Social Media’s Impact on B2B

Social Media’s Impact on B2B

by Michael Hammond

As more chatter comes up as it pertains to social media, you tend to hear a lot about consumer brands. It’s not that B2B companies aren’t finding success in social media marketing, but those companies that go B2B aren’t as open in sharing their results with social media. Sound familiar? Everyone thinks their way of processing a loan or their way of automating the processing of a loan is their secret sauce. The reality is that there are a lot of best practices that can and should be shared.

However, as things go mainstream, the silence ends. We’re seeing that with B2B social media usage today. As we dig into the results publicized in these case studies, you might ask: What does B2B success look like? How are B2B companies evaluating the results of social media marketing efforts? Based on analysis of a number of published B2B social media case studies, here are some of the criteria used to judge success.

Common objectives for B2B social media marketing efforts include:

  • Increased brand awareness (e.g., measured by increases in direct web traffic and branded search visits)
  • Increased overall website traffic (particularly from branded search or visits referred directly from social media and social networking sites)
  • Enhanced brand image and credibility as an industry thought leader or category expert
  • Expanded social media following (e.g., number of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans)
  • Increased engagement (number, depth and quality of interactions with customers and prospects)
  • Leads and new business (key to new growth)

Those last two are, of course, the ultimate purpose of any marketing activity, although they can be challenging to measure in social media for a couple of reasons. First, social media activities more often influence a sale (by helping with awareness and branding objectives, for example) than lead directly to one in the B2B world. Second, it’s crucial to consider that a B2B firm’s social network isn’t made up only of customers and prospects, but includes industry journalists, partners and often analysts as well. While these other connections will never buy from you directly, they can certainly influence the marketing and direct business your way.

What action items should you take? Here’s what you should be doing:

  • Blogging (a corporate blog is the center of most successful B2B social media programs)
  • LinkedIn (much more important in the B2B world than in B2C,)
  • Twitter (used by more than 40% of B2B marketers, and that figure continues to grow)
  • Not everything is a must-do when it comes to social media. There are some second-tier items that could be beneficial to hit on such as:
  • Video / YouTube Facebook (more popular among B2C marketers than in B2B firms, although a few success stories have popped up)
  • CRM integration (this will be a key to success for B2B social media efforts, though few firms have reached this level of sophistication to date)

Common success metrics reported from B2B social media efforts include increases in:

  • Website traffic
  • Blog visits and subscribers
  • Twitter followers
  • Organic search traffic
  • Views of company videos
  • White paper downloads
  • Landing page conversion rates
  • External blog posts written about the company
  • Leads
  • New customers

Again, the last two items are the most important but often the most elusive. While social media typically doesn’t produce a high volume of leads, website visitors referred from social networks frequently convert at a higher rate than those from other traffic sources, and the leads are frequently highly qualified. As understanding of what to realistically expect from B2B social media marketing programs—and how to measure those results—increases, B2B social media use will continue to expand. Published success stories may well remain rare, at least for now, however, as companies remain reluctant to tip off competitors about what’s working.

In an article entitled “How To Develop a Social Media Marketing Strategy That Works” by Douglas Idugboe, he takes it a step further by moving past theory and more into actual practice. He says, “Having a marketing strategy is good, but having a marketing strategy that works is great! Many businesses believe setting up Facebook and Twitter profiles will do a world of good to them and that’s their definition of joining the social media bandwagon. However, the truth is that using social media requires a careful thought process, strategic planning and flawless execution.”

So, now that we’ve established that you can get results from B2B social media strategies, you need to think: How do I get into this world and make it work for me?

First, very often, businesses jump on to Facebook and Twitter without even analyzing what they need out of these social networks. They claim that since their competitors are using social media, they have no other choice but to adopt social media. Sooner than later, such businesses are caught off-guard and their social media ambitions reach a tame end.

Second, ask: What’s your social marketing strategy action plan? Once you’ve determined what you want out of social media, the next important question is how you get it. Businesses need to come up with an action plan with realistic targets and feasible time/cost estimates. If your action plan takes forever to achieve or if it requires you to invest a fortune, there’s a strong case to revisit your action plan.

Third, execute your marketing strategy.

Fourth, evaluate your marketing strategy. Most business follow a simple rule when it comes to adopting new technologies or paradigms – If it boosts my business’ ROI, it’s worth the investment. Social Media is no exception to this rule. Unless, businesses see value addition from social media, they are not going to take the plunge. Evaluating social media ROI is easier said than done. There’s no single criteria based on which you can determine the success/ failure of your social media strategy.

Lastly, refine your marketing strategy. The real beauty of social media lies in its dynamism. Social media is changing all the time. For example, if you logged in to your business’ Facebook profile, after a long gap, you would have realized that it’s now a Fan Page. Therefore, it’s important to continuously refine your social media strategy and adopt a flexible approach with the changing social media scenario.

As we end this month’s column ask yourself: Does your business have a social media strategy that works? If so, what are the most important criteria for developing such a marketing strategy? How does your business measure its social media ROI? Your answer to these questions should tell you what added work you need to do to get the most out of B2B social media marketing.


Published In Tomorrow’s Mortgage Executive, Business Strategies, July 2011