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How Halloween Reminds Me of B2B Marketers

October 26, 2013

Halloween and B2B Marketers

Introduction

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. As a kid, I loved to head out (after dark) and go trick or treating. As a parent, I revel in seeing the enjoyment experienced by kids. You may be wondering: how does Halloween relate to B2B marketers?

Let me explain. Recently, DNN collaborated on a Social Insights Report with Leadtail. The report analyzed 113,039 tweets (from 500 North American B2B marketers) from June 1, 2013 to August 31, 2013. The report then draws a number of conclusions on how B2B marketers engage on Twitter.

To gain access to the report:

Download the report

http://offers.leadtail.com/social-media-insights-report-b2b-marketers/

Since I reviewed the report so close to Halloween, I couldn’t help but draw analogies between B2B marketers and my favorite holiday.

1) We know where to trick or treat.

Photo credit: Flickr user Joint Base Lewis McChord via photopin cc

The report looked at B2B marketers’ tweets to see what other social networks they’re active on. LinkedIn is the clear winner, as 35% of B2B marketers shared content on LinkedIn. Instagram and Foursquare came in at 18% and 13%, respectively. Facebook registered at 3%, more than 10x less than LinkedIn.

Social networks most active

This tells me that B2B marketers know where to trick or treat. Their B2B presence takes them to neighborhoods that make sense for their jobs (e.g. LinkedIn), while ventures into the land of Facebook are reserved for activities outside of work.

The Instagram result (18%) runs contrary to this point. It may be that Instagram is the “shiny new object” that B2B marketers want to experiment and learn from. A number of B2B brands, in fact are using Instagram as an effective marketing tool.

2) We take our kids to familiar houses.

I have a daughter in fifth grade. While I’ve taken her to some “foreign” neighborhoods in the past, I tend to take her to houses for which I know the owner. I think that makes for a safer trick or treating experience.

As we saw with the LinkedIn result, B2B marketers like to share familiar content (i.e. things related to their jobs). Of the 100 most popular content sources for B2B marketers, mainstream media registered at 25%, but industry media came in at a whopping 62%.

Types of content shared

3) We know how to provide the candy our visitors want.

Photo credit: Flickr user MzScarlett via photopin cc

A “good house” buys the candy variety pack at Costco. A great house surveys the likes and dislikes of neighborhood kids and tailors their treats accordingly.

Side note: one house in my neighborhood gives out ice cream cones for each kid. They ask which flavor the kid wants, then gives the kid two scoops of the selected flavor in a cone. This is an example of “great.”

B2B marketers tend to retweet content (i.e. share their candy) if they believe “my followers will like this.”

Most retweeted marketers

4) We visit the houses with the best decorations.

Some homeowners go to great lengths to create an experience that delights visitors. Great B2B content marketers go to equally great lengths to create content that delights their target audience. The Top 50 vendors most mentioned by B2B marketers are doing something right (hint: it probably has something to do with the content they’re producing and sharing). I’d love to go trick or treating in their neighborhoods.

Most mentioned marketers

5) We’re drawn to creative and visually appealing costumes.

Photo credit: Flickr user geckoam via photopin cc

Whether it’s Halloween costumes or content marketing, I’m always amazed at some of the creative concepts I run across. At Halloween, we’re naturally drawn to costumes that are both “different” and visually appealing. If you look at the list of Top 10 most shared social sources, you’ll see a number of visually oriented sites: YouTube, Instagram, Vine and Pinterest.

Most shared social sources

Conclusion

Hope you all have a safe, happy and fun Halloween – DNN is doing a webinar the day before. We’ve invited our friends from Leadtail to share findings from this Social Insights Report and provide recommendations on how you can most effectively engage B2B marketers. Don’t miss it! Register here:

Leadtail and DNN webinar

http://info.dnnsoftware.com/WebinarLeadtail103013_RegistrationLP.html

Originally published on the DNN Software blog.

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My BFF and I Agree: 10 Reasons Texting Has Taken Over the World

February 4, 2013

Why texting has taken over the world

Photo source: User kamshots on flickr.

Introduction

I used to think texting was something that teens did: a form of instant messaging to gossip, coordinate meet-ups and talk about cute boys (or girls).

Nowadays, however, I find myself using texting as a primary form of communication with my peers – I’m talking folks, like me, in their 40’s. It’s also prevalent in the business world, from the meeting room to the board room.

Texting as Your BFF

Admit it: texting is your BFF. And it’s taken over the world. I pondered this phenomenon when I exceeded (for the first time) my texting limit earlier this month:

Oops! I texted too much this month

With each subsequent text incurring an overage fee, I decided to stop texting until the start of the next billing cycle. But lo and behold, it couldn’t be stopped! Friends and family continued to text me. And I had to reply to them the old fashioned way: email.

Let’s consider how (and why) texting has taken over the world.

1) It’s asynchronous.

Consider the phone call. You dial your friend. She hears the ring and has to be available to answer it. She answers and you talk. What if you simply needed to tell her that you’re running 10 minutes late? Does that really require the dial-answer-communicate cycle? Or how about a text that says “Running late. Be there in 10”? Done.

2) It’s threaded.

I remember receiving text messages on first generation cell phones. The user experience was poor. We’ve moved light years ahead on smartphones. Now, my conversation with each contact has its own “record” and I can see the back-and-forth messaging in one place. It’s like a permanent instant messaging window, holding the entire history of our conversation.

3) It’s universal.

Texting is universal

Photo source: User oregondot on flickr.

Whether it’s an iPhone, an Android phone or my parents’ 90’s era flip phone, every cell phone supports texting. This is one “application” in which you and your friend don’t need to download the same app. The app is built in to your phone.

4) Its notifications receive valuable screen real-estate.

While some may change the notifications settings on their phones, for most of us, an incoming text message receives high “priority.” The message pops up as a notification, usually accompanied by an audio alert. To check email, you have to open your email client. Texts, on the other hand, are visible the moment they come in.

5) It’s great for sharing photos.

Texting is Instagram without the filters. Long before Instagram hit the scene, people were sending each other photos via text message. Take a cute photo of your kid? Send it to family via text. As mentioned (above) with “notifications,” family members will see that photo right away. If you sent it via email? They’d probably see it much later.

6) There’s an expectation of near-immediate response.

Let’s say you need to urgently reach a colleague and she’s in a meeting. Do you interrupt the meeting and pull her out of it? Do you call her cell phone? Maybe in days past. These days, you send her a text message (perhaps labeled as “URGENT”) and chances are she’ll take the needed action. Immediately.

7-It’s short, it’s Twitter-like.

Tweeting is like texting

140 characters or less. It’s a big part of Twitter’s popularity and charm. With text messages, you get an additional 20 characters, for a total of 160! Endless email chains. Friends who just can’t seem to stop talking. With text messages, you get none of that. Instead, it’s 160 characters (or less) and you move on.

8) You can text in groups (if you want).

Yes, your 1:1 conversations can be extended to groups of friends (or colleagues). In a work setting, this could be especially useful when traveling together to a conference: coordinating meals, meet-ups and the like. In addition, there are numerous apps available to help you send group text messages on the cheap.

9) It delivers the entire payload at once.

Many email clients have a “preview pane,” in which you can read the body of the email (or the first portion of it). With texting, the entire payload of the message appears in the message notification. Often, I’ll receive a text, read it (via the message notification), then put away my phone. This adds to the efficiency of texting. Unlike email, there are times you don’t even have to open the “application.”

10) It’s resilient.

During natural disasters, voice service may be down, data service may be down, but text messaging is likely to survive. So your email won’t get through, your web site will be unreachable, but you can still send that text message. I’m sure texting is an important tool used by relief organizations and first responders today – and its use cases are sure to grow.


How Social Networks Facilitate Discovery and Engagement

May 24, 2012

Introduction

Successful social networks rely on a combination of user growth and “stickiness” – discovering users, discovering content, connecting with users, and engaging with users and content. As I study some of the most successful social networks, I find that they use a common set of techniques to create and maintain this stickiness. Let’s take them one by one.

Second Degree Activity

“Second degree activity” refers to actions that your friends take within a social network.

The Quora home feed (pictured above) is a great example. When I login to Quora, my home feed does not display topics I’m interested in. Rather, it takes the set of users that I’m following on Quora and lists the actions they’re taking (e.g. “following a question,” “voted up,” “commented,” etc.).

The concept: if I’m following someone, then I’m interested in what they think and do. If they’ve published a comment, then I may want to read it (“what they think”) and if they’ve voted up an answer, then I may want to check it out (“what they do”).

Other examples of second degree activity include:

  1. Twitter’s Activity tab, which can be found on Twitter.com by visiting Discover -> Activity. For folks you’re following, it lists actions that they’re taking: follows, favorites, addition to lists and more.
  2. LinkedIn’s Home feed, which lists new connections (made by your existing connections), status updates, profile updates and more.
  3. Facebook’s Newsfeed, which lists new friends (made your by your existing friends), Like’s (on friends of friends status updates) and more.

Featuring Popular Content

Pictured: The “Popular” tab in the mobile app Instagram.

Featuring popular content is an excellent stickiness tactic, as it provides proof to users that there’s great content to discover and consume. Popularity is democratic, in that it’s measured by the “votes” of the social network’s users (e.g. views, likes, comments, etc.).

That being said, “popularity begets more popularity,” which means that once content is marked popular, it tends to get more popular, at the (perhaps) disservice of similarly worthy content. You see this same phenomenon with “Most Popular” and “Most Emailed” lists on many online news sites.

Examples of featuring popular content include:

  1. Instagram’s “Popular” tab.
  2. Pinterest has a “Popular” tab that lists popular pins.
  3. Google+ has an “Explore” tab that reads “Explore What’s Hot on Google”.
  4. Facebook posts receiving a high degree of engagement get “pinned” to the top of your Newsfeed.

Recommendations

Pictured: “Who to follow” on Twitter.

Amazon was an innovator in algorithmic recommendations, with its “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” LinkedIn, for some time, has had a similar feature, “People You May Know,” which is listed prominently in the upper right corner of the LinkedIn home page.

In addition to recommending other users, social networks have begun to recommend content. The thought behind this, of course, is the more interesting content you find, the longer you’ll stay.

Examples of User Recommendations

  1. Twitter’s “Who to follow” tab.
  2. Twitter’s “Browse categories” tab, which provides curated lists of Twitter users within particular categories. Here’s the category list for Technology: https://twitter.com/#!/who_to_follow/interests/technology
  3. LinkedIn’s “People You May Know.”
  4. Google+ lists people “You Might Like” on its “Explore” page.

Examples of Content Recommendations

  1. Twitter’s Discover tab, which lists a series of “Stories.”
  2. Twitter’s Trending Topics – an innovative feature that is particularly unique to Twitter.
  3. LinkedIn TODAY, “The day’s top news, tailored for you.” – visible in the top area of your LinkedIn home page.
  4. Facebook’s “Recommended Pages.”

Email Notifications

It seems we’ve been writing off email for years. The rise of social media has brought into question whether email is still relevant. Well, it is. Despite claims to the contrary, we continue to be dependent upon our inbox.

In fact, I consider email to be “the glue” that connects (and returns you) to your assorted social networks. Email helps inform you of activities that occurred on a social network – and, it provides reminders for you to return.

Examples of email notifications:

  1. New followers or connections.
  2. A mention (of you) by other user(s).
  3. Getting tagged in an uploaded photo.
  4. A new comment or “like” to a post that you’ve liked.
  5. Follow-up comments to a comment you left – this is particularly useful on blogs, as well as discussions within LinkedIn Groups.
  6. Direct or private communications from a particular user.

Full-Mesh Communities

Pictured: The home feed on Nextdoor.

Nextdoor is a neighborhood-based social network that was recently profiled in The New York Times. There’s a Nextdoor community in my neighborhood (The Highlands in San Mateo), for which I’m a member. Nextdoor uses a “full-mesh model,” (my term) in which everyone “follows” everyone else by default. The newsfeed on your home page, in fact, displays posts from everyone.

There’s an absence of a follow/follower model altogether. If the size of a community is manageable (i.e. the number of members is at or below the Dunbar Number), then this full mesh model is ideal:

  1. It “removes friction” for establishing connections. I don’t have to worry about whom to follow, since the system’s done that for me.
  2. It “removes the risk” of my missing an important post because I’m not following the poster.
  3. It allows for “everyone to know everything,” and I think that’s completely fine in an online community based on your neighborhood.

I think the full mesh model is well suited to the online communities of small to medium sized businesses (i.e. for tools like Chatter, Yammer and Jive).

In a small business, I’d argue that similar to Nextdoor, everyone should know everything – and of course, private groups are always an option for things like compensation and employee reviews.

Conclusion

A quick recap of what we’ve discussed:

  1. The more (and better) social networks can recommend users and content, the stronger they’ll be.
  2. Second degree activity is an effective way to promote both users and content.
  3. Popularity and recommendations are additional avenues for discovering users and content.
  4. Email is the glue that ties your social networks together and keeps you coming back.
  5. Full mesh networks can be effective for particular use cases.

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Turn Outings into Professional Networking Opportunities with @sonarme

October 19, 2011

Introduction

Recently, I took the family out to a pumpkin patch. As my daughter rode off on a guided pony tour, I had some free time on my hands. As I looked around, I saw a few other dads with wandering glances. Because I’m quite “networking oriented,” I wondered what these other dads did for a living and whether we shared any common interests.

It occurred to me that a mobile app could work well in this scenario. You could “check in” to a particular location and see “profiles” (e.g. LinkedIn profiles) of other individuals who checked in to the same spot. Perhaps you discover an individual who works for a company that you’re trying to sell into. Or, perhaps you volunteer for a non-profit organization and find an individual who’s a potential donor.

When I returned home, I did a search for such an app. I found Sonar™ (@sonarme).

Sonar Overview

On its web site, Sonar describes itself as “a mobile application that uncovers the hidden connections you share with people nearby. We bottle the 1000s of connections that you miss every day- friends, friends of friends, fellow alumni, likeminded strangers- and put them in the palm of your hand. Sonar helps you use the information you share about yourself online to connect with the person sitting next to you.”

Sonar searches publically available data on Foursquare (checkins), Twitter (tweets) and Facebook (posts) to determine who’s nearby and how you may be connected to those people.

Finding People via Sonar

In the image above, I’m at (or near) the Jacob Javits Convention Center and see a list of people who recently checked in there (presumably, via Foursquare).  From here, I can click on a user and see their profile card.

The profile card shows me that I have mutual friends, connections and interests on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, respectively. I can drill down to find out more details on the common connections. For Twitter, “shared interests” include common friends and common followers. In addition, I can “Say Hi” to the user, which posts a public tweet (Twitter at-reply) directed to the user.

Here’s a tweet I generated via my own use of the service:

Hi @(username-removed). I saw on @sonarme that we’re both checked-in @ Cisco – Building 9 so I thought I’d say hello!

Sonar’s design is elegant, as the service can be useful even without a lot of users (downloads). I download the app, but since Sonar parses publically available data, the people I find do not need to be users of the service. Also, rather than encouraging random (if not intrusive) introductions, Sonar seeks to find common attributes that connect you with others, so that you may leverage those common elements as a means of introduction.

Recommendations for Sonar

That being said, here are a few things I’d like to see added to the service.

Opt-In for the Random Introduction

While Sonar seeks to find common connections tying two people together, I’d love to see a “random introduction mode,” in which those who opt in can introduce themselves to one another at random (i.e. without any connection whatsoever). If I’m selling into a company and I see people listed from that company, I want to introduce myself (virtually) and let them know I’d like to chat. The key here is that they’ve already opted in, so an introduction is not unexpected.

Saving of Contacts

Sonar allows me to find new people and send them messages. However, I don’t see a means for saving discovered contacts within the app. I’d love to have a record of whom I discovered (and where) and be able to view their “discovered” profile, including the common elements Sonar discovered on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Built-In Messaging System

Currently, Sonar allows me to send messages to other users via Twiter. I’d like a built-in messaging system that allows supports “SMS-like texting” to other users.  I’d use this capability to reach out to other users (privately) and invite them to meet up at a particular time and spot. In addition,  for groups of users that discover each other via the service, a built-in group messaging service (a la GroupMe) would be neat.

Linking Additional Services

How about linking to Instagram (a popular photo-sharing app for the iPhone). Location data can be parsed from Instagram users who choose to share it. Posting a picture (with location information enabled) becomes a form of “check in” and Sonar users could use commentary on the shared photo as a means for starting up a conversation.

Conclusion

Now that I have Sonar installed on my iPhone, I’m planning on “checking in” to it from time to time. It will be especially useful when I’m out and about, and happen to have some idle time. Shopping malls, airports and sports stadiums come to mind. And don’t even get me started about trade shows and events!

Here’s a short video about Sonar:


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