Posts Tagged ‘b2b social media’
Social media marketing has clearly been embraced by consumer brands. Pepsi famously dropped its Super Bowl advertising a year ago in favor of a social media campaign. Coke, Starbucks and Disney are among the top brands on Facebook, with millions of fans. SMR has developed a sophisticated methodology for continuously tracking the top brands on social media based on reach, satisfaction and other metrics.
B2B marketing executives, however, tend to be a bit more skeptical. Though adoption is increasing, many b2b marketers still question the true effectiveness of social media for reaching business buyers. After all, four out of ten companies still ban access to social media sites from the workplace, and many more sharply limit its use. B2B products and services don’t generally make the same kind of emotional connection with buyers that consumer brands do, and tactics that work for b2c marketers (e.g. social media games and contests, “checking in” at retail locations, coupons and discounts) are inappropriate or flat-out inapplicable in the business world. There is, so far, no b2b version of Yelp, and its unlikely there will be anytime soon, as many companies worry about the legal liability entailed in either endorsing or disparaging a specific vendor.
Still, social media is rapidly becoming an essential component of the b2b marketing mix. B2b buyers use social media tools throughout their buying processes, from problem-solving and how-to content in the initial research phase through product/vendor comparisons and customer experience validation. Bloggers provide much of this information, supplementing the reporting and commentary of trade publications and industry analysts. Buyers thwarted from using these tools at work (e.g., part of the four-in-ten companies above) find ways around corporate roadblocks, access social media sites via mobile devices, from home or the local coffee shop, or while traveling. They rely on search and social media through the bulk of their buying process, and expect b2b vendors to be there.
For b2b marketers still trying to quantify the potential benefits of social media marketing, here are a dozen helpful stats. You can find the original sources for most of these findings in Best Social Media Stats, Facts and Marketing Research of 2010.
- • Companies active in social media report a 59% higher lead conversion rate for organic search traffic
- • 85% of B2B buyers say they want B2B vendors to engage and interact with them online
- • 93% of B2B buyers believe that all companies should have a social media presence
- • 9 out of 10 start a purchase process with search (and social media increasingly affects search results)
- • Three-quarters of B2B technology buyers say they use social media at some point during a buying cycle to gather information or communicate with colleagues about a purchase; 58% use LinkedIn for this purpose
- • YouTube reaches 36% of all business decision-makers—more than 10X the figure for Forbes.com
- • 43% of employees in Fortune 1000 companies say they use LinkedIn for professional purposes
- • 100% of the Fortune 500 have at least some of their executives listed on LinkedIn. 50% of LinkedIn users are business decision makers.
- • 65% of journalists use social media to conduct research for stories
- • 59% of C-level executives report using social media for business purposes at least weekly
- • 90% of B2B technology decision makers watch online videos
- • 80% of B2B technology decision makers read blogs; 69% are active on social networks
In short, b2b marketers need to embrace social media marketing because the buyers are using it. They expect vendors to use it as well. And you can’t win the game if you’re not even on the field.
Social media marketing has progressed from radical new idea to widely adopted practice in a remarkably short period of time. Just 5% of Americans said they were familiar with Twitter in 2008; by the fall of last year, that figure was 87%, and Twitter is now adding 300,000 new users per day. Facebook added more than 150 million new users in 2010. Three-quarters of b2b buyers use social media at some point during their purchase decision process, and marketers are responding with increased spending on social media marketing.
So what’s next? A new report from Focus, 2011 Trends Report: Social Media Marketing presents observations and predictions from eight leading social media experts (and me) about social media trends and developments to watch for in the coming year.
The thrust of this brief but enlightening report is that social media is moving from the “what is it and should we do it” stage to the “how do we integrate social media with operations and do it better” realm.
Among the top 10 trends identified:
1. Social efforts will permeate the enterprise. “Social is much bigger than marketing and PR. “Social is much bigger than marketing and PR. It’s a customer phenomenon. This will demonstrate itself as social moves into product development, operations, customer service and even sales,” according to Michael Brenner.
3. Stronger focus on global audiences. “Much of the social innovation will come from Third World countries that are using these free platforms to make up for deficiencies in their communication infrastructure,” says Mark Schaefer.
5. Metrics will mature. “News Feed Optimization (NFO) on Facebook will become the new SEO. Basically, 2 percent of fans return to a fan page, and in some cases it’s more like .02 percent…What you need to focus on is the content and optimizing the content to get comments and likes,” per Paul Dunay.
6. Social media will become targetable. “Soon, we’ll be able to email only to customers who clicked a particular bit.ly link on Twitter. We’ll be able to send a Facebook status message only to customers who visited a particular page on our website. By combining what we know about our customers and prospects and friends across multiple social outposts, we’ll end up with a centralized view of each of our connections,” in the words of Jay Baer.
Data junkies, stats addicts, web trivia buffs rejoice — here are a deluge of social media, search and other marketing research facts and figures from 50 articles and blog posts published so far in 2010.
How are marketers planning to allocate budgets this year? What percentage of Fortune 100 companies are on Twitter? Which social networking site is used by 92% of senior marketing executives? What social media tool helps small business double their reach on Twitter? How do B2B social media marketing practices differ from B2C companies? What percentage of web searches stop after page one of the results? How much do small businesses spend on search engine marketing? How many journalists also maintain blogs?
Find the answers to these questions and many, many more here.
Social Media Statistics
Study: Spending On Email, Social And Search Rising by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Despite the fact that more than half of marketers responding to an ExactTarget survey planned to to either reduce their overall marketing budget for 2010 or keep it flat, 54% planned to increase spending on email marketing and 66% planned to increase expenditures for social media “even though about 80% of those acknowledged the difficulty in tracking ROI in the medium.”
A national survey of reporters and editors revealed that 89% use blogs for story research, 65% turn to social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, and 52% utilize microblogging services such as Twitter. While the use of social media sources by journalists is growing rapidly, the reliability of such information remains an issue, as “the survey also made it clear that reporters and editors are acutely aware of the need to verify information they get from social media.”
Social Media Not Preferred Recommendation Resource by MediaPost Online Media Daily
In a study asking consumers to rate the most influential sources of information for their purchase decisions, 59% said “personal advice from friends or family members,” followed by 39% search engines, 36% articles in newspapers or magazines, online articles 28%, email 20% and social media 19%. Three caveats: first, though low, the influence of social media is growing. Second, social media and search are rated more influential by younger buyers and high-income consumers than by other groups. Third, the survey was heavily consumer-oriented; b2b figures would be different. The key takeaway — companies can’t put all of their marketing eggs in one basket, but need to balance budgets across several areas including email, social media, organic SEO, paid search and offline campaigns.
While 28% of U.S. adults say they give advice about purchases on social networking sites, only 17% say they seek out such advice when making buying decisions. “70% of social media users between the ages of 18-34 regularly use Facebook more than other sites such as MySpace, Twitter, and Classmates.com,” and women use Facebook more than men.
Senior marketing execs see their companies moving to social media in 2010 by The Viral Garden
In a recent study of high-level marketing executives, 70% plan new social media initiatives in 2010. 92% said they personally use LinkedIn, versus 56% on Facebook. While 28% planned to use internal resources to launch new initiatives, 25% turn to social media consultants. The two most important criteria when hiring a social media consultant are examples of previous work and recommendations; number of Twitter followers is the 12th-most important factor.
Another notable Pam Dyer post, this one summarizing a study from online advertising network Chitika which shows that Twitter is the best place to share news: 47% of the outbound traffic from Twitter goes to news sites, vs. 28% from Facebook, 18% from Digg and an imperceptible share from MySpace. Digg is the most technical; 12% of its outbound traffic goes to technology sites, vs. 10% from Twitter and 7% from Facebook. And for what it’s worth, Pam points out that “celebrity/entertainment is the only genre in the top 5 of all sites.”
What Type Of Social Media Ads Are The Most Effective? by MediaPost Online Media Daily
According to a recent study from Psychster, “Among the seven most common formats, sponsored content ads — in which consumers viewed a page that was “brought to you by” a leading brand — are the most engaging, but produced the least purchase intent. Corporate profiles on social-networking sites produce greater purchase intent and more recommendations when users can become a ‘fan,’ and add the logo to their own profiles, than when they can’t. And ‘give and get’ widgets are more engaging than traditional banner ads, but no more likely to produce an intent to purchase.”
Study: Americans’ Social Net Use On The Rise, But Services Not Entirely Wasted On The Young by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Nearly half of all Americans are now members of at least one social network, double the proportion of just two years ago. While social network use is highest among the young, it’s not exclusively their club: two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-olds and half of those aged 35 to 44 also now have personal profile pages. 30% of social media users access a social media site “several times a day,” up from 18% in 2009. Also, nearly half (45%) of all mobile phone owners send text messages on a daily basis.
Deciphering Shady Social Media Stats by Social Implications
Yes, Facebook is a big deal, but there is no way it “controls 41% of social media traffic” as was reported in a post on Mashable back in April. Jennifer Mattern rips the statistical methodology behind this reporting to shreds and reminds us all of why it’s important to be skeptical of social media statistics that don’t sound quite right.
Social Media Revolution by YouTube
Social media stats in video form. Some of the numbers shown here lend themselves to the skepticism recommended in the post above, but all are documented so take `em for what they’re worth. There are more Gen Y’ers than Baby Boomers, and 96% of them have joined a social network. 80% of companies are using LinkedIn as their primary tool to find employees. 80% of Twitter use is on mobile devices. YouTube now hosts more than 100 million videos and is the second largest search engine. 78% of consumers trust peer recommendations when making purchase decisions; just 14% trust advertising. More than 1.5 million pieces of content (videos, photos, blog posts, links etc.) are shared on Facebook daily.
New Chart: Survey Says Inbound Marketing Budgets on the Rise by HubSpot Blog
In a study of 231 (likely a bit more social media-savvy than average) companies, 88% planned to maintain or increase inbound marketing budgets in 2010. 85% view company blogs as “useful,” while 71% said the same for Twitter (up from just 39% in 2009). More than 40% of respondents reported acquiring at least one new customer from Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or their company blog in the past year.
Erik Qualman updates some statistics from 2009, showing how rapidly this landscape is changing. If it were a country, Facebook would the third-largest on earth, up from fourth-largest in 2009. 80% of companies use social media in some manner for recruiting; of those, 95% use LinkedIn. 50% of mobile Internet traffic in the U.K goes to Facebook. And my favorite: “The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in five years.”
Look Ma, No Hands: More Than Half Of Companies Say They Are Using Social Media With No Strategy by MediaPost Online Media Daily
Among companies who say they are using social media in a recent Digital Brand Expressions survey, only 41% said they had a strategic plan in place to guide activities, and only 69% of those (28% of all social media-using companies) have set up metrics to measure the ROI of social media activities. Worse, on 29% of firms with a plan in place (12% of the total) had written social media policies in place for employees.
52 Cool Facts About Social Media by Danny Brown
Two-thirds of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites have integrated with Facebook. Twitter adds 300,000 new users and gets 600 million searches daily. LinkedIn has more than 70 million members worldwide — including executives from every Fortune 500 company. More than half of YouTube users are under 20 years old, and let’s hope they live long lives: it would take 1,000 years to watch every video currently posted on the site. 77% of Internet users read blogs, but only 14% of blogs are published by corporations.
Twitter Demographic Report – Who Is Really On Twitter? by PalatnikFactor.com
Who’s really using Twitter? According to this report, 44% are between 18 and 34 years old. A slight majority (53% to 47%) are female. Just over a quarter of tweeters qualify as regular users, accounting for 41% of all traffic, but the 1% classified as “addicts” account for a third of all tweets. Twitter users tend to be readers of TechCrunch, Wired magazine and CNN.com, but also (ugh) PerezHilton.com — so make what you will of that.
2009 Twitter Demographics and Statistics Report by iStrategyLabs
The largest cohort of Twitter users (47%) are in the 18-34 age bracket — but the second largest (31%) are 35-49 years old. 74% of twitterers have no kids at home. Almost half are college graduates and 17% have post-grad degrees.
Twitter Usage In America: 2010 Statistics and Ad Agency New Business by Social Media Today
While many executives still dismiss Twitter as a waste of time, recent research suggests it is one of the most valuable social networks for business. Awareness of Twitter has exploded; 87% of Americans said they were “familiar with” Twitter in a poll taken earlier this year, versus just 5% in 2008. Although only 7% of Americans maintain an active Twitter account (vs. 41% who are on Facebook), Twitter users “are far more likely to follow Brands/ Companies than social networkers in general. 51% of active Twitter users follow companies, brands or products on social networks. Twitter users frequently exchange information about products and services.”
Facebook: Facts & Figures For 2010 by Digital Buzz Blog
Interesting, though slightly out of date (Lady Gaga’s page is listed as 9th-most popular) Facebook infographic. Half of all Facebook users log in on any given day, and more than 35 million update their status. More than 100 million users access Facebook through their mobile phones. The US and UK have the highest number of Facebook users, but the #3 country? Indonesia.
Report: 6.8% Of Business Internet Traffic Goes To Facebook by All Facebook
How are employees using the Internet at work? A recent study concluded that almost 7% of all business web traffic goes to Facebook, twice as much as Google (3.4%) and well ahead of Yahoo! at 2.4 percent. DoubleClick got 1.7% of all business traffic due to its massive online banner advertising network. In terms of bandwidth use, YouTube takes the single biggest share at 10%, followed by Facebook at 4.5% and Windows Update at 3.3%.
The Ultimate List: 100+ Facebook Statistics [Infographics] by HubSpot Blog
Men and women both average about 130 friends on Facebook, but men there are more likely to be (or least claim to be) single (33% to 26%) while women using Facebook are more likely to be (or at least say they are) married, engaged or in a relationship (47% to 41%). The three most “liked” types of food pages are about ice cream, milk or chocolate. Facebook pages that use the words “collaboration” or “blogger” have on average three times as many fans as pages about SEO or optimization. Pages about movies and TV shows generally get the highest number of “likes” while those devoted to government and public service get the least. Within the U.S., Washington DC and South Dakota have the highest percentage of residents with Facebook accounts (one of the very few phenomena they have in common), while New Mexico has the smallest percentage of its population (10.3%) on Facebook.
Social Media Use in Large Enterprises
Among the world’s 100 largest companies, two-thirds are using Twitter, 54% have a Facebook page, 50% manage at least one corporate YouTube channel and 33% have created company blogs. Overall, 79% of Fortune 100 companies are using at least one social media channel, with the highest use in European (88%) and U.S-based (86%) companies. However, only 20% of these companies (28% in the U.S.) are using all four major social media platforms. 69% of U.S.-based firms in the study have a Facebook page, but just 32% have posts with comments from fans.
Fortune 500 favors Twitter over blogging by iMedia Connection
Among the world’s largest 500 companies, 35% had Twitter accounts in 2009, but only 22% maintained company blogs. Less than half effectively used SEO.
Twitter Moves Ahead of Blogs in Fortune 500 by Social Media Today
Among Fortune 500 companies, 108 (22%) have an active, public-facing corporate blog. 93 (86%) of those blogs are linked directly to a corporate Twitter account. 173 (35%) of the Fortune 500 firms maintain an active Twitter account, including 47 of the top 100 companies on the list.
Social media use by the Fortune 100 in visual Infographic form: the average Fortune 100 company follows 731 people on Twitter and is followed by about 1,500 (seems like small numbers for big companies). However, the average socially active Fortune 100 company has almost 41,000 Facebook fans and 39,000 YouTube channel subscribers.
Social Media in Business: Fortune 100 Statistics by iStrategy
According to a Burson-Marsteller study, 79% of the Fortune 100 are “present and listening” on at least one social networking platform. 20% of these corporate giants are using all four of the main social technologies (Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and Blogs), and 82% of the Fortune 100 companies on Twitter actively engage with customers there at least once per week.
The State of Social Media Jobs 2010 – A Special Report by Social Media Influence
Although “the importance of social media certainly is resonating through many big companies,” just 59 of the Fortune Global 100 firms have hired staff specifically to perform core social media tasks such as customer outreach, PR, marketing and internal communications. The most social media “active” industry sectors include healthcare, telecom, retail and automotive, while companies in heavily regulated industries such as financial services, insurance, energy and utilities are among the social media laggards.
Social Media Use in Small to Midsized Businesses (SMBs)
Small Businesses That Blog Have 102% More Twitter Followers by HubSpot Blog
Still wondering if your business should have a blog? A HubSpot study of more than 2,000 companies showed that, for businesses of all sizes, companies that have blogs have 79% more Twitter followers than those that don’t. Blogging “increases Twitter reach by 113% for B2B companies and 30% for B2C companies.”
At the other end of the scale, for small to midsized businesses, marketing budget allocations are changing. Traditionally, small business marketers have favored email and search, and spent the majority of their marketing dollars offline. In 2009, only one-third of SMB marketers viewed Faebook as “very” or “somewhat” beneficial. But for 2010, 74% planned to increase their use of email marketing and 68% planned larger expenditures for social media. Over the next five years, social media budgets are expected to grow at a 34% annual rate — twice as fast as all other forms of online marketing. By 2014, Forrester predicts that social media spending will be higher than that for both email and mobile, though still much smaller than search and online display advertising.
Small Biz Lead Gen Surges with Social by eMarketer
According to a HubSpot study, “not only can inbound marketing bring leads for less money but it can also double average monthly leads for small and medium-sized businesses.” Twitter reach is critical for increased lead generation: “Companies with 100 to 500 followers generated 146% more median monthly leads than those with 21 to 100 followers. Beyond the 500-follower mark, though, there was no further gain,” as is blogging — but the study noted that “Businesses must produce enough content for their blog to kick off growth in leads, which starts with about 24 to 51 posts…more indexed pages on Google also translates to more leads. Every 50 to 100 incremental indexed pages can mean double-digit lead growth.”
Social Media in Small Business is Anything But Small by Social Media Today
The prolific Brian Solis reports on recent research showing that social media adoption by small business doubled from 2009 to 2010. 61% of small business owners now use social media to help identify and attract new customers, 75% have a company page on a social networking site, and 45% expect their social media activities to be profitable within the next 12 months. 58% say that social media has met their expectations to date, and only 9% expect to lose money on social media efforts for the next year.
B2B Social Media Marketing Statistics
B2B Marketers Severely Lag B2C Players in Social Media by My Venture Pad
Andy Beal reminds us that “It’s a pretty well known fact that B2B marketers have been slower on the adoption curve of social media (than B2C marketers.” But why? One reason is executive buy-in (or lack thereof); in a recent study, one-third of claimed low executive level acceptance of social media was holding back efforts, while only 9% of B2C marketers said the same thing. Another is that 45% of B2B marketers said their company had a basic social media presence but didn’t use it as an active marketing tool; only 26% of B2B marketers concurred. Finally, “46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer-oriented marketers had the same problem.” If you’re one of those 46%, hopefully you’ll find facts and statistics in the following posts to help build a business case for social media in your company.
The Business of Social Media: B2B and B2C Engagement by the Numbers by Social Media Today
***** 5 stars
Brian Solis breaks down B2B vs. B2C use of social media marketing. B2B companies are more likely to maintain a company blog (74% to 55%), participate on Twitter (75% to 49%) and monitor brand mentions (73% to 55%) while B2C firms more often advertise on social networks (54% to 42%) and use Facebook (83% to 77%) and MySpace (23% to 14%) as part of their social media strategy than their B2B counterparts.
Will B2B Companies Embrace Social Media in 2010? by MediaPost Online Media Daily
B2C companies led their B2B counterparts in adoption of social media marketing because more people are active in social networks for personal use than business, making it easier to target someone who is interested in golf than, say, machine tools. However, B2B use of social media is on the rise, with 6 of 10 companies planning to increase their spending on social media initiatives in 2010.
Creating Engagement in B2B Marketing by Buzz Marketing for Technology
93 percent of participants in a social media in business study believe that all companies should have a presence in social media. And 85 percent believe “companies should not just present information via social media, but use it to interact and become more engaged with them,” according to Paul Dunay.
Vital statistics for every B2B marketer by Earnest about B2B
75% of B2B marketers use microblogging tools such as Twitter vs. 49% of B2C marketers. The biggest barrier to adoption may be CIOs; 54% of CIOs block social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, in the work environment. 93% of B2B buyers “use search to begin the buying process,” and 9 out of 10 say that when they are ready to buy, they will find vendors. Plus much more.
B2B Spending on Social Media to Explode by eMarketer
B2B marketing on social networks is expected to grow 43.3% this year, and Forrester Research B2B spending on social media marketing to reach $54 million in 2014, up from only $11 million in 2009. Paid advertising is expected to account for only a small portion of spending, but “when companies budget for social media marketing in 2010 and beyond, a substantial portion of their expenses will go toward other initiatives, such as creating and maintaining a branded profile page, managing promotions or public relations outreach within a social network, and measuring the effect of a social network presence on brand health and sales.”
Vital statistics for B2B Marketers by EarnestAgency’s Channel (YouTube)
An entertaining and creative presentation which makes the case that B2B actually leads B2C in social media marketing — because that’s where their buyers are. 37% of b2b buyers have posted questions on social networking sites, 48% follow industry conversations on key topics of interest, and 59% “engage with buyers who have done it before.” 53% of C-level executives prefer to find information themselves rather than tasking subordinates with this, and 63% turn to search engines for their research. Many of the statistics used in this video can be found elsewhere, but not in such an engaging fashion.
What B2B Marketing Tactics Are Up, Down, Flat? (Survey Sneak Peek) by Everything Technology Marketing
Holger Schulze shares results from a study showing how b2b use of various marketing tactics have changed over the past three years. Social media saw the biggest jump in activity, with 81% of respondents doing more of it (as Holger points out, “not surprising considering social media use in B2B was still nascent 3 years ago”). Content creation (68%) and website marketing (56%) are also increasing, while direct mail and print advertising saw the biggest drops.
First Page Or Bust: 95% of Non-Branded Natural Clicks Come From Page One by MediaPost Search Insider
***** 5 stars
In SEO, how important is a page one ranking? This post tells you: according to a recent study from iCrossing, across the three major search engines, 95% of the clicks came from page one. While Rob Garner notes that this figure is higher than in other studies, the clear implication is that doing some extra optimization to move your site to page one from page two or three can pay off in dramatic traffic gains.
Organic Search Still Reigns by eMarketer
Diving deeper into the iCrossing study referenced above, Google accounts for 74% of non-branded search traffic, with Bing and Yahoo tied at 13%.
Small businesses spending more on search by iMedia Connection
The average small business spent $2,149 on search engine advertising in the fourth quarter of 2009, up 30% from 3Q09 and 111% from the final quarter of 2008. Also, video is taking off in this segment: at the end of last year, 19% of small businesses were using video on their websites, up from just 5% the previous quarter.
Most Valuable Content and Offers for IT Buyers by High-Tech Communicator
***** 5 stars
If you’re trying to sell to technology buyers, note that a recent study shows the types of content they are most likely to click on are “news and articles (84%), competitive comparisons and buying guides (73%), and promotional content (70%).” These decision makers are about equally to click on offers for promotional content, online tutorials and demonstrations, competitive comparisons and buying guides, free research, and educational content.
Search Engine Marketing
SEMPO Report Suggests Measuring ROI Still Challenging by MediaPost Online Media Daily
The share of North American companies using paid-search marketing increased from 70% in 2008 to 78% in 2009 and 81% in 2010. 97% of these companies use Google AdWords; 56% advertise on Google’s content network. 59% of firms anticipate spending more on search marketing in 2010; 37% say budget3 will remain the same, while just 4% planned to cut spending in this area.
Study: Three-Word Queries Drive Most SEO Traffic by Search Engine Land
Three-word search queries are the most common, at 26% of all searches; 19% are two-word queries, and 17% use four words. Yet for paid clicks, keywords of 4-6 words in length drive the highest average CTR at 1.1-1.2%. The overall average CTR for paid search ads was 0.91%.
Other Online Marketing Statistics
What’s Changed This Decade (1999-2009) by Virtual Video Map
An enlightening, graphic guide to many of the changes seen over the past 10 years, from the growth of the U.S. economy and national debt to the incredible expansion of Internet use. Examples: The number of Internet users worldwide grew from 350 million a decade ago to 1.7 million today. One out of five (actually now almost one of three) of those users has a Facebook account. Cell phone use increased from one of out of 10 people in 1999 to two out of three in 2009.
Did You Know? (video) by EducoPark
The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004. Half of all workers have been with their current employer for less than five years. There are roughly one billion searches performed on Google every day — more than ten times the number just four years ago. It took radio 38 years to reach a total audience of 50 million people; it took the Internet just four years to reach that number, the iPod three years, and Facebook only two years. There will be more pages of unique information published this year than in the last 5,000 years combined.
SuperPower: Visualising the internet by BBC News
This slick tool visually illustrates the growth of Internet penetration, by country, from 1998 through 2008.
Small-Biz Success from Deeper Online Interaction by eMarketer
Ye shall reap what ye sow online, apparently: a study by American City Business Journals concluded that small businesses who were most active online achieved higher sales than those who made less use of the Internet. The study concluded that “‘Interactors,’ the most active participants online in almost all respects, accounted for only 15% of businesses but 24% of sales. ‘Transactors,’ somewhat less active online but the group most involved in online selling, also overindexed in sales. The least involved groups, ‘viewers’ and ‘commentators,’ also exhibited the worst business performance.”
Here’s What’s Really Going On In Online Media Consumption by Business Insider
Of the four largest daily print newspaper websites (the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and USA Today), only the New York Times has gained visitors in the past 12 months — and that growth has been modest. Among weekly news magazine websites, The Week (focused on multi-source aggregation) has shown dramatic 170% growth in the last 12 months as Newsweek.com, once the leader in this segment, has seen a 17.5% decrease in traffic. Visits to the Huffington Compost are up 86% in the past year.
The Ultimate List: 300+ Social Media Statistics by HubSpot Blog
If this post hasn’t satisfied your data fix, knock yourself out with this extensive collection of videos, infographics and presentations compiled by HubSpot with still more social media stats and figures like: Twitter has 50% more activity on weekdays than on weekend days. Facebook is the most popular way to share information, followed by email, then Twitter. More than twice the amount of information is shared on Twitter as on Digg. 48% of bloggers are US-based, 2/3 are male, and 75% are college graduates. 35% of traditional journalists also blog. Social networks Bebo, MySpace and Xanga attract the youngest audience; Delicious, LinkedIn and Classmates.com have, on average, the oldest demographics. More than 210 billion emails are sent daily, which exceeds the number of “snail mail” letters sent each year. Etc.
Can the financial return on expenditures for social media business activities– in marketing, PR, customer support, HR, product development or other areas — be accurately measured? Can social media costs be justified on the P&L, so that as belts get ever tighter in this stagnant economy, these projects and tasks can be spared the budget axe?
Among social media pundits, the debate rages on. The “yes” crowd argues that of course social media can be measured, and must be in order to demonstrate value to the business. You wouldn’t buy a new machine tool or enterprise software application without an ROI analysis, so why should social media be any different? Executives don’t care about shiny sparkly things or the latest fads or buzzwords; you’d better know what you want to accomplish, be able to quantify both expenses and revenue, and have the analytics in place to track results before even murmuring the words “social media” in the presence of C-level types.
The “no” group will counter that the metrics and tools haven’t yet matured, or that social media is too amorphous to even be measurable, or that it is rapidly becoming simply part of the plumbing or wiring of a modern organization, making ROI immaterial.
My own thoughts (for what they’re worth) on the matter are that:
- • It’s challenging to measure the true ROI of social media activities with any precision because social media is as much (if not more) about influence than direct action. For example, if John Doe clicks through to your website from a tweet and buys something, that’s easy to measure. But if John Doe is influenced to buy from you based a tweet—but completes the purchase through another unrelated channel—there’s no way to assign the value of that sale to Twitter.
- • That said, there are many aspects of social media that can and should be measured, both to show results and to help guide future activities (e.g. determining which topics generate the highest traffic and comment activity on a company blog, what time of day is most productive for tweeting, etc.). In other words, the statement “ROI is challenging to measure accurately” shouldn’t be confused with “don’t bother trying measure anything.”
- • Metrics can be useful to help determine what to do more of, less of, or differently, but should not as the basis for whether or not to engage in social media. At this point, the adoption of social media tools is so widespread as to constitute just another communication channel. It makes no more sense for a business to shun social media until ROI can be demonstrated than it does to demand an ROI analysis for installing phone lines or email.
So much for my thoughts. What do other pundits have to say? Below are summaries of a variety of posts on the topic of social media ROI measurement from luminaries such as Danny Brown, Brian Solis, Erik Qualman, Michelle Golden and Sharlyn Lauby divided into their respective camps: yes, no, and maybe.
Is social media ROI measurable? Yes.
The Real Cost of Social Media by Danny Brown
This isn’t strictly speaking an ROI article, but Danny does dive into the “I” part of that measure, detailing the true costs (investment) of social media participation.
20 Metrics To Effectively Track Social Media Campaigns by Search Engine Land
Chris Bennett lays out the list of metrics he uses to analyze, track and “prove ROI’ from social media marketing. Compelling piece except for his use of the phrase social media campaign (argh).
Kim Cornwall Malseed summarizes the social media wisdom and ROI results gleaned from a panel of b2b marketing pros including Holger Schulze of SafeNet, Frank Strong of Vocus and Susan Cato of CompTIA. She reports on the revenue achieved, social media strategies used and measurement systems employed for tracking.
ROI: How to Measure Return on Investment in Social Media by Social Media Today
In this long but worthwhile post, Brian Solis reviews the evolution of social media measurement forms (e.g. “return on engagement”), the disconnect between social media marketers (most of whom can’t measure ROI) and CMOs (most of whom expect it), then offers his recommendations for improving the measurement of business objectives from social media.
While acknowledging that tight precision is impossible because the same measures from different tools rarely match exactly (and multiple tools are still needed to end-to-end social media tracking), Angel Djambazov nevertheless makes a strong case for developing ROI metrics for social media campaigns. Quoting Brian Solis and others, Angel points out that particularly in this economy, even great ideas without a hard-number rationale are likely to get slashed; ROI measurements are needed because CMOs demand them. The post also includes some strategies, tactics and tools to assist in social media measurement.
Social Media Monitoring Techniques by WebFadds
Scott Frangos presents a concise but clear outline of basic social media ROI measurement objectives, tools and analytics.
Counterpoint: Why you can calculate an ROI in social media – and why you should do it by iMedia Connection
Uwe Hook responds to the post from Ben Cathers (in the “No” section below) on why social media ROI can’t be measured, laying out a roadmap using metrics such as frequency, yield, sentiment analysis, NetPromoter score and customer lifetime value.
Socialnomics: What Social Media Success Looks Like by Fuel Lines
Michael Gass shares a social media ROI argument in video format. “Socialnomics: Social Media ROI showcases what social media success looks like. Social Media ROI: Socialnomics is by Socialnomics: How Social Media Transforms the Way We Live and Do Business author Erik Qualman. This video highlights several Social Media ROI examples along with other effective Social Media Strategies.” Though a few of the examples are vague or misleading, most are compelling. However, after showcasing companies that have achieved remarkable, quantifiable results through social media, Qualman provocatively asks, “Why are we trying to measure social media like a traditional channel anyway? Social media touches every facet of business and more an extension of good business ethics…When I’m asked about the ROI of Social Media sometimes the appropriate response is…What’s the ROI of your phone?” He seems to suggest that while ROI is measurable, it’s immaterial. Hmm. You can find more of Eric’s insights on his Socialnomics blog.
Making sense of social-media ROI with Olivier Blanchard by SmartBlog on Social Media
Rob Birgfeld talks with Olivier Blanchard, introduced as “perhaps the most sought-after expert for those looking to connect the dots between social media and return-on-investment.” Perhaps. Blanchard contends that most self-proclaimed social media “experts” have difficulty articulating ROI because they have no business management background (agreed, I’ve seen these types — which is why our agency has an MBA who helps clients with social media). With that background, he argues that “the question can be answered in about three minutes. All it takes is someone on the social-media side of the table who understands how to plug new communications into a business from the C-suite’s perspective.” He also makes the case that being able to prove social media ROI is essential. The post just doesn’t specify how to do this.
Social Media ROI — No.
Social media (finally) returns value by The Communicator
Peter Schram doesn’t come right out and say that social media ROI can’t be measured, but rather that organizations should “focus on five key areas where social media will create actual value” that aren’t strictly about sales ROI, including corporate reputation, employee engagement and customer service.
“What’s the ROI of Social Media?” Is the Wrong Question by Golden Practices Blog
Michelle Golden makes a compelling argument that ROI calculations apply only to discrete projects with a beginning, middle and end, such as a direct mail campaign. Social media is a tool, not an event, so such calculations don’t apply.
5 Problems With Measuring Social Marketing by Web Worker Daily
Aliza Sherman articulates some of the frustrations with any social media measurement, much less something as precise as ROI, including the fact that the term “social media” is nebulous and that many traditional marketing concepts (e.g., “reach,” “promotions” and “campaigns”) simply don’t apply to social media –and the industry hasn’t yet developed widely accepted new measures (though Daniel Flamberg attempted to answer this last challenge in 4 Social Media Mining Metrics).
Why you can’t calculate an ROI in social media – and that’s okay by iMedia Connection
Ben Cathers argues that, because the advanced analytics tools that would be required for such measurement have not yet been developed, “In many forms of digital media, you can spend 1 dollar knowing you will earn 1.30…Unfortunately, you cannot do the same in social media, just yet.” He suggests instead that marketers estimate the payback on social media by assigning a value to metrics they can track, such as each follower, each retweet, each “like” of an item, etc.
CEOs Love Pie: The B2B Social Media Case Study, Part 2 by iMedia Connection
In this follow-up post to Conversations that Aren’t about Mel Gibson: the B2B Social Media Case Study, Part 1, Eric Anderson writes that “today you can’t throw a virtual rock without hitting five blog posts about how we all need to simmer down about ROI,” and places himself firmly in the “simmer down” camp. He recommends instead serving them pie, as in pie charts showing measures like “the proportion of their paid impressions that can be replaced or augmented with free impressions. PR agencies have long been selling the value of this pie as earned media or ‘ad equivalency value,’ so CEOs are used to seeing it. They get it. Once you’ve done your social media market analysis, it’s relatively easy to project how big that social media pie wedge will be.”
Social Media ROI…Maybe.
Quantifying Social Results by eMarketer
eMarketer reports that while marketing pros generally agree that quantifying the benefit of social media marketing is important, they are split on whether it is possible. Measuring certain types of activity or behavior is easy; translating those measures into ROI, not so much. As this article notes, “There is a leap, however, between finding appropriate metrics and monitoring them on the one hand, and quantifying results on the other. Marketers must tie the social metrics they settle on directly to business goals, such as increased sales and leads, before social media return on investment can be quantified.”
A call for more accountable social media marketing by iMedia Connection
After acknowledging that “ROI is difficult, if not impossible, to measure with social media. An astounding majority of professionals do not even try to take it into account. According to a survey late last year from Bazaarvoice and the CMO Club, 72 percent of CMOs did not attach revenue assumptions to social media in 2009,” Jerry McLaughlin goes on to say that marketers must do it anyway. For example, one of his recommendations is to “reach specific social media goals with a tangible ROI, such as tracked discounts or coupons.” While that’s certainly not a bad suggestion, it covers only one very limited aspect of what social media marketing can do.
5 Ways To Set Goals & Measure Social Media Marketing Success by Smart Insights
Danyl Bosomworth summarizes a Jason Falls presentation on various ways to measure social media outcomes. While the post seems to suggest that measuring ROI is easy (measurement #5 casually includes “generation of sales and leads from blog visitors and from social interactions”), it also points out several other benefits that unquestionably have value (e.g., product innovation, branding and awareness, links for SEO benefit), though that value may be difficult to quantify. The message seems to be that if you can directly measure sales and leads then by all means do so, but recognize that social media can provide many other important though less quantifiable rewards.
Marketers Use Varying ROI for Social Media by Marketing Charts
According to a new study from King Fish Media, Hubspot and Junta 42 summarized in this post, most marketers perform some type of social media measurement (e.g., website visits from social media referral sites, new fans/followers, number of links shared, etc.). However, nearly half (43%) admit that they aren’t even trying to measure ROI. And only 29% say “they will have to show positive ROI to continue their social media programs.”
How CEOs are Using Social Media for Real Results by Mashable
Though Sharlyn Lauby shares numbers here from two CEOs able to correlate hard sales data with their social media efforts, she also points out that “even when there might not be data supporting a direct relationship between social media activity and sales, sometimes other metrics point to the connection” such as exposure, branding, customer satisfaction, recommendations, even employee recruiting. The conclusion seems to be that ROI may or may not be measurable, depending on a company’s specific circumstances — or at least that not all of the benefits of social media can be captured in precise sales and ROI figures.
Since the early days of the Internet, b2b purchasing has seemed like an area ripe for the efficiency and transparency improvements the web could bring. The theory has been that b2b buying processes are labor-intensive and inefficient, with heavy reliance on phone calls, emails and even face to face meetings. Large purchases, and often even small ones, involved negotiations conducted with imperfect and limited information, leaving both sides wondering if they really got the best deal. Web-based systems could improve transparency and efficiency, significantly and simultaneously reducing both procurement costs for buyers and selling costs for vendors.
However, problems with this theory quickly became apparent. While online marketplaces worked well for commodity purchases like office and maintenance supplies, they were viewed skeptically by buyers and sellers alike for more strategic purchases. Vendors didn’t want to reveal pricing and specifications to their competitors, and in many cases buyers didn’t want their own competitors to be aware of what they were buying (as it could tip off competitors to new product designs or process improvements) or even the terms they were getting.
As a result, the dramatic forecasts for b2b ecommerce revenue growth from Gartner and other analyst groups never materialized. Some of the market pioneers flamed out: Commerce One, founded in 1994, went public in 1999 and saw it’s stock price soar from $20 to more than $600 per share before the dot-com bust. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2004, and the remains of the company were sold off in 2006. VerticalNet, founded just a year after Commerce One, was another classic dot-com-boom-to-bust story. Though the company was never profitable, revenue grew rapidly and the company’s market cap topped $12 billion in early 2000 on revenues of just over $100 million. The company was acquired by an Italian cement maker in 2007 for $15 million.
Ariba is one of the few b2b ecommerce survivors from the dot-com era. Though the company has fallen a long way from its dot-com era $40 billion market capitalization, it’s still in business, posting respectable revenue and modest profits.
But today, a new breed of vendors is determined to leave behind the hype-to-bust path of early b2b ecommerce and online marketplace trailblazers and improve b2b purchasing practices through social media and other Web 2.0 technologies. Here are five companies that exemplify these new approaches.
TradeKey b2b marketplace: sort of a web-based version of a bazaar or street market, TradeKey is an online, global b2b marketplace which connects traders to wholesalers, buyers, importers & exporters, manufacturers and distributors in over 220 countries. With 27 categories from agricultural to transportation products and nearly 10 12 million visitors per month, TradeKey connects an incredible range of buyers and sellers. Looking to buy commercial carpeting or USB drives? Want to offload some extra fishing lures or folding doors? This is the place to do it. TradeKey is sort of the b2b version of eBay or craigslist, with the closest analogues on the b2b side being sites like Alibaba or VertMarkets. But the site’s busy though highly visual design sets it apart, and TradeKey was the first online b2b marketplace to earn ISO 9001 Quality Management System and ISO 27001 Information Security System certifications.
FYIndOut.com b2b social media hub: billing itself as “the central place to find and promote business information, applications, and services,” FYIndOut.com provides an environment where b2b vendors can list their products and services for free (they pay only for interested leads) and interact with prospects, while buyers can research sellers and post their own reviews. The site covers a broad array of products and services from accounting software to web conferencing services, and was among the first b2b sites to introduce social review elements similar to Angie’s List or Yelp on the consumer side.
ChoiceVendor business-to-business vendor reviews: similar to FYIndOut.com but with a different business model—rather than generating revenue from providers, ChoiceVendor’s revenue plan is to “offer certain features by subscription to users who are seeking vendors.” Both sites enable b2b vendors to register and list their products for free, and buyers to review at least some of this information at no charge. So whether you’re a b2b seller or a buyer researching vendors through social signals, the best site to use between FYIndOut.com and ChoiceVendor is…both!
GetApp.com business software portal: unlike broad-based b2b market sites, GetApp.com is focused on a specific niche—business software, SaaS and cloud-based applications. The company’s goal is to become a global online channel for SaaS and PaaS (platform as a service) b2b application providers. GetApp.com is more like (though more broadly based than) SaleForce.com’s AppXchange or the recently launched Google App Marketplace than a general b2b marketplace. The site got some nice coverage from TechCrunch earlier this year, which stated that buyers can “find, compare and select from a wide range of business applications, organized into categories by IT and business need and by industry. The search functionality is pretty powerful and allows visitors to filter results down to a single vendor or enterprise-grade application. To assist buyers from a neutral point of view, GetApp offers user-generated reviews and a free personalized assessment tool as well as a number of guides on the subject.”
Resource Nation business resource marketplace: this site connects business buyers with providers of a wide range of common b2b products and services, from email maketing and payroll outsourcing to phone systems, laser printers and steel buildings. Rather than relying on social signals, all vendors are pre-screened by credit reporting agency Experian. The website also includes useful articles and guides for buyers. Approved vendors receive qualified leads for a fee. Resource Nation is somewhat similar to BuyerZone, but with less of a focus on price as the sole purchase criteria. This works well for commodity-type procurement (e.g. CD/DVD duplication or mailing services) but shouldn’t be relied upon as the sole source for more involved, strategic purchases like enterprise software or a PR agency.
Despite the challenges of online b2b commerce (e.g. will customers really share honest opinions in an open forum?) and past failures, a new breed of online b2b marketplace sites is determined to make it work. They bring to the task unique approaches and mindfulness of what worked, and what didn’t, for the groundbreakers in this space. The key will be to provide value to b2b purchasers. Vendors will flock to any site that is embraced by buyers.
Disclosure: I’m an unpaid advisor to FYIndOut.com and a (so far) unpaid affiliate of Resource Nation (just recently signed on). As for the other vendors highlighted here, I just think they are doing very interesting things in this space.