Social media is no longer just a tool for building brand awareness. It is a channel by which prospects and customers engage with brands, educate themselves about trends and research purchasing decisions.
The next big challenge for B2B marketers is to tie social media campaigns to revenue, according to industry observers. The CMO Survey predicts that marketers will double spending on social media in the next five years. However, a recent study from Social Media Examiner states that only one out of every three marketers measures social media ROI.
"I think all companies in the early stages of social were focusing on brand awareness," said Rob Begg, VP of Enterprise Strategy at Hootsuite, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "Focusing social media marketing on new areas such as account changes and buying intent is becoming increasingly common."
As B2B marketers get more sophisticated in their social media activities, there is an increased focus on metrics. One notable challenge to accurately measuring social media is misalignment of internal teams, sources noted.
"There might not be a conversation happening between the social teams and the revenue-driven teams," said Uri Bar-Joseph, Senior Director of Marketing for Simply Measured, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "This leads to a vast majority of social teams resort to focusing on brand awareness, therefore focusing on vanity metrics. That does a disservice to the actual impact social is having."
Social media metrics should be aligned with current marketing goals, observers noted. "To report on anything accurately you need to first start by agreeing on the metrics that are key to your business," said Kipp Bodnar, VP of Marketing for Demand Generation at HubSpot. "Depending on the organization's current marketing focus and goals, you may choose to focus on some of these metrics over others."
Bodnar highlighted several metrics that can help highlight social media's impact on the company's bottom line, including:
- Follower growth;
- Follower engagement;
- Visits by social media channel (Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.); and
- Leads by social media channel; and
- Customers by social media channel.
Relevant metrics can vary by company and campaign, so testing is crucial to maximize measurement effectiveness, experts explained.
"You have to understand if you're gaining value from your actions or not," said Jeff Morris, VP of Product Marketing for GoodData, a data analytics platform provider. "When you're dealing with data sources, oftentimes it becomes more complex the more data sources you add. Define the actual metrics that prove value."
Consistent Metrics Track Progress Over Time
Connecting social media initiatives to the company's overall ROI is a growing role for B2B marketers. While previous vanity metrics highlight growth in brand awareness, new metric are emerging to tie revenue to social initiatives.
"We look within our own analytics so that we track every campaign and channel," Morris added. "We track every interaction or click, then try to give it weight in the case for attribution."
It's important to stay consistent while measuring social media. The goal is to start measuring trends over time to leverage in future social initiatives, according to Paul Teshima, co-founder of Nudge Software.
"Choose a consistent process; don't change your measuring process on a regular basis," Teshima noted. "Once you start seeing trends over time, you'll begin to tie social to the bottom line. The need to think of social as a channel, approaching it that way allows you to compare it to other channels."
Linking leads, or closed deals, to a social interaction is one of most valuable pieces of information for B2B companies, according to Andrew Caravella, VP of Marketing for Sprout Social, a social media management software provider. "Customer acquisition and retention through social is another tangible metric that can be directly attributed to ROI. Tracing back a customer’s life cycle from initial social engagement all the way through to paying customer serves as a way to directly attribute that customer’s business to your brand’s social efforts."
Ultimately, measuring engagement is still a valuable tool that can supplement other campaigns taking place through separate channels.
"I wouldn't focus on ROI specifically, but focus more on the emotions that you are creating and focusing on the relationship,” said Amir Zonozi, Chief Strategy Officer for Zoomph, a real-time social media engagement tool. "Social listening can help the organization understand their target audience. C-level executives always want the connection to revenue, and it will always be a challenge for marketers to make that connection."
Content Plays A Key Role In Social
Like any B2B marketing campaign, content plays a key role in encouraging engagement with prospects and customers via social media, according to Caravella.
"In terms of lead gen, the more your social content can drive traffic back to your site, the better," Caravella noted. "It’s imperative to know your audience and share content that is relevant and valuable to them. In many cases, that is not a hard sell, but an educational, instructive or welcoming tone that encourages them to see you as a resource and, ultimately, a viable tool or service that they’re willing to buy."
Understanding your target audience, and analyzing behaviors that highlight where in the funnel these prospects are, help social marketers avoid making the hard sell and keeping the conversations relevant to the prospect's expectations. While there is no silver bullet for B2B marketers to see immediate results, it's important to analyze social interactions to see what is bringing value to the prospect — and ultimately the company.
"What's interesting about the B2B space is that we're very open to communication in our space," said Aaron Biddar, CEO of Social123. "With that, there needs to be a soft, relevant approach. Each tool you have allows you to control the messaging you produce without overstepping your boundaries."
CRM And MAP Integrations Ease The Attribution, Tracking Process
To enhance social media measurement, as well as tie social media to the company's overall revenue, sources noted that a holistic view of the buyer's journey is required to understand how social media impacted particular prospects in the funnel.
"To accurately measure social media ROI a marketer needs to have a full-funnel analytics tool in place to be able to look at their social media data at each part of the marketing funnel," HubSpot's Bodnar added.
It's important for B2B marketers to leverage social analytics tools that can integrate with their current systems. With CRM and marketing automation integrations, insights on prospective buyers can be shared with social monitoring and management platforms — and vice versa — to help make the connections between social campaigns and prospects throughout the buying journey.
Salesforce, for example, aims to consolidate many social media monitoring solutions, including its Social Studio and Active Audiences tools, into a single platform. This positions marketers to be able to leverage social data for nurturing and attribution.
"We're going to make as much of that work possible, alleviating the need for marketers to do that on the backend," said Eric Stahl, SVP of Product Marketing at Salesforce. "I think that's our attempt to make it more pragmatic for marketers to handle the complex integration work."
Connecting all of these tools in a single location makes it easier for B2B marketers to connect the dots between identifying a prospective buyer and closing the deal. Even a simple tagging system can help track where prospects came from in the funnel — mapping out the buyer's journey.
"We can associate a campaign ID inside of the sales cloud where you manage leads and pipeline, creating if you attach it to social posts, you are able to track the origin of a lead back to that social post,” Stahl said. “This allows you to measure ROI."