5 Ways to Measure Results of B2B Social Media

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.

2. Conversions

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?

Creative Commons Image from Flickr

Getting Better at B2B Social Media

Social media for B2B companies is not something that you turn on, set it and forget it. Not only do existing tools change and new tools appear, but your customers and prospects interact differently with social media as they become more comfortable using it. Inherent in change is improvement. Professionally, we all want to do better than we did last month or last quarter or last year. Some of the following posts will help inspire you to do that. There is a reluctance to track hard metrics because this holds people and campaigns accountable for their success, but in the long run, we need to understand what works and what doesn’t so we can achieve better results.

12 Ways to Improve B2B Social Media Marketing in 2012
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Why People Dislike Metrics
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I was talking to one of my customers about her experience trying to introduce the use of metrics into the business processes she is managing. Janet is in the gourmet food marketing business and was hoping to use analytics for discovering the patterns of shoppers’ consumption of her products by the time of day, as well as an impact of promotional events on the sales results. The food business, in her words, is a very fragmented environment and even the simplest business process tends to involve a number of companies to perform.
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How to Meet Google’s Newest Quality Standards for Content
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The Evergreen Laws of Marketing
from Chief Marketing Technologist
I’ve shared the laws of technology for marketers. But what about laws of marketing for technologists? The single most insightful marketing book I’ve ever read was published nearly 20 years ago, before the Web was anything more than an academic experiment: The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.
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Fear and Social Media Don’t Mix
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Cynics might argue that institutions inherently distrust anything they can’t control. But their challenge in dealing with social media has more to do with the culture of caution and conservatism that every traditional organization seems to engender.
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B2B Social Media Metrics Need to Match Goals

One of the biggest challenges B2B marketers face is measuring their success using social media. Social media should not exist in a silo and needs to connect to your business goals. Tying these together may not something that you can do right out of the gate. You need to establish social media goals that are in line with meeting business goals, and it might take you several steps to get there.

For example, if one of your business goals is to drive sales, as measured by increasing leads, you need social media goals that can get you there. You might start by growing your following base to increase reach. You might develop a content plan so you have something to share. You might set baselines of page views or other traffic driving metrics. These are all short terms goals that get you to your longer term goal of tracking how social media drives leads. And when starting out, you may not even have significant data to tie to lead generation.

A study by Chief Marketer and published by emarketer revealed that most B2B marketers are really at an early adoption stage of social media, because while they focus on social media engagement in their tactics, they are measuring their success by largely irrelevant numbers. 60% track followers and likes and only 35% measure qualified leads from social media as a metric of success.

What are your biggest challenges in measuring your social media success, and how do they compare with what other marketers are doing?

Another 18 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics

B2B Social Media StatisticsWith the popularity of our 28 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics post last year, we wanted to make sure we kept our readers up to date on the latest statistics coming out of various B2B social media reports and studies. Here’s a list of 18 additional stats from a variety of sources to curb your stat-hungry appetite.

Usage:

  • More than nine out of ten B2B marketers (93%) say they conduct social media marketing to some extent. (Source)
  • More than two-thirds of B2B marketers already used social media marketing as of December 2010, where the main focus of marketing efforts was brand building. Despite customer acquisition being B2B’s top goal for the year, less than half of respondents were using social media for lead generation. (Source)
  • More B2B companies have been using social media longer (52.6% reported 1 year or more) than their B2C counterparts (46.2% indicated 1 year or longer). (Source PDF)

Budget:

  • This year 78.5% of B2B marketers plan to increase their online budgets. (Source)
  • 69% of B2B organizations are increasing marketing budgets for inbound marketing tactics including social media. (Source)
  • Social media has become an integral part of marketing for B2B companies, with 62.6% of marketers planning to increase their spending this year. (Source)
  • 51% of B2B marketers said they will increase their content marketing budgets this year, and content marketing will make up 26% of overall B2B marketing budgets.  (Source)
  • In 2010, social media, websites and email each received a median of 10% of B2Bs’ online marketing budgets. (Source)

Channels:

  • Among surveyed B2B marketers who conduct social marketing, 26% cite LinkedIn as their single most important social tool, 20% cite Facebook, 19% cite blogging, and 14% cite a customer community as their top tool. (Source)
  • B2C are more focused on Facebook and B2B are more focused on LinkedIn and video. Also note that B2B companies are utilizing blogs more. (Source PDF)
  • B2B companies are significantly more likely to plan on increasing their use of LinkedIn (71% of B2B versus 51% of B2C). (Source PDF)
  • 39% of B2B companies plan on increasing their forum use (versus 34% of B2C). (Source PDF)
  • B2C companies are more interested in learning about Facebook (74%) and blogging (72%) versus B2B (Facebook and blogging: 65%). (Source PDF)
  • 100% of Fortune 500 Company’s have executives using LinkedIn. 50% of LinkedIn’s users are decision makers in their company. 41% people using LinkedIn for marketing have generated business with it. (Source)

Challenges:

  • Asked to identify the top 3 major obstacles to adopting social media marketing, 70% of B2B marketers cite a lack of resources. Such marketers are faced with other obstacles as well, citing the following:
    -  Poorly defined success metrics and key performance indicators: 57%
    -  Lack of knowledge about social media: 44%
    -  Management resistance: 22%
    (Source)

Mobile:

  • B2B mobile marketing spending will quadruple over the next five years, rising from $26 million in 2009 to $106 million in 2014. (Source)
  • 64% of B2B decision makers currently read their email via mobile devices. (Source)

Measurement:

  • Some 75% of B2B marketers who conduct social marketing say they do not measure the ROI of social initiatives. (Source)

If you know of any other B2B social media statistics please leave the stat and source in the comments below.

Measuring the ROI of B2B Social Media

Any time people start talking about social media for B2B companies, the question always comes up about how do you measure the ROI, or return on investment, of it. There are lots of opinions of the value of this calculation on both sides of the argument. On one side, if you can’t measure the monetary value of what you are doing in either increased sales or reduced cost, it is just not worth doing. And the other side of the argument is that social media is a way of communicating that companies cannot ignore, and measuring the ROI of it is like measuring the ROI of having a telephone. I have even recently heard someone compared it to measuring the ROI of pants.

But no matter which side of the argument you land on, social media marketing is a highly measurable activity, and like other marketing tactics, unless you establish goals of success from the outset, you will never know if you have succeeded. So before we go any further, we must ask the question, are you currently measuring the return on investment of your traditional marketing programs? If not, establish parameters for those measurements before scrutinizing your social media programs, because ultimately you want to measure your social media success as a component of your marketing success. And you need to establish commonalities across all channels.

The following thoughts about measuring social media and its ROI are based on a presentation by Kim Williams that I sat in on at ConvergeSouth this past weekend in Greensboro, North Carolina. While this post is not exactly a summary of his session, the measurement approach comes from his talk.

Each of the following four sections are stacked vertically and shaped like a funnel, with Reach as the largest section at the top, narrowing as it moves down to conversion. This idea matches a sales funnel where the top is total awareness to your message and the bottom is where people take a final action where they become a lead or a sale.

Reach
Reach is the largest category and includes your whole audience. This is made up of everyone you have contact with: email subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook Likers, LinkedIn connections and followers on any other social platform. Track the growth of each one of these numbers. Set goals for how you want these numbers to grow, and pay attention to what makes these numbers grow. These are the easiest numbers to both track and grow, but they also have the least business value.

Engagement
Engagement is the quantity of the reaction to social media messages. Again, most of this is easy to measure, as it is things like Twitter re-tweets, Facebook wall posts, blog comments, LinkedIn Group comments. This is how people are responding to your content, whether by sharing or adding their own thoughts to the conversation. One way to understand engagement is to test different content, for example tweets, and measure the effect of how it drives traffic or elicits action.

Sentiment
Sentiment is the quality of reaction to the either the content you post online or content others post online about you. These can be positive, neutral or negative. The majority of comments online are neutral, but the negative ones are the most important, as they most likely require action. And while many tools can find and score the sentiment of online comments, this is one measure that requires human intervention to make sure it is correct.

Conversion
And finally, the bottom of the funnel is the conversion. You need to measure the value of the reaction to the reach. In most B2B environments, this is a lead, but in some instances this could be a sale. Once someone becomes a prospect or a customer, social media has been shown to be very successful at retention of those customers. The measurement of these leads, or sales, must be a part of all marketing efforts so you can properly understand the success rate of social media versus other channels.

ROI
Once you have your established metrics for each stage of the social media funnel, you need to develop an equation to measure what each category costs. Since many social media sites are free, companies don’t always think about the time involved as being a real cost. But to truly understand numbers like cost per lead, you must factor in creative time to develop messaging, engagement time, monitoring time, as well as the cost of any paid tools or outside resources required. The total cost divided by the number of leads, or other number that represents conversions, is the cost per lead. As these leads go into the normal sales funnel, and get qualified, you will see the return on your social media investment.

How have you measured the cost and return on your social media investment?

28 Awesome B2B Social Media Statistics

Below are a collection of B2B social media statistics collected from various sources covering a wide range of topics. We hope you enjoy digging into the numbers. If you have any other interesting stats, please add them in the comments and include the source with link.

Usage:

  • 86% of B2B firms are using social, compared to 82% of B2C. (Source)
  • B2B firms aren’t as active in their social media activity with only 32% engaging on a daily basis compared with 52% of B2C firms. (Source)
  • More than half (53.5%) of marketers surveyed said they currently use social media as part of their marketing strategy. This is up from 2009, when 45.0% of marketers said they used social media for marketing. (Source)

Forecasts:

  • Annual growth in US B2B online marketing spend is forecast at 8% in 2010 and is set to reach 14% by 2012. (Source)
  • B2B advertising spend on social media and lead generation sites is forecast to grow at an annualized rate of 21% and 17% respectively to 2013. (Source)
  • Online accounted for 7% of the B2B marketing mix in 2008. This is set to reach 12% by 2013. (Source)
  • Two thirds of B2B marketers believe that online must be complemented by traditional marketing activities. (Source)
  • Only 50% of B2B marketers formally analyze metrics to judge ROI – but those that do find online marketing more effective. (Source)
  • B2B marketing spending on social networking sites is predicted to rise 43.3%. (Source)
  • Forrester predicts B2B interactive marketing spending to reach $4.8 billion by 2014 – almost double that estimated for 2009 ($2.3 billion). (Source)
  • B2B social media marketing spending will grow from just $11 million in 2009 to $54 million in 2014. (Source)
  • US business-to-business (B2B) advertising and marketing spending will increase by 0.8% this year, to $129 billion. (Source)

Executive Interest:

  • 36% of B2B execs surveyed said there was low executive interest in social media in their company, compared with 9% of B2C marketers who said the same. (Source)
  • 46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer-oriented marketers had the same problem. (Source)

Focus:

  • According to an eMarketer study, B2B online marketers focus on lead generation (38%), retention (34%) and awareness (28%).  (Source)
  • The top applications for the use of social media for b2b marketers are thought leadership (59.8%), lead generation (48.9%), customer feedback (45.7%) and advertising on sites (34.7%). (Source)

Channels:

  • Asked to rate the effectiveness of specific social media sites in their marketing efforts, more than one-half of respondents said that Facebook was “extremely” or “somewhat” effective. Somewhat fewer said the same of LinkedIn, and just 35% considered Twitter effective. (Source)
  • In contrast, when Hubspot surveyed B2B companies in North America about lead generation through social channels, 45% rated LinkedIn effective, compared with just 33% who said the same of Facebook. (Source)
  • Methods generating the highest B2B ROI are topped by advertisers’ own websites, followed by conferences, exhibitions and trade shows; direct mail; search engine keywords; and e-marketing/e-newsletters. (Source)
  • B2B advertisers see cross-media marketing as most effective; 78% combine three or more major marketing methods. (Source)

Measurement:

  • 34% of B2B marketers said they were not measuring social success at all versus just 10% of B2C respondents. (Source)
  • Website traffic, brand awareness, engagement with prospects and engagement with customers are the leading metrics used to measure the success of social media for B2B companies. (Source)

Resource Allocation:

  • 60% of B2B firms have no staff dedicated to social media compared with 54% of B2C players. (Source)
  • Just 10% of B2B firms use outside agencies or consultants compared with 28% of B2C firms. (Source)

Budgets:

  • B2B product marketers were spending an average of 3.4% of their marketing budgets on social media in February 2010, and B2B services marketers were spending 6.5%. Respondents expected those proportions to reach 7.4% and 11%, respectively, over the next year. (Source)
  • B2B marketing spending on social networking sites is predicted to rise 43.3% in 2010. (Source)
  • 39.2% of B2B marketers say they plan to boost their marketing budgets in 2010, 47.5% plan to keep them flat; and 13.3% plan to decrease them.  Among those that plan to increase budgets, 11.1% plan to raise them by more than 30%; 18.8% plan to increase them between 20% and 29%; 31.1% plan increases between 10% and 19%; and 39.0% plan to increase budgets less than 10%. (Source)
  • Within online marketing, the top areas that will see spending increases include Web site development (70.7% plan increases), email marketing (68.6%), search marketing (62.3%), social media (60.3%), video (50.7%) and webcasts (46.0%) (Source)

How to Fail at B2B Social Media

Many B2B companies are heading into 2010 with a slight bit of optimism, but they still are operating under tight budgets that demand measurable results. The web in general, and social media specifically, can be metrics-driven environments, so marketing departments, agencies and consultants are being held accountable for social media results in ways that were never required for traditional marketing tactics. B2B companies need to understand that we are still in an experimental phase of social media that may require testing, monitoring, failure and change of tactics.

While failure may be part of a social media test program, here are four things that will almost guarantee failure of your social media programs. We can even assume that there is a social media strategy with a content strategy, and it is integrated with the marketing plan, and these failures will still occur.

Siloed Social Media Practitioners
No matter if you work internal for the company or are providing social media services through an agency or as a consultant, you must be connected to the rest of the marketing or communications team. And this is true whether you are providing strategy or content for the organization. If you don’t know what is going on in other parts of the marketing organization, you cannot effectively do the job you were hired for. There is nothing worse than focusing your approach around a given project only to find it has been delayed.

Solution for Success: A 30-minute weekly meeting or phone call to cover a top-level overview of other projects. This is most important if you work remotely or outside of the organization.

Lack of Engagement
After establishing accounts on social networks like Twitter and Facebook, you only tweet out your own content. You set up automated tools to gradually grow your followers, but you do not engage with them. As Twitter has become more about providing value by sharing links, it is too easy to only push out content, and only retweet others rather than seek out potential conversationalists and engage with them.

Solution for Success: Review your own tweets on a daily basis and revise your approach to include engagement. These things are cyclical, and you may want to do this on a regular basis even after you have gotten used to engaging with your growing network. If you have a Facebook fan page, make sure you visit it at least once a day to ask questions, provide information and respond to comments.

Rely Only on Social Media
Social media is part of a marketing mix and usually cannot drive sales by itself. No matter how great a blog post is, how engaging tweets are, and how helpful you are on LinkedIn, other tactics must be used as well. Social media can do a lot of things, but for certain B2B niche products or services, it is better in a support role, rather than the star.

Solution for Success: Continue to invest in traditional communications, but always include links to social sites to build those communities. A customer who is a heavy Facebook user will notice a Facebook logo on your printed catalog and become a fan. Make sure you provide content to keep him interested within Facebook.

Don’t Give It Enough Time
Building a community takes time and making drastic, knee-jerk changes too quickly without allowing natural growth will ensure your failure.

Solution for Success: Give your plan the time it deserves to grow and succeed. Set expectations at the beginning that it will take time to show results. Evaluate various metrics on a weekly basis to see if you are reaching your goals. After two months of data, you can evaluate how the program is going. You may need to make major changes to your tactics, but you have the metrics to show what kinds of things worked and where your focus needs to be.

What are some lessons you have learned about social media failures?