The Value of Social Media Marketing
Whether it is during a consulting engagement, a job interview or even at a dinner party (yes, it did just come up at a dinner party!), everyone is perplexed by social media marketing.
On the surface, everyone "gets it". You want your customers to be talking about your product, to each other, to you and to potential prospects. You want to leverage the shift from text-based content to images and videos due to their powerful story-telling ability. You want to leverage these new (well, relatively) channels to reach customers in their world. The end result is a powerful brand, cult-like following and profitable growth.
The first issue that trips us many marketers is applying social media marketing to a B2B environment. It's easy to think of how companies like McDonalds, Estee Lauder and other B2C companies could leverage social media because there is extensive research on how consumers (down to very detailed demographic and psychographic analysis) use social media to learn about and ultimately make purchase decisions. However, what about companies like Caterpillar or Oracle or similar B2B-driven companies. Do business decision-makers use social media in their purchasing decisions? Do procurement leaders monitor twitter feeds of key suppliers? Do CFOs check-in on LinkedIn Finance groups? Historically, the answer was "No, social media is for B2C companies". However, there is an increasing body of research that proves this to be wrong. Unfortunately, most companies don't know enough about the social media habits of their buyers because they simply haven't invested in doing the research and then using that information to change their marketing strategies and tactics.
The second issue is how to evaluate the performance of social media marketing. I've yet to find a CEO, CFO or Board members who cares about "followers" or "likes" or anything like that (particularly in companies where the product isn't purchased on line). Instead, they want to know how many leads or opportunities were created from our investment in social media. Even for great marketers, that isn't a simple (some would argue it isn't even fair) question to answer. After all, social media marketing is more about creating a true, bi-directional and realtime dialogue with customers, not just about lead generation.
So, what's the answer? What is a marketing executive to do?
Align around the ICP. Make sure the key leaders (marketing, sales, CEO) are all in agreement on what your company's Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). This will help you determine whether social media is reaching the people critical to your product or service.
Research your Buyers. You may know what conferences your buyers attend, but do you know their "digital hangouts"? Are they on LinkedIn? Facebook? Instagram? If so, how active are they? Do they belong to or lead groups? Do they view these as valuable sources of information or decision-support? This is essential so you can understand where they are seeking insight and advice and can also adjust your marketing tactics and spend.
Focus on Engagement and Relevancy. If you're trying to justify social media spend solely based on lead generation, you're in a deep, deep hole. Instead, social media should be viewed first and foremost as a critical strategy for engaging with customers and prospects. In this model, the logic is that deeper and more consistent engagement will create preference, differentiation, increased purchases and greater loyalty. Given this, "likes" and "followers" IS important. In fact, there are numerous KPIs you can track (using tools like Kissmetrics, HootSuite, Keyhole, Oktopost and even Googe Analytics) to monitor engagement:
Likes & Shares – how relevant and engaging is your content?
Growth/Rate of Followers – are you consistently relevant to them?
Active Fans – are your followers actively engaged (ie, commenting on your posts, retweeting, etc)?
Growth in Organic Search Traffic - are more people searching for and finding you?
Clicks-per-Post - Are people clicking on your links? How much traffic are these links generating? Is your content and messaging aligned?
Audience Profiles - how well do your active fans match your ICP? Having passionate fans is good, but it's better if they're the people you're targeting!
Audience Demographics- how well do our followers match our target audience?
Reputation - your brand is what people say and think about you when you're not with them. Do you know what people are saying about you on other websites?
Lead Generation - naturally, you will want to track how many leads came in from social media sources and which ones.
The world of social media marketing is incredibly dynamic... the metrics and KPIs keep increasing and the number of vendors and solutions for monitoring and making sense of all of this is growing exponentially. Remember, you must have these four things to succeed:
Solid alignment on the purpose of social media marketing on the business
Know what social media channels are relevant to your target buyers
Clear social media content and delivery strategy to ensure your content is relevant and consistent
Zealous tracking of a key set of KPIs