As B2B marketers assess the strengths and weaknesses of their SEO programs so far this year, the relationship with social media marketing must come into focus. As I wrote in a column last year, 66% of organizations with a formal SEO process were integrating social media into their overall SEO strategy. But social media plays an even larger role for B2B marketing strategy than SEO support.
In BtoB Magazine’s latest research report on B2B social media marketing, 71% of B2B marketers polled are moving up to 10% of traditional media budget allocations over to social media; 14% indicated that they will move more than 20%. The average increase in social media budgets was approximately 11%.
There is still room for improvement. 67% of those surveyed indicated their organizations were moderately involved or less in social media marketing. Even though less than 10% would be considered “not satisfied” with their social media programs, 60% were still not measuring some form of ROI.
For B2B search engine marketers, this represents an opportunity to lead the improvement effort. Here is a rundown of initial considerations B2B marketers should consider when developing a better B2B social media program the second half of this year and beyond.
Define Appropriate Social Media Objectives
The BtoB Magazine research report illustrates a range of objectives B2B marketers have with social media. I personally was surprised at significant percentages associated to eight of the top ten.
This infers that proper identification of social media objectives may lead to greater effectiveness and satisfaction. As objectives are better defined, the identification of appropriate social media platforms becomes clearer, because there are differences in expectation from community participants.
Our experience has been similar to what others surveyed in the BtoB Magazine report have indicated about the tone and style required for individual social media platforms.
- Facebook is more informal. We have seen greater success with interaction when using video and graphics as opposed to only text updates
- LinkedIn requires greater group participation and asking and fielding more in-depth questions and discussions
- The audience on Twitter wants information faster. Shorter, more concise material (such as lists) tend to get shared more often.
Assess B2B Marketing Strengths & Weaknesses
Internally, B2B marketers must define their own strengths and weaknesses in the current B2B marketing strategy, and which areas social media will best support.
For example, even though lead generation is a critical initiative, perhaps the maturity of current lead programs create a situation where social media will fail in comparison, from a measurement perspective.
For one of our clients, sales ready leads are almost always acquired through trade shows and webinars. Their process has been successful and the key is providing a greater volume of prospects for lead nurturing purposes. In this case, brand development, site traffic, and the website’s presence in search engine results is a more important tie-in for social media.
Pushing the wrong objectives in social media, both platform and B2B marketing specific, will likely lead to ineffectiveness and potentially set the team responsible up for failure in the long-term.
Know Your Competitor’s Strategies, But Not Necessarily To Imitate Them
Here is an example of a competitive social media matrix we put together for a fairly well branded company in the financial industry. While the immediate observation is the lack of visibility for our client, simply jumping into every social media platform their competitors are active in might not make sense.
Further investigation into each competitive profile must be done to measure effectiveness and strategy. A few initial observations we recommend making:
- Frequency of posts and updates
- Interaction in updates (comments, likes, mentions, etc)
- Percentage of company-specific updates
Results found in these observations will provide a measure of commitment and effectiveness in a competitor’s social media involvement, as well as potentially reveal good ideas in content and messaging strategy (or what not to do). Don’t forget that competitive intelligence can also be an important goal in social media participation as well.
Listen & Comprehend The Community First
Patience is important when evolving a social media program. The average time it took B2B marketers polled to be effective in their most important social media channel was 13 months. Expectations need to be set appropriately.
What this indicates is that building effectiveness in social media is like any real (valued) relationship. B2B marketers should research and listen carefully to potential audiences in targeted communities, to better determine the company’s ability to achieve the designated objectives assigned.
I recommend being meticulous in collecting data; obtaining as much information as possible to make better decisions down the road. Details I tend to cover include:
- Details of the update (context, links or no links, time of the update)
- Type of update (image, text, video)
- Reach, mentions, likes, comments, and other available interaction types
Being able to find patterns of success in the regular stream of social media updates helps improve effectiveness as the program grows and evolves. Maybe more importantly, the identification of small successes can provide the boost in morale needed to keep social media teams energized and willing to keep with the program over the long haul.
Measure & Evaluate
As indicated before, 60% of B2B marketers polled were still not putting measurement in place to establish some form of ROI for their social media programs. Goal setting should be defined based on objectives established at the start. Potential measurements to consider across differing objectives:
For brand development:
- New visitor growth and quality of new visitor growth
- Third party mentions, references, and links acquired
- Growth in branded and non-branded keyword referrals from organic search
For lead generation:
- Sales-ready leads acquired
- Lead nurturing prospects developed
- Assisted conversions attributed to social media performance
For search engine optimization:
- Growth in keywords sending referral traffic
- Inbound links generated
- Conversions made through organic search (branded/non-branded)
Lastly, remember that social media effectiveness ties directly to the quality of content provided; both strategic assets (blog posts, graphics, marketing collateral, etc) and communication stream (updates, status messages, timing, etc).
B2B SEO and social media should drive recommendations for content marketing initiatives because these teams understand what messages and types of assets work well in targeted communities and why competitors have acquired inbound links from third party websites.
What steps has your organization taken to improve and increase the effectiveness of social media marketing? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.