B2B marketers like to measure things. This is not measurement for its own sake, but to determine the results of their marketing efforts. Social media, since it occurs online, is filled with measurable elements, but it can sometimes be a challenge to know which ones are worth measuring.
Start by establishing a set of goals and objectives for your social media efforts. If these goals are realistic, and measurable, you can determine how you doing in social media by examining how you are hitting your goals. And it is super-awesome if these social media goals relate to your higher level business objectives. This is easier if your company has clear marching orders, but you should at least have some idea how your company is looking to grow its business.
1. Growth of Following
Every B2B company that starts in social media begins focused on increasing followers and fans across their social profiles. While this is a tactic that should be pursued to increase the reach of your following, it is not a metric that should be obsessively measured and reported to your management. This is better understood if and when you understand how your number of followers relates to conversions. If you know that for every 1000 followers or fans, you get five leads, that is useful information. If you are trying to get to 1000 followers just to show your boss that “social is working,” you have not demonstrated anything.
Measuring conversions is the best place to start because these are actions your visitors and followers can take that have some connection to your business. You may have already determined that there is some value in these activities. This could be signing up for an email newsletter or subscribing to your company blog, but it could also be participating in a survey or leaving a blog comment. These are the things that take a visitor and get them closer to the top of the funnel. They may not be a lead yet (which we will look at next), but they have done something that shows they may have interest in you product or service in the future.
3. Leads and Sales
As many B2B companies have long sales cycles, leads are used as a proxy for sales. Generating leads through social media and tracking those efforts through your buying cycle should be one of main components of your social media efforts. If you are creating content on a blog, and you should be, to drive traffic to landing page offers for ebooks, webinars and other deeper educational content, the reporting depends on both your volume and the sophistication of your systems.
A raw number of leads generated from social media is a good start, but you should endeavor to push this further. Can you break it down by platform, offer and types of content? That’s the front end, but what about the back end? If you can measure how these leads convert to sales, then you have a better understanding of what types of content and activities appeal to your customers and prospects. This will allow you to further optimize your B2B social media efforts.
4. Cost Savings
Social media can reduce costs but you need to be realistic about measuring the real cost savings. Companies often cut outside expenses (traditional advertising and marketing) and replace them with internal costs (employee time), and the public perception of social media being free drives this approach. This does not take into account the employees’ time to create content content, manage social profiles, or even the other jobs functions that now get short-changed because they have added social media to their daily activities.
A better way to look at cost savings is to isolate it to a given activity, like customer service. Using social media to reduce the call volume of a call center is measurable if you know what an average call costs. Determine the average cost of resolving customer service issues via social media and the difference is your cost savings. Tracking this over time to meet a goal in call deflection is a measurable result. There may be upfront costs developing the process, training and materials for response, but over time, this can be more efficient for many companies.
5. Return on Investment
And finally, the last piece of measuring your results is determining the return on investment (ROI) of your efforts. This is simply determined by taking the return, or revenue, and subtracting the investment, or cost, and divide it by the cost. The hard part of determining ROI is to figure out what to include in the return and the cost. While you need to put some timeframe around these measurements, for example conduct a 90 day campaign to contain both the return and the investment, there are other ways to think of return. In The B2B Social Media Book, we suggest using a Lifetime Value of a Customer as a better return value than an individual sale. This really shows the true value of your activities to the business. The numbers are measured in dollars and the ROI is frequently expressed in a percentage. If you can accurately calculate the ROI of your social media efforts, you can compare them to other marketing activities to determine their cost-effectiveness.
Measuring B2B social media serves two main purposes. The first, and more important, is about determining success in meeting your social media goals, but the second is reporting on those results in a way that show the value of social media to your management. Ideally, there is no difference between the two. What has your experience been in developing measurable goals for social media, meeting them and reporting on them?
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