Monday, September 21, 2009

Insights and Epiphanies from a recent B2B Social Communication Event

I attended the B2B Social Communications Case Studies and Roundtable event in New York last week, my first live event since the downturn. Got to admit, I was impressed by the attendance (probably close to 250 folks) and list of companies presenting included; Microsoft, Amex, Intuit, Dupont, IBM, Deliotte, Pitney Bowes, and others. I came away with some great new insights, not only of social media in a B2B world, but also regarding the structure of the event itself.

  1. Get In, Then Get Out - In my last post I failed to mention the impact of online trends on offline events which I witnessed at this event. Speakers at this conference presented for 20 minutes, a long way away from the old days of hour-long presentations…and there were no breaks. The conference was over by 1 pm…love it. Rapid fire information that allowed the audience to assess the value in hearing, or not…that’s when you take a bathroom break.

  2. What Happens In The Event…Doesn’t Stay In The Event -This was the first event where I watched the impact of Twitter on those presenting. Many speakers were noticeably conscience of the impact of Twitter, not only because the large screen monitor on the stage featured Twitter for the entirety of the event, but also because they knew their comments could immediately be broadcasted around the world. You could see how the realtime capability to broadcast ideas and comments impacted how each speaker responded to questions from the audience.

  3. Who’s Googling You? - I watched several folks checking out speakers on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, etc., as the speakers presented their information. In the future you could eliminate the speaker bio’s from the event material altogether. This growing trend should make you think about what you’re putting out in the public domain and what it might do to your credibility, reputation, etc. Then again…you should always be thinking about that.  

  4. All The Cool Kids Are Doing It… - The audience demographic was interesting. The crowd seemed to be the same folks that used to say; “I don’t get it”, to whatever new Web 2.0 technology came out. Saw lots of bald and grey heads (including yours truly) in the audience taking copious amount of notes.

Aside from my initial observations on the atmosphere of the event and those attending, there were, of course, some great points from the presenters themselves.

  1. Play Hard to Get - The best Social Media campaigns I saw were very subtle (as they should be) in their messaging (almost hidden). Why is this important? Instead of overly broadcasting a message, they presented in a way that the viewer/reader “discovered it.” This subtle, but difficult approach I think can make all the difference in the acceptance, retention and comprehension of your message. It also sets itself up nicely for word of mouth marketing. 

  2. Ethics (Have Them) - Speaking of word of mouth, I learned that Dupont uses WOMMA ethic guidelines to guide their social media activities, particularly blogging. Good source. 

  3. Share With Others - I can’t remember which speaker presented this, but their research found that if customers viewed video on the corporate site they also expected to find it in the public video domain…a la YouTube, etc. Same presentation also showed that corporate websites are the preferred location for video. 

  4. Go Viral - All the videos I saw were initially launched through existing blogs with the goal of driving blog traffic. 

  5. Start a (Useful) Conversation -The most interesting insight came from a case study on fencing. Companies have been struggling for years to do effective application/solution marketing. In this example the fencing company, Loius E Page Inc., developed their blog (link below) to help fence builders understand what type to buy based on what they want to build…brilliant. Want to build a horse paddock? Visit their blog and they can tell you to use a Farm & Field fence if you want X, Y, Z, and if you want to do A, B, C, to use a Horse fence. The lesson? Instead of the product marketing department wrestling with how to message an application or solution, the company put the product out there and let the engineers blog about how best to use it. 

  6. In With The Old, Out With The New? - Many of the presentations were dated. There were very good presentations by IBM and Dupont (see links below), but they presented campaigns, video, etc. from 2006 & 2007. And here is where the concern comes from:Tim Washer from IBM said it; “things have changed in our social media governance and policies. I don’t think I could do this again given the current environment.” When I attended a roundtable later that include marketers from other companies, they express the same concern…”don’t know how he got that video approved…that would never happen in my firm/company…”

This topic will be a future blog post entitled: “Is Social Media in B2B Over Before it Ever Started? “ Look for that soon.

Best practices from the presenters:

  • Best Leverage of Existing Assets Award goes to Dupont. They went back into their video files and found product testing videos showing bullets hitting Kelvar, things blowing up and/or on fire…simply brilliant.  New information added 10/28/09

  • Best Use of Social Media for a Campaign Award goes to Intuit. They ran a great campaign aimed at SMB - helping them use Social Media to promote their businesses.

  • Best Use of Comedy in a Video Award goes to IBM - The Art of the Sale

  • Best Use of Blogs to Increase Customer SpendingLouis E Page

I didn’t get a chance to catch all of the presentation… had some problems getting into the city so I missed other “best of’s.” To see all the presentations, check out the event site for the presentation.