Making Honest B2B Endorsements through Social PR, Part II

J.Gombita.featured2By Judy Gombita, (Social) Public Relations and Communication Management Specialist

Part I of this article ended with a suggestion to organizational communicators to get research-and-interactions proactive with vendor, services and association partners. Besides happily taking your money, determine if they are equally adept and sanguine at fielding queries and making social business adjustments.

Proactive steps towards social capital parity

1. Talk to relevant staff at your organization. Discuss what is reasonable to expect from contracted B2B organizations in terms of social capital parity for your robust and creative social media presence. Ensure a shared appreciation of the value of social PR and buy-in from leadership and departmental colleagues before proceeding further.

2. With authorization, approach account managers at external companies and request a detailing of social media policies and guidelines towards clients/partners, including endorsement and sharing strategies.

3. Ask account managers if they have on record all of your organization’s social media accounts, i.e., the robust ones where you expend the most resources. If not, share them.

4. Inquire of account managers whether your company’s social business properties are taken into account on a regular basis for that company’s profile, external roles and content endorsement strategy.

5. Find out how their companies make partners/clients aware of opportunities for high-profile roles and/or endorsements, including criteria for consideration and acceptance—how do you get your organization on to the top 100 blog list or regular retweet rotation, or get a webinar, Twitter chat or other speaking engagement? Per #1, be sure to inquire only about areas where it’s viable to participate.

6. (Only) if you don’t receive satisfactory answers from B2B internal staff with whom you interact, consider taking your questions public, with respectful queries on social platforms. “How can our company guest-moderate a Twitter chat about PR measurement? What are the criteria for making it onto your top 100 list of company blogs re: content marketing?”

In my experience, thoughtful, innovative and honest businesses and employees/ volunteers—who want to provide the best value to the greatest number of core stakeholders and publics—will welcome queries and constructive criticism.

The gold mine of social is listening to what existing, past or future relationships (i.e., core audiences) have to say about a company, and modifying behaviour. It’s not about conventional wisdom from “those who want to cram something toward us because it happened to work for someone else’s business model”, per Alabama Power’s communication strategist, Ike Pigott.  

Some resources and ideas to do it social right

Paper.li

I’ve participated in PR Conversations, a global, group blog (not a business), since 2007. Guest contributors are carefully chosen/accepted and vetted (in terms of content, level of experience and skills). We have some loyal commenters, resources and/or promoters (PR practitioners, academics and students). Although no one is paid money to participate, I wanted to recognize ongoing relationships and how key individuals are valued and contribute to the blog’s overall vision and reputation for PR-specific information.

After consulting with the current principals a few years ago, I set up a (free version) Paper.li, calling it @PRConversations Champions. Besides recognizing our main stakeholders and providing a daily (manual), algorithm-based tweet to populate our Twitter feed, Paper.li allows us to monitor and listen to what this core audience finds timely and useful, i.e., what it values.

I contacted Kelly Hungerford, community, communication and content manager for Paper.li, who told me the company’s aim is, “to empower anyone to be a publisher on topics they are passionate about or have an interest in.” This can be for marketing, research or monitoring purposes. Solopreneurs/consultants, small- to medium-sized businesses, non-profits, large corporations, educators—a variety of organizations make use of the service, whether the free or PRO versions. From Paper.li’s end, content is semantically analyzed in eight different languages—a plus for companies connecting with local markets.

Some statistics:

  • 580,000-plus paper.li papers are updated daily
  • 280,000-plus publishers
  • 3.6 million unique monthly readers
  • 280 million-plus social posts processed daily

Although individual publishers remain its primary audience, Paper.li is widely used by companies of varying sizes; for example, HBO to promote its Game of Thrones, Dell to recognize channel partners and various verticals within its organization, and the WWF uses the service on a geographic basis. Small businesses tend to use Paper.li to create awareness and build community.

Promotional tools—tweets, curated email notifications, daily digests and embeddable papers—provide users with daily reminders on new topics and interest-based content. “Email notifications are playing a key role within the organization; they are a quick and easy way to push content internally to team members,” states Hungerford, who works with multiple users within organizations on best practices for setting-up papers to monitor industry and market trends, as well as competitors.

She indicates the majority put paper.li to work as an inbound marketing tactic to build community, identify sales leads and build reputations. “There is a very strong case for paper.li within the organization as a ‘listening platform’ with the output being an organized daily digest of snack-able and relevant content.” 

GaggleAMP

GaggleAMP’s tagline is Amplify, Analyze and Align Social Media. As a monthly contributor to Windmill Networking, I was invited to join its GaggleAMP, receiving a daily notification and menu of new blog content to share, plus the opportunity to “suggest” content—either my external posts and interviews, etc., or that of other columnists.

Glenn Gaudet, GaggleAMP’s president and founder, was asked for more information on its typical client. “Our customers range from tech companies like CA, to consumer beverage and food company Pepsico, to non-profit United Way Worldwide. GaggleAMP also has companies of all sizes in both B2B and B2C as customers. Additionally, GaggleAMP helps customers ranging from large retailers to night clubs.”

The company’s original vision was to be able to leverage knowledge workers within a company—given that most have at least one social media account and a high affinity for the company and/or its brand. “After we released GaggleAMP publicly, we quickly realized the value of it for use in other stakeholder groups, including partners, resellers, customers and remote entities such as stores or chapters.”

Although most employee Gaggles see a mix of posts coming from GaggleAMP together with their own posts, Gaudet emphasized, “Keep in mind that this is not an absolute and you will always get some people who will just post messages that are given to them. That is the nice thing about social media: it is really up to the individual as to what they post and the frequency.”

The best GaggleAMP usage strikes a balance between corporate and personal-choice messaging on the same account. 

Note: I believe there’s a tremendous, transparent opportunity for messaging options of individual staff, such as employer clients and partners in the B2B (and B2C) space.

Some things that delighted me

#cxo Twitter Chat

The IBM-company sponsored Twitter chat is an open, educational one about best practices in customer service, including use of big data. When #cxo celebrated its two-year anniversary, all active chat participants received a Sprinkles cupcake coupon—”active” equated to one tweet of conversation outside of simply retweeting.

Natasha Bishop (IBM Software, information management) also provided #cxo badges to everyone in her email database. Other books and prizes were given out randomly. Names were placed in a spreadsheet and Bishop asked a co-worker to provide numbers between one and 55. “When I declare someone a #cxo superstar or rock-star that’s random as well. I tweet six to seven names per thank you…so typically the first seven in the stream may get that.”

Bishop waxes eloquently about the #cxo chat: “I really believe each person in the stream is a rock star. I liken the #cxo to the body. Without the neck the head can’t function. If you stump your pinky toe, the pain reverberates throughout the whole body. Sure volume gets you picked up in the stream but when I’m doing the Storify [version of the chat] I read all the tweets, and look for content that resonates—though I try to include at least one nugget from each person.”

She continues, “During the chat, if I could RT everyone I would. But that’s a sure way to end up in Twitter jail, and it’s impossible to do, given the pace of the chats. When I’m going back, though, I’m amazed at the wealth of insight I missed during the chat itself.” The primary @IBMbigdata handle follows IBM’s social media guidelines. (It is helmed by David Pittman.)

Crowdsourcing the conference program

This year’s (volunteer) committee for the annual CPRS conference decided to change things up and let the membership/other potential attendees have a say in conference offerings.

Léa Werthman, APR, chair,  Conversations2013, detailed sending out the request for speakers through normal channels. Volunteers were delighted with the response, both numbers and calibre. She told me, “When the submission window closed…we wanted to be able to celebrate the quality of speakers, so we came up with the idea of sharing our ‘shortlist’ with the community at large, and inviting it to vote on which sessions were of the most interest.”

The shortlist comprised the top 25 speakers and programs. “It’s very important to underscore that this was not a popularity contest; however, we had a panel of PR folks do the initial review, and they helped us come up with a shortlist. It was those [peer-reviewed] 25 speakers that were presented to the ‘crowd’ for feedback. And, in the final analysis, the ‘votes’ were one of three factors in the final decision.”

The final decision included:

  1. Feedback from the reviewers on the overall quality.
  2. Feedback from the planning team—did [the submissions] fit the conference theme and format?
  3. Feedback from the community.

Werthman explains the polling exercise was done as much to generate interest in the overall conference as it was to garner the feedback. “We were very pleased to see the response to the poll, and in the end, much of that feedback aligned nicely with our planning team and reviewers’ views. It seems the crowd was definitely ‘wise’ in this exercise.”

Upon inquiry, she confirmed: “CPRS members were certainly looked at more carefully—they are, after all, our community. It was one of a number of criteria, though, as you can see above.” She credits the conference crowdsourcing idea to program chair, Victoria Procunier, “Who has been great at pushing us to innovate through social media engagement.”

Shakespearean recognition

Recently a friend told me about purchasing tickets to this year’s Stratford Festival. She was amazed—and impressed—to see a Shakespeare quote from me included on a chosen play’s Twitter feed on the dedicated web page.

I asked Lisa Middleton, director of marketing and audience development, about how long this had been in place. “We integrated the feed two years ago on our play pages (this is the third season) and it was my idea. I wanted to engage Festival fans that aren’t on Twitter with those that were. This way it gave them the personal recommendations from those who had seen the performances and they didn’t have to join the medium if they didn’t want to.”

I also asked Middleton why the company’s Twitter account had followed me, originally. “I followed you because we were interacting on Twitter. I follow those that want to be involved in a conversation, not just because they follow me.”

In conclusion

Get smarter about social PR, including which companies and individuals you allot the most social capital parity: allocate the majority of your resources on the company relationships and profiles that matter the most. Go for quality, not quantity. Aim for specific, industry knowledge, content and skills, not quantity or ubiquity.

The above resources and ideas take more time and perhaps a financial outlay. But there are simpler ways to indicate how you value your stakeholder relationships. You can Favorite or retweet a company representative. In the case of the Toronto Star, I’ve had social media staff proactively sourcing and sharing a link to an article I’ve mentioned. I’ve had the CBC +1 or comment on one of my GooglePlus posts—phenomenal, SEO-friendly endorsement. Companies can also make better use of the Like and comment sections on appropriate LinkedIn updates and Groups, in addition to Facebook pages.

I would appreciate hearing of stellar examples of social PR—relating the inside out and the outside in—you’ve come across in the comments section.

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About the Author: Judy Gombita is a Toronto-based public relations and communication management specialist, with more than 20 years of employment and executive-level volunteer board experience, primarily in the financial and lifelong learning non-profit sectors. She is co-content editor and Canadian contributor (since 2007) to the global, collaborative blog, PR Conversations and contributes a monthly column on social public relations to Windmill NetworkingFollow her onTwitter or Google+. 

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7 Comments

  1. Sean Williams (@CommAMMO) on May 9, 2013 at 4:13 pm

    Judy – great examples as always. The multiplicity of new social tools is matched only by the variability of their utility…Thanks for doing so much due diligence on our behalf.

    There are so many ways of employing social tools; I’m looking forward to @Sheldrake’s upcoming Attenzi ebook on social business to shed some light on the strategic angles…

    As you know, internal communications is a substantive part of both my business and research interest. Both The Home Depot and Marsh shared excellent case studies of applied social tools within their enterprises at recent PRSA conferences. Marsh built an internal university using volunteers (starting with the CEO) through a “Facebook” -like interface; THD has created an internal online community that shares information, networks, recognizes good work, especially when it helps client facing associates succeed. These aren’t products as much as processes that captured the imagination of the target audience/stakeholder. In neither case was the adoption driven with hard whips; instead it was invitational and supported, with audiences recruiting others to join.

    At the heart of each, however, was a certain passion for the cause — something that may be missing in the horse trading around guest posts, chat hosting and back-scratching social behavior… If it’s too mercenary a task, perhaps it shouldn’t be attempted.
    Cheers and thanks.
    Sean



    • Judy Gombita on May 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks for the comment on Part II, Sean.

      In the examples that you provide, though, are they primarily for internal communication–or for external communication about B2B partners and clients?

      I see these as two distinct areas, although internal communication social tools can certainly expand the discussion inside, before relating it out.

      If you remember in my Power Byte interview with Ike Pigott of Alabama Power (who is quoted in this article), he spoke about:

      “On the internal side of things, our environmental affairs staff accepted Yammer early on. It was a great “use” case for them, as employees are spread out over so many facilities in the state.”

      Microsoft’s Yammer is definitely an “internal” tool for communication. Paper.li and GaggleAMP, on the other hand, are tools internal staff can use when making their external (“social PR”) choices.

      Overall, I think this is an UNDERexplored area of research and usage by B2B companies. I’m sure we will see even more social innovation in future. Maybe I’ll then do a Part III. 🙂



  2. Sean Williams (@CommAMMO) on May 9, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Judy – in each of these cases, the application is to internal, and it’s proprietary. However, the OUTCOMES of those tools better equip for external impact. Better educated employees and those with quick access to information are better able to delight clients.

    One might claim that getting the internal house in order sets up the prospect of an endorsement scheme that uses employees as the amplifier, perhaps equipping them to use GaggleAMP or Paper.li for external purposes.

    I admit that this connection may seem tenuous, but these days my thoughts on tools trend to the internal side. This, notwithstanding the discussion on Part 1, which I took less as a tools discussion and more on the due diligence front.



    • Judy Gombita on May 15, 2013 at 4:39 pm

      Sorry for the delayed response, Sean. Now that you’ve expanded upon this, I’m in total agreement with you. “Insourcing” public relations has always been one of my mantras for more effective external communications, too.

      When I wrote my original article back in January 2012, it was “suggestions” for B2B companies to increase their “PR” value to their clients/partners through social media. But either not many companies read the column and/or acted upon my suggestions. So that’s why this version of it on CommPRObiz suggested the proactive activity come from the other side:

      Why aren’t you including us?

      Of course much of what I shared relates just as much to B2C companies as B2B. But I think B2B (and associations, etc.) are under-served when it comes to helpful information (because stakeholders beyond customers get so little ink or pixels).

      Ergo, yes an “informed” internal staff (using resources such as Paper.li or GaggleAMP) can be proactive in this regards as well: the tools make it easier, but the assessment of what is best to share would still be an individual assessment (along the lines of CPRS selecting its conference program–a mix of criteria and human decisions).

      I like the idea of account managers serving as direct champions of their own (stellar) external clients, when it comes to the discussion stage of what could or should be shared.



      • Lon on September 21, 2013 at 6:30 pm

        I don’t drop a bunch of comments, but I looked through a few
        comments on Making Honest B2B Endorsements through Social PR,
        Part II. I actually do have a couple of questions for you if
        you do not mind. Could it be simply me or do a few of these responses come across like they are left by brain dead visitors?
        😛 And, if you are posting at additional online social sites, I’d like to follow you.
        Could youu list of the complete urls of your social networking pages like your libkedin profile,
        Facebook page or twitter feed?



  3. Judy Gombita on May 10, 2013 at 11:37 am

    I wanted to share the most-recent example of the #cxo Storify version (and tweet)

    Natasha Bishop ‏@Natasha_D_G 1h

    Deeper Custr U/standing http://bit.ly/15tQdaR w/ @VoCmountaineer @KarenHold @ilovegarick @jgombita @mishbatt @OBI_Creative @padma8376 #cxo



  4. Judy Gombita on May 14, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Based on some offline discussions, I think I must clarify that I consider any agency that has contracts or an ongoing relationships with B2B vendors and service companies (e.g., newswire services, media (traditional or social) monitoring companies, conference/workshop facilities, etc.) as well as has one or more memberships in an industry-related association, should expect the same “consideration” in these relationships as other types of companies.