Social Media versus Marketing: Practical Guide

Social Media versus Marketing (1)

Honestly, it seems like a lot of us are having a hard time drawing the line between social media and traditional marketing. We are so used to promoting our products that it has become difficult NOT to talk about products. We know we should connect with our audience in a meaningful way, but how do you do that?

In this article, I will talk about how user behavior has changed with the rise of the internet, and how we can get out of the trap of self-promotion.

#Social Search  

The Internet has made us a connected society. We search for information on the web. We look for reviews and recommendations of others, preferable friends and peers. We all do this to a certain extent. It does not matter if we fall into the millennial age category or not. It doesn’t matter if we buy a B2B or B2C product. The behavior pattern is the same.

We look at the overall picture of a company. The experience with that brand makes us buy a product or not. In the past, companies “created” that picture for us as customers. It often took a long time until news about bad products or services would spread.

#Tell your company story

Today, companies have to deliver more than products and features. They have to tell their story. Customers and users are creating their own picture now.

So what is your company’s story? What do you want to be known for outside an official press release? Features or benefits, products or values?

Some would say they have always focused on their customers, long before social media and the Internet existed. That might hold true but something has changed. People starting now, long before they talk to us, to form a picture of whom we are as a company. Users are still looking for websites and press releases but most of the time they  search for non product- related information that they consider valuable.

#Provide value to your audience

What do people consider valuable information? The answer is not far out. If you ask yourself what do YOU consider valuable information when you look for a solution or product? Do you just look at a website or are you trying to find additional, preferable un-biased information? Customers today are looking for what social media marketers call authentic helpfulness. 

This means companies need to be helpful in finding answers to their customers’ common problems, and educate about topics the audience deeply cares about. Here is where the difference to traditional marketing comes into place. Traditional marketing consists of product and press releases, brochures, trade shows, and marketing kits where we exclusively represent our products.

In terms of daily life, what are good examples for social media and traditional marketing?

  • job stories only emphasizing on products –marketing
  • job stories emphasizing on customers’ success stories or solving a problem for them –social media
  • blog posts with focus on products- marketing
  • blog posts with focus on solutions –social media
  • press releases   -marketing
  • showcasing events –social media
  • Tutorials and educational papers -social media
  • discussions and polls –social media
  • answering questions and engaging with users –social media
  • technical support forum –social media
  • stories about your heritage and company culture –social media
  • behind the scene stories –social media

.Some of the above examples might fall into both categories depending on the main focus of your blog post. That is a “grey area” of social media that is acceptable, as long as there is no fall back into self-promotion.

So what is the right path to take in your social media journey?

Be helpful, educate, solve a problem for your audience, and connect with them. Act like a real person and do not hide behind a company’s name and logo. Then the success of your social media strategy will come.

How far are you in with your social media efforts? What are your main challenges and what is your best advice?

Future implications how social media will change

Imagine your refrigerator knows exactly what you like and automatically connects you to your favorite ecommerce online grocery store via your mobile phone?

Sound like a great deal of time-saving! Envisioning the future of social media is looking bright with these 6 trending predictions ahead.

Time to learn conceptual image

  1. Combining big data into useful applications
  2. Rise of ecommerce
  3. Mobility takes over
  4. Change of engagement
  5. Permission marketing
  6.  Independent platforms combining information from  several  individual social media channels

Sensors, microchips and the internet make it easy today to collect massive data. The challenge is transferring that information into useful applications. Just think about the refrigerator example.  How does a sensor know when a carton of milk is getting empty? What is the user’s preference for stocking extra ones? Would it be useful to suggest alternative products or implementing a twitter feed with deals and recipes? How should an ecommerce site embed social features and go about providing exceptional value to customers?

Mobility with the use of smart phones will be further on the rise. Companies need to focus how their ecommerce and social media site appears on a mobile phone.  This does not mean necessarily that every site needs to have a mobile application. A mobile version of a site could in fact be a better solution considering the flood of mobile apps available on the market. What is important is that content is easy to read, and pictures and layouts are suitable for a smaller screen.

Social media has matured and the prevalent goal is no longer to just connect with people. Users want to engage about topics they deeply care for or will improve their daily life. A support group for a certain illness or a resource that helps them to solve a problem in their work-life are what people look for.

With social media on the upswing, the level of advertising is increasing. People become less receptive towards unsolicited product promotions and discounts. This applies especially if it is not laser- targeted to someone’s needs. If you don’t own a dog then you don’t need coupons saving on pet food.  There is a fine line when buying advertisement space on social media platforms and promoting it to your audience in a non-invasive way. Permission marketing  is the answer.  It is the earned right to provide users with promotional information they want to receive.

With the increase and popularity of multiple social media platforms, it is impossible to be present on all of them. Each of the social media platforms has its advantages and it would be helpful to combine intelligence from each of those, generating an “information cloud”. Users looking for data on a certain topic could find resources about people to connect with, associated videos, blogs, pictures and comments independent from one platform.

What is the takeaway?

The social media landscape has changed in regards to human behavior and technology. What worked well in the early days of social media (like engaging on a lower level by liking pages and getting an update on daily events) is evolving.  Users are expecting a higher value out of their engagement. Interest groups and applications that ease daily lives will progress.  It is already clear that technology plays a major part in it. We can see examples of this today in ecommerce as they integrate social media functions. These will emerge further by combining big data and different platforms in a useful way.  Companies have to make sure that they are providing valuable engagement applications and features that are suitable for mobile phones.

What steps are you taking and how does it affect your current social media strategy?

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What makes a marketing initiative go viral?

Do you remember the Friday song by Rebecca Black that people could sing by heart? Or the spectacular fall out of space from Felix Baumgartner for the Stratos Redbull event that still makes us hold our breath just talking about it?

Why do some events touch us in some way that we feel the urge to share it with the whole world? Is there a pattern that makes a campaign or video become viral?

The original Friday music video was viewed on Youtube over 30 million times and the Redbull Stratos video with the final jump over 34 million times. The live-event was watched by 8 million people and added 250,000 followers to their Twitter fan base and 750,000 likes on Facebook.  Even the NASA tweeted about the event and congratulated Baumgartner and Redbull to their successful jump.

What are the ingredients to make something go viral? A good recipe includes a topic that

interests a broad audience, is simple to understand, triggers the urge to spread, has influential people involved, is easy to share and participate in.

What makes people want to pass it on to others? A story that is funny, controversial, sensational, trend-setting, supports a common cause, shares an experience, makes us look good or raises awareness, has potential to become viral. The subject cannot be too complex or knowledge-based in order to attract a significant amount of people.

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While it is important to combine all the triggers to increase the potential to become viral, it is not possible to force it.  The audience will make that decision.  However, the odds are that with good planning you have a higher chance.

How does a solid plan look like?

Identify influencers that can help you spread the word fast and are able to move a critical audience. These can be ordinary people that are highly interested and involved in a topic.

Support and prepare your influencers upfront with information and let them be part of the planning process.

Make your video easy to share by using widgets for Facebook, Twitter and all other social media platforms, implement RSS feed and share buttons.

Look at the Stratos viral campaign. Redbull used a topic that attracted a wide audience and made a great story out of it. It was so sensational that people wanted to pass it on to others. Redbull made it very easy for people to share the story by promoting the event long before the actual jump with pre-teaser videos, Stratos Twitter handle, Stratos Facebook and own Stratos Website. They created influencers early in the process that helped promote the event.

How does that translate into the popularity of the Friday song? People can identify themselves with the story. It covers a broad audience and is simple to understand. What made it go viral in the end was an influential twitter post of a comedian with a negative comment that provoked several reactions. The video was shut down, negative publicity and comments increased. This started a controversy also with unintentional help of Rebecca Black and her family. The video became viral.

Can a B2B company have a viral campaign? Yes, definitely. The same methods apply. Check out the blog about “How Every Business Can Create a “Viral” Marketing Campaign” Where it can become challenging is, to expand to a wider audience as you currently have and to find a contagious topic that is problem-,   not product-related and draws a lot of attention. If you are a dealer for example, your audience could include public services like street authorities. A topic could be to have a good solution to minimize road–closings for maintenance jobs.

Did you ever consider a viral campaign for your business?

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Differentiation: How different are Trimble’s and Topcon’s Social Media Strategy?

Social media is making its way into the construction industry and some companies tend to focus on one platform over others.

Is there a social media recipe that fits all companies within an industry?

I picked out two major players in our industry, Trimble and Topcon, to see where their social media efforts were focused.

Apple

So how does Trimble utilize Social Media?

Trimble has a Facebook page for every division including  Trimble Survey Division, Trimble Navigation, Trimble Dimensions User Conference, Trimble Agriculture, Trimble Business Center.

Each page displays lots of pictures and videos from different events, product information and news. The pages give a good overview of Trimble and keep you up-to-date.

How does Trimble use Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube?

Trimble has two twitter handles:  Trimble Survey  and Trimble GIS Team. While the Trimble GIS team focuses on engagement, the Survey News subscribers mainly get updates on news announcements.

Trimble’s LinkedIn presence is one of their most active social media channels. Besides the company profile for Trimble Navigation and Trimble Survey, the customer interactions happen within their Trimble User Groups. Trimble has about 41 user groups with 17 noticeably active ones. They are geared towards different markets and users.

YouTube also plays a major role for Trimble’s social media presence.   TrimbleConstruction, TrimbleAgriculture, Trimble Heavy Civil Construction, Trimble Navigation, Trimble Imaging are just a few of the channels a Trimble-follower could subscribe to. These channels display machines and products in action. Trimble Help: Machine Control and Trimble Help: Business Center  are support channels for product set-up and training.

 What does Topcon’s Social Media presence look like?

Similarly, Topcon has a Facebook page for each division including Topcon Positioning, Topcon Europe Positioning B.V., Topcon Precision Agriculture,  Topcon University and  Topcon View. Their focus seems easily comparable to Trimble’s.

Their twitter presence however seems to be more defined. Accounts to follow include Topcon Positioning, Topcon GB, Topconsupport Europe, Topcon Europe. International handles are clever concepts.

Topcon is also active on LinkedIn with its company profiles Topcon Positioning Systems and Topcon Europe Positioning B.V. They have two main Topcon User Groups:  Topcon and Topcon Endusers. LinkedIn, however, is clearly not what they choose to focus on when building their presence.

YouTube is their preferred social media platform, with several YouTube channels like TopconToday, Topcon Europe Positioning and Topcon Precision Agriculture. They cover videos on product introduction, customer testimonials, tradeshows and contests.

So are Topcon’s and Trimble’s social media presence different? They are in some ways albeit perhaps marginally.

Both cover the major platforms of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. Trimble is very involved with its LinkedIn groups and YouTube videos. Topcon also logs onto YouTube often through their multiple channels. The difference is that Trimble has separated its Support help channels.

While Trimble’s social media presence is geared towards different interest groups and needs, Topcon focuses on an overall social media presence. With its Stay Connected Site, all channels available are easy to find.  Trimble is not this accommodating when it comes to navigating to their social media outlets.

Industry engagement is traditionally low and conversations over social media channels revolve around user groups in LinkedIn and through other company specific forums found in places like IBUILDROADS, Caterpillar – Online Community or  MOBA Community.

Does that mean that everyone in our industry should have the same or a similar social media strategy?

The strategy should not depend on the common platforms. Rather it should be focused on your specific audience and your objectives. Do you want to create awareness, increase product support or get feedback and ideas for improvements and new products? Your goals will determine your ultimate strategy.

How does your social media presence look like? What do you focus on?

Courtesy of Stock Photo

The Epic Fall from Blogging Heaven

There are several million blogs coming out every day and only a minor percentage actually gets read by a sizeable audience. So is all that work for nothing? You spend hours figuring out the right idea and editing it over and over again just to be defeated by the epic fall?

Water Drop

Here are 5 tips for a successful blog:

Headline is everything

Your headline has to grab people’s attention so don’t be too conservative with your headline. The best headlines are the ones that provoke thought, trigger emotion, exaggerate, and use words such as “learn” and “how to”. Another good suggestion is to use numbers (for example “10 tips to master”) or to ask an engaging question.

Because blogging in the Construction Industry is fairly new, “how to” questions and “tips and steps” lists are a good place to start.

ALWAYS have the audience in mind

Visualize your audience and try to put yourself into their shoes. What age group do they fall under, what is their background and what problem are you trying to solve for them? It is wise when editing to re-check that with every paragraph you are still writing for the same audience. Make your topic narrow and don’t try to speak to several audiences within the same writing.

You might want to use sub paragraphs and bullet points to make is easier to read and understand. If you write a troubleshooting blog for a service technician, then a blog with short sentences and paragraphs is probably a good choice. Adding videos like YouTube and Vine or pictures might help to better describe and solve the problem.

An engineer may want to read about new technologies and involve herself/himself in discussions around a specific topic. A more thorough and longer text with hyperlinks and references to other sources are more likely to fulfill this group’s needs. Slideshares and Infographics are also helpful tools to keep this group’s attention.

Have the outcome and tone in mind

What are you trying to accomplish? Are you informing, teaching or trying to make conversation? Each of those blogs should have a slightly different tone. An informative blog should use more detailed and descriptive words while an engaging blog should have a more entertaining tone.

Be authentic and show your brand image

How do you see yourself as a brand and a company?  What image do people have from your company and what do you want to be known for?  Your mission statement is solid base to build from. Caterpillar’s mission statement is all about “providing the best value to customers”, “improving quality of life” and “encouraging social responsibility”. How does that transform into a blog? In Caterpillar’s case it transfers into an informative and professional blog which would contrast a blog by Google that is likely to be more creative and entertaining.

The book “Groundswell” by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff is also a great resource with “tips for successful blogging” under chapter 6.

Publicize and cross-reference your blog

The best way to market your blog is to publish it on all the platforms that are relevant to your industry. Currently the Construction Industry’s main platform is LinkedIn. Take advantage of that and focus your blog on different user groups in LinkedIn that apply to you. You should also post it in your activity stream under your profile.

Needless to say your profile has to mirror what you are talking about in your blog. If you only have 5 connections but talk about engagement in social media, then you come off as an unreliable source. If you talk about specific industry solutions but you are new to the industry, people will doubt your credibility and look elsewhere.

Adding your twitter handle and your Word Press URL is essential to being found. The last thing you want is people having trouble discovering your content.

Twitter is not the preferred social media tool in the Construction Industry. However, it is the one where information can be distributed in an easy way to a greater audience. Even if you don’t have a big twitter audience you are able to increase your exposure by using industry-related hashtags. “The Tao of Twitter” by Mark Schaefer is a great resource to get the most out of Twitter. Under Chapter 5 are “5 set-up basics” that are essential to be successful.

Tie your blog also to your Facebook and YouTube account in order to give your audience access to more content.

How is the Construction Industry taking advantage of these best practices?

Content marketing and industry blogs are mainly done through digital media companies like OffHighway and KHL. KHL and the Machine Control Online blog are publishing in different social media channels like LinkedIn and Twitter.

Do you have a blogging and content strategy? How do you approach it?

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How your social media presence can backfire

You have spent quite some time persuading people within your organization to have a social media presence. You finally got your social media coverage up and running,  reached out to people to engage with and realized that the response is not as overwhelming as you thought it would be. Or worse, the only engagement that comes back is a complaint over your product.

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What could have gone wrong? Isn’t everybody engaged in social media? Why are people not connecting?

Every industry has its own dynamic and culture. Before starting any social media presence  it is essential  to analyze the target group(s) you are trying to reach and what they would be interested and engaged in.

What are the target groups in the construction industry?

If you are an OEM the target groups are the engineering department of your customers, dealers, contractors or people who ultimately work with your equipment. The interest in engaging with your company will be different for each group. Engineers might want to exchange information about programming options while a foreman at a paving job needs to know how to change a setting. A dealer might want to know install and troubleshooting details.

Should you cover all the different target groups?

It all depends on your objectives. Do you want to increase your customer service? A technical support forum could be the right route to go. Do you want to increase brand awareness and getting your name out? Providing educational and engaging content might be a good approach. Do you want to make a difference in the community as a contractor? Maybe some fundraising events could be covered through social media.

Whatever you do, every targeted group needs your FULL  ATTENTION. Otherwise people get bored and don’t come back to engage with you. Response time in social media is crucial. That is where your strategy comes into play.

After you have started with social media, there is not really a way out. You can still adapt but it will be  hard to switch over to a completely different strategy.  If you don’t plan it right from the beginning, then it can waste time, money and resources and you don’t get the outcome you want.

What is the biggest challenge?

The highest risk of any social media presence is that social media ends up to be a one way sales effort where companies promote their products rather than starting a two way conversation. Starting and keeping that conversation going seems to be especially hard to accomplish in industries like the construction industry where social media and engagement is just starting to take off.

Great examples of social media interactions are the different user groups on LinkedIn like NAPA, Machine Control Online, Cranes and Lifting Professionals, and the OEM support group. The Ibuildroads community and the Machine Control online blog are also good examples of how to be “social”.

In the end, to be successful with any social media strategy you need to put your “sales hat” on the back burner. Listen to what your customers have to say, be authentic and helpful with what you post and you will be on the right track for your social media journey.

What does success look like?

The construction industry might not be as social as the book club next door and participation could be slow in the beginning. It will come if  you can prove that you are serious about “embracing” your customer relationship.

What is your experience with social media in the construction industry? How do you connect with your customers?

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Brian Solis

How social is the construction industry?

Econsultancy

How social is the construction industry?