovitz's supervision

Corporate blogging isn’t easy… And Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff published an interesting report about why people don’t trust most company blogs. In fact, looking closer at Josh’s comments, it’s not corportae blogs but corporate speak that clients don’t trust.

But this is no news to us. We’ve been going on about that for donkeys’ years. So now is the time that corporations react differently and start real conversations with their ecosystems (in b2b, it’s not just about clients, an average 21 persons are taking part in any one b2b decision in large 1000+ employee companies according to a Marketing Sherpa study).

So, what are the corporate blogs which can be trusted? Here’s the Blog Council’s take on the phenomenon, and guess what?! The Orange Business Live blog is one of them. Cheers to our writers!

The Blog Council | Here are a few trustworthy corporate blogs

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Here are some other examples of trustworthy blogs, too (and yes, they are all Blog Council members):