If you’re a B2B search marketer, chances are that measuring return on investment is key for you. Considering that, why would you ever want to go down the social marketing path where success is just as unclear as how to measure it? Moreover, social marketing is something predominately used by B2C companies for engagement purposes, right? Why would a B2B marketer even want to bother with it? Well, there’s a good reason to do so, as social marketing offers the B2B set something else entirely.
The hidden value
Beyond its use to gain more influence with current customers and reach new ones, social marketing also offers marketers the opportunity to monitor online chatter so you can hear what your prospects and customers are saying. When used this way, it essentially becomes a powerful market research tool for B2B marketers to leverage.
Instant focus groups
Using social marketing to monitor online buzz is a lot like the qualitative side of market research that taps into focus groups to gain insight into the needs and challenges of your customers and prospects. But with social marketing, your targets don’t need to be incentivized to take part as they are already engaged and active participants in the conversation. On top of that, they’re relatively easy to find (compared to how difficult it would be to locate them if you were recruiting for in-person focus groups). Lastly, these individuals are definitely qualified as they are the very people you need to pay attention to because they are the voice of your brand.
Why it’s worth doing
In general, there are three key benefits to leveraging social marketing as a research mechanism. Let’s take a look at each.
1. First, leveraging social media to monitor online chatter could provide early indication of a problem, that if addressed quickly, could dissipate rather than “snowball” into something larger. For example, let’s say that you work at a management consulting firm, and that after monitoring industry blogs and forums, you find a trend in the responses that indicates that the perception of your staff is tactical rather than strategic.
With the benefit of this insight, you can take the necessary steps to ensure that strategic thinking is a priority at your organization. Alternatively, if you don’t feel the feedback is valid – you can work to improve the perception of your firm by increasing the exposure of its strategic work. Either way, if in the end you’re seen as a company that listens to its customers and takes the appropriate actions, then your brand awareness could benefit as well.
2. Monitoring your company’s online buzz will not only allow you to understand developing problems, it will also help you learn about new products or services that your prospects or customers want. This information could very well make you a hero in the eyes of your management or product team. For example, say that you work at a management consulting firm that is setup by industry.
While monitoring the online chatter, you discover that businesses in the energy sector would have requested a proposal from your firm had it specialized in their vertical. Armed with this insight, your organization has the opportunity to deliberate on whether or not it is worthwhile to pursue this avenue; whereas without, it might not have been aware that specializing in the energy industry was something worth considering.
3. Lastly, leveraging social marketing as a research tool can also help you get a leg up on the competition. When monitoring the social networking sites, you’ll not only hear what customers have to say about your company, but you’ll also find out interesting tidbits of information about your competitors. After evaluating how customers perceive you relative to your competitors, you can alter your marketing strategy if necessary.
In addition, this monitoring may help you gain more visibility on your second tier competitors. For instance, you may learn that there’s a tier two competitor that’s gaining momentum in the retail sector. If this vertical comprises a good percentage of your company’s revenue, then this insight could very well help you develop a strategy on how to maintain your market share.
Supplement your findings
While leveraging social marketing as a research device can provide an organization with considerable insight on a range of issues – some profound enough to indicate a change in strategy may be warranted – don’t make the mistake of basing the need for change on this one data point.
Instead, consider taking what you learned from your online monitoring, and supplement it with other information sources (i.e. LinkedIn recently added the capability to survey its members). You may want to survey a diverse group of customers to both validate your qualitative findings and better understand what you need to do before taking action.
Overall, while social marketing is mainly used by the B2C ilk for engagement purposes, smart B2B marketers know that it also can be leveraged as a powerful research tool that can provide important insights.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.