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Ed Marsh on January 25, 2017 • 13 minute read
Business results from social media marketing are axiomatic.
So, why is it that companies still don’t understand how imperative it is to do social media marketing correctly? Many companies are still failing at it, especially the B2B manufacturers with whom I speak every day. Many are failing to even lift their fingers when it comes to using Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or any of the other social networks.
But, here we are in 2017 and social media has taken over modern communication, both public 1:many and private 1:1 interaction. If Twitter is good enough for the office of the President of the United States, it should be good enough for your business. If you’re not posting updates on Linkedin, you’re not only hurting your marketing, but your probably not being seen by potential employees either. Don’t think these things matter to you? I predict you won’t be in business in ten years, unless you adapt to the newest form of 1:1 communication – more buyers prefer text and messaging apps over the telephone these days.
So, what’s stopping you?
When I speak with companies that have been around longer than Mark Zuckerberg has walked the earth, the rationale and justifications for not doing social media marketing typically involve some form of dismissive disdain:
But, all that’s crazy talk. These things are either not true or just lame excuses. Believing any of these excuses is like pretending rap music was never invented because you prefer the slower melodies of country. Plenty of people have proven the value of social for building businesses. If you’re a social hold-out, here’s 16 reasons you’re wrong.
So, what’s the real reason companies aren’t jumping in head first?
Some holdouts believe there are risks of letting their employees use social media to market the business. But, these are irrationally-embraced, emotional responses. Not logical. Totally avoidable…
For every risk I’ve heard, I have a counter. If you’re still trying to convince yourself it’s worth the risk, consider these:
The fact is that every aspect of business carries risk. Risk—as a reason for not using social media—is a red herring. Put a few guidelines in place and review them with your employees. If you need some help, read 7 Biggest Business & Legal Risks of B2B Social Media Marketing. There are at least 5 more risks you should plan to avoid. But, whatever you do, don’t continue sitting out of social because of these risks.
Marketers deserve much of the blame for the disdain with which many B2B executives view social media. They’ve promulgated vapid “vanity” metrics such as follower and fan counts without correlating activities to impact.
For my global manufacturing company clients, this is especially true. Executives at companies that make things are naturally skeptical of social fluffery. Rightfully or not, we scoff at the “social media culture” who tweet orders of their asinine sounding “coffee” drinks, incessantly post photos of themselves and get crack-like adrenaline rushes when they receive a Facebook notification. While we’re busy employing people and building seriously important things that make our world work, the narrative we hear is of an intemperate @RealDonaldTrump using Twitter for stream of consciousness updates; the Youtuber named PewDiePie with 50M followers who makes $15M per year recording himself playing video games; or an incompetent American Apparel whose history-deaf posting of the Challenger Shuttle explosion as a patriotic symbol made some of us indifferent to their recent closure.
This type of social media drama is what justifies many company’s resistance and dismissal of social media among my crowd, even by a CEO who found me through a Google-indexed tweet a few weeks back. He conveniently blocked the tweet out of his memory when we began talking about his non-existent social presence. But, when I opened my website analytics and showed him how he found me and the path he took to eventually reach out to me, he still insisted that people like him and his clients don’t use social media. This attitude is prevalent. This CEO wasn’t much different than the VP of Sales who generated eight new leads when he shared a blog post on LinkedIn, but still couldn’t quite justify the time to nurture his LinkedIn presence on a weekly basis, at least until a few of those leads turned into customers.
The key to overcoming skepticism is to show how social media marketing activities correlate to revenue.
But, most social media marketers measure things that are hard to correlate to revenue, like impressions, likes, shares and retweets. While these metrics are good indicators of whether your messages are resonating with your audience, they aren’t great business value indicators. Instead, marketers need to track traffic from social and the leads, opportunities and revenue that that traffic generates. For many B2B companies who sell big ticket items and only close a few deals per quarter, it might be a while before social produces revenue. But, once it kicks in, prepare for more and more.
Unlike other marketing, a well maintained social following produces better and better results over time. But, you won’t know unless you track it…
The kryptonite to the typical B2B executive’s social media skepticism is data visualized.
You’re busy, right? We get that. The reality is that an executive isn’t going to sit through a presentation of a thirty minute deck much less internalize every “meaningless” social marketing stat.
The key to justifying social marketing effort and expense is to provide real-time dashboards that can be easily shared, reviewed and are automatically updated. For example, the dashboard above is a simple dashboard that shows the impact of different social site on traffic and customer acquisition.
Show dashboards like this and executives will gradually get hooked on their own little crack hit of “engagement checking”.
Too often, reporting gets delegated to an expensive analyst. Don’t make it the job of an analyst to pull together marketing reports. Hiring and paying an analyst for a job that can be automated by a marketer makes little sense. A pivot table or a regression analysis comes in handy once in awhile, but it’s not necessary most of the time.
And the main problem with doing analysis in excel or some expensive, enterprise analytics package is that it’s out of date as soon as it’s published. Social is real time, so a static snapshot doesn’t quite do it justice. By the time an executive takes a look at it, the report is out of date.
In other words – right idea, wrong execution.
Reporting isn’t that difficult if you have the right tools in place.
Look for software that:
With the right technology, monitoring social media marketing progress is easy.
Oh and if you’re cutting and pasting marketing stats, stop it for goodness sake. If we redirected all of the effort marketers put into cutting and pasting data and graphs into powerpoint, our increased marketing output could increase manufacturing productivity by 10%, I bet.
Once you’re automatically tracking your results in real-time, it’s time to integrate your social media marketing with the rest of your marketing strategy.
In fact, the key to a successful social media strategy is a successful content marketing strategy.
If you’re already doing content marketing, social media is a no brainer. Use social to amplify the reach of your message. If you’re not regularly producing helpful content, don’t expect your social media activities to produce much fruit.
Too often, I see manufacturing companies approach social media by sharing product information. One company who was resisting my social media suggestions ran an experiment that involved having the intern with no marketing or sales experience manage the effort alone. In this case, the intern just published a bunch of information about the company’s products. She posted stuff to social media just like they’d publish a page to their website. Nonetheless, these companies rationalize, “if a digital native (ie young person who grew up on social media) can’t figure it out, no one can.”
That’s silly, right? They aren’t the only ones. I have spoken to more than one company like this who has failed at social media and then used their own failures as proof that it won’t ever work for them. “We set up accounts and nothing came from it”, they say. Usually, I find their experiments are poorly designed and executed like the company’s above.
To be successful, the key is to post information that your target buyer might find interesting, educational or humorous. Users don’t browse social media to find product information. (They still use Google for that.) But, they do follow suppliers who post interesting things relevant to their industry and their job.
And of course, you should measure the messages that resonate best. Below is the templated report I’m using to measure progress with Linkedin Company Pages.
You can’t put your intern in charge of that. In fact, you need to get your whole company involved…
Once the impact of social media on revenue is clear, and a content strategy is in place, exponential results can be achieved when everyone in your company gets involved.
I find that most companies either overlook the opportunity to leverage their employee’s reach or think that it’s not worth the distraction. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Winter 2017 issue of Sloan Management Review had an article entitled “When Employees Don’t ‘Like’ Their Employers on Social Media.”
The premise was twofold:
The article looks extensively into perceived risks, value of employee branding, platforms, guidelines and techniques to foster engagement.
In my experience, one simple opportunity that’s often poorly developed is employee sharing of content.
There are tools to support this process that make it easy and automatic, like publishing to employee social profiles via HubSpot’s social publishing tool when new content is published to the website or scheduling multiple social media updates at once via tools like GaggleAmp. There are also more advanced methods of leveraging social media like automatically notifying your sales people when there’s an opportunity for them to interact with one of their target prospects on social media.
There’s one final barrier to success; one which will trump all of the progress which data insights can inform.
Executive behaviors will speak far louder than their memos and speeches.
In order for social media to drive revenue, executives must personally participate. A single dismissive remark from an executive about social media will undo months of internal selling. And the corollary is that executives must engage in social consistently for months, and demonstrate the results to their teams in order to effectively overcome hesitancy and skepticism among staff.
Social media isn’t going away. There were 2.3+ billion active social media users last year and that number grew 10% from the year before. Some of them are your customers, or should be your customers.
So, get started before you’re the last to the party. Run experiments, tie them to your overall marketing and sales strategy and get everyone involved – especially your executives.
And whatever you do, use data to adapt your approach. Measure the impact on revenue of every social media marketing activity. Then do more of what works.
You can’t tap the real potential of social media without clear data that provides compelling justification for doing so. That means that company social accounts will be under utilized and the reach of employees will be neglected.
Both are a costly business blunder – so solve the data challenge and then start building impactful social media programs.
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