As detailed in coverage earlier this year, CMO’s remain committed to growing their investment in social media.
“The CMO Survey Highlights and Insights Report”, published in February 2017, found that even though B2B CMO’s currently spend 10.5 percent of their marketing budget on social media, they expect to increase this percentage to 12.9 percent over the next 12 months.
Furthermore, B2B CMO’s foresee social media spending rising to 18.5 percent of their marketing budget within the next five years.
As investment in social media continues to be on the rise, B2B marketers also face greater pressure to attribute their programs to broader business outcomes and revenue.
And the 2017 “What Works in Online Marketing” report from AudienceBloom, which looked at 10 different tactics online marketers are using, as well as the ROI they are presenting, found social media 9th most effective.
The key takeaway here is that although social media has been deemed critical by leadership, B2B marketers must focus even greater efforts to demonstrate program ROI.
In order to demonstrate results from a B2B social media program, there are several steps to consider, in strategic preparation and campaign execution.
Here are seven steps we’ve found in essential for establishing a path to success when developing B2B social media marketing strategies.
Define Program Objectives
The first step is to define objectives. How will an investment in social media activity impact the marketing program of a B2B organization? Consider the following opportunities:
- Lead generation – will social media activity tie directly with sales or nurturing prospective buyers?
- Brand development – what about awareness building, thought leadership, or relationship building?
- Additional areas of opportunity – what about customer service and support?
Marketing leaders must consider the needs within their organization that require attention and where social media fits best.
Define Target Audiences
Choosing the right target audiences goes hand-in-hand with objective definition. While it is tempting for B2B marketers to identify sales prospects as their target audience, it doesn’t have to be the only option.
- Consider how social media has an impact in SEO performance, through the development of relationships with influencers and third party publishers, in an effort to acquire high quality links. In this scenario, tactics for communication, research, and content development may be radically different (than those specific to customer acquisition).
Regardless of the audience chosen, clearly defined objectives, coupled with an understanding of target audiences, establishes the foundation for further B2B social media marketing program development.
Select The Right Platform(s)
Notice that we don’t confirm social media platforms until the third step. Effective social media programs focus on how the B2B organization accomplishes marketing objectives and builds relationships with a target audience, regardless of platform.
Equally important is the fact that both social media platforms, and preferences and behaviors of target audiences, continue change and evolve.
- Video production is becoming a more important marketing tactic for industrial organizations and manufacturers. Consider how mobile-friendly social media platforms like YouTube or even Instagram and Twitter change how sales and marketing can provide rapid access to equipment functionality and demonstrations through video.
The point is to avoid leading a B2B social media program with platform selection as the priority. Instead, assess how effective these platforms will be at accomplishing defined objectives and audience development first, coupled with how they complement existing marketing initiatives already in place.
Establish Performance Metrics
How will the B2B organization define success with their social media activity? Performance metrics demonstrate how effectively a marketing team meets social media objectives, platform and program specific.
Productivity metrics are a start and consider the following examples:
- Growth in network (but particularly followers associated with target markets and audiences)
- Productivity metrics (number of updates/time period, replies, mentions, etc.)
- Engagement metrics associated with productivity (engagement rate, etc.)
The problem with these metrics is that by themselves, they fail to translate directly to strategic marketing objectives. That said, frequency and volume help B2B marketers recognize patterns in success and opportunity.
If the organization’s social media objectives are focused in lead generation, consider how social media traffic performs in comparison to other traffic acquisition programs as it pertains to goal conversion rates, assisted conversions, and lead quality.
And remember that social media initiatives need not focus solely on sales-specific objectives. For social media programs focused in the support of SEO outreach and content distribution, consider the following:
- The number of connections made with key influencers and target audiences that can aid in link building efforts.
- Publisher relationship development driven through social shares and networking.
- Overall inbound links acquired via social media activity.
An entire post could be dedicated to this topic and fortunately, we did that! Check out our post on how to measure a B2B social media program from earlier last year.
Plan For Social Media Content Development
Social media cannot be effective without a foundation built from B2B content marketing initiatives. But that doesn’t mean your organization needs to dramatically overhaul content development initiatives as well.
Consider how the essential steps in deploying a content marketing program may act as a basis for social media execution as well. Social media could arguably be considered a component of broader B2B content marketing initiatives.
Proposed steps in how to determine content marketing development priorities with social media:
- Competitive analysis
- Industry / influencer analysis
- Topic identification
- Internal review of resources
- Editorial calendar / milestone development
- Media and creative requirements
- Scenario / reference development
With these “steps within a step” defined, B2B marketers can better organize and scale social media program tactics specific to the content required for successful communication and distribution efforts.
Consider An Advertising Budget
The ability to reach target audiences “organically” becomes more challenging as social media platforms gain in popularity and the most popular platforms (like Facebook) limit opportunity.
Equally important is the fact that social media advertising platform functionality is becoming much more sophisticated, allowing B2B marketers to better refine their audiences and communication preferences.
The bottom line is that B2B marketers should consider allocating (or at least proposing) small budgets to test social media advertising. With a little time and effort, B2B marketers can make projections on social media advertising, aimed at securing small initial budgets, in an effort to determine if cost per conversion metrics will be acceptable.
Analyze Program Performance
All of these steps lead to performance analysis. First off, performance metrics defined earlier need to be measured, evaluated over time, and the results assessed.
From there, B2B marketers need to determine what works best, where opportunities may be realized, and when to adjust course in their efforts.
- In circumstances where defined performance goals are being met, it’s important to keep moving forward with activities that were of impact.
- When success is being realized it is also important to look for complementary opportunities either within a platform or through alternative platform exploration.
- It can also be worth testing a range of tactics within a platform or in association with target audiences, before determining if a program component (or the overall program) needs to be refined or re-evaluated.
When we hear about B2B social media success stories, they often focus on the results and rarely the preparation that goes into execution.
While it is always great when B2B marketers find quick wins and / or immediate results, sustainable and effective social media programs require thorough preparation and planning more often than not.