Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Here's what you MUST know about B2B Social Media and how to measure its effectiveness.
Social media use by B2B companies increased substantially in 2011. According to the Business Marketing Association (BMA), 89% of U.S. B2B companies are now using some type of social media to attract and engage buyers. But while some B2B companies are reaping huge benefits from social media, others are struggling.
Some B2B companies have found that professional networking sites like LinkedIn are an effective way to generate leads and influence decision-makers, while other companies find Facebook, Twitter and YouTube help them reach customers in new ways.
How B2B Companies Use Social Media
I have always found that an educated buyer is your best customer. Effective use of social media for B2B marketers is more about creating increased brand awareness than it is about lead generation. A recent study conducted by Bizo reveals that more than 40% of U.S. B2B marketers cited general awareness as the most important role social media played in their marketing mix. Only 17.3% noted lead generation as the most important role.
In an October 2011 interview with eMarketer, Mary Ann Gallo, senior director of corporate marketing and communications at Hitachi Data Systems, said the company has focused on branding in its social media outreach, and even in its overall marketing. "A lot of our marketing focus has to do with thought leadership and general branding of the company," she said. "Yes, there is some lead generation and appointment setting involved, but it is about top-level company awareness. That's the first for us." One of the most successful users of social media for B2B is Volvo Construction Equipment of North America. In discussing how the company uses social media, John Johnston, eBusiness Marketing Manager, says "Social networking is a key element to our business success because it enables us to engage the customer in a discussion that can lead to a personal relationship."
Which Social Media Platforms Work Best
B2B companies that use social media are seeing an increase in website traffic, new fans and followers, and more engaged customers and prospects.
When asked by MarketingSherpa which social media platforms are most effective, B2B marketers said LinkedIn provides the most value, followed by their Blog, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
How to Measure Social Media Business Impact
Like all users of social media, B2B marketers are faced with the challenge of measuring the impact of social media on acquiring and retaining customers. Measuring the impact of Social Media on B2B purchase is tricky, but here is a two-pronged approach that I find works well:
1. When evaluating the business impact of Social Media, B2B marketers must first know "Who" is engaging or interacting with them for each type of social media they use. These include:
- Individuals who follow and/or post tweets about the B2B company on Twitter
- Individuals who "like" the B2B company on Facebook
- Individuals who have joined a LinkedIn group of which the B2B company is a member
- Individuals who have visited the B2B company's YouTube channel
- Individuals who have subscribed to the B2B company's blog
2. For each type of social media used, B2B marketers should invite individuals to click on a link to the company's website, and track "What" they do when they visit. These transactions include:
- Subscribing to the B2B company's email newsletter
- Filling out a form requesting information on a specific product
- Registering to attended a live or online event
- Submitting a Dealer Locator request
- Watching a product demonstration video and downloading the product brochure
For each type of social media used, I recommend marketers use a specific "direct response URL" so they know from which social media property the visitor came. This will enable the B2B marketing team to learn which type of social media is giving them "the most juice for the squeeze."