The surprising mistake B2B brands make on social media


Now that we’re well into the era of B2B on social media, a lot of business-minded companies are seeing their competition building communities and creating marketing value with a robust social media presence. And as these brands begin to recognize the value, they are starting to put their own community management programs into place.

For a few marketers, this is great news. They’re out there making connections, communicating with customers and prospects, generating positive sentiment for their brands and building their audience numbers.

But before you jump in, here’s a surprise: The most common way B2B brands go wrong on social media is actually by being too cautious. Here’s an example.

Company WXYZ decides it’s time to get social. Reasonably, they determine that LinkedIn looks like the smartest option for a business-oriented company. They start by setting up a well-written, well-optimized company page and begin posting updates, including thought-leadership pieces, technology articles and videos. Great so far.

What happens next is not as positive.

  1. They don’t generate new content.

WXYZ’s content library quickly dries up after their existing articles and videos are posted, and no time or budget is allocated towards blogging or other new content creation.

The marketing team decides not to curate and share other people’s relevant content. “We don’t want to support other companies on our page,” they say.

Their company page ends up looking more self-promotional than informative. Visitors who land there have no interest in becoming followers. Potential audience – including those who might share content or become loyal customers and advocates – is lost.

  1. They overlook employee advocacy.

Personnel receive no training or guidelines about optimizing their profiles. Many of them have no profile at all, while others don’t link to the company page. Others are poorly written, lack keywords, etc. WXYZ’s page rank suffers, both within LinkedIn and in Google and other search engines.

Personnel are not encouraged or coached to become brand advocates. A huge opportunity for sharing and engagement is lost. Most of the content that does get posted on LinkedIn is never shared by employees and goes unseen by potential community members.

  1. They don’t populate any other channels.

WXYZ declines to create a Twitter profile, Facebook page or other social channel, reasoning that there are too many opportunities for time-wasting chatter or mistakes. The opportunity to capitalize on vast communities and to share LinkedIn posts on other platforms is lost.

A remote sales manager uses a version of the company name for their Twitter handle. The account is mostly dormant except for occasional photos of the sales team at trade shows. Company customers and prospects who search for WXYZ on Twitter see only this stream, which holds no value or interest for them – and they don’t follow, engage or share any of their own content.

  1. They leave the social element off their owned properties.

Without a blog or high-value downloadable content on their website, and lacking social channels to drive website visits, growth of WXYZ’s audience database is slow. Outbound marketing and email programs deliver very few new leads, and opt-outs shrink the lists almost as fast as they grow.

Does any of this sound familiar? It’s a story that’s happening all too often – showing that no social presence at all can be better than a presence which is sporadic and poorly managed.

There’s so much opportunity right now, especially for non-visual and commercial brands who may be the first in their industry to establish a strong presence on social media.

Your customers are already there. Go surprise them!


would you like fries or a salad with that: an unsparing feminist view on media

I don’t tumblr so I can’t give this proper attribution because it’s not clear to me who originated it.

But it is fabulous, and so here it is – complete and unadorned. If you know who wrote it please let me know in the comments and I’ll give credit.

waitress: would you like fries or a salad with that

me: Bryce Dallas Howard refused to take her heels off despite the director’s concerns because it was her metaphor for female strength. The narrative scolds Claire for not being adequately dressed for the situation, that she had no way to predict. The narrative treats Claire’s heels like a weakness. And what Claire does? She proves that she can’t be stopped. She doesn’t have to yield and change her(self) outfit in order to survive in Jurassic World as successfully as Owen. High heels is actually such a great metaphor because in real world women are expected to keep up with men without taking our heels off (aka giving up our femininity), women are expected to do as great as men without stopping being women. And you know what? It doesn’t matter what obstacles patriarchy puts in our way, we can overcome it. We can be everything men can be while being everything women are expected to be. A woman in heels outrunning a T-Rex is unrealistic? If you look at it as a metaphor, than you will see that women in real world do it all the time. Claire didn’t have to gave up her femininity to kick ass or to save herself, Owen, her nephews, and 20 thousands people. Claire didn’t need to gave up her femininity to belong. Owen expected her to be a weak and useless deadweight? She never let the weakness he saw in her to stop her or to slow her down. Claire could outrun a T-Rex while wearing high heels. Think twice before telling this woman what she can or can’t wear, because she will walk over your dead body in that very same heels like no big deal.

waitress: may i remind you that equating the choices made by real and living women to those artificially assigned to fictional women by male writers is a reductive move that makes media analysis less about interrogating the effect of media and holding its creators accountable for that effect and more about turning every blockbuster film into a feminist easter egg hunt where everyone is expected to scramble for any aspect of the film that seems even remotely progressive

me: oh fuck you’re right. i’ll just have fries then

Rock solid proof that content marketing works (influencer marketing too)

Rock solid proof

Share your best stuff, the experts tell you. Give value to your audience and they will become your customers.

And it’s absolutely true – not just in the short term, but over time as well. I just proved it to myself without even trying. How?

Well – I don’t know if you are on the mailing list for the Buffer blog. If you’re not, stop reading this and go right now and subscribe. I’ll wait.

Buffer’s crack team researches, writes and sends out a ton of just astonishingly informative and well-researched articles. I first learned about them via other social gurus who recommended specific articles, which were so good I subscribed to Buffer’s emails. Over and over, their subject lines have gotten me to click over to their blog to read and learn. They’ve become one of my top resources for information about social media – they also have blogs for engineering, about Buffer itself and an upcoming blog intriguingly called “Happiness”.

I’ve been particularly impressed by posts I’ve read from Kevan Lee, one of their top content creators. Not only does Kevan write about stuff that’s of huge value to me, he makes my life a lot easier with his roundups and how-to articles. Even more impressive, he actively engages with commenters and openly posts his email address for anyone who has questions for him.

For all those reasons, when an email came into my inbox today from Kevan, I opened it. For once, the title meant nothing at all to me. It was “New post: The Ultimate List of Product Hunt Collections for Marketers”. I didn’t know what that meant and it wasn’t anything I was interested in or cared about.

But I clicked on it anyway.

Why? I have so much trust in Kevan to provide me with good stuff, I clicked on something I wasn’t interested in just because it came from him. And once I was on the post, I invested a few minutes to learn about Product Hunt, which turns out to be a geek-o-rama for finding and talking about new mobile apps, websites and other cool tech stuff. Definitely worth looking into – and maybe even downloading a few new apps.

And that, my friends, is the very embodiment of influence. It’s also total rock solid proof that content marketing works. By helping me with my business, Buffer has become one of my top go-to sites for information, and in the process I’ve become a major believer in the quality of their products as well.

You should check it out. Say hi to Kevan for me.

The eblast:

Kevan Lee eblast

Steal this Tweet: How to create a fabulous social media career without doing any work

Tweet thief

It looks like this social media thing is going to catch on. With a bunch of smart people already saying they’re making money and getting famous on Twitter and Facebook, you’re probably thinking that this could be a great direction for your future career. Especially since taking video of yourself playing X-box and posting it to a YouTube channel with four subscribers hasn’t worked out all that well yet.

The thing is, to get this done the way some of the experts are recommending (build an audience, create value, engage, be transparent) seems like WAY too much work. And why bother anyway, when you can apparently leverage other people’s community? It sounds much easier just to do that!

Here’s a quick guide to building a successful career in social media in less than 20 minutes per day without ever having to leave the couch.  Once you’re famous, you can send me a royalty check. I’m good with 10%.

  1. Start following the big names in social. To find them, just Google some top 10 lists – you’ll get about 500 people, because everyone who started in social before 2010 is now an “influencer” – but you can winnow it down by eliminating everyone who’s not following Brian Fanzo.
  2. Set up Feedly to deliver you a whole bunch of social media blogs. Find some that only have a few followers – that way you’ll be a curator of value instead of just another wannabe who retweets everything Jay Baer posts.
  3. Tag as many people as possible in every tweet so they retweet you. It’s all about the numbers.
  4. Make quote graphics in Canva (but don’t use the paid images, that’s why they invented Google image, sorry Guy Kawasaki). Quote social media wizards like Gary Vaynerchuk and post the graphics incessantly to Instagram.
  5. Join a few dozen Twitter chats and greet everyone as they sign on, then drop off without saying anything. No one will notice.
  6. Open a Buffer account – don’t bother with the paid version; free works fine – and load it up with tons of scheduled posts for the next few weeks.
  7. Then head to the Caribbean for vacation.

I may have left out a few steps, but this should be enough to get you started. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flight to book.

**Important Notice: Ignore everything I wrote above. I may have had too much Mountain Dew today.

Here come the social media carpetbaggers

Carpetbagger 2 LI

A client just sent us information on an “exclusive opportunity” for an event being put on by a “value transformation company” and targeted to their industry. As soon as I saw it I started shaking my head. It’s a perfect example of how companies who don’t yet grasp the workings of social media can easily be taken advantage of by others who say they do.

Next time something like this lands in your email box, pause before you sign up.

Instead, send it to me. I promise I will look at it and make a recommendation for you based on the actual value this event is likely to provide for your business.

I’m offering this up right now, for free to all comers, simply because I’m sick and tired of seeing this kind of thing proliferate. What happens next is this; the brands who sign up get no benefit and leave believing that social has no value.

At a cost of several thousand dollars, sponsors of this particular event get a grab-bag of nearly worthless goodies, most of which are carefully designed to push up the brand and social value of the company hosting the event. Here’s a partial list:

  • A badge for the sponsor to put on their own site – to drive visits to the event site
  • An opportunity to join their LinkedIn group – helping the host company to develop their own community
  • The “chance” (this one really kills me) to write a blog post which will appear – yes – on the host company’s blog
  • A link to that blog post on a newsletter sent out to all the conference attendees (remember the post is not on the sponsor’s site, it’s on the host company’s, so it drives visits there, not to the sponsor’s site)
  • An 8-foot table at the event exhibit (hey, it’s skirted!)

The host company is selling this dog’s breakfast by giving it a name that implies community, connection and conversation. They’ve wrapped a mediocre event in shiny social media wrapping paper, making it attractive to companies who have a comfort level with events and sponsorships and want to feel they’re doing something in social media.

Thinking about it, I do understand what the host company means by “value transformation”. Your budget, transformed into their profit. Your customers, transformed into their community. Your expertise, transformed into their SEO.

It’s easy to understand how companies can be drawn in by this kind of carpetbagging. But again, you don’t have to be. Send your offers to me and I’ll vet them for you. Getting involved in social business the right way has so many benefits. It’s worth taking a moment to be sure the work you’re doing, and the money you’re spending, is going to value creation and not just transformation.

Why I don’t like you on Facebook


You’ve seen it a hundred times – the cheerful sign, prominently displayed. It might be in a restaurant, a clothing store or a gym, or on a website. There’s the familiar thumbs-up and the text “Like Us on Facebook!”

I ignore it every time.

Not one of those signs has ever sent me scrambling for my phone (or mouse) to find their Facebook page and like it. Not once.

In fact I don’t even think about it. I just cruise right past that sign, focused on whatever else I’m doing on the site or in the store. Because that’s not a moment when I’m thinking about Facebook or your brand – I’m thinking about the errand I’m on or the information I’m looking for. It’s not occurring to me, or anyone, to think in that moment – gee, I sure do like this company, enough to want to see their updates on my Facebook news feed.

So what does make people like brands on Facebook? You need to attract them to your page by showing them something wonderful, compelling or funny. Surprise and delight, as Starbucks says (they may or may not have coined the term – I can’t seem to get a straight answer on that).


Simply posting a sign asking for likes is not going to interest anyone in your brand. You have to give them a reason to care. You have to give them something so amazing that they want to interact with it – to share it, to comment on it, and – yes – to like it.

You know who’s great at this? Canva. They’re a brand whose updates I welcome on Facebook, because they always have something interesting and useful for me. Their Facebook presence perfectly fits their brand – friendly, humorous but always giving tons of value. That’s a page I like, because I want to see their updates on my news feed.

Another winner on Facebook is Burt’s Bees – a double thrill for me because Mel Culbertson, a smart woman I know in real life too, is running community management for them and doing an amazing job.

Want to get likes for your brand? Go check them out, and take a look at the timelines of brands you’ve already liked as well. See what they’re doing to surprise, delight, inform and engage their audiences. And that’s the best guide you could ever find.

Why commercial industrial brands need to get on social media right now

1.5 million dollar system on twitter

The other day at a meeting with one of our business-to-business brands, I raised the topic of social media. When I suggested that there could be some value in it for their company, the CEO disagreed.

“No one is going to buy a 1.6 million dollar software solution on Twitter!” he laughed.

His opinion runs parallel to that of most of the commercial-industrial brands I’ve spoken with. They’ve been to Facebook, they’ve looked at Twitter, and they can’t see how social media fits with the way they market and sell their high-technology, specialized-audience products.

That’s because it doesn’t.

Traditional marketing for commercial-industrial brands has included trade shows, advertising in trade publications and on trade websites, building a data-rich website and producing lots of printed collateral. Public relations, which has typically been a separate discipline, was all about “news” releases and editorial in those same trade pubs and sites – most of it focused on products or technologies being sold by the company, wrapped in an industry or thought leadership topic.

Going to market like this always been effective, and it still pretty much is – which is one reason a lot of brands feel they don’t need to think about social media.

The other, bigger reason – and the reason for this blog post – is that they don’t actually know how they could or should use social to meet their business objectives. Most B-to-B brands who are on social use it as a news-broadcasting platform, which is completely contrary to the way their customers and prospects are using it. Business people don’t go to Twitter and Facebook to hear news about providers. They go to join communities of individuals like themselves, for support and information that will help them build their own business.

This gives manufacturers a tremendous opportunity. Join the conversation, provide something of worth, give your time and your assistance first before expecting anything in return, and you will become a respected and valued presence. You will gain followers, see your information retweeted to larger communities, win word-of-mouth among your audience, and drive prospects back to your website where they will become bona fide leads.

In a lot of commercial-industrial industries, there is literally no one doing this yet. This leaves it wide open for the first manufacturer who gets out there and starts giving value to the community.

It’s not a quick process – you need to build your presence step-by-step, and there’s a method and a science to the art. But there is absolutely no denying that social media is the next frontier for marketing. Your customers are already there. Go find them and you will own the territory.