Leading technology companies today face one undeniable marketing fact that many other industries can conveniently ignore for the time being: in order to highlight your technology as the best in the field, you must have a substantial online marketing presence.
And I’m not just saying that because I’m a strong believer in internet marketing for all businesses.
I’m saying it because as an avid consumer of modern technology, apps, marketing analytics and platforms, and contemporary gadgets, I expect a higher lever of online culture and communication from companies that I identify as savvy tech leaders.
So, how do you approach marketing your tech product online? We've outlined four intial strategies to get you started.
Market Ahead of Time
Building anticipation can be an often-overlooked tactic in successfully promoting a tech product or app. During development, identify where your target audience spends time online and what they are looking for in terms of a tech solution. Create introductions through forums, news sites, and with clever banner ads and online announcements.
Maintaining mystery and creating intrigue will create a demand for your product before it’s available to the public.
If it fits properly with your overarching launch goals, you can also introduce the product or service initially by invitation only. Google+, Pinterest, and flash sales sites like Gilt and Rue La La have garnered an incredible amount of clout and a clamoring of customers by launching initially exclusively by invite.
Invest Heavily in Social Media and Online Communities
If your audience is consistently using an app, purchasing high-quality tablets, smartphones, and laptops, and integrating technology into their online and offline lives fluently, you can bet they are simultaneously: following their favorite brands and products on Twitter, expecting exclusive content on Facebook, and looking for the most up-to-date industry information on your blog.
As a tech leader, your audience is expecting you to be accessible and active through all popular social media platforms. Similarly, they are expecting immediate answers to questions and posed problems. This can be done successfully through social media sites, but also through online communities like Quora, which serve as discussion platforms.
If you have the funds, invest in creating your own online community were customers can come for immediate and expert service, and where they can share their experiences and stories about your product or service.
Evernote, the leader in organizational apps for businesses on the go, has a solid, branded Twitter presence with an abundance of followers that is posted to regularly and is a source of news and information.
In addition, the company has an interactive blog with a number of sections, including one called “Our Notes,” which serves to update customers on updates, down times, and product use suggestions.
Prioritize Dynamic Content
Videos, Infographics, Quizzes; these are some of the highest lead-generating content tools at your disposal today.
To illustrate this, here’s an infographic from Smart Insights.
Think of PR, Reviews, and Link Building as One
Garnering online reviews from tech journals, articles from news sites (like Mashable and TechCrunch), and blog posts from industry leaders may have all fallen under the umbrella of public relations in the past, but now, are part of a larger strategy of gaining PR online whilst simultaneously working on gathering strong referral links back to your website to drive traffic and qualified leads to becoming customers.
Referral links not only funnel visitors back to your site who are interesting in your product and content, but give your website strength, and validate it as a strong source of related information in the eyes of Google.
TechCrunch reviewed app giant Instagram back in 2010 before it officially launched (double whammy: early promotion for interest generation + high-profile online review).
So, have you been successful in employing these tactics? Are there any you would recommend?
There’s still concern in the B2B community about just how important social media is in creating and sustaining relationships with partners and clients. But when it comes to building brand loyalty online, social media is the most beneficial tool available.
Your audience is most likely already using social media on a personal level and willingly participating in an online community. Connecting your brand identity with their online lives integrates your brand into their day-to-day activities, and cultivates brand loyalty through personal communication. In connecting this way, you are becoming more than a company or organization they follow. You have the opportunity to create lasting relationships, and lasting brand loyalty.
Research shows that online audiences are only becoming more active in involving brands in their lives through social media:
- 59% of adult Facebook users had "liked" a brand as of spring 2011, up from 47% the previous September. Uptake among the oldest users appears to have been a major factor in this rise – eMarketer Tweet This!
- From 2010 to 2012 the percentage of Americans following any brand on a social network has increased 106%, from 16% to 33% – Socialnomics Tweet This!
- 41% of B2B companies are acquiring customers through Facebook – Social Media Today, HubSpot Tweet This!
- 78.6% of consumers have joined a company’s community to get more information on the company – Universal McCann Tweet This!
- 66% of online company community members note that the community has made them more loyal to a brand – Universal McCann Tweet This!
However, creating a social media presence can backfire if you’re using it in the wrong way to cultivate brand loyalty. One big misstep brands can make is to transfer traditional direct marketing notions to online communities and correspondence:
Social media marketing is based largely in communicating with your online community –using pull vs. push marketing. Your followers are showing you voluntary brand loyalty, and it’s your responsibility to facilitate it further by being accessible to your community.
1. Becoming Accessible
Roughly 38-60% of US buyers expect their online complaints about brands to be answered via social media. It’s more convenient for a consumer active on social media to express a thought, question, or review of your brand through that channel than for him or her to pick up a phone and call a company contact to discuss an issue.
If there’s an online community you’re not tapping into, and your brand reputation is suffering as a result, social media can help rectify this by providing accessibility for those complaints and questions.
Technology research company Gartner sees webinars and conferences as a key form of B2B marketing. Because of this, they are constantly conducting outreach on Twitter to answer logistics questions, pinpoint additional resources, and engage ongoing conversations.
2. Rewarding Fans
Rewarding fans that regularly engage with you also enhances brand loyalty.
Cisco Systems conducts a regular Facebook contest called the SuperFan Spotlight that awards a Cisco fan by featuring him or her in the company’s cover photo.
Not only is Cisco paying attention to its active community members, but also it continues to interact with each highlighted fan after his or her win, as shown in the above comments. Cisco uses Facebook to contact its SuperFan, to send along complimentary gear, and to start a personal message between the fan and a specific Cisco employee. As a company, Cisco continues to be accessible before, during, and after rewarding fans.
This is an important indication that they are not interested in one-time contests or campaigns to generate brand awareness, but in keeping constant contact and communication with fans by continuing to be accessible to their needs and wants.
Rewards including fan recognition, special offers, and exclusive content, are only enhanced when utilized in a friendly and personable online environment.
3. Gaining Trust
Trust and loyalty go hand in hand in securing a consumer’s commitment to your brand. Once your brand is:
- Answering questions
- Engaging in conversations
- Providing immediate solutions and great client service
- Rewarding fan interaction
- Creating and providing exclusive content and offers,
Your online consumer base is going to have a much more positive impression of and endorsement for your brand. Trust breeds loyalty, which in turn breeds willingness on the part of your consumer to take the time to spread positive reviews online and through word of mouth.
Respecting client endorsements and maintaining your responsibility to listen to your fans creates an ongoing cycle of recharged brand loyalty. Social media allows for continued conversations instead of one-time, stale recommendations. You have the ability to continually revive brand loyalty by consistently listening and responding – by keeping the conversation flowing and always providing an answer or a solution.
How do you use social media to grow brand loyalty?
In my last blogpost, I talked about this being the Era of Design. I made the statement, “great design is about inventing and sustaining a vision.” I think that statement actually begins to describe the role of a brand more than design. Great design is about elegantly solving a particular problem, be it creative, technical or business in nature.
I think we are in fact in the era of “brand,” not necessarily “brands,” since there are other eras of brands, as viewers of Mad Men might attest.
Maybe more accurate is that we are in the era of brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty is generally a B2C term suggesting the establishment of brand preference. Today’s B2C brands often start with an idea, some kind of competitive differentiator, and often spend less time formally market testing, but rather, quickly assemble a website, and Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn presence, and proceed to make incremental improvements based on real time feedback from customers and others. From this real time digital dialogue, if handled with care, brand loyalty grows.
B2B firms generally deal with specific audiences, often technical, and generally build their businesses thus brands from word-of-mouth recommendation. Because they are historically relationship-based they often tend to be skeptical about what a website, internet marketing or social media can do for them.
What B2B businesses have been missing in their perception and practice of brand building, is that power of brand loyalty, which drives B2C brands. Today, it is not enough to just develop a brand voice through repositioning and execute a solid website as many B2B brands settle for, which is a recipe for brand stagnation. Unlike in the past, many customers want to have more interaction with their favorite companies and brands both online and offline.
Simply put, in order to utilize and promote your messaging to its fullest, you ultimately want the trifecta for a successful brand; ending in enhanced brand loyalty.
Brand loyalty comes from openly and consistently projecting your voice in an online dialogue with customers and others using available and ubiquitous vehicles like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. This is not new, but it is fast becoming unavoidable for B2B companies that have thus far avoided it under the assumption that personal relationships are all that is needed.
B2B company leaders are generally in their 30s and 40s, and are quite comfortable living in the digital space. In fact, many of today’s executives expect an active digital dialogue with those they are considering doing business with.
The increased expectation of brand accessibility provides companies with both an opportunity and an obligation to be more engaged. For relatively little effort, a brand that is not engaging customers online can get up to speed and turn a well-positioned yet quiet “relationship” company brand into an engaged organization that reaches out to customers in a daily dialogue that will result in better products and services and a bigger brand persona.
We will discuss how to build brand loyalty for B2B companies in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!
The Wall Street Journal broke the news on Wednesday that automobile giant General Motors has decided to discontinue its Facebook advertising efforts, which previously accounted for $10 million of its $1.8 billion ad spending.
GM ultimately decided that “paid ads on the site had little impact on consumers’ car purchases,” after two weeks of meetings with Facebook executives. This decision comes off the heels of Facebook’s IPO announcement and its 2012 statement of advertising revenue, which totaled $3.1 billion.
GM will continue to promote its products on Facebook, but has dropped all Facebook ads.
As a result, Facebook ads have been getting a lot of heat for being ineffective and unnecessary. It’s too soon to tell if GM’s actions will inspire other companies to jump ship, but there has certainly been a lot of speculation on what exactly this decision means.
But just because GM has concluded Facebook ads don’t work for their business model doesn’t mean that the ads are unsuccessful for all businesses.
Facebook ads are not the right channel for every business. They can work really well for businesses that want to segment their ads to different audiences based on this personal information they willingly provide on Facebook.
For a B2C company that relies heavily on imagery and visuals, it’s not surprising that GM had little success with Facebook ads. A social media ad most likely isn’t going to influence a large purchasing decision, but can be influential in harnessing individual data and funneling that into a reasonable target audience.
If you’re a B2B company seeking out clients, and have the ad revenue to utilize Facebook ads, you can use them to define this target audience by:
- Job title
- Professional groups
- Professional interests
- Past employment
GM will have a higher success rate with television ads; that doesn’t mean your B2B business will.
Additionally, Facebook is constantly working to improve their ad effectiveness:
Of course, the only way to determine if Facebook ads are a fit for your company is to test some out. If not, simply having a Facebook presence that encourages interaction with past, current, and potential clients is a hugely important factor in improving conversion rates and bringing in business.
Do you currently run Facebook ads? Do you plan to limit them anytime soon?
Social media: Levi's had 40% growth in Facebook likes by adding individual like buttons to their products on their website
Social media can be daunting for B2B companies: how do we use it? Who monitors it? and what's the purpose? are common questions in getting started. But social media has proven itself time and time again as an awareness builder, a platform for client interaction, and an ROI-driven.
The key takeaways from the Levi's case are creating ease of sharing and using integration: consumers share what they like, and this goes for B2B content as well as B2C products like Levi jeans. Making it convenient for your site visitors to interact with and share your content will build your reputation on social media sites and drive traffic back to your website.
This doesn’t have to mean elaborate social media campaigns designed to gain Facebook fans, or a hashtag (#) campaign on Twitter. The first step is to integrate share buttons on every page of your website, and certainly every page and post on your blog. Doing this requires choosing a type of share button (such as “follow us on Twitter” vs. “share this on Twitter”) and placing a small code snippet into each page.
Once you have basic sharing capabilities in place, you can integrate further and create an intricate web of social links:
- Integrate share buttons into email newsletters and announcements
- Have employees include follow buttons in their email footers
- Optimize white papers, eBooks, and other PDF content with share buttons
- For content behind a form, add share buttons to their corresponding website landing pages
When we revamped our popular B2B whitepaper, Eight Steps to B2B Website and Marketing Success, we built a landing page with social sharing capabilities to encourage content sharing. It's always better to make sharing easier than to have a prosect give up on spreading your valuable content because it would take extra time.
Some of the most common buttons in use are the Facebook like button, the Twitter follow button and share a link button, the LinkedIn share button, and the +1 Google button.
Having the buttons in place across your website and online materials is a great way to get your foot in the social media door.
Facebook is an increasingly important tool for both company marketing and customer engagement. The now ubiquitous social media platform is an integral part of much of the population's day-to-day life, and marketers have been able to infuse their brands almost seamlessly into this everyday habit.
However, like most social tools, the pages' layout and content of the old Facebook brand favor large B2C brands. You know the brands I’m talking about: seemingly unlimited fans and followers worldwide, brand recognition to a point of being a household name, and rockin' marketing departments with unlimited resources for holding contests and promotions encouraging increased social interaction.
Not one of those companies? Well, neither are we. So, when Facebook rolled out Timeline for brand pages yesterday, we at RainCastle jumped at the chance to build a profile markedly stronger than our original. In doing so, we realized just how many new opportunities there are for small B2B companies to express themselves and build a powerful online presence.
Milestones Add Volume to Your Online Presence
The ability to go back in time and fill in not only company status updates and photos, but also milestones, is the best new feature provided by Facebook's Timeline. Before, small brands were at the mercy of looking new or socially inept if they were just dipping their toes into the social media water. The introduction of milestones allows you to build out your Facebook profile to show your company's complete history and to integrate:
- Important company events
- Featured projects
- Brand transitions
- Company announcements
RainCastle wasn't on Facebook in August 2009 when we launched the Unica campaign, but this work, along with countless others, will now be highlighted through the magic of milestones.
Milestones also allow for enhanced visual representation. With the Pinterest boom, marketers are seeing strong customer response to different visual representations including graphics, photos, illustrations, and other cleanly displayed visual elements. Similarly, the large format of milestone photos, the ample white space, and the clean, formatted accompanying text, will give small B2B companies a chance to represent themselves in a sophisticated, modern way.
Cover Photo Puts Emphasis on Culture, not Product
The first such opportunity with Facebook Timeline is to create a compelling cover photo — the featured "brand graphic" of your Facebook site.
Rather than the typical product focus of a B2C company, a B2B company cover photo should represent your company's brand reputation. B2B companies are accustomed to identifying a brand without leveraging a retail product, and Timeline's cover photo format supports this practice very well.
B2C companies are creating cover photos that stray from product placement to emphasize company culture or brand.
The New York Times highlights their staff
While Old Spice promotes its product and extreme brand reputation
The expanded dimension of cover photos allows for more powerful and creative brand images.
Pinned Posts are the New Calls-to-Action for Content Marketing
Have a new content offer you want to promote? How about an opening in the company, or an event or webinar to endorse? Another new feature of Facebook Timeline is the ability to "pin" your past posts to the top of your Timeline, which is the social media version of a call-to-action (to learn more about creating great calls-to-action, check out our blog post).
Calls-to-action (CTAs) should be a part of any small B2B company's Internet marketing strategy; they are the best way to attract attention to all of the great content your company produces. The pinned post feature allows you to create a hierarchy of this content on your Facebook page, as opposed to the old way of re-posting something again and again on your wall with a new CTA and running the risk of pestering your audience.
Pinned posts will give smaller B2B companies the ability to promote one offer, one event, or one promotion, instead of feeling the need to constantly create more with limited resources.
Possible Future Features to Support B2B Companies
What we're looking for most from Timeline in the future is better map integration similar to that of personal profiles. Currently, the map for brand pages only allows you to identify your company address. On personal profiles, however, you can tag photos to places you've been throughout your life.
If this feature was to be integrated into brand pages, small B2B companies could tag past clients on the map with photos representing the completed project. For example, RainCastle could tag a client of ours, Echelon, a smart energy solutions company in California, with photos of our completed website redesign, and create an interactive portfolio within the map.
On my personal Facebook map, I can tag our
RainCastle page on the map with a photo. Building
out this feature for brand pages could create an
extensive, interactive portfolio for B2B companies.
Another interesting addition to watch is how brands will use app integration to enhance their pages. Currently, most apps are suited to personal use (e.g. music streaming services, reader apps, and location apps), but there could be a rise in professional-based apps that become common use.
Pinterest is the best example of this. Most Pinterest app users are personal accounts that want to integrate their pinning into their Facebook Timeline to show friends what they’re doing. But with more and more companies racing to join Pinterest, is this an app that will see regular use on brand pages?
What do you think is in the future for Facebook brand pages? Are you looking forward to Timeline?
Google+ is Google's newest attempt at a social media platform, and is, at the moment, the most cohesive social media experience available (although only for a select number of pre-determined invitees – the rest of us will have to wait).
So now, the big question is: will Google+ replace Facebook as the #1 social media-networking site?
Well, they are certainly trying.
The comprehensive design and features of Google+, which incorporate almost everything Facebook does with added benefits (group video chatting vs. Facebook's recent one-on-one chat launch with Skype being just one example), is clearly aimed at drawing in users looking for the total package in social media. They are hoping to become the only platform that people use consistently; the only one that will serve all of the needs of the public.
But will people follow?
We are a social media population divided. So far it seems that the split will come down to those who want more control over classifying their networks and maintaining private information versus those who already have a "life" on Facebook for purely social purposes and don't want to start over. It's almost a war, and already, Google's relationships with Facebook and Twitter have suffered; currently, it is near impossible to import your Facebook connections to Google+, and Google recently severed a syndication deal with Twitter supporting real-time updates in search engine results, a decision that could signal Google's attempt to replace tweets with Google+ real-time updates in page results. This sort of aggressive behavior, which could send us back to the 1990s, has already created a split amongst consumers.
This divide could also represent particular age groups. College students are still the #1 target for social media that has its roots in sharing information, according to CNN's article on Google's make-or-break demographic. But those who want stricter control over networking, such as young professionals and businesses, may turn to Google+ for its differentiated features, the most appealing of which is Google+ "circles" – which allows you to categorize your different contacts enabling selective sharing of information. So, while Facebook labels everyone a "friend," making it difficult to distinguish what personal information goes to whom, each circle represents a community with separate sharing capabilities.
In addition to this, if Google can integrate its other services, like Gmail, Google Docs, and its Calendar into Google+, it could become the first social media base that is built to be business-friendly. Of course sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have all become mighty marketing tools, but they are concentrated entirely on obtaining their own networks, and not with coordinating and utilizing networks.
In fact, it looks like this is where Google is going. In a blog post earlier this week, Google told businesses to hold off on diving into the platform until they release a version of Google+ for business purposes. This new version will apparently incorporate "deep analytics" and access to products like Google AdWords.
But while businesses may flock to Google+ once this version is released, where will the consumers be? It is important now to start tracking the thought process of your consumers and the kind of social media experience they want. Will they make the switch? If so, does that necessitate a switch in the marketing mindset of your company?
What are your marketing implications if consumers become divided by the two platforms? Clearly, it is vital to business owners to keep an eye on any movement once Google+ becomes publicly available.
Has your business begun to consider if it will go the way of Google+?