By Josh Cline
What is the ROI of social media?
Clients ask us this common question frequently, and our response is simple: “What is the ROI of the telephone?” What we mean is that networks such Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are not ends unto themselves – they are means to achieve desired business and marketing goals. Just as the telephone can be used to increase sales, gain publicity, and acquire start-up funding, so can social outlets be used to do the same. Social media is a tool, not a goal.
Think about it in a B2C context:
- You would not judge the success of sales calls via the telephone based on the size of your call list, so you should not base your marketing success on only the number of Facebook “likes” of your page.
- The number of sales call-backs by themselves would be meaningless. So is true of Twitter replies and retweets.
- The main metric that matters is that which directly contributes to your business goals; everything else is a secondary benefit. In this example, the main measure of success would be sales via telephone calls.
It is the same from a B2B social-media marketing standpoint. The metrics that would matter are those such as the number of leads generated via social networks and related online channels.
To use these mediums effectively, it is crucial to craft a comprehensive social-media strategy from the beginning that answers the following questions:
- How can we use web analytics to track our results?
- Who is our target audience and where are they on social networks?
- How should we optimize our social profiles?
- How should we interact on those networks – and with what content?
- What creative campaigns can we create?
- How will we measure results and adjust accordingly?
Want to get started? Here is a short guide to doing so.
A B2B Social-Media Plan of Action
I. Website Analytics
Any type of inbound-marketing campaign is useless without good data analysis. So, the first thing to do is to set-up a tracking mechanism on your website that incorporates a platform such as Google Analytics. We will use the common goal of many B2B-marketing efforts: a contact-form submission to sales via the company’s website. In this case, we want to send social-media traffic to the website with the goal of maximizing completions of the website form.
II. Audience & Influencer Research
Whether you have a specific sales list or just a general buyer persona in mind, it is crucial to know where the relevant individuals are active on social media, in a professional context. If your business sells to companies in the “widget” industry, then look for populated LinkedIn Groups that focus on that sector. Maybe people discuss the topic in a Google+ community, or on a large online forum. In addition, it is possible that the recognized authorities on “widgets” are talking on Twitter, answering questions on Quora, or engaging with people on their professional Facebook pages.
In short, you want to narrow your social-media focus so you know where your efforts will effectively reach your audience.
III. Channel Optimization
Once you know what social-media networks will be your targets, you need to create and optimize your company’s profiles on those outlets in line with your messaging and positioning as well as your marketing goals. Here are some examples:
- Facebook – Create an attractive Timeline header image and include a page tab that, when clicked, takes the user to the form-submission page on the website
- Twitter – Post a background image that highlights your branding and use profile text that entices people to follow you
- LinkedIn – Create a fully fleshed-out company page that pitches your product or service and includes links to the place where people can submit the website form
Note: Some networks – LinkedIn and Quora, most notably – allow only individuals, and not companies themselves, to engage on the channels. As a result, it is important that the specific person’s profile that will be used to interact on the outlets be optimized as well.
IV. Content Creation & Engagement
Quality, original content is the fuel of social media. People share visual content that affects them in some emotional way. But long before you even begin to publish, you want to engage on social media to build a following. For example:
- Reply to and interact with prospects and influencers with large followings on Twitter
- Participate in Google+ Communities, Facebook Groups, and online forums devoted to “widgets”
- Share news on “widgets” on LinkedIn to become known as a resource hub of information
People will be much more likely to share your future content if they already know you.
So, once you have a following, here are three questions to answer:
- What authoritative blog posts can you write on “widgets”?
- What graphics and videos can you produce that will interest people in the “widgets” sector?
- How will the content be used to get people to click to our website?
Once you have a content-creation plan, it is important to place the items on your company’s blog with a call-to-action so that people will see the content when it is shared on social media, click the links to your website, go to the form-submission page, and “convert.”
V. Campaign Planning
Just as campaigns are used in traditional advertising, so can such long-term efforts be successful in social media – especially if your company is unable to create a lot of original content. Here are a few examples:
- Running a contest in which Facebook fans submit their own photos and graphics relating to “widgets” – and the post that gets the most “likes” will win a prize
- The person who writes the tweet mentioning your company that gets the most retweets will get your product or service for free
- A series of cryptic images to generate buzz for a future release just like Led Zeppelin did for a new CD and DVD release
As we wrote in a prior post, the conversion rate of various online channels is very important to know. If it turns out that traffic from LinkedIn “converts” (by submitting the form) 6 percent of the time and Facebook traffic converts at only 4 percent, then you know to focus more on LinkedIn and less on Facebook.
But it’s a little more complicated than that. It is also important to know the metrics of each type of action on a given network. Facebook as a whole may have only a 4 percent conversion rate, but it may turn out that posting a certain type of content at a certain time leads to a 7 percent conversion rate. So, it is important to focus both on the best mediums in general and the best practices of each medium specifically.
Social-media marketing can clearly deliver results – as long as one proceeds in this strategic, logical way. For example, we went through this very process when doing social-media work for a recent B2B client. Here is just a summary of the results from the case study:
- We used social media to increase visits to the website by 894% in six months
- The total number of website conversions and direct leads from social media combined increased by 217% in the same period of time
The question for your company: What are your business and marketing goals, and how can social media help you to achieve those goals? Remember, it’s not just about the “likes.”