Systems design and the front line

If you experience lousy service or poor quality, it’s probably not solely the fault of the person who talked to you on the phone, dealt with you at the counter or assembled your product.

It’s the boss.

The boss didn’t design the system properly, didn’t align incentives, didn’t invest in training. The boss isn’t thinking hard about hiring the right people. And the boss isn’t listening.

As a result, the frontline workers are often undertrained, underresourced and overscheduled.

But, and it’s a huge but, those very same frontline workers don’t have to suffer in silence. They can provide a useful conduit of information and feedback. They can model how it could work better and establish a model for those around them. Not because it’s easy, but because it’s important.

The top-down nature of the industrial entity is rapidly being replaced by the power of peer-to-peer learning and leadership. There’s no top and no bottom. Simply the ranks of people who care enough to make things better.

B2B Marketing News: Digital Ad Budgets To Grow In 2021, Google’s Rich Results Tool Goes Mainstream, & More Listeners Are Paying For Podcasts

2020 July 10 MarketingCharts Chart

2020 July 10 MarketingCharts Chart

Gartner CMO Spend Survey Shows How Digital Budgets Will Increase In 2021
Within the next 18 to 24 months digital marketing budgets will return to business-as-usual levels, according to 57 percent of CMOs in recently-released survey data from Gartner, also showing 78 percent aggregate growth for digital ad budgets in the forecast for 2021. 44 percent also said that they face mid-year budget cuts this year due to the global health crisis. MediaPost

HubSpot: A Look Back at How COVID-19 Impacted Businesses in Q2
Up to 60 more sales team email has been sent during the pandemic, seeing open rates 18 percent above pre-COVID levels, with companies sending less email achieving the highest open rates — several of many finding of interest to digital marketers contained in newly-released report data from HubSpot’s weekly performance metrics. HubSpot

Email Draws Lead Generation Budget Dollars: Study
58 percent of marketing professionals and research subscribers in both B2B and B2C say that social media is an effective channel for lead conversion and relationship-building — topping the chart of effective methods according to new survey data, followed by email at 49 percent, and websites and search engine optimization (SEO) with 44 percent. MediaPost

Google: The Rich Results Test is out of beta
Google has taken its Rich Results Test tool out of beta testing, and those marketers still using the search giant’s existing Structured Data Testing Tool should plan to move entirely to the new replacement, as Google will begin to deprecate the existing tool, the firm recently announced. Google Webmaster Central Blog

YouTube Explains Some Common Algorithm and Video Distribution Queries
YouTube has shared new information on how click-through rate (CTR) and average viewer duration (AVD) are used in determining the Google-owned firm’s video distribution, along with the performance that marketers achieve on the platform, and offered advice on factoring in competition, topical interest, and seasonality. Social Media Today

Twitter’s Working on a New Collaborative Option for Fleets
Twitter’s previously-announced ephemeral story-tweets — called fleets — are undergoing testing which includes multi-user collaborative elements and discussion features, some similar to Instagram’s co-streaming options, it was recently reported. Social Media Today

2020 July 10 Statistics Image

Google Image Search Knowledge Panels Now Live
Google’s previously-announced knowledge panel test — with expandable elements for image searching — has launched according to the firm. The scope is currently limited to images of people, places, and things, however future expansion is planned, Google noted. SEO Roundtable

Most Ad Pros Experiencing Work-From-Home ‘Burnout,’ Rank Highest Among Those Seeking A New Job
Advertising industry and technology professionals top a recent list of those undergoing burnout caused by working from home during the global health crisis, with advertising professionals most likely to look for new work due to the workplace burnout, according to recently-released survey data. MediaPost

Gen Z wants brands to be ‘fun,’ ‘authentic’ and ‘good,’ study says
Some 58 percent of Gen Z survey respondents said that they can’t be offline more than 4 hours without becoming uncomfortable, with 66 percent also noting that they believe the internet brings people closer together, according to recently-released survey data of interest to digital marketers. Marketing Dive

Around 1 in 6 US Adult Podcast Users Have Paid to Listen to a Podcast
17 percent of U.S. adult podcast listeners have paid to listen to at least one broadcast, however around 80 percent of those who haven’t paid to listen to a podcast say they are either not very likely or not at all likely to do so, according to recently-released survey data of interest to digital marketers. MarketingCharts


2020 July 10 Marketoonist Comic Image

A lighthearted look at “facebook ad boycott and 10+ years of facebook cartoons” by Marketoonist Tom Fishburne — Marketoonist

Fourth Job Listed on Man’s Facebook Profile Also Only Real One — The Hard Times


  • Lee Odden — The Future of Marketing: 50 CMO Quotes On How Marketing Has Changed — Marketing Insider Group
  • Ashley Zeckman — Masters of Marketing #56 – The New Era of Influencer Marketing w/ Ashley Zeckman [Video] — Masters of Marketing / YouTube
  • Lee Odden — 8 Creative and Affordable Marketing Ideas for Small Businesses — Digitalogy

Have you found your own top B2B content marketing or digital advertising stories from the past week of news? Please let us know in the comments below.

Thank you for taking the time to join us, and we hope you’ll come back next Friday for another collection of the most relevant B2B and digital marketing industry news. In the meantime, you can follow us at @toprank on Twitter for even more timely daily news. Also, don’t miss the full video summary on our TopRank Marketing TV YouTube Channel.

The post B2B Marketing News: Digital Ad Budgets To Grow In 2021, Google’s Rich Results Tool Goes Mainstream, & More Listeners Are Paying For Podcasts appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Sixty orbits

Birthdays are contagious. No one actually remembers the day they were born, other people remember it for you. And the way we celebrate them is cultural, a shared process that keeps changing.

People keep track of birthdays, and today used to be mine.

Sixty of them.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been that many. Time flies when you’re busy. Lots and lots of projects. Countless friends made, lessons learned and ideas shared. Quite a journey, with lucky breaks and advantages again and again, beginning with my parents, the cultural identity, time and town where I was born… I wouldn’t have been able to go on this journey without you, thank you.

But today’s not my birthday (no need to send an email or a card). I’ve never really liked my birthday (it’s a long story involving a non-existent parrot), and the only reason for this post is to talk about who owns my birthday now.

What happens if we start celebrating our birthdays differently? Today belongs to the 20,000 + people who are on their way to a permanent supply of clean drinking water because readers like you brought their birthday (and mine) to charity:water. Thank you. Now, particularly now, when the world is in pain and when so many people are wrestling with health, the economy and justice, it’s more urgent than ever to think of someone you’ve never met living a life that’s hard to imagine.

And today, because it celebrates a round number, I’m hoping you will join in and help us break charity:water’s birthday record. And maybe donate your birthday too. Better still, if you subscribe as a monthly donor, you become a core supporter of a movement that changes lives with persistence and care.

How it works:

If you have the ability, I’m hoping you’ll click here and donate to charity:water to celebrate what used to be my birthday.

And either way, I’m hoping you’ll also donate your birthday to them. Because when it’s your turn to celebrate a missing parrot or a lost cake, you can ask your friends, and they can do what you just did.

It’s hard to visualize 21,000 people, mostly kids, fighting illness because the water in their village is undrinkable. That’s about three times the population of the town where I live. Thanks to all of you, my projects, including this blog, have already raised nearly a million dollars to build long-term solutions to this problem.

Will you help me double that?

Even one kid who lives the life he or she is capable of is worth this blog post and worth your support.

Thank you.

From Mechanical to Meaningful: How to Optimize B2B Case Studies

Optimized half-human half-android woman figure image.

Optimized half-human half-android woman figure image.

When was the last time a B2B case study made you feel something? 

I mean, something besides mild interest or boredom. 

I ask because, in theory at least, B2B case studies should be exciting stories. There are millions of dollars at stake, people’s livelihoods and professional reputations hanging in the balance. Each one is a three-act story arc of overcoming adversity and solving a problem. 

That sounds like a riveting read, right?

Or at the very least, they should be useful stories. They should help someone with a similar problem be able to find a solution. Yes, even a solution above and beyond “buy our product.”

Here are a few ways that B2B marketers can make their case studies more human, more compelling, and ultimately more effective.

How to Optimize B2B Case Studies

Granted, case studies exist for a business purpose. They’re meant to persuade people to choose your solution. But that doesn’t mean they have to be purely sales-minded and feature-driven, rather than customer-minded and story-driven. We should be treating case studies with the same care that we give to all of our content.

1: Bring in the Broader Context

The traditional structure of a case study is Problem-Solution-Results. The “problem” part generally refers to the specific problem your customer was having. But you can make your case study more relevant to similar companies by bringing in an industry-wide problem as well.

Take this case study for our client Prophix, for example. In this study, we wanted to show the process we went through with the customer — why we chose to create the content we did. The content was meant to address an emerging problem in the finance profession. So it makes sense to start the study with an overview of that problem.

Looking at the broader industry picture can help grab the attention of executives in the finance industry, but also those who are seeing a similar problem in their particular vertical. In other words, it makes the whole study more relevant to potential customers.

2: Add Value Beyond Your Solution

TopRank Marketing is a marketing agency. Our processes, strategies and tactics are some of our most valuable assets. So, it would be easy for our case studies to say, “client hired us and we ran a campaign that got these results.” We could easily gloss over the details of how we got from point A to point B.

If we did that, though, our case studies would be little more than commercials. It’s hard to convince someone they should read a 500-word commercial. Instead, we like to give readers practical examples of how we get the results we do.

Could someone read our Tech Unknown case study from client SAP and run a similar campaign for themselves? Perhaps. We have a step-by-step list of the tactics we used. But we’re confident that we can do the work better than our clients could do for themselves, so we’re not shy about sharing our tactics.

When prospects finish reading the Tech Unknown case study, they will have a solid idea of what it takes to create and execute a podcast, in addition to seeing that TopRank Marketing is good at creating successful podcasts. That extra value adds credibility and readability to the case study.

3: Bring in the Customer Voice

We often write about businesses or brands as though they are people: “Coca-Cola decided to…” or “Siemens made the difficult decision to…” But in reality, it’s actual people who make these decisions. And these people should show up in your case study.

LinkedIn* Marketing Solutions is good at centering the customer voice in their case studies. Take this one from Salesforce, for example. Salesforce’s Director of Content & Social Media, Marissa Kraines, is quoted throughout. She talks about why they chose LinkedIn as a platform, how they developed best practices for the content — and, yes, how happy they are with the results.

Most importantly, Marissa offers advice to the reader that goes beyond “Use LinkedIn for marketing”:

 “Have a game plan that consists of at least five pieces of content that you plan on putting out,” she suggests. “That way you can test, look at results against each other, and really see what’s working. And so after those five segments, you can create something based on those learnings that’s even more meaningful for your audience.”

The quotes throughout this case study help the reader feel connected and invested in the story being told. Speaking of which…

4: Tell an Emotional Story

As I said in the introduction, there’s a simple story structure at the heart of all case studies. You almost can’t help but tell a story: Problem/Solution/Results. The trick, though, is to make your narrative emotionally engaging. 

Bringing in the customer voice is a good start. For even better results, trade your corporate voice — with its passive construction and dry, detached tone — for a more journalistic one. Find the human interest in the story and write about it with passion.

This ACLU case study from Pantheon brings in drama from the beginning: 

“In 2016, Marco Carbone, Associate Director of IT at ACLU, monitored the website intently as presidential elections drew thousands of times more traffic than normal. Although he had anticipated a surge in traffic, it was hard to imagine just how big it would be.”

Notice how this paragraph:

  • Places us at a moment in time
  • Introduces a protagonist
  • Creates tension

You can see Marco sitting at his computer, staring at the dashboard, hoping his site isn’t about to go down. It vividly illustrates that Pantheon doesn’t just sell web hosting — they sell peace of mind, too. 

Now imagine a typical intro for a case study like this:

“The ACLU needed a solution to make sure their site was robust enough to endure anticipated traffic spikes during the 2016 election. The organization had evaluated several services but was uncertain that their projected needs could be met. Their existing solution was underperforming.”

The same basic information — yet a world of difference in its emotional heft.

[bctt tweet=”“There’s a simple story structure at the heart of all case studies. You almost can’t help but tell a story. The trick, though, is to make your narrative emotionally engaging.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

5: Get Specific with Results (And Benchmark!)

The ideal case study ends with two things: Advice from the customer, and specific enumerated results. It’s not enough to say your solution shortened sales cycles, or reduced waste. It’s better to say, “Our customer shortened sales cycles to three weeks” or “reduced waste by four tons.”

But the best way to give results is with customer and industry benchmarks to compare to. Shortening sales cycles to 3 weeks is okay if the industry average is four weeks, but phenomenal if the average is three months. If the customer usually generates five tons of waste, reducing it by four tons is unbelievable progress — but far less impressive if they generate 400 tons. Providing these benchmarks gives your reader a clearer picture of what your results mean, and sets expectations for working with your company.

That’s why in our Tech Unknown case study we include industry benchmarks for podcast downloads, as well as brand averages for traffic and views. 

[bctt tweet=”“Providing benchmarks gives your reader a clearer picture of what your results mean, and sets expectations for working with your company.” — Joshua Nite @NiteWrites” username=”toprank”]

Customer Stories Don’t Have to Be Boring: Case Closed

Content marketers are empathetic, creative, dynamic writers. I pride myself on being able to find human interest in content for any client, whether its financial services, software-as-a-solution, or supply chain logistics. But when it comes to writing case studies, too often we fall back on that staid, bloodless corporate voice.

To keep your case studies compelling, make sure you’re writing for a reader, not just a potential sale. Be passionate, tell a human story, and offer value beyond just proving your product’s benefits. A journalistic eye and genuine empathy for your reader will make your case studies more readable, relatable, and ultimately more effective.

* LinkedIn is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post From Mechanical to Meaningful: How to Optimize B2B Case Studies appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Take good notes

Everyone is entitled to their own experience.

In fact, that’s all we ever get. Our own take on the world around us, informed by where we’ve been and where we seek to go.

Sometimes, we get the chance to hear about someone else’s experience. In those moments, it’s tempting to use the opportunity to explain a situation, to excuse or even to persuade.

Perhaps it pays to simply take good notes.

Acknowledge what you’re hearing. Encourage and amplify and find empathy.

There are plenty of opportunities to expound on our version of the world. Every once in a while we have the rare chance to explore someone else’s.

The magic of the countdown

Thea von Harbou invented the countdown. 10, 9, 8…

It works.

It focuses the attention of everyone involved and ensures that we’re truly alert for what’s going to happen next.

It helps that the numbers go down, not up (because up might never end). And it helps that as we get closer to lift-off, tension goes up, not down.

But what really matters is this: There’s a commitment.

When we get to zero, we’re actually going to do this.

The commitment has to happen before the countdown can.

Social Media Polls For Marketers: 6 B2B Brands Winning With LinkedIn Polls

Smiling business-woman at computer image.

Smiling business-woman at computer image.

Polls offer a unique two-for-one value for B2B marketers, providing quality feedback on what customers want while also offering brands a powerful interactive social media content marketing element.

As we first reported in our B2B marketing news, our client LinkedIn recently launched the return of its highly-anticipated poll feature, offering marketers a new platform besides Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for gathering community sentiment using polls — one that may be the best fit for many B2B brands.

With this and other recent changes to social media polls, we’ll take a look at the latest news about online polls, and see how B2B marketers and brands are using polls in innovative ways, including 6 B2B brands winning with LinkedIn polls.

Why Should B2B Marketers Use Polls?

A while back our senior content strategist Nick Nelson explored the social media poll landscape and shared five helpful tips, in “The Power of Social Media Polls: The Drill-Down on 3 Platforms + 5 General Best Practices,” and more recently we also reported that Facebook has brought polls back to Facebook Messenger group chats after a year-long absence.

Online polls have long been an attractive interactive element among all demographics of social media users, however digital media consumption habits vary by generation.

Members of the Gen Z demographic more often seek out multifaceted content comprised of interactive elements such as polls and quizzes, according to recent content consumption preference data showing that 33 percent of Gen Z respondents expressed a preference for articles that contain interactive features.

Connatix Image

Our CEO Lee Odden suggests conducting online polls as one of the “25 B2B Influencer Marketing Campaign & Engagement Ideas for 2020,” urging marketers to consider polls as a helpful part of a well-rounded content marketing strategy.

Nick Nelson pointed out the additional power of polls when used as a form of episodic content marketing, in “Hungry for More: What B2B Marketers Need to Know About Episodic Content,” placing polls in the same effective category as weekly hashtag posts and employee spotlights.

Nick has also observed that polls can be a good way to prove or disprove preconceived notions about a variety of marketing topics, urging marketers to “Vet your assumptions against data-driven research and interactions with audience members (e.g. surveys, polls, conversations).

What Can Marketers Do With All That Poll Data?

Polls can also be a fine testing ground for new ideas, as we examined in “How B2B Brands Can Break Into Interactive Content.”

I also took a detailed dive into what B2B marketers can learn from all that poll data you’ve been collecting, in “17 Revealing B2B Marketing Insights From Poll Data.”

The revelations people provide when they respond to online marketing polls include a wealth of industry information. Poll data shows what marketers are thinking about when it comes to a variety of important subjects, ranging from everyday tasks to far-reaching future trends.

For over a year now we’ve utilized our TopRank Marketing Twitter channel to publish a weekly poll, asking a range of questions to B2B marketers, and have also begun asking our poll questions on the TopRank Marketing LinkedIn page.

It can be ideal to ask poll questions on the digital channel that best suits your particular audience. Some organizations choose to conduct polls on several platforms and to then compare the results, or even compile them together to get a larger sample answer size.

[bctt tweet=”“Poll data shows what marketers are thinking about when it comes to a variety of important subjects, ranging from everyday tasks to far-reaching future trends.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

Make Poll Insights a Part of Your B2B Marketing Plans

Take the time to listen to what customers are saying through their answers to poll questions and you’ll gain an inside glimpse into where your marketing efforts may be put to the most effective use.

Polls also help increase brand awareness. “Polls are hot stuff, according to Facebook, which claims that poll ads increased brand awareness compared with video ads in 5 out of 9 brand lift studies,” Kyle Wiggers has noted for VentureBeat.

Some formats of paid ads allow polls to be included, and Facebook brought augmented reality (AR) ads to its news-feed last fall — two interactive elements to consider.

I also looked at how to ask directly for customer insight using polls, surveys, focus groups and questionnaires, in “10 Smart Question Research Tools for B2B Marketers.”

In an additional benefit from the use of polls, “A recent study found that video posts drive more interaction on the platform than other types, and a product called Facebook Premiere launched late last year, enabling interactive video polls, pre-recorded live broadcasts, and more,” Nick Nelson has noted.

[bctt tweet=”“Take the time to listen to what customers are saying through their answers to poll questions and you’ll gain an inside glimpse into where your marketing efforts may be put to the most effective use.” — Lane R. Ellis @lanerellis” username=”toprank”]

LinkedIn Embraces Professional B2B Polls

With LinkedIn’s poll rollout complete, more B2B brands are testing and even embracing polls on the Microsoft-owned platform with 690 million users, and the process of creating a poll is straightforward.

Users simply choose “Create a poll” in a post’s composer window, ask a question, choose up to four poll response options and how long to run the poll — from one day up to two weeks.

LinkedIn has made its polls easy to share and to conduct them in LinkedIn Groups, on personal profiles, showcase and company pages, as well as within event pages.

“By targeting specific Groups with your poll, you can get even more relevant insights,” LinkedIn product manager Howie Fung noted in “Tapping into the Power of Your Professional Network with Polls.”

You can see your poll results as they come in, and the person who conducted the poll can also see who’s voted and how they voted. Poll owners also have the ability to directly message anyone who’s answered their poll.

LinkedIn polls may hold particularly relevant information for B2B marketers looking to learn more about their audience. Brands can also gather poll data offering feedback on products and services, learn customer pain points, test interest in new product offerings, and gauge reactions to new industry trends.

Learn From Recent LinkedIn Poll Examples

1 — Dell

Our client Dell has been using LinkedIn’s polling feature in a variety of ways. One recent poll asked customers, “Over the last few months, you’ve made huge shifts in your way of life and work. If you could choose, what would your ideal work location be?”

This Dell LinkedIn poll has already received over 12,000 responses.

2 — RateLinx

Our client RateLinx, a supply chain and logistics visibility and analytics desktop-as-a-service (DaaS) platform, has also taken to using LinkedIn’s new poll feature, with a recent poll looking into the importance of various qualities within organizations.


3 — Microsoft

Microsoft used data from one of its LinkedIn polls both in its “2020 Vision” report and an article that examined “Trends in marketing skills identified as important for the 2020s,” based on its LinkedIn poll with some 600 global senior marketer participants.

By focusing on senior level marketers working internationally, Microsoft was able to gain specific information from its LinkedIn poll and re-purpose the data into two derivative pieces of content, a fine example of the kind of content re-purposing we’ve explored.

Microsoft 2020 Vision Image

4 — Olive Communications

U.K. managed cloud communications provider Olive Communications has used a LinkedIn poll to gather timely information about customer experience changes and expectations during the pandemic.

Olive Communications’ poll demonstrates how online surveys can be used to keep track of rapidly-changing consumer sentiment.

Olive Communications Image

5 — Redis Labs

In-memory database firm Redis Labs took to LinkedIn to contact a poll asking customers to choose their favorite app from one of its virtual events.

With the vast majority of events now taking place virtually, businesses are looking for new ways to replace the sort of in-person communication physical events have traditionally offered, and online polls offer a welcome solution in many situations.

Reddis Labs

6 — LinkedIn News

LinkedIn News used a LinkedIn poll to solicit feedback on a recent Harris Poll that looked at the role of positive societal contributions among companies.

The poll garnered over 6,700 votes in less than a week, and serves as a good example of drawing people in beyond just voting, by using the fourth poll choice to encourage responses in comments on the poll’s LinkedIn post.

LinkedIn News

Combined Poll Data May Offer More Than You Think


Whether you use LinkedIn’s new polling feature or those offered by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms, B2B brands risk losing out on valuable information about their customers and what’s on their minds if polls aren’t in your marketing mix.

Crafting the right poll involves asking the right question and carefully wording each possible response — a process that can take considerable time and effort, which is why many choose to work with a professional agency such as TopRank Marketing — contact us today for more information.


The post Social Media Polls For Marketers: 6 B2B Brands Winning With LinkedIn Polls appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

The 100 hour asset

We’re all so busy doing our work that sometimes we fail to build a skill worth owning.

If you invest 100 hours in a rare skill, you’re likely to acquire it. If you could learn to sharpen a tool better than your peers, organize a high-performance database, see the nuances in some sector of cryptography, know how to build a pretty-good WordPress site or really understand the arc of a particular writer’s career, you’d have something of value. Something that anyone who was focused enough to invest 100 hours could have, but few will choose to commit to.

String together a few of those, or dig deep and develop a 1,000 hour asset and now you truly have something.

There’s huge pressure to fit in, and plenty of benefits if you invest the time and stand out instead.

Twenty hours a week for a year and you can know something that puts you in a new category. Access to knowledge isn’t nearly as difficult as the desire to learn.

5 Things to Know About Building Trust in the Age of Social Media

Man Looking at Tablet Amid Storm

Man Looking at Tablet Amid Storm

Does your company advertise? If so, I have bad news: Your audience doesn’t trust your ads.

I don’t mean to call you out specifically, dear anonymous reader. But statistically speaking, it is a likely reality. A wide-reaching survey earlier this year “found advertising to be the least likely source people would use to garner information about a business, with just 14% saying they trust advertisers in this respect.”

That’s not to say advertising doesn’t work. It just doesn’t work on its own.

Customers are looking elsewhere to form perceptions about your business and what it stands for. Only once they’ve shaped these perceptions are your ads likely to break through and make an impact. Social media is becoming more vital than ever as a proving ground for brands in this respect.

Trust and Transparency Are Rising to the Forefront

New research from Demand Gen Report reinforces a trend that’s been gaining steam for some time: trust and transparency are essential to engaging current B2B buyers. As an always-on channel where brands can broadcast their voices regularly, interact with followers, and define their viewpoints on timely topics, social media is emerging as arguably the single most critical touchpoint for cultivating an authentic, trustworthy outward image for your organization.

When it comes to nailing down your social media strategy in the current climate, there are a few things you should know.

5 Key Considerations for Building Trust on Social Media Today

Many brands are exploring features to drive direct one-on-one engagement.

This was the top trend highlighted in Hootsuite’s new look at 2020 social media trends. More than half of all respondents in the company’s survey of marketers said the rise of private social channels (i.e., in-app messaging functions and closed groups) are causing them to rethink their social strategies.

(Image via Hootsuite)

Noting that each still plays a valuable role, Hootsuite breaks the distinction down like this: “public feeds are the place to drive awareness; private channels are the place to drive meaningful one-to-one engagement.” While the majority of brand discovery still happens on those public social feeds, private channels such as members-only groups provide an opportunity to take the next step in building tight-knit communities and relationships.

As you evaluate what your social media strategy will look like going forward, it’s wise to think about how you can balance these two sides of the coin. Your peers are doing so.

Putting your purpose first is the right move.

According to Deloitte’s research, “Purpose-driven companies witness higher market share gains and grow three times faster on average than their competitors, all while achieving higher workforce and customer satisfaction.” While your employees might have a good understanding of the values that prop up your brand and drive its mission statement, this tends to be less clear to the outside world.

It’s not enough to claim to be purpose-driven. Customers want to see companies demonstrate their guiding principles with consistency and conviction. Social media provides the means for this visibility. Make sure your organization’s purpose and central values are routinely present in content shared via social. As I wrote last year, the worst stand any brand can take is standing still.

[bctt tweet=”“The worst stand any brand can take is standing still.” @NickNelsonMN #SocialMediaMarketing #PurposeDriven #B2B” username=”toprank”]

Customers are increasingly taking notice of where companies spend ad dollars.

There may be instances where adhering to your brand’s values can affect the channels you choose to be present on. Recently we saw Coca-Cola shut down its social media advertising for 30 days, as numerous other brands pull ad spend from Facebook amidst a wave of societal heat for the platform. This and other developments will be worth keeping a close eye on.

The bottom line: People need to trust the environment where they encounter your message in order to trust the message itself.

Right now, there’s a thin line between relevance and redundancy.

Consumers were already tired of COVID-19-related ads in April. By now I think it’s safe to say almost everyone is eager to hear about other topics. Yet, as the pandemic rages on here in America, it’s nigh impossible to talk about anything without at least addressing the elephant in the room, lest you appear out of touch.

This is a challenge that will test the mettle of even the most seasoned marketers. How can you stay acutely relevant and useful to your audience without contributing to coronavirus content fatigue? How can you speak out on key societal issues without coming off as overbearing? How can you address the uncertainty your customers face without falling back on the triteness of “these uncertain times”?

In this moment, it’s more critical than ever to have open conversations with your followers and pay close attention to engagement signals.

People want to see leadership from company executives.

One momentous opportunity for brands on social media is to showcase the thought leadership — and leadership of all kinds, really — from executives. Data suggests this is an area needing improvement. The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer Spring Update found that the public is generally unimpressed by the way CEOs are stepping up in the face of COVID-19, with just 29% of survey respondents saying this cohort is “doing an outstanding job meeting the demands placed on them by the pandemic.”

(Image via Edelman)

Ultimately, trusting relationships aren’t built with brands, but rather with the human beings behind those brands. Attaching a face and voice to your content can drastically magnify the impact and relatability of that content. Encourage your CEO and other company leaders to become visible and vocal through your social accounts.

[bctt tweet=”According to @EdelmanPR research, only 29% of people feel CEOs are doing an outstanding job of meetings the demands placed on them by #COVID19. #CrisisMarketing” username=”toprank”]

Rise Above and Earn Trust

We are living in a unique time, which yields unique challenges and opportunities. Many social networks have reported heightened usage, but users are also scrutinizing brand messages and veracity of information more than ever.

To ensure you’re staying on the right course, I recommend:

  • Finding the right balance between broader awareness efforts and more focused relationship-building tactics, by taking advantage of emerging one-on-one engagement capabilities.
  • Putting your brand’s purpose at the center of your social media content strategy.
  • Being thoughtful about which platforms, partners and influencers you associate with, and how they are viewed by your audience.
  • Staying relevant to the timely needs and concerns of your followers, while avoiding an overemphasis on topics they are fatigued by.
  • Showcasing the voices and thought leadership of your company’s front-facing executives.

As Paul Gillin once said, “Transparency may be the most disruptive and far-reaching innovation to come out of social media.” During a time of pervasive disruption throughout the business world, this innovative transparency is more valuable than ever when it comes to that essential edict of building trust. And when a sturdy foundation of trust is established, the rest of your strategic digital marketing mix — from blogs to webinars to ads and beyond — will become all the more effective.

For more tips on stepping up your brand’s social media game, check out Josh Nite’s recent post featuring 5 Ways to Make Brand Social Media Profiles More Compelling.

The post 5 Things to Know About Building Trust in the Age of Social Media appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

Always On Influence: Costs Less and Better ROI – Here’s Why

Always On Influence ROI

Always On Influence ROI

Virtually every marketing tactic is under evaluation right now as B2B marketing departments react to the domino effect of changes in consumer spending during the pandemic. Many B2C marketers are putting a pause on their influencer marketing investments as the world of travel, hospitality, retail, sports and entertainment have changed dramatically.

In the business to business world, things have changed as well but not anywhere near as significantly and not always at the expense of lowered marketing budgets. The trend in B2B is digital and self serve from virtual events and prospect engagement to buyers now conducting the majority of their research and interactions on their own before making purchase decisions.

Influences on those purchase decisions are not coming from field marketing, trade conferences or experiential events. Influences on B2B buyer behavior is decidedly online and digital, including through education and recommendations from industry experts. Smart B2B marketers realize this and have continued to engage with B2B influencers to co-create content of value to digitally savvy customers.

Shama Hyder
For example, take this new Future of Agile Teamwork resource from (client) featuring teamwork and productivity insights from Carla Johnson, Shama Hyder, Deb Lee, Jay Acunzo and eight more marketing and design influencers.

The smart marketing team at is more than capable of putting out useful advice on productivity for creative and marketing teams on their own (and they do), but they also realize their customers pay closer attention to individuals than brands. Trusted experts have the attention of buyers who can then be reached, engaged and inspired to take action a lot more effectively during good times or a pandemic than through the brand voice alone.

There’s a certain set of costs to creating such a resource, including strategy development and planning, influencer identification and engagement, content development, design, development, promotion, influencer activation for sharing and overall campaign management and measurement.

For some B2B marketers, there’s a temptation to think of influencers as an add-on to brand content and therefore, only engage influencers when they need them for their planned quarterly campaigns. The issue with this approach to influencer engagement is a lack of engagement.

The thing is, Influencer Marketing is a relationship business. If the only time someone reaches out to you is when they want something from you, how motivating of a relationship is that? I’ll answer that – it’s not.

The marketing team at understand this and are investing in more than one-off campaigns and influencer activations. Every marketing department must be accountable to performance and investing in relationships with the voices of industry experts that your customers trust can create an excellent return for everyone involved: customers, influencers and the brand. That ongoing investment in time, effort and resources to develop, maintain and activate relationships is what Always On Influencer Marketing is about.

We’ve highlighted other examples of B2B brands implementing ongoing, always on influencer marketing programs before, but to help B2B marketers better understand why Always On influencer marketing delivers more efficient and effective marketing performance, here are the top 5 reasons why always on costs less and delivers better ROI than one off influencer content campaigns.

1. Pay to Play Doesn’t Always Pay Off

One off influencer engagement tends to be a transactional experience. That’s fine if the brand doesn’t intend to work with the influencer again or if they always expect to pay a certain fee for that influencer’s participation. Some B2B influencer programs are set up to be fully paid programs. Many successful influencer programs have strength in numbers of influencers involved. While there is a certain increase in accountability for the influencer’s performance when they are paid, it can get very expensive pretty quickly once you start adding well known influencers.

A more organic relationship between brand and influencer can take a little more time up front, but doesn’t cost anywhere near as much as a one-off, paid influencer campaign. An ongoing relationship-based approach also means more micro-activations in between campaigns which can extend the value and performance of a campaign without any additional costs.

2. Old Friends Know the Brand Ropes

With influencer marketing and content collaborations, there are aspects that require significantly more ramp up time with new influencers than with those who already know your brand. New influencers need to be researched, vetted, reviewed and approved, recruited and engaged to provide great content. After all that, they need to be persuaded to promote the content as well. Doing all of this with an intermittent brand influencer requires a lot more hand holding and brand education than with influencers whom the brand works with on an ongoing basis or at least engages with some regularity. That additional discovery and management time can add substantial cost to campaigns.

3. Return on Relationships

One of the great benefits of having a trusted industry expert collaborate with your brand is the inevitable advocacy that can occur during their conversations and engagement with their networks. Word of mouth is still the most powerful form of advertising and you don’t really get that kind of invested and proactive advocacy with influencers who are only engaged for one off projects and nothing in-between. Influencer management does require a well organized effort, but not a very expensive effort. The return on that investment in time to engage on social channels, email occasionally, do a virtual happy hour and recognize in brand content is far, far greater than the cost.

4. Repurpose with Purpose

Many B2B marketers want to know what do you do when you are implementing and Always On influencer marketing program? With one off campaigns, when the project is done, it’s done.

But with always on, one of the most efficient tactics marketers can do to optimize and maximize the value of influencer contributions while also creating positive signals for the influencers is to repurpose content. The key to repurposing with the purpose of achieving value at multiple levels is in the planning. When influencer contributions are captured, they can be categorized by topic and archived in a spreadsheet or database. Then when a newsletter, blog post, social channel, presentation, contributed article, ebook, infographic, explainer video or any other kind of content needs that perfect quote from an industry expert to give credibility to the brand, you have it right there. Repurposing influencer content like this as part of regular brand content creates value for the brand through credibility, it creates exposure for the influencer which they will appreciate and it provides useful and inspiring content to customers. Everybody wins!

5. Advocacy at Scale

After working with influencers over the past 8 years or so, many have become friends. Friends take a genuine interest in their mutual success and when a B2B brand can effectively develop real relationships with industry experts over time, those connections can become an incredible source of brand or product advocacy in the marketplace.

You might pay an influencer for certain types of work from time to time and engage then organically for others, but it’s the relationship over time with their point of contacts at the brand and/or agency and especially with each other through a community that develops the kind of mutual trust, respect and admiration that manifests into recommendations that reach people that are virtually impossible to reach otherwise.

To do this with a community of influencers is truly a brand accomplishment and one of the best examples I’ve seen is the AdobeInsiders influencer community. Rani Mani and Monica Grant do an incredible job fostering a community of influencers that can’t wait to advocate for Adobe and the values they share.

2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report

In our research for the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, we found that those B2B brands that were most successful, shared certain characteristics. One of those traits was the tendency to practice Always On influencer engagement. In fact, 20% of marketers surveyed implement always on programs and 56% implement a combination of campaigns and ongoing influencer engagement.

There is confidence in the value of creating relationships with industry influencers and working to engage them over time. Given that the most successful B2B brands at influencer marketing also use always on influencer engagement hints that there’s also greater marketing ROI in those relationships.

If you would like to get access to the 2020 State of B2B Influencer Marketing Report, you can sign up here. 


The post Always On Influence: Costs Less and Better ROI – Here’s Why appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.