Three Steps to Becoming a Thought Leader in Your Industry
Are you B2B in a niche market and wondering if social media is relevant to your audience?
Drillinginfo, a software as a service (SaaS) company serving the global oil and gas industry, is a B2B provider in a very specialized niche market, which has been actively using social media since September 2012.
Their goals are to emphasize their role as an oil and gas intelligence company and boost the perception of the company as a thought leader in the industry.
Since September 2012, they have increased their blog readership by over 2000% and developed relationships with influential industry leaders through social media.
Current and potential customers have indicated that the Drillinginfo blog is a premier source of information in the oil and gas industry, which is exactly what the company wants.
The steps they’re taking to achieve these results are:
- Blog with a plan.
- Market your marketing (from Jay Baer).
- Network with influencers via Twitter.
James Hahn II, social media manager for Drillinginfo, explains their business this way: “If you want to get some hydrocarbon out of the ground, we have all the information to understand where it is and how to get the most of it out of the ground.”
Hahn said that Drillinginfo, started in 1999, has traditionally been viewed as a data company. Over the years they have expanded their offerings to include more international intelligence and analysis. They now want to shake the “data company” label and be seen as an industry intelligence leader.
The company had social media accounts and a blog before September 2012, but they were underutilized. When Hahn took over social media at that time, within a month blog views increased from 400 to 4,000, Facebook followers tripled and Twitter followers doubled.
By January 2013, the company made Hahn a full-time social media manager, and he has made it his mission to put Drillinginfo top of mind with influencers in the industry. Here’s how they’re doing it.
Blog With a Plan
Content marketing is the core of Drillinginfo’s social media strategy. Currently 52 of the company’s 400 employees contribute to the blog. They’re mostly senior leaders, product managers and international editors—people in other countries who are part of Drillinginfo’s intelligence-gathering arm.
Hahn sets the editorial calendar, assigning writers but not topics, for the blog. He encourages contributors to write about something they’re personally interested in.
He works with contributors to brainstorm ideas, prompting them about things they’re working on. One recent post, Rig Locator Blues: 3 Things to Know Before Installing GPS Units on 1,800+ Rigs, came from a back-and-forth with Drillinginfo’s director of GIS content.
As social media manager, Hahn is always looking for ways to keep blog contributors motivated. “Don’t just send those calendar invites (reminding them of blog posts due) and expect people to be on the ball,” he said. “Find some way to keep that project top of mind so that when their due date comes, they have content.”
Hahn sends out a “Monday Morning Motivation” email to blog contributors each week that contains a condensed nugget of information about content marketing. “I try to make it fun and really silly and short,” he said. One recent email focused on a Technorati Digital Influence Report.
After Hahn receives each contribution, he edits it to make it “blog-friendly.” He works to make posts shorter, uses shorter paragraphs, adds an image and uses keywords in the first sentence and title that he has researched in Google Adwords.
Hahn makes a point to explain to authors the reason for any changes and to make them feel appreciated. “I built this community, but I built it around amazing content that’s written by people who have been in the industry forever,” he said. “It always comes back to that.”
Market Your Marketing
After each blog post is published, Hahn pushes the content out to their email list and social accounts using an Evernote checklist to keep track of each task.
He has learned some techniques that work better than others. In the email to blog subscribers, Hahn includes the full blog post, but tailors a call to action to send readers to the website for comments.
On Google+, he uses keywords in the status update. Having a personal Google+ account also means any of his own posts show up with a photo in search results.
Hahn has amassed a list of approximately 70 Facebook groups related to the oil and gas industry that have over 1,000 followers, and another list for smaller groups. He updates each group with each new blog post.
When posting to Facebook, he learned that if he includes a large version of the photo, the status update gets more likes and shares, but if he leaves the default setting with a small photo when posting a link, it gets more traffic.
In total, he posts to 156 LinkedIn and Facebook groups, and is careful to be conversational and “non-hypey, the same way you share with a friend,” he said. His mantra in social media is, “It’s not spam if you’re adding value,” citing Jay Baer’s concept of Youtility.
He has not received any negative feedback about posting to the groups. On the contrary, people have reached out to him wanting to connect. “I’ve had people add me on LinkedIn saying, ‘I see the work you’re doing all over LinkedIn and Facebook, and I really like what you do,’” he said.
Network With Influencers
In May, Drillinginfo posted their most widely viewed blog post to date, The 50 Top Oil and Gas People on Twitter, which received over 4,500 views in its first month.
The post was nine months in the making, when Hahn started actively following and networking with industry leaders on Twitter. He started by following the hashtag for the NAPE Expo in August 2012.
Hahn uses HootSuite‘s premium feature to filter by Klout score to identify people to start conversations and network with. “Over time I really paid attention,” he said. He saw the payoff in traffic and conversations about the Twitter list post. “Now we’re top of mind for all of these people,” he said.
Although Twitter delivers a much smaller fraction of web traffic to their site, people who come from Twitter stay about five times as long, Hahn says.
“When I have a post that I really want to get out there to a lot of people, (my list) really helps me focus—here are the heavy influencers that I want to target.”
Get More Effective than LinkedIn
Perhaps Drillinginfo’s content marketing successes can be summarized in a comment from a member of their international sales team. A potential customer contacted him about their services, and asked about posting on the DI blog to reach their own customers. “They consider that posting on the DI blog will be more effective than LinkedIn or any other site out there,” the sales rep said.
What do you think? How effective is social media in a niche B2B industry? Have you used social media to build the perception of your company as a thought leader in your industry? Include your comments and questions below.