As social media becomes an accepted—and expected—tool in the B2B marketing toolkit, more companies are looking for answers about how to craft successful social media strategies.
Statistics can be a great way to support your story, but without the proper context they can also raise questions. So it’s no surprise that stats inspired many of the questions in my recent webinar, The Value of Social Media in B2B:
- B2B companies that blog generate 67% more leads/month than those who don’t. (Hubspot, State of Inbound Marketing Lead Generation Report, 2010)
- 41% of B2B companies are acquiring customers through Facebook. (Hubspot, State of Inbound Marketing Report, 2011)
- Social media helps B2B marketers improve search results. (BtoB Magazine, July 2010)
Jeff Klingberg, President/CEO of Mountain Stream Group, Inc., questioned the Facebook stat from Hubspot, saying it “doesn’t jibe with studies indicating that many companies block employee access to Facebook.”
It’s an interesting point. Research from Robert Half Technology earlier this year showed 31% of companies block all social media access (down from 54% two years ago), while 51% permit access for business purposes only. The Fortune 500 companies Jeff has spoken with recently don’t allow social media access for two reasons: potential security risks and productivity concerns.
A couple of thoughts: Many buyers access Facebook outside of work (although they may be looking at photos of grandkids rather than checking out your B2B company page). And the Facebook stat I presented came from a Hubspot survey, where nearly 40% of the respondents work for very small companies. Perhaps these businesses are not selling to large enterprise customers with rigid access policies.
Here are a few of the other questions that came in…
Q. Is social marketing good for a (fill in the blank) business?
A. It’s understandable that people want to know whether social media is the right thing for a business like theirs—and if so, which networks they should participate in. But that’s a question each business has to answer for itself; there’s no one right way to do it.
Certain industries, including technology and marketing, are more active in social media. But regardless of business size or industry, you have to look at your specific audience and see which networks they are most engaged in. The other thing to keep in mind is that people often use social networks differently for personal and professional purposes. The data I shared about IT buyers’ top networks related to networks they use most often to inform technology purchase decisions.
Start by asking what problems your prospective customers are trying to solve and search on LinkedIn Answers for questions on those topics—think at the business problem level, not the product level.
Q. How does one originate a B2B conversation on LinkedIn, and what B2B subjects/statements should be avoided?
A. The best approach on LinkedIn—or any network for that matter—is to be respectful of the community and culture. That means investing a little time there and observing before jumping in. Search through LinkedIn Groups in your interest area to see what kinds of topics get the most traction. Search LinkedIn Answers for relevant questions and see how other people are responding to them. You’ll see active users who have earned the “Best Answers” honor in particular categories—follow their lead.
The biggest “don’t” on LinkedIn or other social networks: coming in with a sales pitch. As Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman say in Content Rules, “share or solve; don’t shill.”
Q. How do you measure the ROI for trust and advocacy?
A. Although it’s not quite as straightforward as tracking a sale back to a tweet, there are some useful metrics for measuring the softer side of social media. In their book Social Marketing to the Business Customer, Paul Gillin and Eric Schwartzman devote an entire chapter to ROI—including some great sample calculations—and they address the challenges of quantifying the softer outcomes.
For example, you can measure customer loyalty through renewal rates, incremental business, testimonials and the Net Promoter score. They don’t specifically mention trust and advocacy, but you can extrapolate. The Net Promoter score relates to customer loyalty but also advocacy: “How likely is a customer to recommend your product to a friend?”
What questions do you have about implementing social media for your company?