Getting subject matter experts (SMEs) to support a company’s content marketing programs can be one of the most fulfilling experiences a B2B marketer can experience. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most difficult to achieve.
SMEs are the core of the business. As a result, they’re expensive and their time is precious. Some – usually a majority – are not skilled communicators and fear that they will embarrass themselves or the company. Their managers may also guard them closely, fearing that their own organizations will suffer the loss of an SME’s time or believing – with some justification – that spotlighting will make them prime targets for recruiters.
Let’s start with the last objection. While promoting the expertise of your people may draw attention to their skills, there are many other ways for recruiters to find promising candidates these days. Any SME with a well-crafted LinkedIn profile is going to get calls, and that’s outside your control. Keep in mind, also, that most tech companies are eager to feature their valuable talent in blogs and videos.
Based upon my conversations with B2B marketers, I expect that only a small percentage of your SMEs will become enthusiastic supporters of your content marketing programs. Focus on maximizing their experience and others will come along. Don’t waste your time pursuing people who simply don’t want to participate. Identify those who communicate and share instinctively and give them the motivation and tools to work with you.
In particular, look for SMEs who:
- are already active in social channels, just not yours;
- are frequent speakers at professional conferences;
- contribute to trade publications or professional journals;
- frequently share links or ideas via email;
- enjoy leading internal seminars or discussion groups; and/or
- are active contributors to your intranet or internal social network.
Many people don’t share because they don’t think to. Demonstrate to them that it’s a small step from sharing with an email list to sharing with the world. Set up an internal webinar or recorded video demonstration of how to use tools like ShareThis, HootSuite, Buffer or any of the many other browser extensions that make sharing webpages, videos and slide presentations one-click easy. Help them set up a Twitter account, then follow them and retweet their content. Ask your marketing colleagues to do the same.
For SMEs who are already publishing long-form content such as research papers and articles in trade publications, the steps needed to expand their voice to a bigger audience are minimal. Contributed articles can usually be repurposed on your company blog a few days or weeks after they’ve appeared in another publication. Check the terms of the contract, and be sure your author retains copyright. Long articles may be broken down into several short posts and presented as a series. Do as much of the production work as you can so the SME can focus on content.
Surprisingly, many B2B marketers still haven’t heard of SlideShare, the presentation-sharing social network that can be a gold mine for B2B content. Whenever you hear that your SMEs are presenting at a conference or local meeting, invite them to give you copies of their slides to post on SlideShare. Chances are they’ll be amazed to go back a few weeks later and see how many people have viewed it.
Perhaps the easiest way to get SMEs to share is to take a tape recorder or video camera into the workplace and ask them to spend a few minutes talking about a favorite topic. Give them an advanced look at what you plan to publish and then promote it through all of your customer-facing channels.
Above all, show results. Put tools in place to measure views, shares, comments, likes, downloads and other metrics of engagement. Be sure that everyone on your team is actively up-voting, sharing and commenting upon your SMEs’ content. Feature their contributions in newsletters and company blogs. Of course you’re going to tweet everything, right?
Social media is like a drug. The more SMEs see the reaction their content generates, the more they’ll want to contribute. Celebrate their achievements and the generosity of their managers in sharing their time. Be patient and persistent; over time, your content marketing momentum will grow.