Top 10 Social Media Marketing Questions

Our friends at Social Media Examiner just released their 2012 Social Media Marketing Industry Report. This survey with 3800 marketers, half of whom work for B2B companies, uncovers the “who, what, where, when and why” of social media marketing. While there is lots of great information inside, and definitely worth a read, I wanted to share the top 10 questions that marketers want answered. This was an open-ended question on the survey. Results were compiled into common themes and ranked in order of popularity: measure, target, engage, sell, time, strategy, tactics, tools, use and selection.

Top 10 Social Media Marketing Questions

1. How do I measure the effect of social media marketing on my business?

2. How do I find my target audience with social media?

3. What are the best ways to engage my audience?

4. How do I sell with social media?

5. How should I best use my time to maximize my social media results?

6. How do I create a social media strategy?

7. What social media tactics are the most effective?

8. What are the best social media management tools?

9. How do I use the different social media platforms?

10. How do I select the right social platform for my business?

The top two questions, about measuring and finding your target audience, accounted for 40% of the responses. As a B2B marketer, are these your top questions about social media marketing?

B2B Social Media Can Increase Both Quantity and Quality of Leads

B2B marketers are constantly striving to improve the quality of leads that they generate with their marketing programs. In the traditional split between sales and marketing, the quality of leads always comes up. This causes marketers to focus on lead quality over lead quantity, but I would say that it is the same thing. If you use social media lead generation in a targeted manner and focus on increasing the overall number of leads, through the magic of mathematics, the number of quality leads will also go up.

Quality vs. Quantity
A social media program centered around a blog that provides remarkable content to your prospects, customers and followers and includes calls to action on each blog post has been shown to generate leads for B2B companies. Sharing this content on your other social media profiles extends the reach of your content and drives traffic back to your blog. Whether you grow your online followings manually, organically or with the addition of advertising dollars (for example, promoted Twitter accounts), you are better off with a larger audience than a smaller audience.

Some might argue that increasing the size of your audience, and thereby your potential leads, does not bring in better leads, but consider how you go about this. You are creating content for your target audience. You are providing valuable information that can help your prospects and customers be successful in their businesses. If you are a logistics company and you are providing content about warehousing, shipping, software and best practices to improve efficiency in these areas, it is not a big leap to say this targeted content will appeal to your target audience.

Marketing vs. Sales
The sales department is always going to say they want better leads, not more leads. This is a process problem, not a leads problem. By using social media to generate leads, you can increase the number of overall leads for your B2B company. As the number of leads goes up, processes need to be put in place to score or qualify the leads. This could be a people solution, a systems solution or both. It is critical to address the volume of leads that come in from social media early on, because as your content generation gets better and your audience grows, the number of inbound leads will also grow.

How has social media changed how you think about lead generation at your B2B company?

6 Ideas to Get Your B2B Social Media Plans Started

Your B2B company’s online marketing strategy needs to incorporate social media. The big question now is, “What, exactly, do we need to do?” The web is chock full of answers to that question. And although no two bloggers, companies or marketing and PR professionals agree on everything, the following six ideas have emerged as the basics to getting started:

1. Keep in touch with your customers with social media
Because of the ease of interactive communications, marketing and PR are more of a two-way street than ever before. Social media outlets allow you to solicit feedback, answer complaints (and compliments!), and generally get to know the companies who use (or should use) your products – all without leaving a desk. What PR or marketing strategist wouldn’t want to do that?

2. Focus your message
Actually, focus all of them. You don’t want to be saying one thing in a blog and another in a news release. Make sure that communications are coordinated throughout the company. More to the point…

3. Be authentic (and specific)
Lots of businesses offer great service and low prices, but only your company does…what? In your communications, highlight the services and products which really add value to another business. Also ensure that those communications are true to the voice of your company and its values. No one is going to fault authenticity. It is when you say or do things which are incongruent with the rest of your story that causes problems.

4. Develop distribution channels
Don’t just write a news release and put it on your website. Don’t simply create blog posts and hit publish. Promote them in a non-intrusive, organic way to people, companies, media and other groups that might be interested. Make it easy for people to subscribe and share all content published digitally. Participate in other networks that might be interested in your content and, very carefully start to introduce your own ideas into the mix after you’ve established initial credibility. If you’re unsure where to begin, PRWeb publishes an entire resource section dedicated to helping create exposure for releases specifically. Check out the latest news release distribution tips for more.

5. Link back to high-conversion areas
Every blog, news release, YouTube video, and other digital communication should have an easy-to-find, easy-to-use link back to your website. Your website, remember, is where you completely control the content and where most conversions happen. Ignore the early adopters encouraging you to give all your content to the stream. This is a mistake. You don’t have control of the signal to noise on social sites, nor are there clear calls to action there.

6. Constantly update and revise your content
Never has it been so easy (and cheap) to learn from your mistakes. All kinds of free analytical tools exist that will tell you how many times your content has been read, and shared, how well your website ranks in web searches, how effective your website is at generating conversions, and other things marketing professionals need to know.

With so many resources to help with your digital education, there really is no excuse not to get savvy. No matter where you are on the adoption curve, you must keep learning and moving forward to not just survive, but to thrive in modern marketing.

This guest post is by Jiyan Wei, director of product management for PRWeb, the leader in online news distribution and online publicity. For more tips on using press releases, follow @PRWeb on Twitter or like them on Facebook.

Connect Your B2B Customers with Social Media Profiles

Business is getting more and more social. Understanding how social it’s becoming is a challenge to many B2B marketers. Where do you go to find out if your prospects and customers are on social networks? If so, which ones?

It’s now possible to append your B2B customer and prospect databases with social media addresses and other social marketing data. This new social layer makes it possible to connect and engage with your audience across multiple channels. With this data, you’ll know the “Four W’s” of your audience:

Who: demographics, occupation, location and more
What: interests, brand affinities, lifestyles, and influence
Where: social sites used and online hangouts
With Whom: friends and associates

Reasons why you should map your customers and prospects to social media:

1. Determine if you should be on social networks
If you are unsure about whether or not you should be marketing via social media, using social appending tools will help you understand the social activity of your contacts.

2. Determine which channels to use
Learn which channels your customers or contacts use most frequently and speak to them where they are most comfortable.

3. Determine where to best devote resources
Optimize the time you spend engaging and identify potential new channels to engage your key contacts.

4. Identify influencers
Do you know who your most valuable brand advocates are? Use the number of Facebook friends, tweets, followers, etc. to identify and engage your contacts with the most marketing influence. Create content or VIP offers to target and reward this very important group.

5. Increase relevance
Gather insights from a Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile to provide marketing intelligence which can be used to create more personalized communications. Those communications can then be distributed to the most relevant segments of your database.

6. Compare prospects to customers
If you know the social behaviors of your customers, compare that to your prospects. Learn about the differences between the two groups and adjust your prospect messaging accordingly.

7. Target new customers
Once you how your customers behave in the social networks, use that information to go after others with similar profiles or behaviors.

8. Be more effective with sales and retention
Provide your sales team with prospect or customer social profile information and allow them to learn more about the contact which will promote a more authentic conversation and sales experience.

Companies that provide social marketing contact appending or influencer identification services include:

Rapleaf helps you better understand who your customers are so you can personalize communications and boost interactions while lifting conversions. Using Rapleaf can help you reveal and understand your customers’ demographics, interests, occupation, social media memberships, friend connections and more.

Netprospex is a directory of user-contributed business contacts verified with their proprietary CleneStep technology. Quickly find, view and download business contacts including phone and email addresses. NetProspex has a large database of 14 million verified B2B contacts.

Klout allows you to find and engage Twitter influencers based on topic or hashtag so you can understand their network value.

When you have an email address, Flowtown allows you to find which social networks your customers are on.

Have you used social network data to customize your B2B marketing efforts? How did it work for you? Do you see this becoming more popular as B2B marketers grow more savvy in the social marketing space?

eMarketer: B2B Marketers to Spend More on Social Media

In a post from eMarketer, according to the The CMO Survey from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the American Marketing Association (AMA), social media budgets of both B2B and B2C marketers are rising across the board, and will continue to do so in the next five years. There is no surprise in this, as marketers are changing their mix for 2010 and looking for more lower cost options to get their messages across. Social media spending is expected to rise, according to those surveyed, to nearly 20% of their budgets.

The survey breaks out categories of B2B and B2C marketing into products and services, and finds that B2B social media marketing for services is on par with marketing for all consumer products and services. Social media for B2B products spending is less than anything else and will continue to be for the next five years.

The post continues to say that social media aligns well with B2B marketing goals with its focus on building customer relationships and brand awareness.

Look for us to begin reviewing and publishing our survey data of readers soon, which also confirms a general increase in social media spending in 2010. Has social media become a bigger part of your marketing budget in 2010?

Last Chance to Participate in the Survey

Last month we posted a survey for B2B marketers to tell us about their social media plans for 2010. We have reviewed the initial results and we are looking forward to sharing this information with our readers in a series of blog posts, but we wanted to give you one last chance to participate in the survey. We are taking down the survey at the end of this week, so if you are interested, please take the survey and share this link with your peers and others in your organization to get them to participate as well.

Here is a tweet to send about the survey (copy and paste)
If you are in B2B marketing, last chance to provide your feedback in the (@smb2b) 2010 survey

Please click here to take the survey

5 Great B2B Social Media Posts You Might Have Missed

Our goal at is to help educate people about the practice of social media within B2B environments, so with that in mind we would like to share some recent posts about social media in B2B that have gotten a lot of traction the last few weeks. These are from people who write exclusively about B2B and from people who write about social media in business. If have read all of these, that’s great and this is just a reminder that you might want to glance over them again on a Friday afternoon or share them with your colleagues. If any of these are new to you, we are glad that we can provide some helpful information.

1. Social media & B2B: Interactions are opportunities
by Rich Harris (on Jennifer Leggio’s blog)

2. The Business of Social Media: B2B and B2C Engagement by the Numbers
by Brian Solis

3. Social Media For B2B
by Amber Naslund

4. Crushing the Myth of B2B Social Media
by Jay Baer

5. B2B vs. B2C: Why is Social Media MORE Opportune For B2Bs Than B2Cs? It’s The ENGAGEMENT Level, Stupid.
by Christina “CK” Kerley

What are some recent articles you have found helpful in developing your social media programs?

B2B Thoughts on Recent Acquisitions in Social Spaces

This new year is off to an exciting start with some social media consolidation through acquisitions. Last week, Jive Software, a community platform acquired Filtrbox, a social monitoring tool. And this week, Powered announced the acquisition of crayon, StepChange and DrillTeam, forming a scalable social media agency providing an end to end solution for clients.

We know that our readers are a mix of people from all different size companies and this is one of those posts that may have more relevance to small and medium sized companies where you have knowledge and influence that flows to and from the top of the company. Actually, you may be the owner of the company. If you work for a large organization, you might never have thought about how integrating other companies into the mix affects marketing or social media strategies, but it still might relate to consolidation with other departments or adding more employees to your team.

Vertical Integration
The benefit of the Powered acquisitions is their ability to provide end to end solutions, but what they are really building is a vertically integrated solution where the consultants can recommend tools and capabilities that are under the same roof. The positive side is that deep familiarity with these solutions will yield stronger results, while critics charge that clients need agnostic solutions. This doesn’t mean you need to acquire a partner to really understand the best approach to creating social media strategies, but by creating stronger partnerships with vendors, you can acquire the knowledge needed to make the right recommendations.

Connect with vendors, but not just via email or telephone. If they are local, meet with them in person. If they are not local, find some common trade events to attend. Make it clear that you are not looking for a pitch, but you want to get to know them and understand the strengths of their products or services. If they are a social media provider, they will understand the value of the relationship. If they all they can do is to keep selling you, move on.

It is very possible that you can become a victim of your own success in 2010. Many companies started social media initiatives last year with small budgets and even smaller expectations. This year those programs will be expected to have real business impact that demonstrates return on investment in the only units that matter: dollars. This means working harder to get those results sooner. If you moved the needle before, you will be expected to continue doing it. There is a time intensive aspect to social media that requires companies to continually monitor and respond across the social web. If you could buy another company or absorb another department, you would suddenly have the ability to scale those programs. Since neither of those things are likely, find ways to get a bit of time from others.

We have written about getting others outside of marketing to blog. Others in your organization are on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and niche sites related to your industry. Make sure you have a coordinated social media effort so all employees understand how to represent the company on these sites.

The combining of companies also creates efficiencies in common processes or departments like billing and human resources. After the mantra of do more with less of last year, and employees common acceptance of stressful work environments because this job is better than no job, the last thing anyone wants to hear is they need to find ways to be more efficient in their social media execution. Assuming that you will not get additional resources in the first half of the year, you will have to learn to be more efficient. Combine common tasks so they can done together. An example of this is how often you check Facebook. Pick a few set times during the day and give yourself about 10-15 minutes to scan your personal profile and the fan pages you manage. This will make sure you are keeping up with comments on the fan pages and lets you dip into your own network on Facebook. Limiting it to specific times for a set interval will guarantee that you will be efficient.

What are some other benefits of having a large amount of additional resources available tomorrow?

3 Cases When Location-Based Applications Matter For B2B

EDITOR UPDATE (7/13): Now that FourSquare has passed 2 million users and many more people are familiar with location-based services, it is worth another look at Kipp’s thoughts on B2B applications of these programs.

We are just getting started in 2010 and aside from gadget announcements from CES, the subject with the biggest amount of buzz on the web has been location-based social networking applications. Much of this buzz was created, when one of the leaders in the space, FourSquare announced that it was opening up its platform to all cities around the world. With all of this buzz, it begs the question, do these location-based networks have use cases for B2B companies?

The short answer is yes, they do. The first round of businesses that will begin to leverage these location-based applications will be local establishments like coffee shops, restaurants, gyms and other types of consumer-based small businesses. The application of services like FourSquare for them is pretty straight forward. For these businesses FourSquare acts like a public loyalty program. A quick look at the page for a business location shows who goes there and with what frequency.

How do located-based platforms benefit niche B2B companies? I can think of three cases in which they may work in the future, as these applications and the technology that supports it grows.

Making The Case For Location-Based In B2B

1. Adding A Valuable Layer To CRM – Location-based applications like FourSquare are the precursor to enterprise level location-based applications. As location-based technology begins to work its way into the enterprise, one of the key uses will be to manage sales teams and add richer data to CRM platforms. B2B companies will have private location-based networks for their sales staff. Using the GPS functionality in most smartphones used by sales staff, smart sales teams will automate locations of sales visits into the CRM system for a more accurate log of sales and nurturing activity. Additionally, it will make it easier for executives to change a sales person’s schedule to go talk with a “hot lead” because they will be able to do it on physical proximity in near real-time.

2. Identifying Prospects and Facilitating Lead Generation – Any good sales and marketing team for a B2B company has a profile of what their customers are like, or customer personas. They have an idea about their personality, what motivates them, the types of activities they like to do. A significant part of who a person is, are the places they go and the people they spend time with. If you are in the business of selling software to engineers, then you can find the places in your sales area that engineers are likely to frequent and use location-based applications as a way to connect with them.

3. Tradeshow and Event Marketing
– For many B2B companies tradeshows and other business events are all about lead generation. This lead generation has traditionally been conducted through giving away prizes or electronic RSVP information where data is collected. Location-based applications provide a new level of lead generation at events. Location-based applications would allow for more prospect information gathering and real-time offers and discounts pushed to attendees. Imagine you just announced a new product at a press conference, wouldn’t it by powerful to send a special discount for that product only to those people who were physically in that room for the announcement? Checking in on a location-based platform would be their application for the discount.

Are location-based applications going to see rapid B2B adoption in 2010? It is unlikely. Conversely though, they should not be immediately dismissed without thoughts to the potential application they have towards business objectives.

What are your thoughts on location-based applications? Do they have a place in B2B?

5 Steps To Get B2B Social Media Funded In 2010

Investment and funding are the cruel necessities needed to fund all of those great B2B social media ideas that are floating around in your head. If management won’t invest in social media efforts, it is likely many won’t ever see the light of day. Sure, hard working and clever professionals will find a way to execute some social media strategies with little or no budget, but these will be only a few components of a larger strategy that has been abandoned because of lack of funding.

In order to do what you ultimately think is the best strategy and execution for your organization, you will need to have the resources to make it happen. Like any business function, convincing executives to invest is all about doing your homework and laying down a foundation.

5 Steps to Get B2B Social Media Funded

1. Understand The Numbers – To get money you have to show that you can make money. The first step is finding some of the little things that many in your organization don’t like to do. You need to determine areas of your business that you think B2B social media can support and help grow, help reduce cost, or foster innovation. Once you understand these areas, then it is important to know the numbers tied to these business functions. How much is a lead worth? How much does a call center call cost the business? What does better R&D mean to long-term product sales. These are the answers you must be armed with.

2. Develop A Strategy Based on Financial Gains – Does social media have benefits past direct financial gains? Of course, but it is the financial modeling for your plan that will get investment, not the branding and engagement benefits. If you want your B2B social media plan to succeed then you need to build it like a business plan, not a communications plan. Make no mistake, the web is a business. The two key things to focus on is how you will drive results on current business indicators that you can demonstrate with your knowledge from step one. Additionally if you can demonstrate new sources of revenue and/or cost savings that can be generated by your social media strategy, then you will greatly increase your odds of executive support.

3. Understand The Resources Needed Before Starting – Getting something like social media approved depends a lot on your ability to impress executives and blow them away with detail and knowledge of your plan. Something I see a lot is strategies and plans presented and even approved that have a lack of understanding of the resources needed to be successful. Social media isn’t free. You will need support from current or new staff as well as budgets to pay vendors for things like social media monitoring, hosting, development, premium accounts and many others. Having these resources understood ahead of time shows that you understand the scope of work and that this isn’t just some kind of experiment. Step 3 is the information that you will present that will make sure that you are taken seriously.

4. Find and Build A Hero – The first three steps are great and may be enough for many executives, but some will want more. We have already agreed that you can’t implement the right strategy without support and investment. However, without support and investment you do have the resources to build one hero. You can find the time to work with one member of the sales team and train him to leverage social media to improve his sales results. You likely have someone in mind already. The point of this step is to demonstrate that with the right training and strategy that social media can help your sales team achieve better results. If you can showcase the example of one team member doing it right and demonstrate the results that have already happened, then it is easy to demonstrate the possible organization wide impact.

5. Set ROI Metrics and Time Table From The Beginning – Think of step five as the knock out punch in your fight for B2B social media funding. When closing out your presentation for executives it is not enough to show them the potential return for their investment. A time table has to be assigned. Make a slide with a timeline and show the increments of time you believe that will serve as ROI milestones. Setting these goals against dates will give the executive team a clear understanding and help them see how social media fits in with the big business projections calendar.

If you do these five steps and do them right it will be very hard for an executive team not to support you.

Do you agree? What do you think I left out?