Thursday, November 13, 2014

Top 10 Social Media & Web Takeaways from the PTDA Industry Summit

Between Philippa Gamse’s fantastic Bricks to Clicks presentation and PTDA Next Gen’s Social Media Learning Lab, there was a ton of great information and lessons learned for me to take back and apply to my own business in Downers Grove, IL. Reflecting back on the event, I (Elliot Wilson) created a top 10 list of key social media takeaways… as well as a self-reflection on each takeaway.
I would love to hear if those who were there agreed with my key takeaways, and what, if any, key takeaways they had that I might have missed. For those of you that weren’t there, hopefully my Top 10 will provide you much of the content you missed out on… and, hopefully, we’ll see you in Chicago next October for the 2015 PTDA Industry Summit!

10. LinkedIn Is A Force To Be Reckoned With! Philippa Gamse cited a report showing that LinkedIn was the #1 social media site for B2B lead generation, #1 social media site for B2B content distribution, and #1 social media site for B2B traffic back to blogs and sites.

Inside one of the Social Media Learn Lab groups, Mark Tomalonis made the point that there are better times to post inside groups to ensure your postings receive maximum visibility. I won’t publicly reveal his “secret” in this blog, but perhaps if you email him he will “spill the beans”. Hint: His logic is similar but not identical to the concept that it is best to post to Facebook or Twitter just before lunch (or when your users are most likely to see the content you’ve created).

During a late night of PTDA Next Gen partying at the bar, Eric Achilles Cousineau shared some of his successes of posting to a company’s corporate LinkedIn page, followed immediately by posting to LinkedIn Groups… and tying his Group posts back to the corporate LinkedIn page. (Thanks Mitch Bouchard for the introduction!)

(Self-reflection: Awe. Even though I was one of the Social Media Learning Lab Facilitators for LinkedIn, I honestly had no clue that LinkedIn could be so powerful a tool for lead generation. I always saw it first and foremost as a recruiting tool, but, upon deeper reflection, I discovered how powerful the site really could be. Specifically, I discovered how powerful posting to groups could be… and, if you are reading this post and came from the PTDA LinkedIn Group posting I made… this point has just been made.) 

9. Twitter Is A Growing Force. In all three metrics cited above, Twitter placed #2 behind LinkedIn. 

(Self-reflection: I’ve always been in denial about the potential value of Twitter, but when I saw Sandy Sullivan helping Tim Breen and several others setting up accounts and posting their first Tweets over breakfast at the Summit… I knew my denial must end. I followed suit, and posted my very first Lovejoy Tweet hours later... make it one of nearly 100 made during the event to leverage the hashtag #PTDA14is. Thank you @PTDAorg, @EPTDA, @BaldwinSupply, @bdiusa, @WCDuCombCo, @MediaBarAgency, @AlliedBearing for quickly following @LovejoyUSA back… even if we only have 3 Tweets... and thank you Mike McLain for your Tweets on HercuFlex gear couplings!)

8. Facebook Is So Last Year. Not only did LinkedIn & Twitter outrank Facebook in every B2B metric Philippa shared, but nobody expressed any interest in it for the Social Media Learning Lab. When signing up for the Social Media Learning Lab, participants were given a choice of learning about LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook. Every participant selected either LinkedIn or Twitter, without a single person requesting to learn about Facebook. 

(Self-reflection: With over 12,000 fans, Lovejoy has historically made a strong commitment to growing and supporting its Facebook channel. While we do recognize this channel to be more social in nature, we will continue to post and share the behind-the-scenes action of our family company… for those who remain interested.)

7. YouTube Videos Are A Must. Philippa cited that YouTube videos are the second largest search engine in the world, with the #1 search engine being Google (a company that owns YouTube). As such, she highly encouraged PTDA members to consider making video content available on YouTube so that it can be found for users seeking solutions. 

(Self-reflection: Lovejoy has over 30 YouTube videos on its YouTube channel, and a dedicated website specifically for user focused installation and support videos. While we’ve got a good start, there is certainly quite a bit more content we should and could be adding in this arena.)

6. BLOG = Better Listings On Google. Philippa pulled out a stat that, while I couldn’t fully understand how it was derived, couldn’t argue with either… and, that stat was that B2B websites that have blogs generate 70% more leads than websites without. The rationale supporting this statistic was that Google and other search engines love genuine original content, and reward it by ranking it highly in their search results. Philippa also recognized that blogs do require a tremendous amount of time and resources, and are not worth doing unless a company is committed to updating and maintaining it on a regular basis. 

On the subject of search rankings, Philippa also made the point not to obsess about search rankings because Google personalizes results based on a number of factors including your location and your own personal preferences. If you search for your company and click on your own links, your results will show up better than if a stranger in a different location searched for the same term for the very first time. 

(Self-reflection: Even more so than Twitter, I have long been in intentional denial on the value of blogs… but, two months ago, I finally bit the bullet and went all in on this blog. In launching, my commitment has been to launch one post, every business day, for at least the first six months. So far, I am doing well, but to be totally honest, generating relevant content every day takes a lot of energy and focus. Scheduling does help, but it still is really hard. Please check back every few weeks to keep me accountable and cheer us on, and we’ll return the favor by letting you know how our efforts are panning out.)

5. Industrial Products Can Create Viral Content. Philippa shared a story on how an industrial manufacturer (Kern Precision Scales) created a viral smash hit by sending Gnomes around the world and had them weighed to show the slight differences in gravitational forces. 

(Self-reflection: As great as it would be to generate a viral video on industrial couplings, I am at a total loss. If you are more creative than me, please do not hesitate to hit me up with your idea. While I can’t promise compensation, I will promise to shout your name loud and wide when the concept goes viral… providing you every minute of fame alongside Lovejoy!)

4. Use and Leverage Website Analytics. Especially when using pay-per-click or other advertising with physical hard costs, Philippa strongly advocated using and monitoring website analytics to ensure you are maximizing your advertising spend. For manufacturers and those not selling directly online, she suggested companies assign notional values for actions website users take, such as time on the site or specific pages visited. 

(Self-reflection: Good to go! Fortunately with Google Analytics being free and easy to install, Lovejoy has had solid site analytics for years. This is something we regularly monitor and pay attention to.)

3. Website Search Box Can Be A Goldmine. In her “Usability and Conversion Optimization” section of her presentation, one concept that jumped out at me was to review the search box results on your website (assuming you have one, which she said you should). What makes this so powerful is that users generally only use this when they are struggling to find the content they are looking for. Identify the top movers and optimize your site to make this content either easier to find or available if it isn’t already out there. 

(Self-reflection: Guilty. I never once checked Lovejoy’s search terms until sitting down to write this blog, and it was fairly insightful. It turned up not only different ways people spell our product, but also some creative terms they use to describe our products that we would not have thought of. I have already gone back and added one of the keywords to a blog post I was writing, given I do not use the term on our formal website… nor feel it is a proper term to use on our website.)

2. Pay attention to “No Results” searches. For terms that cannot be found on your website, Philippa suggested we consider giving the user something more useful than “No Results”. These are users looking for answers from you, and the site is essentially just throwing up its hands. Philippa suggests replacing with this non-value added statement with a relevant call to action, such as “Call us for more information” or “Check out FAQs”. 

(Self-reflection: Mildly guilty. If you search something obscure like “couplings for potato chip machines” on Lovejoy’s webpage, you will get a “No Results” response… but, by no doing of my own, our “No Response” is accompanied by 3 to 4 suggestions on improving your search results… which, while not a perfect call to action, is at least a call to action. Point well taken.)

1.  Be Deliberate In Walking Your Customers Through Your Website. A customer landing on your website is no different than a customer walking into your storefront. You should be deliberate and intentional in walking them through every action you would like them to take on the website. Philippa advocated watching users interact with your website, and drove this point home by highlighted several PTDA member websites where she saw issues inclusive of not making buy buttons prominent enough and not making shopping carts readily accessible. 

(Self-reflection: Not guilty! On this one, I’ve got a very clear conscious. Lovejoy is all in for educating our customers with product information followed by immediately getting customers into the hands of a trusted distributors who can make the sale. As such, we have a very prominent “Find a Distributor” button on just about every page of our website, and it works. Over 6000 website users per month are finding this tool thanks to our purposeful web design. Of course, we can always improve further… so if you see a shortcoming of our website, please do not hesitate to share your feedback or suggestions. If you are a Lovejoy distribution partner, please also double check and ensure we are showing your content properly as this is a tool we push heavily.)

Overarching Conclusion: The web & social media are not waning, but rather undeniably growing in importance…yes, even in the B2B industrial power transmission marketplace. As such, it’s critical that all of us accept this brave new world and adjust our business plans accordingly. In my humble opinion, the 2014 PTDA Industry Summit Planning Committee did a phenomenal job in securing the exceptionally relevant and valuable content cited above. Hats off and a big thanks to all who played a leading role, inclusive of Anne Arnott and her entire PTDA staff. I look forward to seeing many old and new faces next October in Chicago... if not sooner at the Spring Leaders Conference in Arizona! 

Additional Resources: For PTDA Members who would like to see Philippa Gamse's PowerPoint presentation in its entirety, it is currently available for download on the PTDA website.  

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