It genuinely surprises me to see there are still some that seem to believe that investing in social media is risky business. Why would a company not want to know exactly what customers think of their brand and products?
Being able to reach into the minds of your customers is no longer a mere figment of marketers’ imaginations. It’s a reality. As is the ability to learn what your competitors are up to in real time and understand market reactions. Social media listening provides businesses with the opportunity to identify where your customers are talking, engage them in conversation, and – when the time is right – convert ‘prospects’ to ‘advocates’.
Despite this fast-changing digital world, what doesn’t change is a client’s expectation that ROI must be achieved, no matter the marketing discipline or methodology. Fortunately, social media provides opportunities for B2B marketers to measure referral traffic, net new customer opportunities and brand share of voice through accurate reporting.
Earlier on in the digital era, businesses rubbed their hands over the reach their corporate websites would afford, and other one-to-many communications models. All of a sudden, businesses could sculpt their online presence as desired – a relatively cost-effective way to engage customers en masse, rather than seeking one-on-one engagement via ‘physical’ marketing collateral.
The appeal of the early one-to-many communications model – e.g. corporate websites – was obvious. It was as a cost-effective way to engage customers. Then they realised – although websites made it easy to speak to customers, it was impossible to engage them. That’s now changed.
Although capturing online intelligence isn’t always the most straightforward process, our experience shows there are a few basic steps every B2B practitioner can take to ensure social media success.
- Do your ground work before digging the trench Don’t tack a ‘social media execution’ onto the end of other business and marketing communications activities. Before B2B marketers jump into social media, they should first ask themselves: What do I want to accomplish? Is it filling a new business pipeline, developing and showcasing industry expertise, or uncovering customer insights? A recent report cited 69% of B2B marketers are ignoring social media feedback from their customers. If you’re not tapping into the insights already available to you, you’re missing a vital opportunity.
- 'Likes' are not the be-all and end-all B2B social media marketing isn't a popularity contest. If all you want are 'likes', spend $20,000 on Facebook advertising and drive people to your page. If you want genuine business results, develop a deeper understanding of the customer and what they want or need from your business. Listen to their needs and build relevance in their eyes. The days of pandering to accumulating mere 'likes' and 'fans' are dead, as enormous communities of online stakeholders are valueless without engagement and insight.
- Data is the new addiction Love your data – collect it, analyse it, act on it and optimise insights learned from it. Research from Penton Marketing Services showed 26% of B2B marketers don’t know how to measure their social media success, but a rigorous measurement process ensures that you uncover business results.
If you’re keen to have your CEO understand the benefits of social media, make sure you evaluating your social media activities and bring measurable results to the boardroom table. If you aren’t measuring what you’re doing (in terms of business impact, not fan counts and ‘likes’!) and learning from your successes (and failures), don’t expect social media to be taken seriously by the C-suite.
Social media marketing was once considered a fad, but doubters are now eating crow pie. The 2013 SIIA Marketing Industry Report showed that over 98% of US companies reported they are at least dabbling in social media marketing. It is now clear to see that social media has grown from niche to norm, and it’s here to stay.
Now, B2B marketers must gear up to move past prejudices and seize the potential of social media to drive business impact.