I’m posting an updated version of a Social Media eBook I published a couple of years ago. The eBook is meant as a quick guide for getting started, addressing the following topics:
* Before you start
* Fish Where the Fish Are
* Developing Your Own Community
* Social Media Tools
What have you found to work best for you?
As I believe virtual events will (if not already) become a more integral part of a company’s communications strategy, I will reach out to vendors and practitioners in the industry to share their thoughts for the weekly PRMM Interview leading up to the Virtual Edge Summit in January 2011. This week, I reached out to my former company to get a sense of how virtual events differ from webinars and where the industry is going. Mike Westcott, VP of Marketing with INXPO, shares his thoughts.
Mike Westcott oversees INXPO’s branding and marketing as Vice President of Marketing. Westcott has helped drive growth and innovation throughout his career as a leader at numerous global marketing organizations and agencies. He was most recently responsible for community strategy and marketing innovation with media company, Red7 Media, where he ran the Event Marketing Institute. He has been instrumental in helping to shape the dialogue in the brand and experiential marketing industry for over twenty years through his writing, workshops and thought leadership.
Can you provide a quick overview of InXpo?
INXPO is the first and leading provider of virtual business solutions. These solutions help organizations improve their business performance by transforming the web from pages and links to events and destinations where people go to connect, collaborate, learn and do business.
Many marketers currently leverage webinars as part of their lead generation programs. How are virtual events different from webinars?
In an era when content and education are an increasingly important part of marketing and communication, webinars are a proven means of broadcasting content to an online audience.
Virtual events combine webcasting of content with online conversation, peer-to-peer connection and collaboration tools and social media to help people connect much like they do at physical events. While virtual events don’t replace the face to face connection we experience at a physical event, they are fast becoming a critical addition to extend the content, conversation and collaboration of physical conferences and tradeshows. This combination, called Hybrid events are the way to go for smart organizations that seek to make the most of their communication and content investments.
Compared to a webinar, a virtual event is more costly and takes more time. Can you elaborate on the type of scenarios where a virtual event would be better than a webinar?
Virtual events are better than webinars in three scenarios
1. Hybrid events: when you want to extend an existing event investment
2. Revenue generating events: when you want to turn content and conversation into commerce by connecting a number of sponsors and prospects around shared interests
3. Education: when you want to engage your audience more deeply in educational content with collaborative activities, breakout sessions, surveys, gaming and other training tactics.
What are top 2-3 benefits of using virtual events for marketers?
1. Lower cost and shorter time frames than traditional events for lead generation and communication
2. Extending existing event and content investments
3. Online community building potential
There seems to be a lot of developments with virtual events. Where do you see the industry going?
Virtual community environments are quickly becoming the real payoff as they provide a real destination for content management and delivery, meetings and learning for corporations, associations as well as media companies who are realizing that content is not king, community is king. And content is the catalyst that brings people together.
Most social media campaigns begin with a bang – you’re excited, have a lot of passion and are regularly posting, tweeting and engaging your audience. If social media marketing isn’t your full-time role, other priorities begin to take priority once this initial excitement dissipates.
Like your demand generation programs, the success of your social media marketing also depends on providing the right content to your audience at the right time during the sales cycle. Here are four quick ideas to keep your social media channels seeded with rich content:
Repurpose your content: Many companies have a huge reservoir of content ranging from product sheets to webinars, white papers and more. This content can be repurposed for your social media marketing efforts with minimal time and effort.
Editorial Calendar: Jumping into social media provides you the opportunity to publish content on your own timetable. To ensure that you stick to a schedule, map out an editorial calendar for the quarter looking at specific topics, guest authors, etc. to ensure that you have a rich funnel of content.
Interview Industry Experts: To vary the content and further position your company as an industry thought leader, interview industry experts and seed the interviews across your channels. You can do a quick video interview for YouTube, an email Q&A for your blog, or include profile in your email newsletter.
Invite Guest Bloggers: Creating all of this content is time consuming. Invite industry bloggers or peers to contribute a post to your blog. Make sure to set up some basic guidelines to ensure content is relevant to your audience. This alleviates your time constraints while provides content for your blog.
How do you keep your marketing and social media channels fresh with content?
Social Media Marketing 101 Posts
Rene Bonvanie, VP of Worldwide Marketing, Palo Alto Networks, presented on a viral video he created while with Serena Software. The goal of the video was to increase the use of the company’s mashup tools. Instead of creating a “standard” B2B video at the time, the company decided to adopt a more consumer-focused approach of using sex and innuendo. In essence, they were seeking to create a strong emotional response to the video – either you hated or loved it. I’ve embedded the original video below.
Starting a Fire
“No long tail in social media. It happens or doesn’t.” – Rene Bonvanie
While the video only cost $5,000 to develop, the challenge was generating the fire to start the buzz. The key considerations for Serena Software were:
* How to increase/enable social networking
* Have users push and syndicate the content rather than pushing it themselves
* Coordinated efforts with traditional media and advertising activities
The company first created two versions of the video: a censored version for YouTube which linked to an uncensored version on the company’s website. The company then leveraged traditional advertisements on targeted websites that played on the “censored” theme. As the ad campaign continued, media outlets began to pick up on the, at the time, unique campaign.
Simultaneously, the company built a video channel related to the original video. As the views increased for the viral video, other videos also saw an increase in views as a halo effect.
Questions from the audience
Note: I tried to capture the questions and quote as fully as I could and is not meant to be a “transcript” of what was said. Questions are in purple with the response italicized.
Insights with global marketplace and how to adapt this? One of the things we found is that from a B2B perspective, the audience speak English for B2B.
What was the magic sauce for the video? Sex and innuendo.
Had you thought of anything else besides sex/innuendo? Did take out some of the sex and tried the office/Seinfeld humor. Thought it was done before and wouldn’t go that well. Looked at consumer brands to see what they did and to combine those elements with office setting did well.
What was the impact on sales for the video? There were two ways to look at that. At the end of the day was to have people evaluate the software. Got $10 million in sales with $40 million in opportunities and 100,000 to conduct trials.
In conclusion, Bonanvie recommended caution when seeking to create such a video. You have to consider the creative, brand, comments from viewers, and related videos.
Other posts regarding MarketingProfs SocialTech 2010:
The session I was most interested in attending was the “B2B Events: Build Audience and Extend the Conversation through Social Media” at MarketingProfs SocialTech conferene. Belinda Hudmon, Sr. Director, Interactive Marketing, Motorola, shared how they leveraged social media for their events and to accelerate the sales cycle.
Start with the Customer
Motorola first started from the customer’s perspective to understand the pain point and sales cycle. The company levereaged in-depth research, customer insights and detailed personas to help develop digital toolkits to help prospects and customers through the sales process, such as microsites, product tours, website, social media and communities.
Events Key Part of B2B Sales
Events are key part of Motorola’s B2B sales but the recession impacted audience attendance (up to 50%+ decline for some key events) , especially since many of Motorola’s events were global. Interestingly, virtual events weren’t necessarily the answer as Motorola was cognizant of people’s limited time to participate in such an event.
According to Hudmon, they learned that 69% of business buyers use social media to make a purchase decision (Forrester). This, combined with the impact of the recession on event attendance, lead Motorola to develop its “Share the Experience” site. The goal of the site was to expand the experience for the event with video as the core. They leveraged several social media tactics to seed content and drive engagement:
* Uploaded videos to YouTube
* Had bloggers contributing insights about industry trends and from the industry floor to see what was happening
* Followed Twitter and Facebook to see what was happening via hashtags
* Provided access to initial information on case studies and other content from content sites, social media integration (e.g. flickr), etc.
* Promoted the site via email, twitter, and facebook to give info about the speakers, as well as feed information about the show back to their different social communities
* Recently provided mobile experience as well
Results: Increase Engagement, Thought Leadership and Post-Show Dialog
Overall, the “Share the Experience” site helped Motorola to establish a following with their customers, partners and prospects which extended their dialog with these key audiences. This also helped drive Motorola’s thought leadership platforms with blog postings and real-time updates from Twitter and Facebook. This has become an integral part of other shows and as a way to launch other thought leadership platforms.
Highlighting the value of archival content, Motorola discovered that 60% of the videos were watched after the event had concluded with 3X more demos completed online overall.
Questions from the Audience
Note: I tried to capture the questions and quote as fully as I could and is not meant to be a “transcript” of what was said. Questions are in purple with the response italicized.
Built the virtual conference platform internally for Motorola. Why internal vs external? Looked at virtual events and one of the issues with virtual events is that people’s time is limited. With the ”Share the Experience” site, we weren’t trying to replace virtual but have an experience before, during or after the show. Have done some virtual that weren’t live stream and more on-demand scenario. Have tested the virtual event as an augmentation to events to see live and ask questions.
Social media integration – used corporate Motorola or different accounts within the event? Started by an event site but realized the opportunity was a Motorola site or audience-specific site. As set up the site and interface with it and can have a long-term interaction. So leverage the audience site to interface with event sites as they come online.
Motorola recognized that events were an integral part of their sales process, but the recession greatly impacted attendance at their global events. By understanding their customers – especially that these are time-constrained professionals, the company opted for a website-based experience integrated with social media versus a virtual event. In this way, Motorola discovered an effective way to drive engagement, thought leadership, and I’m assuming, sales forward.
How are you using social media to drive your B2B events? What other strategies are you using?
In this week’s interview, I touched base with Maria Korolov of Hypergrid Business, a leading online blog on virtual worlds and environments. In three short years, she’s grown her business and I asked her thoughts regarding the virtual environments industry, what she attributes her success to, and what it will take to be covered by Hypergrid.
Biography: Maria Korolov (formerly Maria Trombly) is founder and president of Trombly International, a Massachusetts-based company which runs emerging markets news bureaus for US business and trade publications. Her clients include CIO magazine, Computerworld, Securities Industry News, CardLine Global, Waters, Reed Elsevier’s PharmAsia News, and dozens of other publications.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and Hypergrid Business?
I launched Hypergrid Business about a year and a half ago, shortly after I discovered OpenSim, as an excuse to learn more about the platform and to talk to the folks building it. Since then, we’ve grown to over 10,000 monthly readers, over a dozen columnists and paid writers, and we’re having to turn away advertisers due to lack of space.
OpenSim, and enterprises uses of virtual worlds in general, are a hot topic right now. The fact that I’ve got over a decade of experience covering enterprise technology for publications like Computerworld is paying off here.
And I’m having a blast. It’s great to be in at the very beginning of a significant structural change in how the world works. The shift to the Internet was one such change. I believe that the shift to immersive environments will be another, and will be equally disruptive and transformative to the global economy.
We’ve got ambitions plans for our company. We’ve already launched a newsletter, are finalizing a vendor directory, have a 300-destination hypergrid travel directory up, are developing a video program, and are building a hyperport with multiple locations to cover all the possible hypergrid travel destinations. Further down the line, we might rent out space to merchants in our hyperports, or create an in-world advertising network. We are looking for both technology and business partners, as well as writers, researchers, marketers, and other positions — all part-time to start with, but with potential to turn into real careers as this platform evolves.
You mentioned that your readership has grown over the past three years. What would you attribute your growth to?
Part of it is simply organic growth. Someone reads an article, recommends it to a friend, and the friend becomes a reader.
Part of it is social media. We’re on Twitter, Facebook, Digg… we try to make sure that every article we post is linked to from the major sites, as well as from BusinessWeek and LinkedIn.
We also make it easy for people to find us. We’ve been a Google News publication for around a year, and we’re near the top of the Google searches for relevant terms. Inbound links help drive up our rankings — and the more useful stories we publish, the more people link to us, and the easier it becomes to find us.
Marketers are more like publishers today. What tips would you provide to marketers to help drive their content marketing strategy?
Marketing is a big part of growing a new technology segment. Outreach and education are often neglected by technology folks, who assume that if they build a better platform, then people will come. That’s not always true — people won’t come unless they know it’s there, and unless they know what benefits it offers them. If a vendor is lucky, there will be a group of users who are active and vocal and go out and promote the technology, like Ener Hax is doing with SimHost’s OpenSim hosting service. Smarter vendors will seek out these folks and offer them discounted hosting or other incentives to get them to use and talk about their platform, instead.
It’s also great to get your name out in as many channels as possible. Virtual events and conferences, and face-to-face events. News articles. Published editorials. Press releases. Company blogs. Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn feeds. The more a customer hears about a company, the more comfortable he or she gets with it. This is where marketing experts come in. An outside social media consultant, teamed up with a freelance writer, can do wonders to raise a company’s profile in the marketplace.
They need to get to know the social landscape, find out where their customers hang out, follow them, and provide value to these communities.
As a blogger, what three tips would you provide to companies seeking to be profiled by Hypergrid?
First and foremost, I want customer case studies, success stories, testimonials, first-hand accounts of how your product or service works. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a juicy disaster story, either! A smart company will take a disaster and spin it into a positive story of recovery and evolution. You’re guaranteed to get my attention with something like that.
Next, I want statistics. How many users? How many events? What percent were satisfied? What were the growth rates? What are the benchmarks? I love numbers, and readers love numbers.
Finally, and least interesting to me, are new product and version announcements. A company can put out a press release every week trumpeting a minor new feature. At a certain point, that gets boring — and not very useful to customers.
Anything else that you would like to share?
I’m always looking for guest columnists to talk about topics of interest to enterprise users of virtual worlds.
In honor of the SF Giants in the World Series today, here is a viral video from a fan (Ashkon Davaran: twitter ashkonmusic) that has generated over 1 million views. This video captured the hearts of the SF Giants season. Maybe this video wouldn’t have gone viral if the Giants didn’t win the pennant, but that’s the point.
Going viral is part content, part timing and part luck. In this case, all three came together.
Cece Salomon-Lee is director of marketing for ACTIVE Network, Business Solutions division, and author of PR Meets Marketing, which explores the intersection of public relations, marketing, and social media.
This blog contains Cece's personal opinions and are not representative of her company's.