2 Ways to Measure Social Media Results in B2B
If it can’t be measured it’s not worth doing.
As more companies – across B2B and B2C industries – have embarked on a “social media strategy,” the most common struggle is measuring results.
In the course of my speaking, training and participation in client consulting engagements, I advocate two “buckets” of results to measure, at least over an initial 6 to 12 month period. As you review these buckets, consider the specific social media metrics that are meaningful to your business.
It’s Not a Social Media Strategy
There is no such thing as a “social media strategy.” If that’s an odd concept for you, consider that you probably don’t have a “phone strategy.” I also doubt you have “an email strategy.” Yet, the phone and email were once new methods of communication. The phone and email both play a role in your “communication” strategy, or your “business development” strategy. Each is a communication channel. Likewise, social media is a communication channel. But, it’s more than a communication medium. Social media is also an engagement channel where relationships can be built. That said, it doesn’t surprise me that many businesses have developed what they refer to as a ‘social media strategy.’
So, let’s look at the two buckets that allow a B2B enterprise to measure how effectively they use social media in their communication, business development and engagement activities, on their social business journey. The premise to these measurements is the development of a documented content marketing strategy.
Measure Behavior that Leads to Sustained Results
This bucket is all about employee advocacy, not about the marketing department. I’ve said many times that your marketing department is not big enough to persuade buyers to buy from you. Your employees must become part of your marketing. The employee has more potential influence over a prospective buyer than your marketing department does.
Just like exercise is something you must do with frequency and over a sustained period of time for it to be meaningful to your health, likewise employees must engage in the use of social media with frequency and persistence.
When you attend a business conference you engage in face-to-face conversations. If you don’t respond to what others are saying and engage in conversation, those around you will judge you either as unsocial, or worse, having no value to add to the conversation. Likewise, in social media when others tweet or post to LinkedIn on relevant topics, reacting and engaging is the appropriate behavior. Measuring engagement provides insight into an employee’s behavior in social media and how the behavior can contribute to sustained results. Such measurement can be achieved through a variety of social media tools.
The initiator of conversation is recognized as someone with thought leadership qualities. In social media when an employee posts links to relevant content with a comment adding perspective, opinion or context, or starts a new conversation in a LinkedIn Group, or authors a blog post or LinkedIn article, or delivers a speech and shares it through social media, these are examples of being proactive in social media.
Everything we do in business aims to eventually result in a tangible outcome. That’s why these three behaviors are important. Eventually, the behavior of sustained frequency that is proactive and engaging leads to business outcomes. On the path to business outcomes, there are indicators that the needle is moving. Such indicators can be in the form of increased recognition by industry peers both in and outside the company, increased influence on relevant topics, invitations to speak at industry events, invitations to submit articles to the company blog or industry publications, engagement by customers and prospects, to name a few.
These indicators are like ocean waves. They are obvious and they have force. Eventually, they lead to measurable business outcomes.
Measure Business Outcomes
Using social media to produce business outcomes begins with a content strategy, followed by the frequency of posting and engagement described above. Here are three types of possible outcomes that a B2B enterprise can measure.
With good planning, “social listening” can result in lead generation. Whether it’s a conversation in a LinkedIn Group, or following a Twitter hashtag stream, or through a tool such as Buzzsumo, it’s possible to observe online conversations that can identify a prospective buyer. How you engage with this lead is as important as identifying it. Avoid “pouncing” on the person or you risk being shunned. Rather, engage in a genuinely helpful manner. Often it’s effective to ‘surround’ someone in social media with other domain experts in your company, again in a helpful manner, so the person sees value and eventually (there’s that word again) becomes interested in taking the conversation offline to explore it further.
In B2B enterprise sales, the decision to invest in a technology product or service is always a multi-person decision. In the simplest form, there is the ultimate buyer and there are influencers who participate in the decision process. Often, the influencers are difficult to identify. By developing a social selling strategy whereby domain experts at your company identify the topics to socially engage on LinkedIn and Twitter, you can identify people who are influential to the decision making process. Start by identifying the people you already know in an account. Meet with your domain experts and identify who they already know. Then, set goals to expand the universe of people you know at the account with strategic intent in the sales process. Along the way, identify the keywords or conversation topics that can offer engagement potential, and eventually the potential to move the conversation offline. Account penetration through social media requires a coordinated plan with stakeholders at your company. With good planning, it can produce measurable business outcomes.
All B2B companies produce events ranging from webinars to customer conferences. Event planning is usually a marketing function. Getting employees to contribute to the attendance signups is a desirable outcome. One simple tactic is to provide a unique URL to each employee so you can measure which employees drive the most attendance to an event through their social media activity.
These are obviously not the only three business outcomes you can measure. They represent three outcomes any B2B company can measure on their B2B digital marketing journey.
What will you measure in your ‘social media strategy’ on your journey to social business success?