Beyond PR

Jun 16, 2011

Social Media, B2B Demand Generation & Storytelling

Yesterday’s Ask the Experts Digital Webinar titled, ” Using Social Tools for B2B Storytelling & Demand Generation, hosted by Marketing Cloud, ” was an interesting and enlightening session.  I loved the mix of perspectives offered by the panel:

  •  Jay Baer, social media strategist, author of the Convince & Convert blog, and co-author of The Now Revolution, @jaybaer
  • Elizabeth Sosnow, managing director of Bliss PR, @elizabethsosnow
  • Adam Metz, VP of business development, Metz Consulting, and author of The Social Customer (Sept. 2011), @themetz

As the title suggests, the discussion focused on using content in social channels for demand generation.  Before they dove into tactics, however, the panel discussed some social media basics.

First and foremost, Adam noted that in order to be successful, marketers need to discover where your customers are, at the correct time of need.   The content you create and deploy needs to fit the customer’s context.   He suggested that you look for the “watering holes” where customers and prospects congregate.  Quora, Twitter, and LinkedIn groups are all places, for example, where people go to ask questions and seek opinions, and for many companies are ideal places to find prospective customers.    Reaching current customers may be a different exercise, especially depending upon your goals – whether those are cross-selling, new product promotion or retention.  Destination communities that provide a level of qualification are good places to start.

Adam suggested that a social assessment is a good first step.  Assess the social landscape.  Find out what keywords and hashtags indicate conversations germane to your products and services.   Learn where the nodes of discussion exist, and map out communities, forums and discussion groups that cater to more sophisticated and experienced customers.

LinkedIn was the next topic of conversation, and Elizabeth noted that B2B organizations really need to invest in this network, calling it a “sleeper,” and noting that it has a big audience that is focused on doing business.   Her advice for establishing yourself on LinkedIn as straightforward and effective:

  1. Establish and complete your personal profile, to take advantage of all the search capabilities
  2. Participate in some Q&As – search LinkedIn for two terms that matter to you, try to answer one or two a week.  You can get leads & prospects from this exercise, and raise your overall profile.
  3. Groups are still a great opportunity to harvest prospects and find influencers.  Pick 3 groups that look meaningful, and engage – not just sharing your stuff but interacting and learning.

The group agreed that the B2B sales cycle is a long process, and marketers need to keep that process in mind when it comes to influencing.  People like to be engaged as they make buying decisions, and social media, deployed wisely, can provide another level of appropriate engagement along the decision journey.

At this point we arrived at the meat of the conversation, and it was really interesting as the conversation turned to storytelling tactics, and how they can work in a B2B demand gen social strategy.

Elizabeth offered a few examples, including what she called the “David & Goliath” story, and the “Hannibal Lecter” story, which (surprisingly, I thought) really do have solid application in the B2B space.

In the “David & Goliath” approach, the storyteller frames the story in terms of a smaller player facing off against a larger player … or problem.  In the “Hannibal Lecter” approach, the writer finds a “bad guy” – preferably a process or other non-human impediment.

All of the speakers agreed that atomizing and distributing the content you produce is a key practice, noting that in many cases, when we post content to our own web sites, we’re serving people who already have some sense of the organizations we’re promoting.  The trick, the panel agreed, is to reach a larger group of people.

Decentralizing your content is one way to put “more bait in the water,” as Adam characterized it, noting that you can turn one white paper into five blog posts, a webinar, a slide deck, etc.  Break up the content and spread it widely.

Jay noted that the decentralization strategy does require some discipline, in the form a hub (probably the company blog) to which the other channels point.  All of the content you deploy needs to ultimately point readers back to a point (blog, microsite, landing page, etc.) within the brand’s control that effectively represents the next step in the customer’s decision.   Here’s the full presentation deck:


If you’d like to access the webinar re-play, click the image at the top of this page.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

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