A 3 minute lesson in traditional versus social brand marketing

I found this little animation to be entertaining and instructive and wanted to share with you.  I have no connection with the producers of this video, Scholz & Friends.  They just did a good job and I wanted to say so. : )  Three minutes well-spent.

Apologies for the annoying Google ads on this video.  Not my idea.

Don’t you think this makes an effective point about media noise?

An easy way to explain the social web. Really!

I’m often asked to explain the social web … in three minutes or less.  Difficult!   But I’ve come up with a simple way to describe the importance of social media in my presentations that might be useful to you when you meet those people who want you to explain all this stuff like “Tweeter and Facebox.”

And it’s easy to remember:  Evolution, revolution, contribution.

EVOLUTION

Here is a brief history of communications:

  • Men on fast horses
  • Town squares
  • Printing press
  • Mail
  • Telephone
  • Radio
  • Television
  • Internet
  • Email
  • Mobile
  • Social web

If you break it down like this, it makes an impression that this is really the next stage in how people communicate.  Now pay attention!

REVOLUTION

So what makes this unique?  What pushes the social web into the same rarefied category as the printing press or television?  Two things:

1) This is two-way communication. Everything else on the list above is one-way.  The message isn’t being controlled by an author or a news anchor or an advertising executive. People are talking back. That’s intense.

2) For the first time in human history, we have access to free, global, real-time communication. There is no other word to characterize the implication of this development but “profound.”

CONTRIBUTION

The distinguishing characteristic of the social web that most resonates with people is “contribution.” People are the publishers.  If the content is coming from common people it’s the social web. What are people publishing?

  • Ideas
  • Videos
  • Opinions
  • Criticisms
  • Commentary
  • Entertainment
  • Everybody publishes … including folks vitally important to you like employees, customers, competitors, partners, suppliers, people who love you, and people who hate you.

… so don’t you think you should be out there listening to these people?  Learning from them? Serving them?  And in the case of your competitor, pummeling them?

So this is the easiest way I’ve found to describe the power, importance and uniqueness of the social web in three minutes or less.   What do you think? What did I miss?

Wait a minute. It’s not about engagement after all!

I’ve been invited to be a presenter on an upcoming B2B Blogging webinar (announcement forthcoming!) so I’ve been studying many company blogs that I regard as best practices.  As I moved from site to site, I noticed something surprising.  There were very few comments.  In fact, there were virtually none.  It was kind of an “a-ha moment.”

As an example, I would direct your attention to General Electric, a gold standard for corporate blogging.  Their site is a glorious mix of art, entertainment, news and inspiration. GE combines beautiful writing, graphics and video to tell their story in a compelling way. And there are no comments anywhere.

Does the fact that there is no engagement on this forum mean GE is failing?  If one of the largest and best-managed companies in the world can’t create a community through their blog, how do we hold out hope for our own clients and company blogs?

As I’ve stewed on this issue, I’ve determined that we need to re-think the whole notion of engagement on company blogs.  In fact, we need to forget about it in most cases.  There are two reasons why.

Nobody’s home

I am blessed with a vibrant, intellectual, caring community on {grow}.  It’s not unusual for me to receive more comments in a day than GE and many corporate blogs receive in a year.  I believe the distinguishing factor is that there is a face to the {grow} community. You know me as a person and once you bump around a bit, you start to know the other community members too.

Company blogs are usually written by a team of people.  There are notable benefits to this approach:

  • Diversity of views and topics
  • Spread out the workload
  • Consistency of coverage even during vacations and attrition

So I’m not criticizing this blogging strategy.  But the downside is that there is no personality to connect to. People are unlikely to form a community around an anonymous team of people.  If you’re employing this approach, I think it’s a long-shot to expect meaningful engagement.

Example of an exception: Randy’s Journal, the personal Boeing blog of Marketing VP Randy Tinseth. Real guy. Real community.

Let’s look at the numbers

A recent study by Compendium shows that 92% of B2C companies claim that 60% or more of their blog traffic are first-time visitors and a vast majority of the time, more than 80% are newcomers every day.

The numbers for B2B are a little better with 64% of companies claiming that 60% or more of their visitors have never been there before on any given day.

In other words, visitors to a company’s blog are not a core group of loyal community members. It’s a constant churn of people who have never been there before … and may never be there again.

Re-thinking the meaning of engagement

For those who have been chanting the “it’s all about community” mantra, there are some pretty shocking — but also exciting — implications to this:

1) Except in very few cases, engagement as measured by subscriptions, return visitors and comments may not be a realistic or desirable goal for your company blog.

2) The data show that corporate blogs act as superb targets for search engines. We already knew that but perhaps it’s time to codify that and respond with an appropriate social media sales strategy. You probably have dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of strangers buzzing by your blog every day. Stop trying to engage them.  Just get them to pause.

3) The B2B data show that prospects are almost twice as likely to stick around a B2B blog than a B2C blog. This is great news for the B2B marketer. The B2B sales cycle is long and buyers need lots of information to make decisions. While visitors may not be engaging, they do seem to be reading and coming back for more.

If you’ve made your living touting the engagement benefits of corporate blogging, you’re probably either reaching for your oxygen mask or your flame-thrower.  In any event, I’d like to hear from you in the comment section. What do you think of this re-framing of the objectives of a corporate blog?

How to sell stuff on your B2B blog without being annoying

I’m hoping by now the “selling is bad” phase of the social media mantra is passe and we can all freely embrace our inner capitalist.  Right?Earlier this week I wrote about a growing trend toward sponsored posts and outright selling on blogs.  Frankly I think this defeats the community-building aspect of a blog. Why read it when you know the author is taking money to pimp stuff? I personally think this is a trend that will run its course.  One day, sponsors will figure out nobody is reading the blog when it is obviously nothing more than an advertisement. People will self-Tivo.

However, I think there are some appropriate and customer-friendly ways to sell things on a blog. I’m going to focus on the tricky world of B2B …

  1. Feature blog-only special offers and discounts — This can also build readership if you can condition customers and prospects to look to the blog site for exclusive deals.
  2. Post product ads somewhere on your blog — This doesn’t have to be in your face and ugly. For example SAP routinely offers ads for their training programs on their blog. Why not? That’s a smart thing to do and also helpful.
  3. Involve sales in the blog chats and comments — Why not use the engagement in the comment section of the blog to let your sales folks build connections?
  4. Give away something away that requires an opt-in — Many blogs feature product samples, or eBooks that allow the site to collect info for the company CRM.
  5. Add a feature for customers to opt-in for specials and eNewsletter — Do you have other communication touch points customers might like to know about it? An opt-in for newsletters creates a sales lead.
  6. Write blog topics that feature helpful uses for your products and services that encourage people to buy more stuff.  That’s what we want them to do. “Grow”  … remember?

Any other ideas?  Have you seen any great best practices out there?

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