Thought Leadership, and Lead Generation in the Water and Wastewater Municipal Market
In the fast developing, and often changing dynamic of the web and social media, VOCWOM was staffed with an objective to create social media presence for Whitewater Security – a cleantech startup. The main question was how to create a strategy that would efficiently utilize a startup budget to gain big results?
Whitewater Security works in highly conservative water and wastewater municipal markets around the globe. In this market federal, state, and municipal regulations often delay the entry for any new technology solutions provider. VOCWOM needed to establish presence for the company using social media, so that the market would accept their technology although they are the new kids on the block. The target audience, mainly the United States and English speaking nations in Europe, are home to a niche group of facility officials and operators, standard bodies, and regulatory authorities that have little relative exposure to media in general and social media in particular.
The social media challenge for VOCWOM was to understand the scope of this industry on the web and social media and to locate the most relevant places for its activity. It was critical to map the relevant locations like blogs, discussion groups and leading news sites. Even when such a location was found, a deep filtering was required in order to isolate relevant conversations actively and finding ambassadors and champions within these various nodes. Next, VOCWOM needed to devise a strategy for building, engaging, and nurturing its community of industry players to ultimately increase Whitewater’s thought leadership in the field, and drive lead generation in support for their sales staff.
VOCWOM took the approach of incorporating traditional web 1.0 and 2.0 marketing techniques which were currently being utilized internally and creating a circulation and community building strategy through the most popular B2B social media sites: LinkedIn, Slideshare, and Twitter. Each platform had their own goals:
LinkedIn – it was decided to be the primary medium whereby VOCWOM created a company page for users to follow, moderates a group specific to water security. In the group, we are able control the community members, discussion topics, and news being presented, utilize our personal profiles as a means to engage through questioning, news postings, poll postings, and responding in relevant groups; as well as, to generate and coordinate a network of potential leads, ambassadors, and product champions. Here contacts were approached for meetings at the event.
Slideshare- utilizing presentations in our archives, and those created for webinars we conducted, VOCWOM created a slideshare account to aggregate power point material for organic distribution using the API’s LinkedIn and Twitter push option, and ability to allow community members and interested parties to download our material for personal or public usage.In addition, LinkedIn was used to promote the Slideshare activity so that contacts and groups members were informed whenever new content was uploaded.
Twitter – micro blogging is a way VOCWOM distributed information to whitewater followers, updates industry and event activities, and is a location for industry news location. With the advent of Paper.Li VOCWOM was able to use the medium as a promotion tool for daily news.
Webinars- Creating online seminars for specific topics, framed in an educational or academic manner, allowed Whitewater to garner thought leadership. In addition to raising knowledge share in the industry, a search for speakers from its own community allowed Whitewater to garner a key ambassador for the company and their products.
Wikipedia – creating user generated encyclopedia content specific to water security allowed Whitewater to dictate how the term was thought of in the field, increase the SEO status of their linked pages to the wiki article, and improve the marketing reach of their information which was linked as references.
All of these tools were utilized in a holistic approach to tying back together all the information and contacts through each entity, location and conversation ultimately pointing them to the company website or directly to a sales team member.
VOCWOM’s unique multi entity network analysis
Rather than starting by analyzing specific content as it is, the VOCWOM approach first looks at the context. This is the heart of our approach–characterizing social media by your specific niche. From the resulting market-specific set of conversations within social media, we then analyze content itself. This method enables efficient and accurate identification and characterization of relevant new content. VOCWOM’s method incorporating patterns and characteristics of the marketplace, along with the accurate social media associations, add enormous intelligence to the process of social media management.
Measuring the success
VOCWOM was able to surpass expectations:
•LinkedIn- Generated referrals to the website, twitter, slideshare and youtube accounts. Found a professional speaker for a webinar. Created two champions, one in the US and one in the UK. Nurtured the Water Security Group. Disseminated information across more than 18 groups, while monitoring 47. Influential market research on BOD and BlueBox through questions of the week, even generating leads. Bolstered personal contacts to 750.
•Twitter- Added close to 200 new followers including major utilities, water sector publications and influential water sector voices. Posted pictures in real time during events, and collaborated with Israeli Trade Commission in UK during a roadshow. News tweets were aggregated by 5 different paper.li accounts.
•Media Sharing Sites – Disseminated ppts and video clips. Received award for hottest ppt slides on linked in for 2 uploads. Effectively linked website video to youtube and embedded into the new blog.
•Webinars- Created 2 webinars with large registration figures, modest attendance, and very high awareness during the presentation. Collaborated with well-respected professional speakers.
•Newsletter/E-Vite- Redesigned newsletter format creating a more personal touch and merging both checklight and security into one. Maintained click and open ratios at same levels as previous newsletters with circulation close to 3 times higher. Redesigned evite format, and created specific distribution lists for each conference.
•Website traffic – Increased website traffic and number of leads generated through contact form completion.
•Event Meetings – Exceeded goal of 9 meetings during ACE, by generating 14
•International Market – Recommended strategy of using a localized analyst under the management of a team leader. Collected and distributed internal news of interest to our local staff in Brazil. Translated academic recommendation and award press release to Portuguese for local MARCOM efforts. Mapped the field of local agencies participating in infrastructure developments for the 2014 world cup, including contact information where found. Translated and conducted a webinar in Portuguese leading to a PO sent to the client.
VOCWOM has positioned Whitewater as a respected leader in their industry foronline, and social media activities.The reputation of the company has improved in the market due to social media efforts to disseminate company MARCOM and provide support for questions and concerns in forums. Whitewater is now able to identify, network and interact with a large group of contacts through their social media efforts. The continued daily efforts to engage and respond to peers and clients has built trust and helped garner key strategic relationships in certain markets. The market intelligence, monitoring, and responding activities have helped filter noise from greater water sector information to arrive at a smaller niche specific to the audience which is relevant to whitewater’s products. By having a constant eye on relevant conversations a set of updated terminology is now used to promote and market products. In conclusion, through our efforts we were able to raise the awareness and thought leadership of Whitewater in the Water Quality and Security sector ultimately turning a small startup into a recognized industry player.
In our discussions on social media management, it’s easy to notice the multitudes of tools out there aiming to sort and analyze the enormous amount of information available on social media. The essential question is: What should we be looking for when selecting our social media tool? This post I cover the various aspects of social media management for which technology solutions have been developed. In doing so it should become apparent that this industry is in early stages of development and there is a long way to go for providing a tool that can effectively meet the various aspects of social media management. Therefore, it is not surprising that a widespread adoption of these tools has yet to come. As I see it, these are the 3 main issues yet to be solved:
- Most comprehensive tools are not affordable for small to medium size companies
- Spam filtering is still not meeting expectations and causing more time to be spent on filtering quality material
- Text (Keyword / NLP) based analysis is not sufficient to complete management work without massive manual sorting of results to identify relevancy. A great improvement is needed in identifying the relevant conversations and contact and for analyzing them.
I hereby further explain the various types of platforms available today and what value it can bring to the marketer
- Brand monitoring serves to monitor a brand or topic on an ongoing basis. This class can be divided into two types of solutions: one is searching and fetching specific posts and conversations via text and keyword searches; the other is aimed at aggregating conversations, quantifying conversations about this brand and evaluating what is the sentiment. (ie. Social Mention, Topsy , etc)
- Identification of locations (blogs, discussion groups, news) that may be relevant to the brand. Similar to brand monitoring tools, it is done via keyword searches, but the purpose is to find blog pages themselves which are active in having new posts featuring specific keywords. (ie. Postrank)
- Identification of people who are relevant to the product, such as opinion leaders, key ‘spectators’, and regular readers. (example pipl)
- Link monitoring consists of finding all the sites and posts that have links to the brand or brand-related page (via sites such as ‘WhoLinksToMe’). This is useful for learning which people or companies are interested in the brand.
- Microblog monitoring refers to staying updated with a company/individual’s micro messaging using sites like Twitter. This monitoring is useful for tracking the activity of an influential voice.
- Social bookmarking provides a different perspective on blogs. Using sites such as ‘delicious’, a user can mark a blog or page as having specific keyword relevance, thereby sharing it with the community of people who would search for those keywords, even if the words do not appear in the post.
- Trend monitoring via sites like ‘GoogleTrends’, shows the increasing or decreasing tendency of searches on a particular term. This can help to monitor sentiment and knowledge of a large-scale concept (such as a well-known brand or market segment).
- Specialized social media tools allow individuals to increase their reputations (ie. Naymz), or for aggregating many search engine results for one term (ie. MonitorThis).
- Enterprise Solution: listening platforms provide a first step to social media management–by analyzing conversation online and returning targeted information on the sentiment or discussion of a brand or topic. These types of listening platforms are improved continually, and may incorporate information from many of the above tools. (ie. Radian 6, Visible Technologies)
So there are many tools out there and selecting one is not an easy task. For now, the best recommendation I can give is to use several of them. The selection should be based on a careful examination of the marketers specific marketing plan, and taking into consideration that an internal owner should be nominated as well as appropriate manual work resources should be allocated.
I am responsible for several social media projects at VOCWOM and I would like to share with you my point of view on the challenges a marketer is facing in the chaos called social media. Given a limited budget, specific objectives, and a time constraint – what should a marketer do and in what order to achieve the company’s social media objectives?
The most critical first step is to define the company strategy in Social media. Items like generating leads, boosting web site traffic, brand recognition, becoming a thought leader and pushing marketing messages can be part of the company strategy and goals for social media. Setting the strategy should translate into the tactical actions like pushing content or setting a discussion group. Another important part of the process is to set measurable targets that are frequently checked and benchmarked against the real activity.
There are more 180 millions blogs out there and 1000’s of social networks which create a sea of information which can consume all available working hours of endless amount of people. So the first task for the marketers is figuring out from the massive amount of information available, what is really relevant part for his specific product market. In this regard there are a slew of solutions which aid in aggregating, notifying, socializing, and much more. There is no single tool that I can point to as a all in one, comprehensive management solution. Out of the many tools available, you can find one or two of these solutions that might reduce the amount of information needed to be processed.
After selecting the tool, the next mission is to find out the relevant locations for my specific product market. Now is the time to open your eyes to the social media world outside facebook and twitter. Some Alternatives like YouTube and SlideShare are geared to content sharing. Other options are focused on technical discussions like LinkedIn. So do your homework about your specific market and make sure you identify all the relevant locations for your product market. A good practice is to maintain a database of the various information you deem relevant so that you can easily sort and filter the information, and have a central location where everything is stored.
Social media is all about personal connections so another important part of the process is identifying and connecting to the relevant people. In every industry there are several people who are considered thought leaders and getting them aware and even involved in your social media activities is critical. Whoever is posting a relevant content or is a speaker in industry events may be the right person. Remember to get information on industry players from those internally, as they know best and have a wealth of information to share.
Once I’ve attained some results, how do I properly measure to justify the activities, and to improve upon them? The most important information is to first define a successful action taken on the information you distributed. For example, if I post an article on a blog or discussion group, I might look at unique impressions, talk backs, sent to friends or posted to other social media sites. Once you define these metrics you can keep a spreadsheet for each distribution to a similar type of material and look at percent changes to track progress. It is a best practice to keep a link to each distribution so that you can analyze the content of why something worked and why it didn’t to find similarities or trends so you can build on the positive ideas.
In concluding, I’d like to share some tips to get you started with some momentum in your social media management:
- Set your social media strategy first and translate it into specific actions
- Set measurable targets
- Find the right tools for reducing the amount of information
- Find the right locations for your product market
- Get connected with the relevant people
- Store your information in a database for central knowledge sharing
In 2006 while meeting customers and analysts in Europe regarding customer feedback systems, Guy and I sat in the lobby of a hotel and struggled with a question posed by a leading analyst we had a chance to meet that day. The subject of this meeting revolved around listening to the customer’s voice in emerging social media networks and blogs and how it should be incorporated into customer feedback solutions.
It wasn’t the first time that the question arose during that year. After much thought, we began a serious discussion about what an enterprise social media management system would look like. We both agreed that the current approach (used by some startups and consulting firms) based on keyword search and text analysis could not bring about the true potential of such a system. In fact in that discussion the seeds of VOCWOM’s solution were planted.
Fast forward a few years and Guy, through his background in academic marketing research, came up with an innovative contextual approach to social media listening which led to the establishment of VOCWOM. Currently, we are 6 people and in the process of developing and validating our contextual approach with several strategic clients. We feel it’s time to share our experiences and start conducting a dialog with the professional social media community.
This blog will focus on social media management, marketing methodologies, technologies and solutions. We hope to have engaging discussions and invite you to please join us in contributing your knowledge with the community.