Chart Your Online Conversations

By Chris Ilcin, Account Superintendent, Sonnhalter

Brian Solis is an interesting person. Digital analyst, anthropologist, and self-described futurist. One of his key areas of focus is the effect of disruptive technology on business and society. In 2008 as a part of that research he decided to map the social media landscape in what he called the “Conversation Prism,” coming up with a few categories that neatly classified the landscape as it was when Iron Man, The Dark Night and Twilight were in theaters.

Times sure have changed…



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Social Media As a Profit Center

Today, we have guest post from Jeff Guritza, a marketing professional in the power tools accessories industry, on the incorporation of social media in a company’s business plan.

1284_5052019We’ve all heard the term “social media,” and you may have even been afraid to ask, “What the heck is that?!” Regardless of your awareness level, you shouldn’t be asking yourself if your business should be engaged in social media. You should be asking yourself how.

Practically overnight, social media has become a cultural phenomenon. Simply stated, social media is defined as people going online to find, read or share content that interests them. Commonly used platforms are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn. Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not just a personal platform that millennials use during their free time. Increasingly, people of all ages and nationalities jump online 24/7 for practically everything: researching gift ideas, sharing photos, reviewing products or getting directions

Social media is not a fad that will fade in time. Like your morning cup of coffee, it’s here to stay.

Social media transcends personal opinions, pastimes and hobbies. Its vast influence is felt in industries both large and small, near and far. Baby Boomers are embracing social media in droves, looking to communicate with grandkids and reconnect with friends. Whether you like it, people right now are vetting your business based upon content they find about you online.

To help guide you, here’s three smart steps to follow when looking to jumpstart your company’s social media engagement.

1. Social Media Lite: First, realize in this day and age you absolutely must have a social media presence. At a bare minimum, your company should set up accounts on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter. To do so, find your most tech- savvy associate and have him or her get online with a logo, some pictures, key contact information, company facts and reasons for being (think elevator pitch.)

This first step is non-negotiable and must be done ASAP. If you don’t have capable internal resources, it is worth the investment to have an outside vendor handle this on your behalf. Just ensure they share all account info (user names and passwords) to enable you to self-manage your accounts in perpetuity. This step isn’t expensive, complicated or even time-intensive. People are already forming opinions about your organization and likely sharing them online. As any PR counselor will tell you, it’s important to control the message, and having a social media presence is a way to accomplish this. This first step truly is the baseline cost of doing business today.

2. Define Your Brand: Step two focuses on building online content within the framework established in step one so that you’re engaging social media in a timely and purposeful way. From new product launches and success stories, to employee service anniversaries and customer awards, there’s plenty of content that industrial businesses can post.

And you should post. Many of your stakeholders find value in the content shared. Social media is a powerful new channel-to-market primed for you to get your business noticed in a positive way. And with step two, you’ve now taken what was a simple online presence and launched a bonafide program.

A valuable byproduct of this second step is tangible ROI. Like most online efforts, you’ll be able to track and quantify all activity (number of visitors, page “likes”, etc.) This is powerful data to capture and analyze to help guide strategic planning. It’s good to know what your target audience and stakeholders think about you and your company, warts and all.

With step two complete, you’ve effectively created an online measurable forum for people (customers, vendors, former employees, etc.) to engage with your organization on a personal, yet professional, level where they can provide feedback, ask for technical support and provide critiques that ultimately reflects how your company (brand, associates, policies, service levels, prices) is perceived by the market.

3. Establish A Process: (a rare final step today within the industrial distribution realm) is creating a daily, strategic online content management system. This only happens when you commit a dedicated resource (FTE) to reinforce and grow your brand in meaningful ways each and every day via social media.

This final step follows a structured, formal daily process to engage your company’s online audience by posting content that positions your company as the best in breed. This includes content from your team on best practices, helpful hints and upcoming trade shows and events.

Great content is king. Post anything that you consider valuable. This includes how-to videos, conversion charts, technical specs, best practices, success stories, etc. The goal is consistent, quality content that is aligned with your brand’s promise.

Make no mistake. Companies that have embraced step three can directly attribute business success (leads, sales, VOC improvements, etc.) to the social media process. Therefore, social media is making them money.

With step three, your social media function is now part of the expected, daily workflow and has become an integral component of your overall, multi-faceted marketing plan.

All industrial businesses must be present online in some formal fashion or you risk being viewed as outdated or even irrelevant. It’s like choosing not to travel to an industry event you’ve attended for years or forgoing an annual display ad in a trade publication. You become conspicuous by your absence. Forgo social media, and you’ll be viewed differently.

A fully operational social media process at your organization will allow you to educate, engage and convert readers into leads. And you will close more business (direct sales) because of your social media program.

Keep in mind it’s not an overnight process; it’s brand-building. And like Rome, it wasn’t built in a day.

The granular nature of online audience segmentation allows surgical strikes to an audience of one, a concept previously unattainable with traditional media.

People do business with people. And social media is people. This isn’t a lifeless magazine ad or a direct mail postcard; social media is one person’s thoughts, opinions and perception of your business. In this manner, it affords you the chance to identify opportunities and seize upon them.

As the information age continues to advance at a seemingly ever-increasing pace, any perceived lack of presence online is to your company’s detriment. Do yourself a favor now and invest the time to establish a baseline social media profile for your business. It’ll help attract land and retain customers, vendors and employees. You’ll thank me later.

Jeff Guritza is an international sales and marketing professional with more than 20 years of experience working for both manufacturers and distributors within several industrial markets: power transmission, fluid power and power tool accessories. This post originally appeared on Industrial Distribution.

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Are You Using Content Marketing to Understand Your B2B Audience?

If you’re into social media, you’re doing it with a purpose in mind. You have a story to tell and you want to tell it to a certain type of person. This holds true no matter what type of marketing you’re doing (traditional or social).

But when you’re developing your content, do you ever consider at what stage your reader is at in the buying cycle? By segmenting your content to include all stages of a buying process (awareness, consideration, evaluation and purchase), you’ll be sure to hit all your potentials at their stage in the buying process.

I recently read a post from AdamHolden-Bach from Mass Transmit called Using Content Marketing to Understand Your B2B Audience that I thought was spot on.

Here are some highlights on segmenting your markets:

  • Awareness – These folks have just begun the process. Provide educational content (blogs, white papers, webinars) and make it easy for them to receive it (do make them register to get it).
  • Consideration – Once they know about you they want to know how you stack up against the competition. Provide them product comparisons, case studies or other material that shows why your product is better.
  • Evaluation – They want to understand the solutions you provide and how they would benefit their business.
  • Purchase – Use social channels to broadcast new products, upgrades, special offers to help incentivize the customer.

As you’re creating content, identify which stage it falls into. Use tracking methods over time, for instance to gauge interest and tell you at what stage most of your audience is at in the sales cycle.

What are you doing to segment your marketing?

If you liked this post, you may also like:

2011 Trends: Content Marketing is Critical for Social Media Success

2011 Trends for B-to-B Bloggers

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Follow Companies on LinkedIn: Keep Tabs on Your Competitors or Customers

LinkedIn has a new tool, “Follow Company,” which, like it says, lets you follow companies. What a great way to get current activity levels at your customers or competitors. Learn what the latest competitive promo is or what the customers are talking about.

It’s simple to use.

  • You can either go the search box at the top right and scroll down to company and enter who you want to follow. Once the company profile comes up, there will be a place for you to click the box and you’re done. To unfollow is just as easy.
  • The other option is go to a member’s profile and where it talks about who he’s working for, you can scroll  and click “Follow Company” and you’re done.

I can’t believe it took them as long as it did to put this feature up there. The “Follow Company” function has truly made LinkedIn social.


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B-to-B Marketers: Social Networks Top Priority for 2010

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you must know that social media, even in the B-to-B space, is gaining traction on a daily basis. Top marketers worldwide agree that digital will increase in 2010. A recent article in eMarketer, Engagement on social networks top priority for marketers, substantiated these trends.

81% of the brand executives surveyed expected an increase in digital projects in 2010. Social networks and applications were among their biggest priority.

Top Priorities in 2010 According to Senior Marketers Worldwide (% of respondents)

B-to-B marketers are evaluating traditional media investments and are reallocating dollars to paid digital spending. Digital allows marketers to measure engagement whether it be time spent on a site, page views or click-through rates.

What are you doing to capitalize on the digital age? I’d love to hear from you.


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