I’m not a big fan of comments on corporate blogs. Especially in the B2B space, they work about as well as lace on a bowling ball (to borrow from Archie Bunker). Social media marketing optimists look to sites like SocialTimes, and other mainstream blogs, and think they can replicate the commenter/community dynamic in their own social media environments. In some cases, it actually happens. Whether this engagement-intensive approach is actually productive, however, is a different story.
So, what should you do instead? You need to get a real call to action in place … something that will drive a tangible return on investment down the road.
I have to confess – and this won’t be new to anyone who’s seen my stuff on B2B social media marketing in the past – I’m not a big fan of driving community-style engagement. I see it in part as a relic from the early days of social media marketing, when companies had no other model from which to copy than what was happening on mainstream blogs and, later, in the B2C space.
Times have changed.
We’ve all had the opportunity to kick the tires a bit on social media, though some companies have made more progress than others. We’re getting a sense of what works for B2B – both big and niche – and a set of reliable practices is emerging. Yet, there are some people who are hanging on to what has become conventional wisdom, even though time will eventually push this aside.
For former philosophy students, it will be a small moment of triumph, showing that Karl Popper’s notion of knowledge advancement through a process of conjecture and refutation is alive and well. For everyone else, it will mean accepting that the past is the past – and that it’s time to move our approaches to B2C social media marketing forward.
And that brings us back to allowing comments on B2B corporate blogs.
Originally, the concern centered on risk. Nobody wanted to see useless or inappropriate digital graffiti tying up their brands. To the naysayers the old guard of social media, such as it is, replied that comments could be moderated, allowing a bit of control without compromising the environment itself. Of course, what followed was concern that the management overhead associated with reviewing and approving all those comments would be high … though simply trying it would prove that the action would never really be substantial enough to make that process burdensome.
So, if there’s no risk, why wouldn’t you allow comments on your corporate blog? Channel your inner marketer, for a moment. Your goal s to drive revenue for your company. To do this, you need to connect your target market with a sales opportunity. For B2C and small-dollar B2B, that may mean pushing them over to your commercial environment where it’s possible to make a buy. In big-ticket and relationship-driven markets, your goal is to put your target market in touch with your sales force.
When you allow – and encourage – commenting on your corporate blog, you’re essentially giving your audience an alternative to communicating directly with your company. Rather than complete a form requesting a demo or white paper (or emailing your company), you are allowing continued engagement to occur in the marketing environment. This comes at the expense of conversations in the sales environment, which is where conversion happens. As a result, you’re giving up an opportunity.
Now, it is possible for commenting to become fodder for direct outreach, but this involves a lot of blog management overhead, a longer marketing cycle before you draw a prospect into the sales cycle and the need for sufficient volume to make this entire process possible. It also requires a target market that is willing to discuss issues out in the open in a way that would make it possible for you to draw them into the sales cycle. In bigger-ticket and relationship-driven market, especially where competition is extremely high, this just isn’t likely.
So, it all comes down to the right call to action. Instead of blog posts encouraging visitors to leave a comment (which is what I’ll offer up at the end of this post), channel them to actions that will result in a direct relationship with your company. Suggest that they download a white paper or demo, email you for more information or subscribe to your newsletter. Use calls to action that will get them to leave information with you to make follow-up contact possible. Make sure they do things on your site that will help lead to a sale.
Every blogger loves to see a robust community, but don’t let it come at the expense of your business objectives. As a marketer, you aren’t really running a blog, you’re working to advance your company in the marketplace. Confusing these rules can lead to costly mistakes.
So, what are your thoughts on this? Drop a comment below to get the ideas flowing!