True Then. True Now?
Back in 2016, in our Insight, Is Social Media Marketing Worth It?" we asked, "Can you draw a straight line from your social media marketing to your bank account?" For B2B campaigns, the answer was, "Probably not." These days, it's more like, "It's complicated."
Like with other inbound marketing channels, social media has been used to attract business prospects, typically through posts or tweets that intrigue a person enough to click on a link that starts them on the Buyer's Journey.
For social media marketing campaigns, this has meant taking the following steps:
- Choosing the best social media platforms to reach your defined B2B audience
- Setting realistic campaign goals
- Creating or choosing what to post
- Measuring your campaign success and adjusting it as needed
Historical Usage of Social Media in B2B Campaigns
To get a sense of why social media, in its most traditional usage – meaning non-paid or non-advertising posts – has been a not-so-straight path to bank accounts, let's look for a moment at the first and last of these above steps: A) defining your audience on a chosen platform; and B) measuring success.
A) Social Media Platforms Traditionally Used to Reach Defined Audiences
Traditionally, the two social media platforms most beneficial to B2B online marketing have been Twitter and LinkedIn.
Twitter has been useful B2B-wise since you can define specific audiences for your message by either joining or starting your own Twitter lists (more on Twitter lists can be found here and here) or through a third-party app such as Twibes, which allows you to search by keyword or browse by group for people interested in the same things you are.
So long as your tweets have built-in ways to link back to you or your offer (typically on your website or landing page), these can prove useful in lead generation.
LinkedIn has also proved useful for B2B marketing, since it allows you to join or start Groups, which can help you direct your posts to those most likely to respond. Again, so long as your posts have provided a way for a viewer to link back to you, it, too, can provide you with prospects.
What about Other Social Media Platforms for B2B?
Other social media platforms, such as Facebook, have also allowed certain audience-specificity, but typical usage of them has been less B2B and more B2C.
B) Measuring Success
The opportunity to define your audience on these social platforms is great, but the real question has been, without appropriate analytics, how do you measure and analyze what tweet or post specifically caused a prospect to end up on your website or landing page? In other words, you may have generated a lead through your tweet or post, but how do you know that person came to you via that and not through a Google search or other means? You can make an educated guess, but how do you measure accurately? Likes, impressions and retweets are great, but they are not reliable indicators of lead generation.
There are services out there, such as Hootsuite, which allow for KPIs, but we're talking here about non-paid social media, and analytics for these services come at a cost. Same for advertising on social media, which we’ll talk about later, and which also allows for measuring your campaign success.
So, while there are at least two social media platforms that allow you to define your audience, you really have no way of tracking your campaign's effectiveness—or knowing if your efforts are enhancing your bottom line.
Three Other Uses of Social Media for B2B
We've discussed the first method of using social media for B2B – non-paid social media – but there are three other uses that have proven worthwhile for B2B marketing campaigns:
- Social Media for Brand Building (still can be non-paid)
- Advertising on Social Media for Prospects (paid)
- Extending Social Media Networking to Real-life Networking (non-paid or paid)
Let's look at these:
A. B2B Social Media for Brand Building
(or I'm not sure what baby chicks have to do with Mailchimp but I do feel good while I'm looking at this Mailchimp post)
B2B social media for brand building can also prove illusive for showing that bottom-line bank-account builder, but that’s not the point. Instead, it’s to build, maintain and enhance brand presence, whether it leads to a direct sale or not. Such companies as IBM, Hubspot, Kickstarter, and numerous others have utilized social media to do just this. For instance, take a look at the following screen grab of an Instagram post from Mailchimp.
No hard advertising, no webpage links, or CTAs; just a simple video post on Instagram of baby chicks with the Mailchimp logo strategically placed at the bottom of the pool, all done to a funky beat. I may not be inclined to go check out Mailchimp after I’ve watched this post, but you can be sure I’ll be inclined to view other posts they make. Maybe at some point, I will view their profile or even check out their services and plans; but what counts is I will remember them positively from the feel-good moment their post gave me.
Another tactic, such as the one taken by Oracle in the below LinkedIn post, is to highlight a company’s social commitment.
Here, Oracle has shown not only their commitment to helping in a crisis but has highlighted what their employees are doing, and, in so doing, sends the message, “we not only do good things—it’s part of our culture.”
By themselves, these types of social media posts most likely will not lead to any direct sale, but they do raise brand awareness, and, when done in conjunction with other more traditional forms of advertising or inbound marketing, they can make for very powerful marketing campaigns.
B. Social Media Advertising
The trend these days seems to be to bite the bullet and pay for social media advertising, and, if you want to spring the bucks for it, you can make use of two powerful marketing tools.
- A granular approach to your defined audience. Advertising on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram allows for drilling down to define in a granular way just who your intended audience is. This, alone, may be worth the price, since it allows you to really focus on those businesses most likely to not only become leads, but to convert.
- Analytics. Used right, the analytical tools provided by these platforms will not only measure your posts’ effectiveness and allow you to adjust your campaign accordingly, but they can also give you a better idea of just who is responding, which allows for further audience refinement. In this sense, these metrics are a wonderful testing ground and data provider for your Buyer Personas.
C. Extending Your Social Media Networking to Real-life Networking
An additional use of B2B for social media essentially extends the online-social to the real-life social. An example might be a tweet to a particular group that says: “I’ll be speaking about social media at the XYZ conference in two weeks. LMK if you’d like to meet after.” While there a numerous factors that contribute to the success of such usage, what is most important to establish with it is:
- Reaching out to the right group(s) (and, if possible, already having a social media presence with them)
- Establishing the context and legitimacy of the offer to meet
- Following up with those who do respond positively
This use of social media may not lead to a direct sale but it can be highly useful in expanding your social network.
So will social media without advertising or paid analytic services lead to direct B2B sales for you? Without proper metrics, it's difficult to tell. But, done right, it still holds the possibility of enhancing your brand reputation. Or, if you are willing to pay to advertise, you may just draw that straight line to your piggy bank. Happy tweeting!
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Thanks and be well,
~Your Friendly Animus Rex Team