Guarantee Your B2B Social Media Marketing ROI in Just 7 Steps

b2b-social-media-roiWhen social media first started gaining traction, CMOs and other B2B marketing heads saw the value of the new marketing channels. Since that time, social media marketing budgets have increased substantially, yet a majority of businesses fail to deliver a quantifiable return on their investment.

What can marketers do to ensure their efforts are generating a true and effective ROI? They can take these seven steps:

1. Know your why and set a goal

This is the critical first step that is needed to explain why an initiative is important enough to spend money on in the first place. State upfront what you are trying to accomplish and why you’re doing it. It’s important to outline clear deliverables such as increasing the number of leads from a source or securing a specific number of email sign ups from a certain initiative, and communicate why it’s important.

2. Identify and target the right audience

Without knowing who the key customers will be, you run the risk of a scattered approach that may dilute your message and drastically increase your costs. Some sample questions to ask yourself to help: who in your current customer base is the right fit for your product or service? Who buys the most and why do they buy? What have they purchased from you before? Do their purchasing patterns suggest they might be a good target?

3. Develop specific content for the audience and determine the correct outlet or channel

Determine the best avenue and media format to communicate your content to an engaging audience. The answer is not typically a one-size-fits all approach. Will video communication work better than written content to better showcase your product? Should you write a 600 word blog post or are 140 character tweets more logical? Do status updates on Facebook make more sense?

4. Allow the product to market itself

Many businesses don’t yet realize it, but providing a great product experience allows customers to determine if your product really fits their needs. One simple way to do this is to offer customers the opportunity to experience the product for free. The freemium strategy of the 21st century has created billions of users and spawned tremendous new business opportunities.

5. Generate brand advocacy

Creating and amplifying advocates should be front and center on every marketer’s agenda. The blueprint for how to turn advocates and owned media into a powerful marketing force is the key. Get your brand on customers’ pages in social media channels and have them share information with their networks about the product or service. This generates word of mouth marketing, which is one of the most effective kinds of marketing.

6. Engage with people on social networks

Too many businesses lack this step too. If your product or service is mentioned on a customer’s social media page, engage with that person. Start a conversation directly with customers – it will make a huge impact of their perception of your product or brand. Engaging with customers on social media is one of the fastest and most effective ways to create brand advocates.

7. Track and analyze your success

Defining and determining a technology solution to track important metrics must be done proactively. You need to know what data you need to show, how to go get it, and then show it simply. There are a variety of services that can help you proactively gauge the impact of your strategy, so that in the end you have a tangible ROI that is defensible in front of any CMO or CEO.

Social media marketing is the biggest opportunity to marketers since the web, and it’s now time to develop a clear strategy, create advocates, and generate leads and sales.

Next time you have to justify your budget to implement a successful social media campaign and provide a tangible ROI, rely on these seven steps to get you there.

Photo: Instagram

3 Unique Ideas from SXSW B2B Social Media Panel

At this year’s SXSW, one of the strongest B2B social media sessions was the panel “Social Media in the Underground World of B2B.” The panel provided eye-opening insight and touched on some unexpected topics, making it an invaluable learning session for B2B marketers.

SXSW B2B Social Media PanelThe presenters included Duane Schulz from Xerox Corporation (@duaneschulz), Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems (@JeanetteG), Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA (@sbenzur), Susan Emerick (@sfemerick) from IBM and Melissa Chanslor from Text 100 (@Chanslor).

The panel opened by covering social strategy and engagement. The panelists agreed that the best place to start B2B social media marketing is where your audience is. Identify areas where key decision makers spend their time. Shape your engagement strategy around where those prospects are. Use listening tools, participate in the conversation, and measure effectiveness.

Unique Idea #1: Use Facebook and OpenID for B2B Website Login
Show the connection from social to sales. Cisco Systems is using Facebook and OpenID for login on their website. It’s led to a 40% reduction in cost and has increased event registration by 20%.

When it comes to participation, find the best social citizens within your organization to enact the social strategy. Enable them to be true representatives of the brand. By recruiting the right subject experts internally, brands can bring value to the conversation. And no one knows your brand better than your employees, so enable them and make sure they reflect your brand properly.

IBM stresses the importance of their people understanding that they represent the brand, and if they do it well, customers will become brand ambassadors too.

Adoption among employees is key. Engaged employees equals engaged customers. So how do you get employees to adopt social media?  Expose them to it.

Unique Idea #2: Conversation Starters
NVIDIA and Cisco System have large LCD screens that display real-time Twitter streams and other social conversations in high traffic areas of their office (meeting areas, near bathrooms, etc.). Employees routinely stop to see what is being mentioned about their brand online. This tactic leads to employee engagement.

When asked about B2B social media challenges, the panelists pointed to ROI and internal resources being the biggest obstacles.

On the topic of ROI, panelists noted that social media ROI can’t always be measured. They recommended creating benchmarks and showing growth over time.  Show that you changed a trend.

Shanee Ben-Zur from NVIDIA provided additional insight: “Your business objectives should guide you to what you should measure. Tie social back to the original objective and use that as the measurement standard.”

Dwayne Schulz said that Xerox is not worrying about ROI for the next 2 years.  Their goal is to create a literate community within their organization first.

Unique Idea #3: Gamification
Many B2B marketers may feel that gamification is only for consumer marketing, but rewarding people for participation and incentivizing behavior are tactics B2B marketers can employ too.  Integrate game mechanics into an interaction to emotionally engage and empower users.

IBM and Cisco are using gamification now. “IBM is using gamification internally to build leaders through rewards and recognition” mentioned Susan Emerick.  And Jeanette Gibson from Cisco Systems mentioned how they were using it on their blog.  “You can get badges for sign up, reading, commenting, sharing, etc.”

Although the panel covered several other notable points, these topics seemed to generate the most interest from the session attendees.  And with good reason- all are unique concepts that help these notable brands achieve success with their B2B social media marketing.

Are you using any of these unique B2B social media ideas?  Share your thoughts, stories and feedback in the comments.

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 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 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 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.

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.

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?

This Week’s Inspiring B2B Social Media Posts

If you work in B2B social media and you have some of the same search terms and feeds set up as I do, you may have already seen these posts flash by your field of vision. Just in case you missed them, here are some recent posts that you might find relevant. It is a diverse mix of posts about general social media B2B, ROI, advertising, sales and hiring. If there are other recent posts that have been particularly inspiring to you this week (including your own), leave them in the comments below.

3 Reasons B2B Social Media Makes So Much Sense
by Amber Naslund (@ambercadabra) on the Radian6 blog
We’re talking about social media for B2B this month. (We wrote a nifty eBook about it just in case you missed it). It’s something that comes up over, and over, and over in conversations in our industry. There’s an impression sometimes that in business-to-business companies, social media just doesn’t have a strong case. But that simply isn’t true.
continue reading

ROI Absent From Yet Another Marketing Meeting
(also titled: Where In The World Is B2B Social Media ROI? when syndicated on another site)
by Jeremy Victor (@JeremyVictor) on
Is this a familiar scene? Are you spending a lot of time talking about B2B social media and content marketing, only not acting because you can’t find ROI?
continue reading and view a B2B marketing comic

B2B Ads: Women click, men act
by Rebecca Lieb (@lieblink) on Econsultancy
How do businesspeople interact with online ads? Women click on them, men act on them, and both genders do so at vastly differing times of the day (and night).
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IBM’s social media skills initiative for partners
by Walter Adamson (@g2m) on Customer Think
IBM is often ranked in the top 50 of US companies in terms of social media savviness, but like most companies which sell indirect that savviness does not necessarily translate down through the channel. This means that channel partners are actually missing the opportunity to leverage the investment that IBM is making in social media to help grow their business.
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Six Tips for Recruiting a B2B Social Media Hire
by Elizabeth Sosnow (@ElizabethSosnow) on Spin Sucks
Public relations recruiting can be tough, but B2B social media recruiting activity almost put me into an early grave this year. We spent months searching for someone who understood how to marry the complexities of thought leadership creation and hands-on digital skills.
continue reading

SXSW: David Meerman Scott Riffs on B2B and ROI

David Meerman Scott is a marketing strategist, keynote speaker, seminar leader, and the author of The New Rules of Marketing & PR, an award-winning BusinessWeek bestseller published in 24 languages. He is also the author of the hit book World Wide Rave and three other books. His Web Ink Now blog is ranked by AdAge Power 150 as a top worldwide marketing blog.

I talked to David at SXSW in Austin, Texas and he shared his thoughts with me on topics that he has spoken about before. David has strong views that may seem contrarian at first, but upon reflection, you realize that he presents clarity of situations that others just don’t see.

Is there any difference between B2B and B2C company? Not according to David. You are still selling to people.

And what about the ROI of social media? David views social media as a new form of communication, similar to a telephone or a computer. You don’t measure the ROI of those anymore. Watch the video to hear him say it and let us know if you agree with him or disagree in the comments below.

When Measuring Social Media’s ROI For B2B Don’t Chase The Wrong Goals

You can measure anything as long as you have a clear goal to measure right? Sure, but what if you have the wrong goal? Well then everything you are measuring is wrong. As many have said before, measuring social media is not some magic spell that you have to cast just right to find the perfect answer. Instead, it is about having a defined plan, collecting data from start to finish, and making sure that you are looking at the data through the right lens.

Quality Vs. Quantity: B2B’s Biggest Challenge Measuring Social Media ROI

Most clients think big, and want “big.” They want more fans, subscribers, followers and this is all under the illusion that more is better. I am here to argue that especially for B2B, that is not the case at all. Often times with B2B social media less is more.

Why do you want 10,000 twitter followers if you only have 250 target customers and influencers in the world? This simply doesn’t make sense. The opportunity that social media provides is the opportunity to scale relationships.

What Moves The Needle

Numbers don’t move the needle, advocates do. Advocates support you brand, your products, come visit you at tradeshows, while numbers just sit in the column of a Twitter account or spreadsheet. Instead of chasing numbers, I suggest determining the people that can actually move the needle of transactions and brand advocacy.

A Guide To B2B Social Media Decision-Making

One of the reason that many B2B organizations chase the wrong kind of numbers on the social web, is because it is really easy to do it. In a world where shiny applications and friend counts rules, it is to easy to get distracted. When planning and executing your B2B social media strategy ask yourself these questions in an effort to ensure focus on the right numbers.

1. Does This Effort Help Me Connect With Someone Who Can Purchase My Product?
2. Does This Strategy Help Convert A Customer Into An Advocate?
3. Do The Strategies And Tactics Tie Into My Sales Funnel And CRM system?
4. Is My Strategy Leveraging The Support Of Internal And Existing Advocates?
5. Are Measurable Objectives That Drive Transactions Integrated Into The Entire Social Media Strategy?

I hope these questions help you get started. Additional I hope this post reminds you to chase the right goals. With B2B social media often the question for ROI needs to be “who” not “how many”.

How are you currently measuring the ROI of social media?

The Business End of Social Media ROI

Olivier Blanchard is on a mission to raise the business profile of Social Media. While everyone talks about social media and tries to justify the expense for social media programs, Olivier reminds us that ROI means “return on investment” and nothing else. The only way to measure social media return on investment is to look at the money spent on social media and compare it to the change in sales that can be attributed to social media. Company managers care about saving money and increasing sales. Those are the only places the return can come from. The days of warm fuzzy return from social media are over.

Below is the video of Olivier’s presentation at the Social Fresh confrence, as well as the slide deck of his presentation.