5 Ways to Prove the Value of B2B Social Media
When it comes to B2B marketing, and especially B2B Social Media, managers, directors, executives, and board members want to see results. It is for these reasons that historically B2B companies have hesitated to invest resources into social media marketing.
Beyond the perceived inability to prove its effectiveness, many B2B companies have lagged in embracing social media as a marketing tool simply because they are comfortable with the strategies they have already been employing for countless years. This mindset does not auger well – it indicates a company may be falling into what author Jim Collins refers to as “Hubris Born of Success.” In this stage of the “5 Stages of Decline,” companies tend to assume that, since they are already successful they no longer need to innovate or embrace new strategies. It’s imperative that B2B companies not fall into this trap.
Many of the tried and true marketing strategies employed by B2B companies have easily measurable results and well understood benefits – another reason that marketers have been hesitant to put resources towards new strategies.
Social media is no longer just an option for B2B marketers; it is an absolute must. Unfortunately, many B2B companies are still not aware of the need of B2B social media, and many have little faith in its value.
What a B2B marketer needs is the ability to prove that social media has a real benefit to a company. While some B2B marketers would like to implement a serious social media marketing strategy, they require the tools to prove its necessity. A marketer, like most employees, needs to provide results to the company in order to continue to receive the necessary resources – let alone keep their job!
Lead generation, customer acquisition, community growth, engagement, and web traffic are the metrics most used by B2B marketers to measure and prove the value of social media. However, it is the first two in this list that are the most important, and the majority of a marketer’s focus should be placed on them.
Leads are the lifeblood of every B2B company. Without them, a sales team has no database to work with. Lead generation, more than anything else, has long been thought impossible to associate with social posting. While in the early days of social media this was true, new social media management platforms have emerged that allow a marketer to track a lead from social click to conversion. Oktopost, for example, enables users to see exactly which post, channel, campaign and profile was responsible for a specific lead.
Leads can be generated through social media in several ways. Distributing blog content across social channels is a popular and effective way to generate leads. A marketer creates a social post leading back to the company blog, the reader then has the company in his or her mind as a thought leader. Later, when that person comes across additional content that is gated (such as a white paper or webinar) they are far more likely to give their contact details – and thus, a lead generated from social media is created. Again, in order to see this type of lead journey, a marketer will need to utilize a third party platform that can analyze the source of a socially generated lead.
With detailed metrics regarding social media driven leads, a marketer can analyze the most effective ways to carry out a social media campaign, such as language in a post and the type of content to share.
In order to fully understand the connection between social media posting and customer acquisition a marketer will first need to implement a system to accurately measure the leads generated from social. If this is not done, the best a marketer can do is to watch for an increase (or decrease) in customer acquisition and make an “educated” guess as to how many were the direct result of social posting. “Guessing” is never a good strategy in marketing, or business in general.
Following the effect of social posting on customer acquisition requires a marketer to follow those leads that have been generated from social media further down the funnel. Once socially acquired leads are in the system, they can be tagged (for example, by using a marketing automation system) as social media leads. Once a socially acquired lead converts into a paid customer, it will be possible to know that that lead came from social media.
It is true that a B2B marketer’s main focus should be on lead generation, but that does not mean that other aspects of social media should be neglected. Given the social aspect of social media, a large and engaged community is also necessary.
Luckily for marketers, social channels understand the importance of community growth. As such, they generally provide tools that enable marketers to see how much their communities have grown, as well as detailed information about their community members. Facebook, for example, has Facebook Insights which allows page managers to easily see metrics about their community growth, as well as reach of posts and clicks.
Piggybacking on the previous point, social media requires a marketer to be social; it is a two-way conversation. An increase in community size is great, but without having community members that are engaged it is not only not effective, it is counter productive.
For the last few years, Facebook has been limiting the organic exposure of social posts, significantly. While there has been a sustained uproar against this practice, when looked at objectively, it is quite obvious why Facebook would do this. Every company, especially a publicly traded company, needs to watch out for its bottom line – and advertising is Facebook’s main source of revenues.
One way of increasing the effectiveness of social posts is to pay to have their reach extended. On paper this seems like a great idea, and can be quite gratifying. Who doesn’t like to their posts getting viewed by tens of thousands of people? However, if these people are unengaged, then it is a waste of money. It is a better idea to have a smaller, more engaged community, that way even if your posts are seen by a limited amount of people, they are more likely to have a positive effect – and garner more engagement.
Web traffic is an important metric. Many companies feel that a potential lead first enters the marketing funnel when they visit the company website. As a result, B2B marketers are often judged mainly on an increase (or decrease) in web traffic. While it is true that web traffic is incredibly important, it should not be the main metric by which a marketer is judged – certainly not for B2Bs.
Since this post focuses on proving the value of B2B social media, it’s important for a marketer to be able to prove which portion of web traffic came from social media. This is quite simple – Google Analytics makes it easy for someone to see the source of web traffic, including social media. But to get a real understanding of web traffic as a result of social media, a marketer needs to dive deeper.
Using third-party platforms that can display social media data from multiple channels is extremely beneficial for a B2B marketer. Oktopost, for example, integrates with Google Analytics in order to give marketers more in-depth information about web page visitors who came from social media. For example, with the integration, it is possible to not only see the breakdown of web traffic from each social channel, but also social campaigns, and LinkedIn Discussion Groups.
If you are a B2B marketer, feel free to comment below about how your company has (or has not) embraced social media!