Google+ and B2B: Drink the Kool-Aid

photo by familymwr on Flickr

Let’s say you’re training to be the next Sanya Richards-Ross and you’ve got a track meet next spring that you’re planning to dominate. You bought the high-tech water bottle, the chicest of running outfits and have really committed to your weekly training schedule. You’re doing everything right! Except for one thing… you’re training in some worn-out Converse shoes you’ve had since high school. Your track meet rolls around, and you’re the fittest of them all, but before the first lap is over you’ve fallen behind your competitors.

In a similar way, Facebook and Twitter are still widely used and well-loved, just like that nifty pair of Converse shoes you’ve been hanging on to, but if you haven’t upgraded to some Nike trainers and aren’t including Google+ in your marketing efforts, you’ll be last place in the race for SEO success and B2B glory.

Google+ has taken off in the last several years as the search engine giant’s attempt at a new social platform. It initially landed on the social scene with a flop, but the good people at Google stood by their new product and have boosted Google+ into popularity contention with Facebook while surpassing Twitter and LinkedIn in active users. Over the course of its lifetime, it’s now become a widely used tool for businesses in virtually all verticals. So what can Google+ bring to the B2B marketing table?

Brands like Cisco Systems, Hewlett Packard and VMWare are taking advantage of the platform’s most beneficial B2B marketing uses. Here are a few things we can learn from these Google+ gurus:

  • When visiting their company pages, you first notice that they’ve put some actual thought into the look and feel of their profile. A visually appealing and interesting cover photo immediately catches the eye and can actually keep people on your page for a longer amount of time.
  • Outside of optical impressions, you can see that each company posts regularly on not only company updates, but industry news and current events. A consistent and relevant presence on any platform is a good rule of thumb, especially if thought leadership and industry expertise are important factors in your B2B campaigns for growing your customer base.
  • Hashtags, photos, infographics and videos are all great ways to beef up company posts that give profile visitors a more engaging experience overall. The more you can connect what you have to say to significant trends and hot topics in society, the more visibility you’ll harness for your brand. Making those connections noteworthy for your prospects can lead to a phenomenal B2B marketing program that could result in new customers.

Facebook and Twitter are obvious tycoons in the social sphere, but in terms of the best platform for business to business efforts, Google+ overpowers the other two outlets used mainly to talk to consumers directly. Its integrated features for SEO and video boost online visibility and its customizable categories in the form of circles is one of the best segmentation tools on the social web. Here are three main points to keep in mind when considering how your company can build its Google+ presence and why.

Highly Targeted Segmentation

Utilizing the circles feature in Google+ can make a world of difference in your efforts to reach specific groups, customers or prospects. By segmenting the companies and users followed by a company page, businesses can push out extremely specific information that can directly relate to any particular vertical your business has grouped into a circle. This kind of targeting is invaluable for B2B companies that need subdividing tools to effectively reach potential customers in various lines of business.

Sensational SEO

The entity that controls almost all search criteria and results for the entire internet of everything has created a social platform – you should be on it. Google+ places a great emphasis on search engine optimization throughout its whole platform, a huge differentiator from Facebook and Twitter.  Because Facebook and Twitter restrict certain data from Google’s search indexes, time spent marketing on Google+ leads to more tangible SEO results as it is directly correlated to PageRank. This article on Social Media Today does a great job of outlining the real SEO benefits of using Google+ in your marketing and PR mix.

Hangouts: More than Just Video Chatting

photo by brianDhawkins on flickr

Businesses these days are looking for ways to integrate and optimize more and more, so while we have all come to love Skype, it may be time to streamline communication and use Google+’s Hangouts for all your video needs. It acts as a video chat application, eliminating extraneous platforms like Skype, but Hangouts leverage the power of Google and its partners to boost your online visibility. Hangouts can be recorded as videos and shared directly to YouTube, letting you share product demos with prospects, stream live presentations for interested parties that can’t attend the trade show your company is keynoting, or simply post general company updates from the executive team to your audience using a highly engaging channel. Internal uses include client meetings, staff meetings, training sessions and more that will help you and your company maintain a strong and effective hold on brand image.

Every dollar counts in PR and marketing budgets, so breathe easy when making the call to jumpstart your company’s Google+ presence – when done properly, you’ll get some major bang for your B2B marketing buck! Is your company on Google+? Post your comments and experiences here – we’d love to see how you’re using it!

What Makes Things Popular Online?

“108 High Resolution Dark Denim Social Media Icons” by webtreats, on Flickr

The PR industry is rapidly changing. To stay competitive, PR agencies are learning how to develop digital skills or are maximizing marketing partner resources in order to satisfy the new media landscape. In a media world where anyone can be a journalist, news breaks on Twitter and memes are popping up and disappearing every week, PR professionals have their work cut out for them.

To address this, I recently planned a PRSA Austin Chapter event titled “There’s a Meme for That,” where our panelists discussed how to incorporate new digital media ideas into company strategies to boost chances of getting noticed, and increase social shares and engagement. Our panelists included digital marketing executives from Bazaarvoice, Edelman, Facebook and W2O—and they collectively had an extensive portfolio of examples of brands successfully using digital marketing strategies to reach consumers.

We started with the golden question: What makes things popular online? Why do some memes take off while others fall flat? What makes people share content and why do images and videos go viral? There are several inherent traits that exist in successful digital marketing strategies.

A human element

People need to be able to identify with the things they interact with every day. Dove, for example, has created a successful way to engage with its audience using “real” people in their ads and other communications. Recall the “Dove: Real Beauty” sketch campaign executed back in April. Dove expanded upon its “real beauty, real people” theme with this internet campaign that went viral, featuring sketches of women describing themselves to a sketch artist opposed to sketches of these women as described by someone else. The results were surprising. The message was positive, relatable and had that core human element that made the video such a success.

Socially shareable

If a campaign isn’t easy to share on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn and other blogs, it won’t do well, obviously. What makes something socially shareable? Images! Today, images go much further than words have ever taken us. Most social sharing sites are geared towards image-based storytelling, and visuals trump the written word in today’s fast-paced media environment. Before a message can ever go viral, it must be depicted in a visual, succinct medium. Such media include short videos (take a look at these cool Vine videos from brands), meme-like photos like these, infographics or just plain photos.

Timely

Popular online content is usually centered around a timely topic or event. Do “The Royal Baby” or “You can still dunk in the dark” sound familiar to you? Both social media-born topics—one from pop culture and the other from a food brand, Oreo—gained popularity during high profile events. Even though campaigns such as these are short lived, the boost in visibility for the brand has a much longer lasting impact. Companies should be careful how they jump on the trend bandwagon, however, as people can tire quickly of memes. Check out these examples of brands attempting to capitalize on the Royal Baby trend, and then the people’s reaction to it.

Engaging

People love to share their experiences (good or bad) on social media. People share information online because they hope or expect to get something back in return. This is part of the reason why product reviews are so popular. People are open to sharing commentary, because in return, they’ll get feedback from likeminded people or recognition from the brand. This psychology is similar across the social media landscape—and everyone is a movie, food, music, or [insert any category here] critic. The key is to share good, positive messages and never capitalize on negative trends or tragedies (like an Epicurious intern did).

Measurable

Companies absolutely must pay attention to their audiences. What do they want to see? What performs best with them? Once this is understood, companies can shape their media and PR around those understandings. The Facebook panelist let attendees know that there are Page management tools that allow brands and companies to see which posts garner the most engagement. This is a good example of measuring the effectiveness and sociability of campaigns. There are many PR reporting tools and platforms that track and measure social campaigns, as well, such as Hootsuite, Radian6 and Meltwater News.

 

What are some of your favorite memes or digital campaigns? Have you run any that were positive and successful? Feel free to plug here!