Archive for October, 2010

Measuring the Impact of Social Media in B2B Marketing

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Forrester recently released a report by Laura Ramos and Augie Ray on How to Assess the Impact of Social Media in B2B Tech Marketing. While B2B marketers have been ramping up social media activities over the past 18 months, not all are seeing the outcomes they’d hoped for. As the report notes, “these social pioneers now ponder whether this new social activity will pay off in business results, and when. The tone of our customer inquiries about the role social media plays in B2B marketing has changed from cautious curiosity to healthy skepticism as we see B2B marketers question the amount of effort (required)…struggle to keep activities vibrant…and grapple with social roles and responsibilities.”

How to Assess the Impact of Social Media in B2B Tech Marketing - ForresterLaura and her team further write that “social marketing programs that don’t focus on a specific audience and objective get preoccupied with the tools and fail to connect with customers…Forrester has seen thousands of companies invest in social media, but few understand how to engage in social activity in ways that create a measurable impact on the business…Seeing tech buyers venture into social channels, B2B firms — more than half in a recent Forrester survey — react by spinning up poorly planned ad hoc programs with little organizational structure…as a result, internal teams begin to bicker over social duties, jockey to be the first to launch social programs, and create a disjointed, incoherent customer experience that fosters mistrust, uncertainty and ridicule.”

Wow — “mistrust, uncertainty and ridicule” — obviously not the objectives of any marketing activity. So what can B2B marketers do (other than ignoring social media; a perilous option at best) to avoid this harsh fate?

1. Set goals, understanding what social media is good for — and what it isn’t. Social media is more like a PR activity than marketing or advertising. It’s about engaging with customers, prospects, industry press, analysts, bloggers and other key influencers to increase the amount of positive conversation about your company,  product or service. This can be measured in a variety of ways such as number of “mentions” of your company across social media channels, traffic driven directly from social media sites, and increases in branded search traffic (often the result of exposure through social media or traditional PR activities). It may require some creativity to translate these metrics into hard dollar amounts, but that doesn’t mean that social media results can’t, and shouldn’t, be measured. And as with any other marketing or PR activity, social media efforts be focused on a specific audience.

2. Coordinate efforts. This is easiest if different parts of your organization actually work together toward common goals, which should be the case (but isn’t always) in every company. If your internal groups “bicker” and “jockey” as described above, it may require a senior executive to exert control over the process. But “control” is tricky in the social media world. While management needs to communicate objectives, messaging and guidelines for social media use, ultimately employees from different parts of the organization have to realize they are all working toward furthering the success of the company, and coordinate efforts to meet the needs of differing audiences (e.g., separate Twitter accounts for support and marketing, separate business-focused and technology-focused blogs, etc.).

3. Make sure that social media efforts are sustainable. As the authors note later in the report, “Unlike conventional campaigns, community marketing lacks a specific beginning and end to the activity.” In order to avoid in particular the “mistrust” and “ridicule” noted above, social media programs should be designed to be perpetual, or to last at least until they no longer make sense (e.g. a particular platform loses favor; MySpace comes to mind). This requires allocating sufficient staff time to build and maintain social media points of presence, and having a succession plan in place for when team members move on to other opportunities.

The top five social media platforms being utilized by B2B tech marketers according to the report are, in order:

  • • Blogs
  • • Open, public social networks (e.g., LinkedIn, Facebook)
  • • Podcasts
  • • Discussion forums
  • • Video

Microblogging (i.e., Twitter) surprisingly came in at #7, with an equal number of respondents calling it “less important” for the coming year as making it a higher priority.

Measurement remains the biggest challenge in B2B social media marketing. 77% of respondents said they were either “learning about social media’s impact as they go along” or “struggling to find good ways to measure social outcomes.” Among the minority actually able to assess outcomes, however, most reported seeing benefits in the form of unaided recall, online reach, share of voice, and other brand-related metrics. These results, along with the fact that “many B2B marketers treat social media like an outbound communications channel, and our research highlights the consequences of this choice. Few marketers say that they can measure the impact of social activity on sales lead productivity” reinforce the value of social media as more of a PR-like tool than a direct marketing channel.

The report concludes by recommending that marketers use a combination of value chain analysis and total economic impact (I’ll leave the explanation of these to Forrester) to assess the impact of social media investments on B2B marketing success. Many marketers may find these analytical models difficult to implement and the results of even a successful exercise somewhat fuzzy. What’s most important, however, is to treat social media as an engagement channel rather than a broadcast medium, and structure measurement appropriately.

What’s the value of single phone call with a prospective customer, or a single email exchange? What’s the value of taking a call from an industry journalist who wants to include a quote from your company in a relevant news article? Any of those may be difficult to quantify, but that doesn’t mean you’d even consider ignoring an email or phone call from a prospect or influential journalist. In the end, it’s the same with social media value. It may be difficult to quantify precisely, but B2B vendors can’t afford to ignore it.

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100+ Blog Directories and RSS Sites for Promoting Your Blog

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Over time, the top source of traffic for most blogs is search. The two keys to search success are great content and links. Assuming you’ve already got great content, there are many places to get links (e.g. social networking profiles, social bookmarking sites, other bloggers). But two great sources are blog directories and RSS syndication sites. Not only do they provide valuable links, they can also supply direct traffic and help build your RSS subscriber list.

To give credit where it’s due, both the TopRank Online Marketing Blog and Robin Good have provided nice lists in the past, but as changes in the blog directory world can be challenging to keep pace with, both now include dead links and directories that have significantly changed their policies (e.g. charging for inclusion).

Update April 2013: Several of the sites below (now de-linked) are no longer active. Thanks to Arvid Linde for providing an updated list of active RSS and blog directories.

So, having recently completed a submission campaign for a client, here is an updated list of blog directories and RSS syndication sites that remain active and free. The list excludes sites that were, ahem, inappropriate for most blogs, had non-operational submission forms, appeared inactive, required a fee, or had a Google Pagerank of zero.

Preparation: What You’ll Need First

Before you get started with blog directory and RSS submission, here is a list of assets you’ll need to have ready in order to make your submission work productive. Create a plain text file, using Notepad or a similar tool, with the following information compiled:

Blog name/title (e.g., Webbiquity B2B Marketing Blog)

Blog URL (e.g., http://webbiquity.com)

Feed URL (e.g., http://feeds.feedburner.com/Webbiquity)

Meta description: (usually no more than 200 characters, e.g., “Webbiquity is the fusion of SEO, search marketing, social media, reputation management, content marketing and social PR to make you or your company omnipresent on the web for your unique search phrase.”)

Alternative short description (up to 255 characters, to take advantage of the slightly higher character limit offered by many directories, and to mix things up just a bit)

Keywords (6-8 core keyword phrases for your blog, e.g., “b2b marketing blog, SEO, search engine marketing, social media, SEM, online reputation management, content marketing, social PR”)

Long description (up to 500 characters)

About the author (up to 255 characters about you)

A user name, password and email address you’ll be using for the submissions. It’s simplest to use a common name and password across all of the sites, but if you’re concerned about security, use variations. Just keep a list in case you need to go back and edit details (e.g. change your email address) in the future.

100+ Blog Directories and RSS Submission Sites

Several of these sites require registration, and some require a reciprocal link, but at last check all were still active and free.

Blloggs
PR=1

Blogarama
PR=4

Blog.com
PR=6

Blogaz
PR=4

Blogbunch blog+rss
PR=3

Blogburst
“by invitation only” (not all blogs accepted)
PR=6

Blog-collector blog+rss
PR=2

Blogs-collection
PR=3

Blog-directory
PR=5

Blogdir
PR=4
(free) registration required

Blogdirectory001
PR=5
(free) registration required

Blogexplosion
PR=5
(free) registration required

Blogfinds
PR=3

Blogfolders
PR=3

Blogged
PR=6

Bloggapedia blog+rss
PR=5
(free) registration required

Bloggernity
PR=5

Bloghub
PR=5

Bloglisting
PR=3

Bloggernow
PR=3

Blogobbler
PR=1

Blogotion
PR=4

BlogPulse blog+rss
PR=6

Blogrankings
PR=6

Blogs.com
PR=7

Blogsearch
PR=6

Blog-search
PR=3

Blogsrating
PR=3

Blogville
PR=5

Blogz
PR=5

Buzzerhut
PR=3

Feedmap blog+rss
PR=3

Feednuts blog+rss
PR=5

Feedplex blog+rss
PR=3

Flookie
PR=4

FyberSearch
PR=3

Getblogs
PR=5

Globeofblogs
PR=7

Google
PR=10

Gozoof
PR=3

Grokodile
PR=3

Icerocket
PR=7

Info-listings
PR=4

Leighrss
PR=4

Loaded Web
PR=5

LSBlogs
PR=3

Minnesota blog+rss
PR=4

Mozdex
PR=3

Mvblogs
PR=4

Ontoplist blog+rss
PR=5

Regator (not all blogs accepted)
PR=5

Roask
PR=4

SmallBusiness.com
PR=5

Spicypage
PR=3

Submitblognow
PR=4

Technorati
PR=7

Theseoking
PR=3

Topblogarea
PR=5

TruthLaidBear
PR=5

Ubdaily
PR=4

Wilsdomain
PR=3

Weblogs.com
PR=6

Webloogle
PR=3 (a bit edgy)

Webworldindex
PR=3

Zimbio blog+rss
PR=6

RSS Feed Syndication Sites

4guysfromrolla
PR=4

5z5.com
PR=4

9rules.com
PR=4

Blogdigger
PR=6

Chordata Blog+Rss
PR=4

Devasp
PR=5

Feedagg
PR=6

Feedage
PR=6

Feedcat
PR=6

Rssfeeddirectory
PR=2

Feedest
PR=4

Feedgy
PR=4

FeedListing
PR=3

Feedmailer
PR=5

Feedsee
PR=5

Feeds4all
PR=5

Feedzie
PR=4

Finance-investing
PR=5

Goldenfeed
PR=4

Guzzle
PR=4

Jordomedia
PR=5

Keegy
PR=5

Leighrss
PR=4

Metafeeder
PR=3

Millionrss
PR=5

Moneyhighstreet
PR=4

Newsnow
PR=5

NGOID News Network
PR=5

Oobdoo
PR=5

Plazoo
PR=6

Rss001
PR=4

Rssmountain
PR=5

Rssmotron
PR=4

Rsstop10
PR=5

Rubhub
PR=6

Scribnia
PR=5

Solarwarp
PR=4

Swoogle
PR=6

Syndic8
PR=5

Urlfan
PR=5

Weblogalot
PR=6

Yopod
PR=5

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5 Great Reasons to Retweet Others on Twitter

Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

One of the key characteristics I (and many other Twitter users) use when determining whether I should follow someone back on Twitter is the level of interaction in their tweet stream. Do they ask questions? Answer them? And most importantly, do they ever retweet others’ content?

Be sweet - retweet on TwitterNow virtually every blogger and business user on Twitter tweets their own content, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that—it’s one of the strengths of the platform. But Twitter is a social tool, not a broadcasting medium. Tweeting only their own stuff makes a person look like one of those cocktail party boors who only want to talk about themselves. More often than not, they end up talking only to themselves.

Retweeting is a key part of the social interaction on Twitter. Here are five great reasons to share content posted by others.

1. It helps those you retweet. Retweeting provides others with both social (“nice work!”) benefits as well as the practical benefit of driving more traffic to their content. It’s a nice thing to do, and (usually) appreciated.

2. It helps your followers. Tweeting and retweeting interesting and valuable content helps those who follow you. When you help your follows discover new knowledge and information, you become a valued information source and build trust.

3. It generates more retweets for you. Others are more likely to retweet your content when they view you as someone trying to share helpful content with the community rather than just broadcasting your own material.

4. It makes others more likely to follow you. People want to be retweeted. Having retweets and other interaction in your tweetstream makes you a much more attractive person/entity to follow than someone whose tweets are one-way and obviously done on auto pilot.

5. It gets you more #FollowFriday recommendations. For all of the reasons above, retweeting makes others more likely to recommend you to their followers, which in turn grows your following.

It all comes down to the “social” in social media; people value tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook for the interaction with like-minded individuals they provide. Those who focus on “broadcasting” only their own content through these media tend to be shunned or ignored. Conversely, those who interact and add value grow their networks, influence and trust over time. Sometimes the best way to advance in social media is to retweet.

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Best Business Blogging Tips and Guides of 2010 (So Far), Part 2

Monday, October 18th, 2010

How can you craft more compelling blog headlines? Which SEO tools should be part of every blogger’s arsenal? What characteristics do successful bloggers share? How can you get more links to your blog? Continually come up with fresh and interesting topics? Avoid dumb mistakes that even smart bloggers make?

Best Business Blogging Guides of 2010 (So Far)Find the answers to those questions and others here in more of the best guides to business blogging of 2010 so far.

10 SEO Tools Every Blogger Must Use by Daily SEO Tip

Anil Gupta provides mini-reviews of 10 useful SEO tools for bloggers, from the popular (e.g., Google Analytics) to the lesser-known (e.g., Ranks.nl keyword density tool and Sitening.com SEO Analyzer).

Blog Optimization, Post Title SEO & Deadeye Targeting by aimClear

Marty Weintraub explains, with his customary depth and real-world illustration, how to use keyword research to craft blog post titles that draw both human readers and high organic search position.

The 8 Habits of Highly Effective Bloggers by Copyblogger

Want to join the ranks of highly successful bloggers? Of course you do, or you wouldn’t be reading this. Annabel Candy details eight traits to cultivate for blogging success, such as being concise, focused and persistent.

Meaningful Metrics for B2B Blogging by Proteus B2B Marketing

The prolific Galen De Young first clarifies which commonly used metrics aren’t particularly important (and why), then does a deep dive into several more valuable ways to measure the impact of a corporate blog, including analysis of total site traffic driven by your blog, your blog’s impact on search traffic, and visit quality.

Top 10 Blog Directories by SEO Wizardry

***** 5 Stars
Pete Hollier lists the top ten blog directories for listings that will generate both direct traffic and valuable backlinks.

The 5 Old Blogging Rules Killing Your Readership by Outspoken Media

The highly linkable Lisa Barone showcases five “old rules” for blogging success that no longer apply, and recommends new ones to replace them. Example: “Old Rule: Good Bloggers Keep Posts Short…Instead of insight, opinion and commentary, we got copycat stories and blogging for blogging’s sake. It was riveting. Only not. New Rule: Size doesn’t matter, the content does.”

Smart Professionals with Dumb Blogs by Writing on the Web

Patsi Krakoff presents a list of common “dumb” mistakes made by otherwise smart bloggers (long sentences, overuse of “we,” vague terms) along with recommendations for writing better posts.

17 Easy Steps to Brilliant Blog Posts by Copyblogger

Lamenting the lack of a “succinct summary all in one place” of the most valuable guidelines for bloggers, Jill Chivers proceeds to offer her own excellent summary of four key factors in writing a compelling post, eight ideas for more interesting content and five things to check before publishing.

4 Business Blogging Best Practices by HubSpot Blog

Noting that “Great business blogs have to walk a fine line: they have to create value for current and prospective customers while at the same time supporting a strategy that provides business growth,” Kipp Bodnar advises business bloggers to think like publishers, consider SEO and provide a clear connection to the corporate website among other practices.

7 ways to get more link love by iMedia Connection

Garrett French offers seven tips for getting relevant links to your content, such as constantly looking for ways to link to your peers first: “Link lavishly, and it will return to you in time.” Hey, it worked for him here.

50 Ways To Optimize Your Blog by jeffbullas.com

Jeff Bullas presents 50 tips to increase your blog’s readership, like asking questions of your readers, using StumbleUpon and AllTop, thoughtfully commenting on other blogs (with a link back to your own) and tweeting each of your new posts at least twice.

100 Sources of Blogging Inspiration by Ink Rebels

Diana Adams compiles an outstanding list of “though starters” to help break through blogger writing block, including writing a follow-up to an earlier post, lessons learned from an event you’ve attended, a book review, a case study, or if all else fails—inviting another blogger you’re socially connected with to write a guest post.

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What’s the Best Social Media Monitoring Tool? It Depends

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

Until fairly recently, keeping track of your organization’s online presence was relatively easy. Other than your company’s website, most mentions were likely in well-known online news sites or trade industry publication sites. Your PR team was aware of most of these as it often had a hand in generating those placements. A simple tool like Google Alerts would pick up most stray citations.

No more. The explosion of social media has led to a corresponding need for more sophisticated monitoring tools that can crawl the hundreds of social networking and bookmarking sites and millions of blogs across the globe. A rapidly proliferating collection of tools are being developed to meet the need. You can find a list of more than 150 social media monitoring tools here or close to 200 here, but—that can seem overwhelming. For those short on time and seeking a shorter list of tools to evaluate, below are nine tools at various price levels that may or may not be the best but are certainly among the most popular and capable social media monitoring tools currently available.

Budget: $0 (I have no budget, I need something free!)

Alterian SM2 Freemium

Though limited (in terms of filters, number of search terms and results) in comparison to the fee-based version of the tool, SM2 Freemium is still an excellent tool for getting a snapshot of your social media landscape—discovering who’s talking about you, your competitors and your industry, what they’re saying, and where they are saying it. Results can be exported to Excel for further sorting and analysis. I’ve used this tool on behalf of small clients for finding hundreds of key influencers on Twitter, blogs and various other social networking sites and forums. The only caveat is that this may whet your appetite for the full version (see below).

UPDATE February 21, 2012: The Freemium version disappeared from the Alterian site. When I inquired about it, I received this response: “Thank you for your question. Alterian (acquired by SDL on January 27, 2012) no longer offers the Freemium version of SM2 online. If you are interested in licensing our product, the initial license fee starts at $18,000 per year.”

Social Mention

Another excellent free tool for finding relevant influencers across the social media sphere, Social Mention is a real-time social search engine that also provides alerts and a cool buzz-monitoring widget you can add to your website or blog. If Google Alerts had been developed with a focus on social media, this would be it. This tool is fast, easy to use, and offers a useful set of filters for finding mentions of a company or topic in specific types of social interaction (e.g. blogs, microblogging sites, social networks, etc.).

Budget: Under $500 per month

UberVU

An easy-to-use, graphically rich tool that provides monitoring (who’s talking about you, your competitors, key industry terms and trends, etc., and where they are talking about it), sentiment analysis, and collaboration tools for acting on the information. It may not catch everything, but it finds a lot (via blogs, Twitter, social news sites and Facebook public pages) and presents the information through useful charts and graphs. Several pricing options are available, most under $500 per month.

Trackur

Along with the monitoring and alert features you’d expect, Trackur also includes a proprietary algorithm for displaying the influence and reach of individuals discussing your brand or topic—so you can focus on power users and ignore trolls and spammers. Andy Beal and his team have built a nice tool that’s garnered favorable reviews from TechCrunch and other prominent tech sites. As with UberVU, several pricing / service levels are available under $500 per month.

Budget: $500-1,000 per month

Social Media Monitoring

Alterian SM2

The fee-based version of SM2 does everything the freemium version does plus providing unlimited searches and results, filters, boolean search strings and alerts. Its monitoring covers blogs, message boards, forums, microblogging sites, wikis, media sharing sites, social networks, online classifieds and review sites. SM2 provides enough social media monitoring power to be relied upon by some fairly large brands, at a price point affordable to midsized and even socially active smaller companies.

Radian6

Popular with agencies as well as corporate users, Radian6 offers a rich set of tools for social media monitoring, responding, tracking, benchmarking and analytics. The Radian6 Dashboard enables you to monitor conversations in real time, while the Engagement Console lets you respond directly or route posts to appropriate individuals or teams and analyze the results of social media interactions.

Traditional PR + Social Media Monitoring

Cision

Cision combines its own PR tracking capabilities built on the former Bacon’s clipping service (older PR pros, you may need to explain to your younger counterparts what a “clipping service” was back in the day) with a white-labeled version of Radian6 to provide markets and PR professionals with a 360-degree view of brand mentions and trends across traditional and social media. Cision’s tools are designed to help organizations of almost any size that are active in PR and social media relations “plan their stories, connect with audiences, monitor media coverage and analyze results.”

Vocus

Vocus provides a rich set of tools for traditional and social media monitoring, media outreach and news distribution. The company’s built-from-the-ground-up monitoring tools cover more than 50,000 traditional media outlets, every major social media site and 20 million blogs. Its database of 270,000 U.S. / 500,000 global media contacts is invaluable for connecting with the right writers and performing effective outreach. Through PRWeb, which Vocus acquired in 2006, it offers extensive news distribution and tracking capabilities. Social media monitoring can be purchased separately for $3000 per year (putting that tool effectively in the $0-500 per month category) though most users combine at least a subset of the PR tools with this.

Budget: We don’t need no stinkin’ budget

Nielsen BuzzMetrics

If you’re familiar with terms like product placement and slotting fees, and your brand is familiar to consumers through prime time TV advertising, you should probably evaluate this tool. If all of those things are true and your company is social media savvy, there’s a good chance you’re already using it. Nielsen’s monitoring covers more than 100 million blogs, social networking sites, discussion boards and other sites where consumers can post content. It provides capabilities for capturing customer insights, response, brand management and social media outreach tracking. Forrester Research has named Nielsen a leader in brand monitoring solutions, saying “the vendor has the strongest strategic vision and currently competes at a scale unmatched by any other competitor.”

These tools are among the best for social media monitoring, whatever your budget and needs. But, as noted above, the social media monitoring space is highly dynamic, with new tools and improvements to existing tools constantly being introduced. If I overlooked your favorite tool, leave a comment below.

Also, as a test—since this post is about social monitoring tool vendors, let’s see how many of them promote it or respond to it, either with a comment here or on other social media outlets, and how quickly they do so.

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