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ClickInsights: Tips on how B2B marketers should leverage social media

ClickInsights is an Expert Interview Series brought to you by Connect the Docs (ClickDocuments blog). In ClickInsights Expert Interview Series we feature top notch industry experts and thought leaders and get their insights, opinions and predictions. We also ask for their suggestions on recommended reading resources to keep abreast with latest trends in their industry.

Social Media Marketing is now getting a lot of interest not only from cutting edge startups but also from mainstream B2B companies. We have invited B2B Experts to shed light on the following question: What is your one tip on how B2B marketers should leverage social media? Read on to get their insights.

ClickInsights: Tips on how B2B marketers should leverage social media


Ardath Albee

Blog Marketing Interactions Twitter Ardath421

Ardath Albee Content Marketing ExpertIntegrate Social Media with Your Nurturing Storyline

Ardath Albee's Bio

Ardath Albee is a B2B Marketing Strategist. Her company Marketing Interactions helps companies with complex sales and quantify marketing effectiveness by using interactive e-marketing strategies driven by compelling content. She empowers her clients to create customer-centric nurturing programs that leverage strategic story development to engage prospects until they are sales ready. Ardath’s book, E-Marketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, will be published this fall by McGraw-Hill.

Ardath Albee's Tip

Social media can provide a conversational extension to a B2B company’s nurturing programs. In addition, social media can help B2B marketers drive inbound demand by generating personalized interest in their ideas and expertise. When you’re sharing content designed to answer questions and provide information your buyers want and need to do their jobs better they have a higher tendency to engage. Social media gives us the opportunity to humanize our communications and make our companies more approachable.

In order to reap the biggest benefits, B2B marketers need to be relentlessly generous and stop with the quid pro quo mentality. Giving away valuable ideas and insights freely will return to you many times what your company would accomplish by gating information and demanding an exchange before granting access to information people want. The sooner we realize that payment of time and attention by people interested in our ideas escalates our credibility—as well as our trusted resource status—the better off we’ll be.

The most important thing to remember is that social media is not just another broadcasting channel. When a B2B company participates in social media, they need to remember how to have a conversation. Promote others, share great ideas—whether or not they’re yours—and make sure there’s not a sales pitch in sight. Social media is not for selling, it’s for connecting. And there’s a big difference between the two.

Finally, make sure that the strategy your company develops for incorporating social media into your marketing programs is on message. If what you say in social media is disconnected from your other marketing communications your prospects and customers will experience the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde effect. Not the best way to form a good impression or build trust and credibility.

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Rebel Brown

Blog Phoenix Rising Twitter RebelBrown

Rebel BrownBe Thoughtful

Rebel Brown's Bio

Rebel Brown is go-to-market strategist and Spin Doctor specializing in start ups, turnarounds and start-arounds in the high technology arena. She has helped to define, position and launch over 75 individual products and companies since she began consulting 20 years ago. Her clients who are technology vendors and venture firms leverage her strategic marketing and go-to-market expertise. She identifies and transforms differentiation - customers crown jewels - into compelling, customer-centric value that sells. Her blog is Phoenix Rising and her business is PeopleWhoKnow.

Rebel Brown's Tip

My one word answer is “Thoughfully". Social media is a powerful communications tool. But it can't be approached with traditional marketing messages and positioning. In the social media world – chest thumping and ‘me me me’ marketing is the fastest way to send your audience packing.
We have to be thoughtful about the purpose of our social media endeavors. Before you jump into social media, consider the following - thoughtfully:

  • Who. Who in your organization are the best fits to communicate via social media? Don’t assume it’s your CEO or CTO or CMO. Whoever takes the lead in your social networking role MUST be open, informative, objective, available and most of all – truthful. They have to be prepared to take the feedback regardless of its content, to respond openly and fairly, and to tell the truth no matter how much it hurts. Anything less, and your social media efforts will backfire.
  • What. What information do you want to communicate via social networks? Make sure it’s educational and informative and of interest to your audience – and not a thinly veiled promotion of yourself or your solutions. That will backfire faster than you can Tweet. We’ve all seen examples of this across social media communications – and we’ve watched the network participants publicly dismember the offending party. Don’t go there. Be thoughtful, educate, inform and speak in your customers’ language about things that matter to them.
  • Where. These days it seems every one of my client marketing teams wants to do a CEO blog – whether it’s appropriate or not. Don’t assume a blog, or social media in general, are the be-all for communication. Think about what your audience reads, where they look for their information. Social media may be the marketing rage – but ask yourself, “Do my buyers read blogs? Do they Tweet? Are they more the LinkedIn or the Face Book types? Are they social networkers at all?” For example - technical buyers may read the latest product review blogs, but do the economic buyers, in the form of CEOs, read blogs at all? Or do they read the more traditional communication media – like the Wall Street Journal and New York Times? Match your media and messages to your audience.
  • Why. One of the best questions to ask up front before beginning any social media effort is “Why would anyone want to follow me? What value am I providing? What ‘persona’ do I want to create?” Decide up front what your value and ‘catch factors’ are for your audience – and then stay focused on delivering against that direction.

Social media gives you the opportunity to put a face and persona around your company. Thoughtful social media interactions can deliver super insights into your audiences’ perceptions of your business – insights that you can use to improve and grow your market position.

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Brian Carroll

Blog Start with a Lead Twitter BrianJCarroll

Bob GilbreathUse social media to ‘listen’ to and learn more about your audience

Brian Carroll's Bio

Brian Carroll, CEO of InTouch, is part of MECLABS Group (MarketingExperiments, MarketingSherpa, InTouch) and author of Lead Generation for the Complex Sale and the B2B Lead Generation Blog with expertise related to B2B marketing, lead generation and complex sales.

Brian Carroll's Tip

There’s no doubt that all the different social media applications out there are great tools for branding your company, making connections and sharing your expertise. But, don’t forget to set aside time to ‘listen’ to your audience.

Social media can be a bit like a bunch of people with megaphones blurting out their messages one-way. People will cover their ears (unsubscribe) and tune that out. But if they could simply turn those megaphones and put them to their ear instead of their mouth, they'll hear much better. Then they will be prepared to simply talk and join in dialog in a more relevant way to accomplish their goals.
Twitter, for instance, can allow you to get to know your prospects on a personal level. If your prospects are online, they will be donating lots of information that’s useful in relationship building. Follow a prospect’s Twitter streams, and you’ll learn about their personal lives. You’ll learn about the challenges they are facing both personally and professionally. I like how Chris Brogan put it: ‘Twitter allows you to minds read from afar.”

LinkedIn is another great way to listen and learn about your audience. Even if you don’t participate in your LinkedIn group’s discussions, take the time to ‘listen’ to the conversations. Find out which groups your prospects participate in via LinkedIn, and find out what those groups are discussing. Chances are that your prospects are ‘telling’ you a lot about their company through their questions and their responses to discussions in these groups. Use the conversations as a chance to find out where your prospects are in the buying process. Read the discussions to find out what issues they are facing.

And knowing what issues resonate with your audience is a great way to build content for your blogs and webinars. Use your blog to address challenges and give advice. Build a webinar around a question that you find interesting via a LinkedIn discussion.

Don’t use the information you find through ‘listening’ to be pushy, nosy, or obnoxious. Use good judgement and follow the standard etiquette for the application you are using. If you’re not sure of the etiquette read up on it before engaging in conversations. After a while, if you’ll just sit back and listen, you’ll get a feel for when it’s right to enter the conversation.

‘Listening’ to your audience will help you keep your touches relevant and timely. And, isn’t that the key to all good lead generation programs?

Patsi Krakoff

Blog WritingontheWeb Twitter PatsiBlogSquad

Patsi KrakoffBe helpful and ask for help

Patsi Krakoff's Bio

Patsi Krakoff, Psy. D., is a former psychologist and journalist who has been working in online content marketing for the last 10 years helping professionals use e-newsletters and blogs to grow business. Her award-winning blog can be found at WritingontheWeb. She provides quality content and newsletter services for global executive coaches at ContentforCoachesandConsultants. She is co-founder of The Blog Squad, providing blog services and consulting. She lived and worked in Paris for 20 years and now lives in Ajijic, Mexico, where she is an avid tennis player.

Patsi Krakoff's Tip

Small business professionals who want to attract people for their products and services through Twitter often start off on the wrong foot. They look at it and answer the question, “What are you doing?”

Who cares?
Start off by doing a search for keywords in your field. Use the search button at the bottom of the page and type in “Need help with …XYZ” and see what comes up.
On any day, people are asking for help with things on Twitter. You can answer their questions, refer them to your blog, and offer to help. Be sure to follow them when you do.
The next thing you need to do is set up alerts for keywords in your field. I use TweetLater.com. Every time someone is tweeting about my area of expertise, say content marketing, or leadership and executive coaching, I get an email alert.That way I can respond to their tweets and be helpful. I can also stay informed of the latest buzz.
Small business professionals who want to attract people for their products and services by using Twitter should use two important features:

  1. Use the search feature on Twitter. You can use the words your prospects might be using. Go ahead and try it. You’ll be amazed at how many opportunities there are for helping other people.
  2. Set up alerts for key words in your field. That way you get email updates each time someone talks about your area of expertise. You can find people in your field or prospects and then follow them. You can use a Twitter alert service through TweetLater.

Twitter is only as good as you make it. Don’t tweet like this:

  • “I do executive coaching in Podunk, CA.”
  • I write web copy for you.”
  • “Best real estate property in the state.”

Be Helpful
Focus on others, what you can do to help them. Act like you’re a new arrival in a cocktail party. Don’t try to draw attention to yourself and your business. But be sure to be helpful by sharing where they can get helpful information to help solve their problems.

I’ve got my blog posts set up to feed automatically into Twitter by using Twitterfeed.com. I blog most days, or at least every other day. People see my tweets on Twitter, and click to read my blog posts. It’s a major source of traffic to my blogs. People from Twitter are more likely to leave comments on a blog.
Since this is done automatically, I don’t spend any time on this. Apart from that, I read my TweetLater alerts in my inbox. I go over to Twitter when I see an alert and I can respond or re-tweet something helpful.
Sometimes strangers will see one of my blog posts they like and re-tweet the headline with the link. Be sure to thank them and follow them, since they are a great source for you getting known. Be sure to re-tweet other people’s good blog posts too.
Ask for Help
When I was about to write this tip, I used Twitter to ask others for their best tip. Here are two responses I got:

  • @xposure (Nigel Lamb)@Patsiblogsquad: Use the search for keywords. Answer questions that are your area of expertise. Recommend others, so they return the favor.
  • @leeodden (Lee Odden) @Patsiblogsquad: Search twitter using queries that describe prospects in a state of need & be helpful to them.

On Twitter, I asked people how they would answer the question “What is your one tip on how B2B marketers should leverage social media?”

Just imagine how you could create content for articles, blog posts, and white papers. The next time somebody says, “Twitter? Who’s got time for that?” you’ll know why it’s smart to use social media sites for growing your business.

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Mac McIntosh

Blog Sales Leads Insights Twitter B2B_Sales_Leads

Seamus WalshDoes social media drive leads and sales?

Mac McIntosh's Bio

M. H. (Mac) McIntosh is considered to be one of North America’s top B2B marketing consultants and an expert the subject of using marketing to generate leads and drive sales. In addition to consulting, Mac conducts marketing workshops and seminars, writes regularly for leading marketing and business publications, is the publisher of Sales Lead Report, a newsletter with more than 15,000 subscribers, and Sales Lead Insights, his B2B marketing blog. He holds the Certified Business Communicator (CBC) designation awarded by the Business Marketing Association and was designated by BtoB magazine as one of its “Top 100 in BtoB Marketing.”

Mac McIntosh's Tip

Think of social media marketing as being more effective for branding, awareness and SEO, than for generating leads or driving sales.
Sure social media is getting lots of buzz, but is it really productive at meeting what I believe are the primary objectives of B2B marketing—driving leads and sales?

Although I’ve been diligently searching for evidence of success at generating B2B leads and driving sales via social media, the only clear cases of success I’ve found to date seem to fall into these three categories:

  1. Those businesses which sell products or services directly related to social media marketing to those who are interested in learning more about it, or need help getting their social media marketing up and running.
  2. Very small businesses (often solo-practitioners) including consultants, speakers, trainers, copywriters and designers who have the time required to effectively use social media as a way to market their products and services on a shoestring budget. In general the small businesses which seem to be most successful with using social media marketing to drive leads and sales are those which invest twenty or more hours each week in social media marketing.
  3. B2B salespeople who are using social media, specifically LinkedIn, as an effective one-to-one sales tool for finding and contacting prospective customers.

So if none of the above apply to you or your business, I recommend you consider social media to be one of the marketing tactics you can use to accomplish your branding, awareness and SEO objectives. But suggest you look elsewhere in your B2B marketing communication toolbox when your primary goals are generating leads and driving sales.

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Maria Pergolino

Blog Modern B2B Marketing Twitter Marketo InboundMarketer

Seamus WalshSocial media should be a part of overall marketing strategy

Maria Pergolino's Bio

Maria Pergolino works as Inbound Marketing Manager at Marketo, leading their efforts in adoption of social media channels for brand awareness and demand generation. She has worked in marketing for over ten years, and specifically in online marketing including social media, search marketing, and lead generation and nurturing for the past six. Maria has a Marketing Degree and MBA from the School of Business at Rutgers University, is a Salesforce Certified Administrator, and a speaker at numerous marketing events. She has also written for many marketing blogs, and is a frequent contributor to Marketo’s popular blog, Modern B2B Marketing.

Maria Pergolino's Tip

Social media should not stand alone as it works best when used in conjunction with all marketing resources and tools. Marketing campaigns should not be isolated, but instead cultivated using email, blogging, the corporate website, search marketing, and social media sites liked LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. By doing this, you can look at the ROI of overall campaigns, focusing on those that work best for your organization, instead of spending your time trying to decide which Tweet is best or which email subject is most successful.

Marketers should become familiar with the social networks that their prospects and customers participate in and find the ways to share information on these sites. This means that B2B marketers shouldn't just join every social networking site and broadcast their information to all using RSS. Instead, talk to customers and prospects about which sites their using and begin developing relationships on these sites, creating two way interactions. It's also important to remember that social media includes websites with social functionality including sites that use comments and ratings like Youtube, Yelp, and Slideshare. These sites may also provide some extra punch, supporting your SEO effort as well.

By thinking of social media as a piece in your overall marketing strategy you will save your organization time, make customers and prospects happier, and provide a stronger return on your social media efforts.

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Seamus Walsh

Blog B2BContentMarketing Twitter SeamusWalsh

Seamus WalshSocial media is not a panacea, it is a means to an end

Seamus Walsh's Bio

Seamus Walsh founded VAZT Global Inc. in January 2008. Seamus' passion for sales, sales process and excellence enabled him to develop a platform that "finds, cares and feeds" prospects until they are ready to buy. Prior to forming VAZT, Seamus worked in sales and strategic account management for The Hackett Group, a strategic advisory and management consulting firm in Atlanta, For Gartner, a research, advisory and consulting company in Stamford, CT and Cambridge Technology Partners, a web development company, prior to its acquisition by Novell. Seamus resides in Essex Junction, VT with his wife and four children.

Seamus Walsh's Tip

First understand social media is not a panacea, it is a means to an end and should be part of a thought out customer touch point strategy. Before you invest precious time ask your customers where they are, some will prefer a phone call, a salesperson meeting or a toll free customer service number.

That said, it is important to go to every identifiable social media site and register your company name and trademarks as userid’s, that way when you are ready to launch into a social media campaign you and your brand is ready and you are protected from unscrupulous intent. This approach acknowledges social media has its place but that does not mean you have to be everywhere day one, to start be where your customers are. At the same time, personal branding is vital. Ensure key members of your team have their first name, last name registered on existing and emerging social media sites.

Venues like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace or the plethora of other social sites may or may not be the right venue, but with your name/userid registered you can step into it on your and more important your client’s and prospect’s time.

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More Stories By Ambal Balakrishnan

Ambal has robust 17+ years experience working at and partnering with high-profile technology companies in both B2B and B2C marketplaces building scalable, reliable, high performance products (both hardware and software) for business with multi-billion dollar in annual revenue. She has done various roles that includes engineering, program management, business development, strategy and marketing for premium and fast growing product divisions at Cisco, Telecordia (prior name Bell Labs) and strategic marketing consulting firm ClickDocuments. At Cisco, she focused on world wide marketing and positioning of Cisco's Cloud & Data Center switching business. She brings both strong engineering & marketing skills with verticals experience from many different industries. Ambal received her Masters in Computer Science from Purdue University and an MBA in Marketing, Strategy and Entrepreneurship from Wharton University of Pennsylvania. Ambal is an avid reader and hiker. Her hiking pursuits have taken her to several mountains including Mt. Whitney at 14,500 feet (which she managed to climb in 1 day). Ambal lives in Austin, TX with her family of 3 boys (that includes her husband!) and a border-collie+lab mix dog named Rainbow.