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Conversation Lost-How to Align B2B Social Media Marketing Efforts with the Right Strategy

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B2B Social media success is like the American ninja warrior TV show. Everyone makes it to the starting line and yet very few make it to the finish line. In fact, those that can make it just halfway through the course can sometimes advance to the next round, based simply on how difficult the course can be. They’re deemed, somewhat victorious for just getting ‘that far.’ The same holds true for B2B marketers. B2B social media marketing can be brutal but it’s not a loser.

If you’ve never watched the show, it’s essentially an impossible obstacle course that takes a lot of balance, agility, strength and sound judgment to complete. Those challenges, metaphorically speaking, completely exist in B2B social media in 2017. For those that were around in the “early days” of social media will be the first to tell you that today’s social media is a far cry from what it was back then. Understatements be damned, one could say that social media has evolved and still, others could say it has regressed.

So what is a marketer to do? Where does social media fit in the marketing mix? Should your organization have a social media strategy? The quick answers are: There is a path, it does fit into the marketing mix and yes but let’s quickly review what’s been happening.

Over the past 7-8 years, the act of truly conversing has slowly dissipated on most social networks, Twitter in particular. On other networks, however, see Snap for example, the act of communicating has escalated and changed. In reality, communicating in social media hasn’t so much as gone away, as it has been replaced by different types of communicating dominated more by imagery and less by conversations.

For marketers though, the one-way, scream it and blast it style of pushing out messages disguised as conversations, still exists today. Partly because a) they are struggling with a medium that deemphasizes the written word and embraces the emoji b) a general lack of understanding of how to use that medium and c) it’s not the only channel.

It used to not be like this. Social Media was at one point this living, breathing, conversational thing. Somewhere along the way though, marketers started to misunderstand the platform and treat social media and its content like it was an arms race. It became a content battle wrapped around the quantity and output of messages and how quickly follower ratios could grow.

Beyond that, companies became enamored with vanity metrics. Those are your typical likes, mentions, retweets, etc. In fact, orgs of all sizes still like vanity metrics, we all do. Why? Because it’s a tangible hard number that we can wrap our arms around. Like a unique visitor in the world of website traffic. How many times have you heard or have asked the question, how many uniques do you have or what’s your traffic like? It’s how we quantify and quantified success. The parallel is exactly the same as asking. “How many followers do they have?”

Recently I told someone that the same metrics that revolve around direct mail and direct e-mail success now apply to organic social media. Meaning that getting a 1-2% organic engagement rate via social is about equal to what you might see or hope to see in direct mail open rates. It’s almost considered a ‘win’ but not quite. It’s average. You would think that social media and social networks might have an advantage but social media marketers are generally not working off of lists. So for them, it’s all about the content and the creating of content. Engagement? That’s a bonus. Measurement? Maybe.

The crazy thing about social media content today? It’s not bad. In fact, it’s more visual than ever before. There are some great content creation tools these days and the whole process of creating content for social is an industry in and of itself. It’s not boring. It’s dynamic, it’s compelling and dammit, it’s clickable. But the kicker is, you have to see it. You have to find it. So really it’s not how the content is being packaged and it’s not how it’s being created or delivered. It’s more about when do you push that content out? It’s where and it’s why. Oh yea, and to whom matters too. Social media in a B2B setting is effective when the right content finds the right people at the right moment.

Blame it on growth and blame it on the “noise” that growth created but that’s the ‘other’ new reality. Getting the B2B customers’ attention is more difficult now than it ever was before. Your new digital marketing challenge is to figure out where social fits in your marketing mix. Keep in mind that it has to be there, you just have to decide which platforms you’re going to use and what the distribution of dollars and resources will be.  Let me reiterate. Social Media efforts in a B2B setting have to be there for the simple reason that the customers are there.

Does engagement really matter?

What is engagement? Or rather what did it used to mean? Loosely defined in social media. it means that an action occurred, some type of reactive action occurred in the form of a like, a retweet, a mention, or a share. All of those actions dependent on, in theory, you, the user, doing something. Some, thing. Oddly enough, the actual true meaning of engagement could not be more diametrically opposed to what is happening here. You have either a formal agreement to get married or an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time. Neither of those really pertain to social media, do they?

In social media, because an ‘action’ did occur, marketers measured it in a positive fashion. The problem occurs or occurred, when nothing happens or happened after that. Thus, marketers were and are ostensibly hanging their hats on hollow metrics.

In email marketing or direct mail marketing, we can measure click through rates, open rates, conversion rates, leads generated and of course sales. These are things that happened after the fact. We don’t call it engagement. These are definite and distinct actions. We have a crumb trail we can measure. We have user data before and after the mail is sent. We can create a snapshot of the user based on that data. We can tailor content and give them what they want. Social media marketing on the other hand, organically speaking has to be more strategic in order to be effective. The tools and data are there but marketers are lazy.

Let’s explain it a different way. What kind of crumb trail or user data do you get from an egg with one name, no bio, following 50, with 10 followers and 5 tweets? Not much. Marketers will recognize and acknowledge the retweet, the mention and the share of the egg-but what does that really mean? Nothing.

In part two, let’s look at what a marketer should do. Let’s talk about what the distribution of marketing and social media strategies, tactics and activities should be and let’s talk about bang for the buck. The operative word being, buck, as in dollars, which should be your clue.

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What Kind of Decisions Would You Make if Your Future Didn’t Depend on it?

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What if you had no filter? What if there were no repercussions for your actions both offline and online? What kind of world would that be? That would be 2017, where streaming your crimes, your transgressions or other people’s flaws, misdeeds, and imperfections on your phone seem to be the norm. Then you go to sleep and you go to work.

Check your phone. Check Facebook. Check Instagram, check Snapchat. Post some pics. Film some things. Say some things.  Rinse. Repeat. Regress. Check your phone. Check your email. Sound familiar?

Where did things go so terribly off the rails? When did we become a society with zero filters, zero morals, and zero discretion?

Unfortunately, we’ve been heading down this road ever since the world wide web was open for business so to speak. The difference now is that that type of world, the one in which no one has an off switch much less a digital moral compass, currently exists for generations that extend from Boomers all the way down to Gen Z and everything in between. As each year passes, more and more digital natives become the face of our societies. Digital immigrants, not so much. I, in our breakneck quest to evolve, technologically speaking, we have regressed to a point in which we all have become numb to a society some of us don’t recognize.

As each year passes, more and more digital natives become the face of our societies. Digital immigrants, not so much. Ironically, in our breakneck quest to evolve, technologically speaking, we have regressed societally, to a point in which we all have become numb to actions, words, and images that would have offended most of us a decade ago.

Is this HBO’s Westworld? Where we’re not “really’ responsible for our actions?

Maybe we’re living in that kind of world now.  The only difference is that in our world, things don’t reset. There are consequences. At least I would like to think there are. Other’s however, think nothing of posting, streaming and saying whatever they want. when they want and on their terms. No filter.

I would contend that we now live in a world where the shock value of what we see or do just doesn’t register with us or others the way it used to. Thus, either the bar has been raised or lowered, depending on your outlook; and thus seeing someone being murdered on Facebook will be alarming and disturbing for a lot of people, or it’s just another day in our always-on, digital, mobile and social world.  A new low if you will, but one in which we are not surprised.  Again, where did things get so sideways?

It’s because of these reasons that I have vowed to do something about it. Along with some others, we have created The Digital Futures Initiative. Our goal isn’t about blaming anyone or anything, it’s more about creating a baseline level of knowledge and understanding for parents, teachers, and children about the power and impact of digital, mobile and social. Similar to having a solid foundation of fundamentals if you were to play a sport, DFI wants to do the same for children. The simple goal? A fundamental understanding. Knowing what you have, what it can do and what to do with it.

Keep in mind that even if you were a digital native, that doesn’t mean that you automatically knew how to use the internet, your mobile device, your favorite app or Google search for that matter. It’s that understanding and realization that we want to bring to the schools. What do you think? Maybe the goal should be to just get the point across that there are repercussions for our online actions? It’s a start but we need to do so much more.

 

The Difficulty in Being Interesting

Why do you click on a piece of content? Probably because you were compelled to. Some trigger caused you to cross over the invisible threshold of no and maybe. Was it an image? Was it the promise of a video or was it because the source was one that you trusted?

Chances are, the answer to all three questions is some sort of yes. Beyond that, what prompts us, is the text or words in front of the content. We’re curious. We take the bait and we click the link. Hence the term, link bait.

Fast forward 24 hours and everything has reset.

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Back in 1993, there was a movie starring Bill Murray called GroundHog Day. Murray plays Phil Connors, an arrogant Pittsburgh TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, finds himself caught in a time loop, repeating the same day again and again. After indulging in hedonism and committing suicide numerous times, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities. But everything repeats.

But everything repeats. over and over and over again. Just like the content clock or the content calendar does. And marketers and bloggers and brands struggle. They struggle with being interesting and they struggle with staying interesting.

That’s what today’s consumers have done to media outlets, to publications, to entertainment companies and to anyone in the business of producing content. We are forcing them to keep our attention. If we stray, they lose. If they stray, they lose. Tough gig. The digital customer is upon us.

Why Snapchat Content and the Longevity of Social Media Content are so Similar

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Follow me here. The principal concept of Snapchat is that pictures and messages are only available for a short time before they become inaccessible. They become obsolete if you will.

When a brand pushes out a “piece” of social media content, they’re hoping that content will move the needle in the form of a standard KPI, i.e. mentions, likes, favorites or followers. How long are brands hoping that content will last? Certainly 24 hours. Then they rinse and repeat, right?

Recently in a MIT Sloan Management post, I read the following in regards to business value in creating social media content:

How can businesses and others reverse this trend and reap more enduring benefits from social media? For starters, it will take a fundamental change in focus.

What most people/brands don’t understand is that users and consumers have been conditioned to consume content in snackable bits now. Their attention spans have been reduced to anywhere from 12 seconds to 24 hours and they move on. Brands have to act accordingly.

Particularly when a brand has about 15 seconds to get someone’s attention when they land on their website, the words and images become that much more important and impactful when trying to derive an action.

The need to have an over-arching strategy to every social media platform is not only a key to success but it should be a mandate. Does that mean a brand should use them? No. But marketers need to understand how each platform relates to not only what they want to do but also in how it might relate to its current customers but future prospects. What do the people want? Give it to them.

It’s not so much the what as it is the how. That means twitter content will not necessarily play well on Facebook and or Facebook content will not necessarily work on Linkedin-particularly after LinkedIn’s latest site changes*

What we’re experiencing right now thanks to the Snapchat generation* is that brands are being forced to create content, messages, and strategies that become antiquated in less than six months. If it’s about branding and creating awareness and thought leadership, then there is indeed an intense pressure to be interesting every day.

I used to say that digital obsolescence only applied to products and platforms but now it appears that it now applies to content itself.

Clearly, marketers and brands have got to elevate their game of being interesting and compelling every day at midnight.

 

 

10 Things I Thought About in 2016 that Will Still Matter in 2017

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Today I was thinking about a website that I go to, from time to time called Quotes on Design. What’s cool is that you can constantly refresh the page for a new quote on design. That thinking posed a question internally… ‘How about a site on things I said? I quickly shut that thought down. But…

Instead, here are things I’ve written in my Moleskine over the past 12 months. I just plucked the relevant stuff as it was written on the pages. It’s rather interesting in that you can track my thinking in the tech industry in 2016 and see how much we might be thinking about it in 2017. Hell, we might not be thinking these things at all. You decide.

January 2016

.

  • I noticed the term Smart Cities starting to show up a lot in what I was reading, sharing, tweeting and talking about.
  • Not a day went by where I did not talk about The Internet of Things.
  • Paid social, ugh…
  • Snackable Content-That’s all we want!

I wrote a lot about customer focus and for good reason, a lot of the data coming out, basically says, either focus on the customer NOW or you’re gonna lose them

  • Trust issues were a common thing on some of my pages when it came to privacy, the customer and brands.

I wrote this:

Being innovation led is as equally vexing a goal, as it is a deficiency.

I wrote a lot of words that started with “i:”

  • Insights
  • Intensity
  • Insensitivity
  • Interactions
  • Integrations
  • Indecisions
  • Innovations
  • Inertias

And one word that can blow it all up. Culture.

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Customer Journey quotes and thoughts start to become the center of the universe of my notebook.Why?

February and March of 2016 Digital Transformation

Here’s an interesting page. On it are the names:

  • Dynamic Signal
  • Radian Six
  • Basecamp
  • Blab
  • Periscope
  • Lotus Notes and then at the bottom is the word/term…

Smart Cities,  Again

I wrote: “All anyone wants to talk and write about is…

“All anyone wants to talk and write about is digital strategy, except no-one really wants to share solutions.” If they do, it’s been done.”

#SXSW

Search Analytics

Keyword Frequency

Crowdsourcing

LiveStream

Boost/Program

Visibility plus Credibility =Profitability

April 2016

What is your strategy/vision?

What do you need to succeed? (I love this question)

My mantra? Make it right. Do it right. Make it cool. Do it cool. Happy People.

May/June 2016

Google analytics

Optimization

Inbound/Outbound

Linking Strategy

Killer copy

New Pages

“Performance issue with previous agency.”

Compliance

“Context and message can be 2 ships passing in the night or better yet, going on a cruise together on a really big boat and getting separated from the beginning.” -Me

Create amazing experiences

Designers need to think about people

#peoplefirst

“What are we solving for? Who are we solving for?”

July /August 2016

The true nature of design? #CX? or #UX

(iot) + (streaming) x (mobile)            figure out delivery

Humanize the strategy

Influencers? what gets shared?

When did influenceing the influencers become a thing?

There’s content, and then there’s our content

What are we using social media for?

What works? who is the competition?

September/October 2016

What’s more important a resource or a utility? app?

Whats the game plan?

Where does social fit in a brands mobile strategy?

Customer loyalty and disruption

Digital transformation, yea, yea, yea….

Disruption in mobile

Has the mobile imperative disrupted the design imperative?

How do you spell digital transformation?

Why are we valuable?

When you get marginalized.

IFTTT

November/December 2016

Word or term os the year? Digital transformation

  • Digital Transformation
  • Digital Disruption
  • IoT
  • VR
  • AI
  • AR
  • Design
  • Customer Experience
  • Mobile UI

Global Focus Local Thinking

What does digital ________actually mean anymore? Isn’t everything virtual?

 

CX is the new black

Mobile analytics is so crucial.

data

Which takes me to December 16th 2016.

These are the things I thought in 2016.

 

 

My Proust Questionnaire

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In the back of every Vanity Fair edition is the Proust Questionnaire which is devoted to the answers of someone who is fairly well known. The answers never cease to make me think about my own mortality and legacy. The questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature. Here is the basic Proust Questionnaire with my answers.

  1. What is your idea of perfect happiness? I always liked the dopamine that would kick in from participating in an athletic event. That feeling of accomplishment and being totally spent. But certainly perfect happiness might be found travelling for pleasure and not worrying about anything for a few days or weeks. That’s bliss.
  2. What is your greatest fear? Creating an unfinished legacy.
  3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Being insensitive to the plights of others. Wasting days. Complacency.
  4. What is the trait you most deplore in others? Perceived power fueled by wealth. Style with no substance.
  5. Which living person do you most admire? Right now, I don’t know if anyone is worthy of that accolade.
  6. What is your greatest extravagance? Black athletic socks from Under Armour
  7. What is your current state of mind? Searching. Deciding what to do with the next chapter.
  8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Accountability for one’s actions
  9. On what occasion do you lie? When it will hurt someone I care about
  10. What do you most dislike about your appearance? My teeth and my flat feet.
  11. Which living person do you most despise? Any person who can randomly hurt someone be it physically or emotionally for no reason.
  12. What is the quality you most like in a man? Truthfulness
  13. What is the quality you most like in a woman? Humor
  14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Interesting…”
  15. What or who is the greatest love of your life? My wife and kids.
  16. When and where were you happiest? My honeymoon
  17. Which talent would you most like to have? To play the piano or guitar
  18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? I would have learned how to play an instrument early on!
  19. What do you consider your greatest achievement? Being married for 20+ years, having 2 healthy kids and a handful of awesome friends
  20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? I’d either come back as a professional baseball player or jazz musician from the early 40’s
  21. Where would you most like to live? I’d like to be back in Pittsburgh and or New Orleans. San Francisco as a backup plan.
  22. What is your most treasured possession? I have a pair of boxing boots autographed by Muhammad Ali that are pretty cool
  23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Zero options.
  24. What is your favorite occupation? Musicians with supreme talent
  25. What is your most marked characteristic? A positive disposition and a quick wit
  26. What do you most value in your friends? Humility, Intelligence & empathy
  27. Who are your favorite writers? I used to love Robert Ludlum books. Maybe John Irving.
  28. Who is your hero of fiction? I have no fictitious heroes. Winnie the Pooh?
  29. Which historical figure do you most identify with? My Father, Grandfather and Uncles
  30. Who are your heroes in real life? The people that sacrifice themselves to right the wrongs of others. People that practice random acts of selflessness
  31. What are your favorite names? Lucca and Bella
  32. What is it that you most dislike? Being late
  33. What is your greatest regret? Majoring in Political Science
  34. How would you like to die? Sitting in a chair with Mimi and the kids, watching the sun set in Santorini, Greece
  35. What is your motto? Move the needle.

Sports and Social Media-What have We Learned?

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Recently via ESPN,  a social media drama played out nationally as a Texas A&M  football recruit and one of their coaches sparred via Twitter, over the perception of each other’s veiled tweets. There will be no good that will come out of this. The fall out is bad mostly for the football coach and his respective university. The fall out is additionally bad because it also shows how recruiting athletes in a social media world can go terribly awry. In fact, it’s not even relegated to “just.” recruiting. Look no further than Laremy Tunsil and what happened to him on what was supposed to be the greatest night/ moment of his young life.

A few years ago I wrote about and presented on the need to measure twice and cut once on anything you might say via social media, but rather than heed that foresight, we’ve all, as a society have collectively run in the opposite direction. Into the light, if you will.

What’s happening is, we’re collectively realizing at the same moment, it seems, that we have become the media. This means that 1) we have realized the power and potential of the digitally written word/visual world and we realize its impact; and 2) all of us have become comfortable with the notion that we’re all publishers, editors and commentators of our lives, your lives and even the lives of people we know nothing about.

Which brings me to these quick thoughts:

  • Have we done a poor job of explaining the power of social to each other?
  • You may have no followers, but that doesn’t mean we don’t listen.
  • Everyone is a coach and will give you their 2 cents digitally
  • Digital has not lessened the consequences of our actions.
  • Athletes may have no fear but they always need to be accountable
  • The phrase, “Act like you been there before,” still resonates
  • Keep  it in the clubhouse still works
  • Team coaches need to have the social media talk with their teams

It really comes down to this. Organizations both large and small and teams of all sizes, have to have social media governance and policies that extend to their players and coaches, managers and staff. There’s too much on the line both personally and professionally as well as in the amateur ranks to not have the process and controls in place to deal with the coupling of social media and athletes. What you need to understand is that you may never have to worry about these types of issues but if and when it happens, you’re not in the dark as a coach or as an administrator.

The real question really comes down to this: What are you going to do when it happens?

What should you do?  What does an org do about the athlete who posts Instagram pics of their party life? What do you do about the athletes who dis another player or team via Twitter? How bout the YouTube video of athletes behaving badly? What do you do?  Who do you blame? Do you blame them? Because you know, we live in a transparent world now.

Going forward, athletes behaving badly via social media is not going away. The sooner you realize that as an org., the sooner you can prepare for what will happen. It’s not an if, it’s a when.


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The Deets

Marc Meyer is a Digital and Social Media Strategist at DRMG. This is my personal blog where I share observations, thoughts and opinions that are all my own.

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