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SocialTech 2012: Practical Fascination

One of the things to love about MarketingProfs is its focus on B2B social media strategies and B2B content marketing. Certainly there is a lot of hype about how various consumer brands are using social media channels to their benefit. Often those stories are the bane of a B2B marketer’s daily life. We get to the office in the morning, greeted by a voice mail imploring us to read a [enter business publication here] article about how [enter worldwide consumer brand here] executed a [enter social media tool here] campaign and saw thousands of customers flood in as a result.

Let’s face it, B2B marketers, one of the reasons we work with B2B companies is because just adopting social media is not enough. One must carefully consider the end-user audiences that are the result of a given campaign, what tools and platforms realistically are best to reach that audience, and how to measure a given effort’s effectiveness. At the same time, we must also put in place processes to make companies truly social companies, alleviating any fears and demonstrating how the long-term benefit will greatly outweigh the short-term pain (without being specific as to how "long-term" we’re talking, here).

MarketingProfs agrees with us. Which is why I was thrilled to attend MarketingProfs SocialTech 2012 event last week in Seattle. Without a doubt, the event featured some of the most forward-thinking B2B social media marketers on the planet. The sessions at SocialTech were great. I heard front-line observations from marketers at SAP, Network Solutions, Boeing and Cisco, and I mingled with dozens of other B2B marketing pros who could speak, on and off the recophoto (4).jpgrd, about their own successes and challenges.

Now that it has been a week since my return to Boston, I have had a chance to take a deep breath, review my notes, and draw up some observations based on my trip. Here goes:

Practicality is not a sin with B2B social media: I have been to a number of events where the "true" social media marketers in the room are aghast if you bring up older B2B marketing techniques that actually might still have an impact today. Many social media zealots think that these older techniques–which they tag under the ignominious "traditional" category–all became juvenile with the advent of the social platform.

It was refreshing at SocialTech 2012 to hear the role that email marketing still plays within a B2B social media effort. (I believe one speaker even said that email marketing is a *vital* part of a B2B social media effort, noting that it is the beginning of the lead generation process.) I also liked how many people talked about incorporating blog content into their social media programs. As an aside, I am often amused at how many marketers don’t even consider blogging to be social media. The earliest "social" campaigns I remember tracked a series of influential blogs and made recommendations on how to engage within those blogs’ comments sections.

Measurement today still stops with audience reach: At Schwartz MSL, we press our clients more and more to connect our work with lead generation, since for the most part, that’s what B2B companies care about. (I should mention I work only with B2B clients at Schwartz MSL.) Most of the measurement discussion at SocialTech centered on how to measure the reach of a given campaign, stopping short of measuring an audience’s action. Most campaigns noted website traffic, Facebook likes and other metrics that outline how well a given campaign is noticed. The bleeding edge here, which was also discussed at the event, is creating content marketing programs that connect a given social media campaign to leads–and even sales. At the next SocialTech, I am going to press to see case studies of campaigns where leads were the measured result.

It’s entirely possible that my measurement observation at SocialTech is based on an over-fascination with lead generation as a metric. Admittedly, the lead counts provided by various content marketing and marketing automation platforms will under-represent the true impact of a campaign; for one thing, they cannot account for programs or content that greatly impact leads generated at some point in the future.

Further, despite the role content marketing must play in a B2B marketing effort today, it does not mean that other, older, dare I say traditional ways of generating leads are no longer important. Business cards still exist, and people exchange them at physical events. (Here’s where I go back and read the description of my first observation again.)

Finally, social media marketers (including myself) just can’t seem to stop our love affair with tools. Each and every session at SocialTech devolved for at least a period of time into a discussion about tools. Tools for scheduling content. Social media platforms. Tools for listening. Pinterest. Tools for Twitter (lots of love for Hootsuite—Is it bad I still use TweetDeck?).

Not that discussing tools is bad, but what often gets lost in the discussion about social media tools and social media measurement is the actual juice that drives interest. That’s right—the content. One of the best parts of my entire trip came when Ron Ploof, new media strategist at OC New Media, put us through an exercise on how to create "fascinating" content that is still strategic to our businesses. The reality is so much of the content out there within B2B marketing content campaigns, frankly, is just boring.

Always the teacher’s pet, I was happy Ploof applauded the "fascinating" content I brainstormed for Schwartz MSL. I focused on a recent popular question from friends about whether my job really is like the setting of "Mad Men" (it’s not), and wondered if I could tell a story about a day in the life of a B2B PR pro from the perspective of the scotch bottle that is on every "Mad Men" executive’s office table. Don’t worry HR, I don’t have scotch in my office. As to whether such fascinating content ever does see the light of day, well, I guess you will just have to keep reading this blog.

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Ross Levanto

Ross Levanto

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

Ross Levanto has driven the PR programs for innovators across a number of tech markets. He’s also a key agency thinker with regard to the intersection of content marketing and PR.

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