Two B2B Social Marketing Initiatives Worth Checking

A couple of notable B2B efforts have caught my eye recently that I wanted to share. One is Element14, a social community for engineers sponsored by an electronics distributor of the same name. I wrote in B-to-B magazine early this year about a Make magazine-like video series they started last fall that appeals to engineers’ passion for tinkering as well as for fun. Other new stuff that they’re doing (and this comes directly from the press release):

  • The industry’s first online design hub – the element14 knode – designed to help engineers accelerate design and development and bring products to market faster than ever before.
  • RoadTests – Allowing members to actually try out the latest new products for free and share their reviews with other engineers
  • Focused sub-groups – scores of technical forums ranging from LEDs, robotics, FPGAs, engineering student design teams, etc.
  • Over the last quarter alone, more than 500,000 people visited the online community, spending over 65,000 hours researching, collaborating and communicating with fellow engineers.

Element14 is trying to position itself as “Facebook for engineers,” and they’re doing a heckuva job. This is a commerce play, incidentally. The whole community is linked to an underlying catalog site. One of the innovative things about the Ben Heck Show is that each of his video hacks is accompanied by a parts list that you can order right on site.

When I first learned about Element14 a couple of years ago, it was a rather unremarkable document exchange engine. Over the last year, it’s evolved into a multimedia experience that bristles with value and fun. No doubt this wasn’t cheap, but it’s impressive to see a B2B community demonstrate this kind of ingenuity.

Update 12/6/11: Premier Farnell just announced that “The Ben Heck Show” has attracted more than three million views since its launch.

Also, check out Social Media Quickstarter, a tutorial site aimed at small businesses and launched just this week by Constant Contact. The site is organized in “chapters” by platform – Facebook, LinkedIn, Ratings and Reviews, QR codes and the like – and presents really useful tutorials in a step-by-step format, many including video. There are more than 70 chapters, all of which can be downloaded and printed.

There are several aspects of this ever that I like:

Minimal branding – Constant Contact intentionally keeps the focus on the content rather than its brand. In fact, the company name is in almost comically small type at the top of the home page. One smart move was to prominently note that the resource is “Powered by KnowHow,” which is a training service the company offers. It’s a low-key approach to branding that uses the quality of the content to validate the service.

Value – Constant Contact says it surveyed small businesses to discover that many didn’t know how to get started in social media, but you didn’t need research to figure that out. There is a crying need for this kind of basic education. The value of Social Media Quickstarter isn’t as much in the content itself as in the fact that it’s all in one place. You can Google around and find much of this advice elsewhere but the company has conveniently aggregated it in one spot.

Simplicity without Condescension – Quickstarter manages to walk that fine line between teaching basic skills and talking down to its audience. Quickstarter doesn’t pretend to be a resource for the digerati. It answers the basic questions that millions of small business owners are asking, and it does so in plain language with lots of pictures and video. It respects its audience.

Two impressive B2B social media efforts by two companies addressing very different audiences.

Linked In Overview, from Social Media Quickstarter from Social Media Quickstarter on Vimeo.

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