Archive for the thought leadership Category

Virality Is For B2Bs Too: How To Create Shareable Content

Posted in marketing strategy, social media, thought leadership with tags , on February 11, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image: Graur Codrin

What makes content shareable?

A key outcome of social media engagement is amplification of messages – that is, broadening reach and getting your name   / brand / message / expertise in front of a potentially huge audience. Critical if you’re building a brand, marketing with a specific message or building awareness of a particular cause.

Whether or not something goes viral is a tough one to predict (and can look pretty try hard if it fails), but what we can control is the shareability of our content or assets, and optimise them for sharing and WOM (word-of-mouth).

We have numerous examples of shared content gaining viral status in the consumer field (Old SpiceTippex Shoot the Bear etc) yet, as with many social media approaches, this can be harder to pull off in the B2B sphere. But not impossible.

What kind of assets are we talking about?

Video is almost synonymous with virality – not least because most end up on YouTube, the worlds 2nd largest search engine, and where they are most easily shared. However, with corporate firewalls sometimes making ubiquitous YouTube inaccessible, we need to think about about other assets, too – blog posts, data charts, guides, infographics, reports, images, statistic sets, apps, tools and animations.

Assets are in their very nature of some value, whether informative, humourous or simply useful. But that in itself does not necessarily make them shareable. So what does?

Making assets shareable

When you think about stuff you’ve shared online recently, whether via a Twitter retweet, a link on Facebook or LinkedIn, or even an old-school attachment  on an email, what made you share it?

Most likely was that it provoked some kind of emotional response. It fulfilled some kind of need that you recognised others may also have. That asset might have:

  • Made you laugh
  • Taught you something you didn’t know
  • Presented information in a brilliant way
  • Made your life easier
  • Applied to something happening in the world right now
  • Reminded you of something important
  • Provided inspiration
  • Surprised you with stand-out statistics
  • Made you feel good (happiness, belonging, nostalgia)
  • Made your life in some way better

It’s these emotional responses that make us want to share, and it’s sharing that creates virality.   Get people to share en-masse, with passion and with those who have reach, and you win.

B2B virality

To achieve some sense of virality in the B2B sphere, you obviously need to make content shareable, but you also need to think along slightly different lines. Buying cycles in B2B are fundamentally different. After all, even if you could get 100, 000 views of your video on YouTube, does that get you closer to closing a consulting deal or software sale? Not necessarily. The measures are different, and in recognising that we can identify meaningful ways to make content shareable in the B2B world:

Relevance: Is the content relevant beyond a niche market or specific management layer? (although niche can work too)

Promise: Does your asset promise something new and valuable? People do not share same old, same old. It’s bad for our street cred.

Human factor: Will sharing this make you feel good, look good, be seen as forward-thinking, help you connect to someone? Ben the Bodyguard is a really handy service in an essentially dull field (online security) but a cutting-edge website and sharp humour made it eminently shareable and created huge buzz before launch. In B2B humour needs to be smart. Would a professional share this with another professional without crossing boundaries?

Usability: Is the asset in a format that’s easily shared? A quick download or view, a link which requires no sign up to view, a platform that can deal with high volumes. But think in terms of parameters too. Banned platforms, over-large attachments and links that don’s specify where you’re directed can leave the asset dead in the water.

What people share in b2b, with a few examples:

– Validated facts and stats (quote the sources!)

– Killer quotes and soundbites

– Methodologies, analysis and hypothesis (like Gartner’s Technology Hype Cycle)

– Diagrams and process models (such as B Solis’ Conversation Prism)

– Hot off the press content that’s totally new – there’s kudos in being the first with breaking news

– Great apps, services and tools

– Reports, surveys and points of view

– How to guides (we did our own very successful Twitter clients guide)

– Insightful interviews (TED’s YouTube channel has seen over 58 million upload views to date)

– Games and challenges (Sage did this very effectively within LinkedIn a few years ago)

Virality for B2Bs is completely achievable, but to make it work we must first realise that consumer virality and B2B virality are two different beasts. The B2B world has a whole set of nuances, expectations, parameters and behaviours to navigate. It’s hard to benchmark the two – measures will be different, as will outcomes.

Thanks to Graeme Fraser for his help with the Sage example.

Kate Spiers is Director at Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency with a track record in supporting B2B communication.

Blogging to Build Thought Leadership: Considerations and Recommendations

Posted in social media, thought leadership with tags , on February 8, 2011 by wisdomlondon

Image credit: Renjith Krishnan

Yesterday, I spent the afternoon with a group of VCs discussing blogging as tool to build personal brand and support an overarching corporate brand at the same time.

There were many questions, ‘what if’s and principles to be agreed. It struck me that their exact pain points with blogging apply to any business which is striving to develop and market thought leaders (read: most B2Bs), so it seemed worth a post on the considerations and possible solutions we touched upon:

Objectives and objectivity

It’s clear that any kind of blogging activity must support clear and agreed objectives. But not only that, it should be assessed as the best channel to support certain objectives, rather than blogging for blogging’s sake. Objectivity is needed here – blogging is rarely a means to an end, and it does require commitment. Sometimes responding to relevant questions on Quora (to a ready made audience of influencers) is preferable. Sometimes a guest post or bylined article is more appropriate for a particular expert.

Our recommendations?

  • Agreed communications objectives, for the brand as a whole and for each individual
  • Agreed ways of measuring success, and a common view of what “good” looks like
  • A rock-solid editorial calendar, covering multiple integrated channels (blogs, website, PR alerts, events, third-party sites and networks) to ensure a balanced, on-message and consistent flow of content

Tone and supporting the brand

Whilst personal experiences and viewpoints should shine through in a blog, there’s still an overarching brand affiliation to bow to, whether you’re blogging on your own domain or the corporate one. Clarity, transparency and two-way lines of communication are vital.

Harder to grasp for business – and especially newcomers to blogging – is the issue of how much personality you bring to a blog. How chatty are you? How will you respond to comments? How much will you share of your life, interests and personal experiences on a blog? Here, relevance is key, as is a natural approach. So long as it’s on-message and consistent with the overall tone, say what you like within reason. But also think about what your audience (actual and intended) might expect from you. Are you fulfilling that?

Our recommendations?

  • Blogging guidelines, as part of a wider social media policy will provide clarity. This should include, where appropriate, sign-off policy, company disclaimers and descriptors to be used, and a clear view of how content will be syndicated more widely (company Twitter feed, company news and blogs, newsletters, external blogs)
  • Develop spokesperson personas: It’s worth each individual expert spending time to develop their online persona.  That takes into account their own personal communication style and areas of expertise, audiences, experience of social media, time they have available to commit to it, level of comfort in engagement online and so on. This helps each individual adopt a balance of the channels, which are most relevant and practical to them and allows them to use those channels in a way which is natural, informed, and not forced

The bigger picture

If blogs are to be used for marketing thought leaders and building awareness, then the bigger picture should frame this. Which other channels might be used to complement and amplify the blog content? What are your colleagues covering? And for that matter, what about your competitors and industry counterparts?

Our recommendations?

  • Never blog in silo. Always be aware of what else is being communicated via your organisation, how and when
  • Join the dots where you can. Comment on colleagues’ blogs and share widely. Consider guest posting and linking back. Blog about events and news too
  • Continually aim to improve through review, benchmarking against others and seeking feedback

Blogging is recognised as being a great way to demonstrate expertise, spark conversation and debate, and build personal brand – but in a highly regulated and traditional industry, it can be challenging to get things off the ground. That doesn’t make it impossible though. Small steps, a genuine commitment to the long-term and an eye on the bigger picture and objectives are the keys to a new business blogger’s success.

Kate Spiers is the founder of Wisdom London, an integrated communications agency, with deep expertise in B2B communications and social media adoption.

Vive La Revolution! (Bastille-inspired post on Disruption)

Posted in creativity, marketing strategy, thought leadership, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , on July 12, 2010 by wisdomlondon

I posted on the 5 Essentials of Disruption a few months ago and I’m revisiting the subject because something brilliant is happening, which I think we’ll see more of. Several industries are seeing the potential for a revolution, through disruptive services, and ways of designing and delivering them.

Disruption is happening at the development / product / service level and it’s making the marketing world a really interesting place.  What’s more, it’s underpinning the maxim that marketing is, and should be, ingrained in the business strategy…and it’s heartening that we are seeing that.  So what’s happening?  Here are what I think are some of the most exciting examples:

Disruptive Service

The retail banking world is in for a shake-up later this month when Metro Bank launches in London.  It’s the first high-street banking brand to be launched in over 100 years and from the very outset they are disrupting the status quo.  Bucking the trend of recent years, Metro Bank wants their customers to visit their branches, and they can do that 7 days a week.  They also want their clients to have fun and aim to deliver a genuine experience on every visit. Kids will be entertained with lollipops and coin-counting machines, pens will be unchained and free, dogs even will get biscuits, apparently.

Plans are pretty ambitious too – 4 sites are due to open this year, and a further 10 in 2011.  It remains to be seen how much of a success this will be, but what’s fascinating is the ballsy ambition to act less like a bank and be, first and foremost, a service and experience provider.

Disruptive Product and Delivery

Call Britannia was launched in 2009 with the aim of creating 10, 000 jobs across Britain for the unemployed, by providing training ‘incubators’ whereby skills acquisition and personal development are put to the forefront, resulting in trained and motivated staff for on-shore call centres. Karen Darby, who founded Call Britannia, is not, by nature, one to simply accept the status quo. The proposition to businesses unashamedly challenges the trend for offshore call centre staff and combining this with the benefit of a greater social good being achieved.  It’s not for everyone – and Call Britannia know that – but their bold intentions are very much in tune with growing customer frustration at non-UK call centre service, and now the need for jobs in UK.

Disruptive Development

Probably one of the most high-profile examples of disruptive activity is Diaspora, the “privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all, open source social network”. Disruptive in 2 major ways – first, it aims to ‘decentralise the web’ by providing aggregation of information without surrendering privacy, at a time when Facebook in particular had sparked a public debate (and much negative feeling) about online privacy and ownership of information. Second, Diaspora is ‘crowdfunded’ via Kickstarter – and it clearly struck a chord.  6479 backers pledged over $200 000 (the original aim was a more modest $10 000) within the space of a few months. Taking on the big boys is a bold move, but was perfectly timed.

The “so what?”

  • What all of these examples have in common is that they have tapped into a mood – not a business trend or economic direction, but a human, consumer/user-driven mood. They are responding to people and what’s bugging them.
  • They’re originals.  They’re not following a tried-and-tested route, or adhering to conventional wisdom.
  • They have a clear mission that’s beyond a business objective and which will remain at their core. In each case, it’s to do with making people’s lives better and easier.
  • They’re bold.

The trick for all of these revolutionaries now will be to stay with the mood that they have identified and reacted to, and to ensure that they continue to connect with it as the world changes.. and as the needs and priorities of the people change too.  We’re rooting for them. Vive la revolution!

Kate Spiers is founder of Wisdom London. Follow on Twitter for more like this, in tasty bite-sized pieces.

New Wisdom London Presentation!

Posted in brand, creativity, marketing strategy, social media, thought leadership, wisdom with tags , , , , , on July 2, 2010 by wisdomlondon

In a nutshell, here’s who we are and what we do!

Click here: Introduction to Wisdom London_Jul10

If I had a Yammer…*

Posted in social media, thought leadership, wisdom with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by wisdomlondon

By Kate Spiers, Director at Wisdom London

Is enterprise microblogging the future for internal communications and employee engagement? Or is it a diversion too far?

As technology informs our communications behaviour, so corporates must embrace these changes and take to heart the new ways in which communication transactions are carried out, as they communicate with their workforces. Add globality into the mix, with its challenges of communicating across borders and cultures, and internal comms team have their work cut out.

Internal communications has seen the shift over the years from weekly meetings to weekly conference calls, from annual away-days to more frequent webcasts, print-based newsletters to online information sources and so on. The way in which we communicate moves at the speed of technology, and mainstream behaviours emerge from that in a very short space of time. So how do corporates harness these developments to enable them to inform and engage with their employees?

When it comes to microblogging, herein lies the challenge.

The age of information in which we live has been steadily blurring the boundaries of what ‘personal information’ means. It used to mean private, not to be shared. But now, as people share online their innermost musings and experiences from the life-changing to the mundane, with multiple platforms from which to express and opine, our expectations have shifted. We live in a world where information is now freely shared, received, intercepted, retweeted, repackaged and deconstructed. Nothing is sacred – we put information out there with the understanding that it can be batted around cyberspace by whoever wants to diffuse it. It’s as though pressing ‘send’ or ‘post’ or ‘update’ is equal to relinquishing control of the information we’re sharing. And we all seem to accept that at some level.

But the corporate world is different and it’s accepted that more clearly defined parameters govern the flow of information and opinion. Enterprise microblogging tools such as Yammer, Obayoo and Socialtext seem, on the surface to be a godsend – bringing a familiar, Twitter-like functionality within a more controlled set of parameters (Yammer works on email domains, so Yammer chat stays within that domain).

So, since Yammer’s public launch in September 2008, has enterprise microblogging had a notable impact on internal communications in large corporates? Well, it’s mixed. What does seem clear is that corporates are still figuring out what enterprise microblogging can do for them, and the results are sometimes surprising.

I spoke to Capgemini’s Comms team, who told me that the organization has been steadily and organically adopting Yammer since its launch at grassroots level (now nearly 6 000 users): “If anything, Yammer is helping to encourage greater use of [our knowledge management platform]. We are not using the fully secure version of Yammer, and so our guidelines discourage the sharing of documents and sensitive information as attachments – using links to information held on [the KM platform] we can maintain our security perimeter, but communicate in a more user-friendly (and intuitive, and accessible) environment. Essentially, Yammer is the communication tool, [the KM platform] our library. And it’s easy to link between the two.”

In this case, Yammer supports internal communities rather than internal communications per se. A base of 6 000 users is good news for Capgemini’s communities but this still represents a minority in terms of their 90 000+ global workforce. But what is most interesting to me is how technological cultures have shifted such an extent that almost 6 000 Capgemini employees have adopted Yammer independently, without any official mandate to do so – it is not, at this moment, an ‘official’ application at Capgemini – most likely because it mirrors their online information-sharing behaviour and due to the fact that it sits comfortably alongside a lot of employees’ Twitter use, via the #yam hashtag. In a tech-savvy environment like Capgemini, this suggests that other technologies could be quickly and intuitively adopted to engage and connect communities – especially in a very global and transient environment. Foursquare could prove effective for enabling face-to-face conversations with subject matter experts, or bringing together those with common interests in any one location, for example.

For Yammer and Yammer-like services to positively impact internal communications, it seems that striking the tricky balance between structure and organic growth is necessary for it to work – it can’t be forced. Nationwide have successfully implemented Yammer in much the same, organic way as Capgemini, although early adoption at C-suite level certainly helped drive its success. Through a very engaged leadership layer, Yammer allows the Nationwide community to stay abreast of company news, share views and exchange tips. The lack of rules has helped break down company hierarchy, but early management level participation seems to have provided some structure and sense of expectation about how Yammer can best be used in that organisation.

So yes, enterprise microblogging can be an excellent addition to the internal communications toolkit, but it’s clear that although it bears many similarities to traditional microblogging – and indeed that is part of the attraction for many adopters – it does work fairly differently on the inside. The onus for users is on providing value through posing useful questions or sharing information, rather than stream-of-consciousness type posts. As Capgemini’s communications team summed up: “Every day brings new anecdotal evidence about time saved searching for the right information or right person (quite often, one and the same thing) and new discovery about …what we can do as an organisation”.

Shared Wisdom: How to make enterprise microblogging work

1. Visible champions are needed – senior executives need to be seen to adopt the approach, venture opinions and share information.

2. Trust should be shown, encouraged and built upon through open exchanges of opinion and sharing of information.  This is a non-hierarchical way of communicating. Everyone should be able to enter into the conversation.

3. Communicate successes.  It’s not always obvious to all users (or potential users) exactly what the value is, but when the approach has resulted in a meeting of minds, sharing of crucial information, or forming a great idea, make it known.

4. Don’t force it. Users need to come to a service like Yammer when they are ready – make it easy for people to adopt and feel part of.

5. Provide some guidance.  As with all technologies, there will be some reticence, concerns and lack of understanding at the start.  Basic corporate guidelines can help (what we use this for, good practice, who can help you if you’re not sure, security constraints, etc).

Thanks to Tom Barton and David Johnson

*Sorry. Terrible pun – couldn’t resist.

Thought Leadership: The Real Deal

Posted in thought leadership with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2010 by wisdomlondon

Thought Leadership is a pretty well-used phrase these days and I fear its true meaning may be getting a little lost. Content alone does not equal thought leadership and many businesses would do well to remind themselves of what makes their content genuinely thought-leading.

I’m a big believer in the power of well-conceived and brilliantly orchestrated thought leadership. For the corporate world especially, it’s an excellent way of sharing collective wisdom, making superstars of their subject matter experts, and wrapping value and credibility around their brands.

But it’s no easy task. For an organisation to maintain a coherent message and gather momentum in the thought leadership stakes, they need a plan. What they want to say, when, by whom and how. And that should, of course, reflect the genuine wants, needs and interests of their target audience.

That’s not to say organisations should play lip-service: thought leadership should inform but also provoke and encourage debate. It’s fine to ask questions, even if you can’t give a definitive answer to them yet – the potential for dialogue is key. Great thought leadership inspires, generates ideas and develops a concept further.

What’s the difference? Thought Leadership v. Content

Thought Leadership IS:

  • A blend of knowledge, wisdom, ideas and interpretation
  • A different take on a subject – suggests new perspectives
  • An invitation for discussion
  • Attached to a person or people – it’s a human activity, not a ‘corporate’ one
  • Being curious, thought provoking and considered
  • Accessible, agile and current

Thought Leadership IS NOT:

  • …necessarily directed from the top
  • Unsynthesised facts and figures
  • A one-way street: it’s a basis for discussion and sharing
  • A sales pitch, disguised thinly or otherwise

I hope that the above might serve as a useful checklist for thought leadership development.  But that’s just the start.  Once you’ve got something thought-leading to say, make sure you say it!

Make the most of the channels available – thought leadership can and does exist on micro-blogging platforms as well as on the speaker podium and in print. Share the best of your thought-leading ideas with your clients by bringing them together in a roundtable debate. Integrate it in your media relations planning. Make sure you have passionate and articulate thought leaders ready and willing to enter into the debate.

Take your wisdom to a new level by applying about some thought leadership rigour – the business world will be a richer place for it.

Related link:

Kate Spiers is founder and director of Wisdom London.  (And a thought leadership freak.)