Brand Management, Competitive Strategy, Content Marketing, Marcom, Social Media

@NetApp vs. @EMC – A Small But Significant B2B Social Media Case Study

On Saturday morning last, 13 November, I published a post on this blog describing the events of 4 November. On that day, NetApp launched the Future Ready IT program in support of the market introduction of new storage platforms and solutions. As usual, our main competitor EMC created some dust and noise to influence the market impact of our announcements.

In my post, I focused on a specific guerilla marketing tactic EMC Benelux pulled off: advertising trucks driving around our European headquarters, and guys spray painting EMC’s corporate logo on our sidewalk. I questioned the potential impact of these efforts, and had a great time discussing the do’s and don’ts of guerilla marketing in competitive B2B context with colleagues, EMC reps and industry marketers at large. It’s a shame their CMO Chuck Hollis didn’t really want to step in and share his views – in the end, he is accountable. Anyway, it didn’t take us a lot of time to conclude that EMC failed, but we do owe them lots of credit for trying. My previous post is ‘where information lives’ on how to do a better job next time, guys.

If you were among the contributors to the discussion in the B2B Technology Marketing Group on LinkedIn on this particular topic – thank you for participating and sharing your opinions!

As this is a marketing blog, I wanted to share my account of last week’s happening also from a marketing and communications point of view, to give a guideline to B2B marketers who are investigating the potential value of blogging, social media, and online dialogue for their companies.

So what can we learn?

To Blog Or Not To Blog
Many marketers doubt whether they should setup a blog and start writing. The answer is: Most Definitely Yes! Go For It! Stop thinking, start doing, and start today. It’s easy, and free.

A blog allows you to carefully craft, time and position your message, to support important communications and content strategies, to respond to press, alliance partners, and competitors more candidly than you can anywhere else.

The blog can serve as a platform for dialogue, but it can also serve as a directory, where you pull together links to a whole range of dispersed information sources and content assets, and frame them in a new, coherent way. My last week’s post had just a couple of links to tweets, photography, campaign micro site, press release – all in a short post on some foolish competitive tactics. Use your blog to stage content, to frame conversations, and candidly share company opinions represented by real people, with real titles and roles.

Without a blog – whether it’s within your corporate site, Facebook or somewhere outside, in Typepad or WordPress like this one –, you don’t have an anchor point, an interactive content platform of your own to refer back to, as you are engaging your audience on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Xing, or wherever it is you find your prospects and customers. You need it as the foundation of your content strategy.

Content & Tone of Voice
Second question to answer: Who should do the writing, and what’s the right tone-of-voice? Well, that depends on the audience you’d like to welcome on the blog, and the kind of conversation you want to engage in. If it’s a very technical audience, and you as a marketer don’t have the in-depth knowledge to be able to engage on that particular level, then ghostwrite the blog on behalf of an engineer who are used to talking to customers. If you are the one with the writing skills, and the know-how, then write it yourself, but make sure to have an editorial board of knowledgeable colleagues in place – just in case you are being pushed out of your league by responders to your messages.

The tone-of-voice depends on your communication goal. If you want to be educating your audience, and be perceived as a thought leader, like many bloggers aspire, then the proper tone-of-voice is teacher-style: patient, careful, explaining every step, going into details. Very different from when you are attacking a competitor, and are looking for some action around some new solutions your company is introducing to the market. That blog would require a more challenging, know-it-all tone-of-voice, edgy, sharp, pushy, slightly annoying, with a pitch of drama – obviously without crossing the line of hysteria.

Timing Is Of The Essence
Think about the right timing for each and every single blog post. Think about when exactly your message will have the maximum relevance for your target audiences – and thus the biggest impact. Think about your prospects and customers, the market category your company is in, the business and communication planning of all brands involved in that category. Work with the PR team, the go-to-market team, the competitive analyses team, the market research team, the sales team, the channel team. Build your blog editorial calendar based on the major milestones within the company, the category, and the market place at large. Be relevant, and allow for chance. Sometimes you just get lucky, for instance when there’s a lot of M&A going on, or other free publicity that will drive people to look for backgrounds. They’ll find your blog.

As you see below, most traffic to my last week’s post was delivered by LinkedIn, Twitter, and Chuck Hollis’ blog. As it happens, over the last two weeks, NetApp introduced new products and solutions, and EMC made an offer to acquire Isilon. No wonder more people have been using LinkedIn, Twitter and search engines to look for information. They found my blog post, and because of the relevance of the content, they engaged.

Promoting a B2B blog: Communities, LinkedIn, Twitter, Other blogs and media, Facebook
By publishing a blog, you will add a single html page to a stack of hundreds of billions of html pages. Promote it, if you want to generate traffic to your messaging.

  1. Make sure your blog is optimized for search engines, so that your readers will find you. Just browse the web for Search Marketing Optimization (SEO) and learn more about how this specific discipline can help you improve your visitor count.
  2. Whenever referring to your blog, make sure you use traceable URLs, e.g. with Bit.ly – so you understand what works, and know the tactics you need to focus on to drive visitors.
  3. Inform your connections, friends, and followers of the existence of your blog, and newly published blog posts. This includes colleagues, business partners, and resellers, but also industry forums, discussion groups, communities. Think about where your audiences engage in conversations about their business pains and solutions you provide to address them – that’s where you want to promote your blog.
  4. Create a small promotional package for anybody who would be willing to support your blog. In a B2B situation, these are your colleagues, PR agency, and even channel partners. They all have a professional network for you to promote your content to. So send them a couple of tweets, Facebook announcements, LinkedIn profile update copy, all preconfigured with coded URL’s, and ask them to update their profiles to help drive traffic to your company blog. Again, if your content is relevant, they’ll be happy to promote it.
  5. Don’t forget to look into the comments sections of the other guys’s blog, be it competition, media (magazines, web sites, industry community forums), industry events sites. Only engage in conversations that are related to the topics you blog on – and refer back to them for more details on the content assets, messaging and opinions you elaborate on.
  6. If you are in a highly competitive B2B environment, and are struggling to reach your goals, you may want to consider pay-per-click advertising to drive more visitors to the blog. This is a last resource – if your content is relevant, and you covered 1 to 5, you shouldn’t have to invest marketing dollars.

Views, Clicks, Referrals, Search – breakdown metrics
Below is the visitor diagram from the WordPress admin section, with the main promotional items underneath:

  • My @EMC #FAIL post was published Saturday morning 13 November, at around 10am CET. Since then, it collected 585 views.
  • That Saturday, traffic was deliverd by Twitter (2 tweets, one in the morning for European audience, and one late afternoon for US based followers), and my LinkedIn profile.
  • The spike on Monday 15 November was caused by the discussion I created within the B2B Technology Marketing group on LinkedIn, my comment on EMC CMO Chuck Hollis’ blog, and our corporate Cloud Czar, Val Bercovici, picking up and retweeting my tweets around this post. This of course brought many colleagues and EMC reps in.
  • The traffic from 16 November onward was mainly delivered by Chuck Hollis’ blog and the B2B Technology Marketing LinkedIn group, where people like Peter Smith and Louis Gordon commented on the conversation I started around competitive guerilla tactics in B2B environments, and others responded.

Clicks

Referrals

Search engines

  • 5 referrals > Search tags: Kees Henniphof
  • 3 referrals > Search tags: emc trucks netapp
  • 2 referrals > Search tags: guerrilla marketing against netapp
  • 2 referrals > Search tags: emc guerrilla marketing against netapp

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4 thoughts on “@NetApp vs. @EMC – A Small But Significant B2B Social Media Case Study

  1. Having read this I believed it was very enlightening. I appreciate you finding
    the time and energy to put this article together. I
    once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting.

    But so what, it was still worth it!

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