I’ve spent some time over the last week judging the finalists in BtoB magazine’s annual social media awards. This is a great chance to take a snapshot of best practices in the field, and I was struck by this year’s entries in the corporate blog category.
Blogs may be declining in importance in the consumer realm as Facebook and Twitter grow in popularity, but they are still the most valued social platforms for B2B marketers as evidenced by recent research (see p. 27 of the PDF). It’s clear to me that the best B2B companies are taking their blogging to the next level.
In every one of the entries I reviewed, marketer had applied a disciplined approach to planning and execution, leveraging editorial calendars, careful topic selection and professional communicators to deliver the message. I was also struck by the attention they paid to avoiding the temptation to use blogs as a promotional channel. (For obvious reasons, I can’t identify the finalists).
“[The] mission was to shed the traditional corporate mantra of being a marketing page by providing compelling, journalistic pieces that encouraged visitors to be a part of the discussions,” read one finalist’s entry.
Another defined the blog’s mission as being “to provide actionable and thought-leadership content for customers and prospects on…topics the company’s product helps optimize.”
Two of the four finalists had hired professional journalists to oversee content. This is an excellent idea, especially given that devastation in traditional media has put a lot of fine talent on the streets at bargain prices. All were using Twitter and LinkedIn to amplify their messages and some had negotiated syndication deals through vertical websites devoted to their industry. That’s another great idea.
Another characteristic all finalists shared: editorial planning. One entry described the process:
- A topical editorial calendar was created that assigned each day of the week to a different type of blog post and topic.
- A monthly editorial meeting was scheduled to review blog topics and assign writers.
- A blog post and a writer were assigned in advance to ensure the creation of the content.
Holy cow! What do these people think they are? Publishers?
Well, yes, and for good reason. The Internet has obliterated barriers to entry in publishing and smart marketers are realizing that, with persistence and a good keyword strategy, they can beat the top business publications in search results. Why spend time and money influencing the media if you can become the media instead?
This isn’t nearly as simple as it used to be, though. As I’ve pointed out here as well as in BtoB magazine, the social media space is getting mighty crowded. Just planting your flag isn’t enough anymore; you have to do something that your audience finds remarkable.
Which means that the old disciplines that have served publishers for many years suddenly have new relevance.
Alan Belniak is director of social media marketing at PTC, a very large software company. Last October, the company announced a major overhaul of its product line and its approach to software development. Instead of blitzing the market with press releases following the October 28 rollout, it focused its energies on a multi-author blog, Twitter account and YouTube channel to deliver a steady stream of updates on topics that address a variety of customers ranging from designers to purchasing VPs.
The program is backed by an editorial calendar and a roster of bloggers selected for their communication skills and ability to address different audience segments. The team posted 30 articles in February, along with 10 videos, giving both their audience and Google plenty of reason to come back. Results: “A near vertical rise in viewership,” Alan says, and a high quality of interaction with visitors. I’m sure there was arm-twisting involved in convincing traditionalists to discard multiple levels of approval in replying to a question, but PTC doesn’t seem to be any worse for wear.
The finalists in the BtoB awards have seen similar results, with total traffic in one case growing nearly 14,000% across its blog and syndication channels in a single year from a substantial base. In fact, the most difficult part of judging these awards was choosing a winner. It’s hard to anoint a champion when so many are competing so well.