FIR B2B episode #115: Social Media Adoption Over the Years – the Latest from the Annual UMass Survey

Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.Today Paul Gillin and I talk to Nora Ganim Barnes, Chancellor Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Marketing Research at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, about her latest survey of corporate social media usage. Barnes has been surveying two distinct populations for the past 12 years – the INC 500 and the Fortune 500 – to ascertain what social media platforms they use, how they use them and how they measure results. Her students visit the websites of all 1,000 companies measured and augment the research with telephone interviews.

For the first time in nine years, more F500 are using blogs than the INC 500, and the increase has been substantial in just the past three years (see chart below), jumping from 21% in 2015 to 53% in the most recent survey. Clearly, the largest companies have reclaimed blogging and are using their blogs to tell stories and better craft their marketing messages.

Barnes found that Twitter occupies an odd place in the social media pantheon: it is well used (with 369 out of 500 companies running active accounts), but not considered very effective. Still, companies don’t abandon Twitter, perhaps out of fear of missing out or the possibility that they might need it at some point.

What has also changed is that 56% of INC 500 execs are now doing a better job of listening on social media, tracking online conversations about their brands and products with various monitoring tools. That is a big increase from last year, when it was about half that number.

This year Barnes’ research  found a big concern about privacy, which is probably not surprising given the numerous breaches and missteps by Facebook and others in this area. Privacy was executives’ second biggest concern behind social ROI.

Finally, her survey saw double the firms who have formulated a social media plan from last year.  Although the overall percentage is still less than a quarter of the total, that’s progress.

You can download the UMass surveys at the link above, both the current ones and in year’s past. They are a rich resource that all corporate marketing departments should carefully examine.

You can listen to our 21 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B Podcast #114: Does moral marketing mean wading into politics?

Writing on Brandwatch, CMO Will McInnes says there are three gaps CMOs need to bridge: metrics, moral marketing, and innovation gaps. Understanding each one is essential to being a better marketer. We examine more closely the second one, where the author cites an Edelman study that found that two-thirds of consumers will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based upon its stand on societal issues. Given the amount of polarization in American society right now, marketers should thing twice about wading into political debates. 

Another survey by Annenberg PR Center at USC found that 44% of CEOs said their most important communication goal for 2019 is to sell their products and services while 39% say their primary goal is to differentiate their company’s brand from the competition. Paul and I disagree on whether this is a positive trend or not; CEOs have the power to significantly influence public opinion, but is is fair to their shareholders to exercise that power? 

Finally, we look at a joint study by researchers at Boston University and the University of Georgia that found that only one in ten people can distinguish between sponsored editorial content.  People who mistook the advertisements for legitimate news articles were generally older, less educated and more likely to consume news media for entertainment purposes. We agree that any short-term boost a brand might get by deceiving an audience is negated by the reputation damage of being outed for that deed. However, Paul points out that one factor in the confusion is that branded content is getting better, and marketers should take credit for that fact. 

You can listen to our 14 min. podcast episode here:

FIR B2B podcast #113: How One Former Journalist Crossed the Chasm to Content Marketing

Denise Dubie was a technology journalist for more than a decade before switching to corporate content marketing, and her reportorial instincts have served her well. Denise, who recently took a new job as Director of Content at PureB2B in the Boston area, was previously senior principal of content strategy at CA Technologies and before that a senior editor at Network World. It’s rare to find someone who has had such deep experience on both sides of the business.

We discuss how she made the transition from tech journalism to marketing and the value of her journalism background in her new corporate role. Denise comments on how her work style changed between the two types of jobs and where the greatest adjustments were necessary. We also talk about success metrics she used at CA and the surprisingly little value she found for social media as a promotional channel. 

Denise also provides some practical tips on what listeners can do to improve their content marketing programs. It starts with having a thorough understanding of customers, a topic we harp on frequently in this podcast. 

FIR B2B podcast #112: What it means to be true to your brand

Welcome to the new year and we hope you all have had a nice holiday break. In today’s episode, Paul Gillin and I talk about what it means to be true to your brand and why marketing managers need to pay more attention than ever to branding in an age in which customers increasingly control the message.

What makes a brand? First off is understanding what are your core values and what lies at the heart of your business. This post for B2B Marketing tells how Burberry, the British clothing maker, literally torched its merchandise in an effort to sustain its premium pricing, a move that turned out to be a major faux Other prominent examples of companies whose bad actions have undermined their brand are Uber and Facebook.

Will brands without social purpose thrive? A new survey finds that two-thirds of consumers expect companies to create products and services that “take a stand” on issues that they also feel passionate about. A great case study can be found in, of all places, with a new British bank called Monzo. It’s trying a new approach to gain customers: raise funds via crowdfunding, open its API, run meetups and hackathons and become more transparent about trying to attract millennial as its customers. Regardless of whether it’s successful, you have to give Monzo credit for originality.

Finally, we offer up a few suggestions on how you can stay true to your brand using storytelling and social media techniques. You can listen to our podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast episode #111: Why marketers should care about privacy invasion

Perhaps the most important B2B marketing story of 2018 is the invasion of our privacy. In our final podcast of the year, Paul Gillin and I talk about how companies have been so cavalier in abusing the data that their customers give them. This invasion has happened through a combination of several circumstances:

  • In the case of Facebook’s failures, the combination of a lack of transparency and an immature and misguided management team.
  • In the case of Google,not being truthful about what its incognito browsing mode is actually doing and how it is doing it. This is from a report from one of Google’s competitors, DuckDuckGo, which found that Chrome personalizes search results even when users aren’t signed in.
  • Abusing smartphone app permissions, as a new study by the New York Times revealed this week. Apps were tracking users’ movements and despite claims that identifying information had been removed, the Times reporters were able to track down a few users and interview them for the story. How they did their research is a fascinating look at how difficult one’s privacy can be to protect today.

Certainly, next year is shaping up to be a watershed moment in resolving these micro-targeting issues and being more parsimonious in how our data privacy is protected. We welcome your thoughts on the matter, along with a few suggestions for marketers to better audit what their developers are doing with respect to privacy.  You can listen to our 15 min. episode below. Have a happy and healthy holidays and a great new year!

FIR B2B podcast #110: David Lloyd, on how personas are for marketers too

The concept of user personas was originally developed for user interface design, but it’s a powerful tool for marketers, too. David Lloyd, who is the lead strategist and senior data analyst from Brilliant Noise in London. joins us to discuss his post this past summer about The dream of data-driven personas.

Personas, particularly ones that are deeply rooted in data, can help shape marketing campaigns. We talk about the differences between user experience and marketing personas and what are the typical data types that would be used to shape useful ones. His blog post talks about common mistakes that marketers make in creating personas and describes what a typical persona looks like, down to assigning them a name to make them more real. 

He also addresses why you don’t want to go too wide or too specific in creating your personas: the ideal number of personas a marketer should work with is about three. Also, the cloud has made it far easier to create and collect a great deal of online data that can be useful in creating personas. Lloyd tells how marketers can make personas more actionable as part of their marketing plans.

FIR B2B podcast #109: Transparency, Truth and the Rebirth of Long-Form Content

Three items in the news caught our attention this week. The first was a piece that by Agility PR about a tale of two PR crisis responses— and why only one of them worked.  The crises in question are the firing of Megyn Kelly by NBC and Andy Rubin’s departure from Google with a $90 million severance package. Both situations were handled differently by the organizations’ leaders, and both produced very different results in terms of public and employee perception. The contrasting cases are useful to help shape your own crisis response and to understand how you have to get ahead of the news in just the right tone and with actions that speak louder than platitudes.

The second piece we discuss provides evidence that marketing guru Gary Vaynerchuk is wrong about an awful lot of things, largely because he appears to base his observations and predictions more on instinct than on facts. We respect Vaynerchuk for what he’s accomplished, but think that in an environment in which the value of facts is being called into question, it’s incumbent upon thought leaders to use them. This is the big data age, after all.

Finally, we have often debated the optimal length of podcasts and videos for content marketing purposes, but maybe old assumptions about keeping recorded content as short as possible is out of date. Welcome to the Age of the Hour-Long YouTube Video makes the case that long-form content is making a comeback. For the same reason that podcasts have become popular, people are now able to put their idle time to work. This may have implications for marketing videos in the future, and whether you want to go after quality or quantity when it comes to collecting readership. We both are devotees of podcasts that frequently run 90 minutes or more. That’s because the content is great, the hosts do their research and the subjects are interesting. Which would you rather have, eyeballs or fans?

Happy holidays to all, we’ll return next week with fresh insights. You can listen to our podcast here:

Fear of Facebook: becoming social, but only behind our keyboards

As many of you know, for the last several years I have been doing a regular podcast with Paul Gillin on B2B marketing trends. Gillin has been in tech journalism for more than 30 years, having run Computerworld and TechTarget and written numerous books. It is a fun gig, and we offer a lot of insight, and you should subscribe if you are interested in the overall topic.

In our latest episode, we return to talking to Dan Newman, who is a very insightful guy for just being born when both Paul and I started in IT. Newman said one thing that I want to expand upon here. We were talking about the rise of customer self-service portals and methods, including using chatbots as a tool to provide quick answers. He thinks this is an indication that “We have become more social, but only behind our keyboards.” That is an interesting phenomenon.

I would amend that position to say not only have we become more social, but more critical to a fault thanks to our consumption of online social networks. You could lay the blame on Reddit, as this recent book does. (We are the Nerds, as reviewed in the NY Times here.) A better title for this book, as the reviewer David Streitfeld states, should be “We are the Trolls” and suggests its tag line should be “Two inexperienced young guys created something they didn’t understand and couldn’t control.” He writes, “the lack of adult oversight; the suck-up press; the growth-at-any-cost mentality; the loyal employees, by turns abused and abusive” all contributed to its offensive snark. In the end, it didn’t matter. Forget about connecting the world, or doing good, or bringing a voice to the disenfranchised. Reddit is a $2B media property, and in the Valley, money is what eventually matters.

That is a common theme for many tech companies, and it seems we are seeing the same effect happening down highway 101 at the Facebook campus (shown here). You should watch the two-part Frontline series this week about Facebook. During the program, you will see how in the process of connecting the world’s populace, it has inflamed their worst passions and stoked their fears. It interviews several current and ex-employees. While the latter might have axes to grind, it is worth hearing their points of view. You’ll hear how Trump’s digital media manager spent $100M on Facebook ads before the 2016 election. If you haven’t thought about this before, it is worth viewing both episodes to see how much influence the company has had, and how poor Zuck’s leadership has been. The program also highlights the rise of “fake news” across Facebook, such as these companion posts on the Pope endorsing either Trump or endorsing Clinton.

Think fake news is easy to spot? Take this quick quiz developed by the Newseum education staff. My wife and I tried it, and while we did reasonably well, we still got a couple of items wrong. Granted, we had a timed deadline to complete the quiz, and some of them we just guessed answers. But we saw that it is harder than we both thought, even when you have been told to be on the lookout. Imagine how much harder this task could be in our normal lives consuming online media posts?

The Frontline program interviewed their chief of security Alex Stamos who says, “Russia [through its advertising and fake accounts] wants to find fault lines in US society and amplify them, and to make Americans not trust each other.” Russians orchestrated two concurrent and co-located protest rallies in Houston, seeding participants on both sides. There is no question that Facebook is being used as an amplifier to promote hatred of all kinds. Just look at your own news feeds.

Farhad Manjoo’s column in the NY Times this week makes a case that Zuck is “too big to fail,” playing off the phrase used for the 2008 mortgage banking crisis. He mentions reports that tie Facebook posts to the Myanmar genocide, discriminatory advertising and multiple federal legal inquiries. He concludes by saying either Zuck fix Facebook, or no one does, like it or not.

But here’s the thing: as we become more social behind our keyboards, we can’t be as discriminating as we can when we meet people face-to-face. In embracing the self-service world, we are all doing ourselves a tremendous disservice too. Lies become truth, and democracy is turned inside out. It is time Facebook took responsibility for its power and role in this process.

FIR B2B podcast #108: Dan Newman’s 2019 tech trends for CMOs

Paul Gillin and I speak this week with Daniel Newman, author, speaker, millennial CEO and founding partner at Futurum Research. We were interested in a column he wrote for Forbes entitled, How Will The 10 Top Digital Transformation Trends For 2019 Impact The CMO. 

Dan highlighted a couple of the tech trends that will be essential items for CMOs to get their arms around in the coming year, including the transformation of data from machine learning to AI. “Analytics should be the CMO’s best friend,” he told us. “AI will allow for data-driven campaigns that will be guaranteed to work every time.”

Newman said data should play a pivotal role in marketing in the future, and don’t worry too much about over-personalizing the message. Nobody ever complains when a brand provides too much value and can help drive purchases that customers want at any given moment. The trick is to find the right moment and to target customers accurately.

The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation will force changes in the way brands market in the coming year, he said. They will have to become more creative about not just getting customers to opt in but to staying engaged. This means that companies are going to have change the way they do lead development. They’ll need to know customers better in order to personalize content because they’ll have less data to work with.

We had a particularly interesting discussion about chatbots as a mechanism for driving personal interactions. Newman sees us moving away from face-to-face moments, and the phenomenon isn’t limited to teens or Gen Xers. The rise of customer self-service is an indication that “We have become more social, but only behind our keyboards,” he said.

Another of his provocative predictions consumers will be able to use blockchain to, in effect, sell information about themselves to marketers.  While Newman sees this technology as still immature, he believes its long-term potential is explosive.

Finally, as the average tenure for CMOs continues to decline, they will have to do a better job of managing expectations and develop tighter relationships with their CEOs. You can listen to our 24 min. podcast here:

FIR B2B podcast #107: What LinkedIn’s Latest Sales Research Says About the State of B2B Marketing

When we last spoke to Justin Shriber (below), Vice President of Marketing for LinkedIn Sales and Marketing Solutions in episode #87 last January, he offered some predictions about the upcoming year in B2B marketing. His forecasts turned out to be is pretty solid, including closer alignment of marketing and sales functions and the growing importance of storytelling in promoting your brand. So we took advantage of a pitch for LinkedIn’s new State of Sales report to connect again. This third annual report examined how top sales performers – B2B in particular – are using technology and modern strategies to build trust with buyers and close more deals. The addition of buyer views this year makes the survey even more interesting reading.

The report found a resurgence of buyer interest in doing business with trusted vendors: 40% of sales professionals rank trust as the number one factor in closing deals — surprisingly rated above ROI and price. 

There are also some interesting age breakdowns. Millennials are outperforming their peers in sales effectiveness pretty much across the board, the survey found. Young sales reps are tapping into marketing insights and using tech at higher rates than their elders to help them succeed. Of course, their quotas might be lower, as well!

Buyers who are decision-makers are least likely to engage with sales professionals who lack knowledge about their company (79 percent) and whose products or services are irrelevant to their company (76 percent). Understanding the buyer’s business is now table stakes for salespeople, Shriber told us. Of course, LinkedIn has some features that can help with that. 

In this interview, we dig into a number of highlights of the survey as well as discuss trends LinkedIn is seeing in the use of its platform by sales pros. You can listen to the 20 min. podcast here.