Tom Pick is a digital marketing consultant specializing in web presence optimization, SEO, search marketing, social media, content marketing and social PR. He is also managing editor of the Webbiquity b2b marketing blog, and a co-founder of WPOinc, a provider of web presence optimization metrics, the portal for B2B blogs, and the Social Media Informer social media content aggregation site. He can be found on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

What should the CIO’s role be in marketing functions such as online branding, social media, and content marketing?

The practice of marketing today increasingly relies on technology and software tools. Marketers are using a broad range of applications for monitoring, management, automation, reporting, even predictive analytics. To get an idea of the range of tools, check out the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, which lists 947 companies that provide software for marketers, organized into 43 categories across 6 major classes. Scott Brinker has done an amazing job with this.

Marketing executives and practitioners will generally evaluate and select their own tools, based on an evaluation of their needs. But where CIOs can play a key role is in connecting these disparate tools to help provide a full 360-degree view of each customer and sales prospect.

For example: John Doe asks a question about a brand on Twitter, and that brand's marketing team picks it up through monitoring. How should they respond? Well first, before responding at all, they need to know who John Doe is: A current customer? An active sales prospect? A "new name" to the company? To respond effectively (and, just as importantly, to avoid responding inappropriately), the marketing team needs to know that individual's current relationship with the company.

The faster the marketing team can get that answer (and see all of the information they have about John Doe), the more quickly they can respond with a suitable answer. That's just one example of how the data connections that CIOs can make are able to play a key role in the marketing team’s success.

What advice do you give to companies that believe they don’t need a social media, blogging, or content marketing strategy?

Take up gardening, so you don't starve?

Seriously, marketing has gone a long way down the road of moving from an "interruption" model to a "response" model, where consumers don't want their listening, watching, or reading interrupted by advertising; they will search out companies when they are ready to buy.

This is actually a great opportunity for marketers to really add value for prospective buyers rather than producing noise.

That process of adding value starts with producing great content. That content then needs to be shared and distributed socially to increase discovery. And the core of any social media and content marketing strategy is an active blog.

Putting this into perspective, brands need to pursue a web presence optimization strategy, which has content at its base. That content may be re-purposed in several different ways (for example, a white paper can provide the basis for a webinar, an infographic, a couple of articles for publication in trade media, and two to three blog posts), shared through trade media, email, social media and social networking sites, and promoted through paid advertising.

It all has to work together to maximize both the brand's visibility and credibility when buyers are looking for what the company has to offer.

How should companies start with an online presence?

It starts with a rock-solid website and blog. Get that right before worrying about any promotion.

The brand website needs to be designed with the information needs of visitors in mind—primarily sales prospects in most cases, but also potentially the media, prospective and current employees, current customers, investors, analysts, current and prospective partners, and so on. Identify the information needs of each group and design a site that meets those needs.

The site also has to address a number of additional objectives, such as supporting the brand image, being easy to navigate, being search-engine friendly, loading quickly, and being optimized for conversions.

The company blog needs to actively showcase the firm's knowledge, address sales prospects' questions, encourage readers to learn more, and provide shareable content. Expectations need to be set properly; company blogs often don't produce spectacular results right out of the gate, but their value grows over time as both indexable content and readership grow.

Then expand into social media. For B2B companies, LinkedIn is the most important network on which to be active. Build a great company page, provide content, and find, join, and be active in relevant industry groups.

Companies will generally want to cover the "big 5" fairly quickly: setting up presences on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and YouTube. Beyond that, it largely depends on the company's business: networks like Instagram, Pinterest, SlideShare, and others may or may not make sense. Don't spread resources too thinly; better to have an active, high-quality presence on a few networks than to try to be everywhere. But do research and go where your buyers are.

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