Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - Why B2B Companies Have a Distinct Advantage Online


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Unfortunately I think a lot of B2B companies haven't fully embraced in-bound marketing, though many are getting there, as you're all saying.

Some small businesses, as Kate said above, feel that by having a website they have a presence online -- it's all said and done. Learning that there are numerous ways to connect online and to better utilize that space is a step that companies will increasingly have to take, hopefully as they realize the potential, or out of necessity as they lose potential customers.

@Valeria - I think that the issue of trust in corporate blogs stems from the reputation of the organization in the community prior to the blog. It is the perception of trust in the brand (and it's alignment with the community focus) that is magnified through the act of hosting their own community.

You mention the Fast Company community. I've visited, but never felt as compelled to return as I do with your own site, here. That said, I perceive Fast Company being a magazine devoted to business with a sort of sharp, smart attitude - the opposite of the old guys in quiet rooms with cigars and brandies. To me, this is an ideal place to build a community. They are trusted to provide dynamic business ideas, so why would they not be trusted to host a community devoted to such things?

On the other hand, I recently learned of a new community while browsing Tino's Strada site. []

Called "Nation of Go," it is a community promoting auto enthusiasts to "Drive, Share, Connect." As a car guy, this sounds awesome to me. There is far too much splintering in our corner of the web and communities which seek to unify gear heads hold a special place in my heart, but here's the rub.

Nation of Go is "A new social network for gearheads from BFGoodrich Tires."

BFGoodrich Tires? I've had them and feel they offer a high quality product, but for them to get into the car community scene? It feels wrong. I tried to justify it, recognizing that one thing ALL cars and trucks have in common is TIRES, which pretty much means BFG is known by any gear head you meet, but then I visit the Nation of Go site and they make a point of mentioning, specifically, what BFGoodrich tires they had installed on new vehicles which had come with other brands.

I believe that, when hosting a community, the value provided to the community members should always be the focus. I understand that there's a business need to get some kind of ROI out of the deal, but if a community is going to be developed and spun as providing real value to its members, then THAT needs to be the focus above all else. ROI comes later, naturally, organically.

When I see a community hosted by a corporation, the first thought to cross my mind (and very likely many other minds as well), is "They're just trying to sell their stuff with this." It can put people like me on full alert.

So, a community is being created to unify gear heads across the country to "Drive, Share, Connect," but the first visit reveals there's a van and a Mitsubishi parked somewhere in Bakersfield and, while we might not know too much about these vehicles they're using for their epic adventure across the country meeting people, we know exactly which BFGoodrich tires they installed.

Maybe I'm just thinking too hard. I can understand that it would look bad for a van with the BFG logo on the side to be caught with Goodyears, but I think it's the calling attention to the brand during the formative stages of the community that gets me.

Is this community really about connecting car guys because the people at BFG are car guys? Or is it about pulling in a bunch of car guys off the web to be bombarded with BFG because some clueless bean counter somewhere demanded immediate ROI if there was going to be a budget for this project and that's the only way the guys who truly believe in connecting people over there could get a shot at this?

I probably won't go back to that community because the first impression left me disappointed and apprehensive. I'll still consider BFG tires, but it feels like they blew it on the community value proposition in Bakersfield.

Conversely, closing this, the longest comment ever, right before I began this comment, I went to Fast Company and looked around for a minute. I've always trusted that brand, but found myself wondering if maybe I'm not missing something by not spending more time there. So now I'm off to the Fast Company website for a spell.


@Brian - I'd like to discuss more in depth about how the communities hosted by companies imply lack of trust in your view. Fast Company is an example of a company that hosted a community on its site. I think if there is a way that a company can facilitate an unmet need, for example for customers or people interested in discussing "x", it would help everyone if they did. To me, a successful blog, is a hosted conversation and can build community. It's both activities.

@Kate - do you ask them how many conversions they get off their site and if they know how many they could get from having outposts? Of course you do, I'm just playing it back for the conversation here.

@Jonathan - thinking that B2B can be really creative with social media, velvet rope communities, niche streams, specialized topics, lots of possibilities.

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