Posts Tagged ‘social media metrics’
gShift Labs is the first (at least that I’m aware of ) integrated software package for managing web presence optimization (WPO). Given that WPO is the fusion of SEO, social media, interactive PR, and online reputation management, that’s a tall order. But based on a good look at the product, gShift has a great headstart on meeting the challenges of this discipline.
Unlike pure SEO management tools (e.g., Web CEO, SEO Powersuite), social media monitoring tools (e.g., Radian6, Alterian SM2), or inbound marketing suites (e.g., HubSpot), gShift isn’t a point solution, but a single integrated tool to manage all aspects of WPO.
What sets this software apart is its approach as much as its functionality; the people behind gShift understand that SEO, online PR, social media, PPC advertising and other tactics are each pieces of the larger web presence puzzle. They aren’t silos, but tactics that need to be used in a coordinated manner to maximize and optimize an organization’s online presence. gShift is the first software built from the ground up with that approach in mind.
gShift enables marketers or agencies to track unlimited websites, web pages, social media accounts, external pages (e.g. media mentions), competitors and countries. The only limit is on keywords tracked, which is the basis of gShift’s pricing (see “Limitations and Concerns” below).
The software doesn’t provide a way to automatically segregate branded from unbranded search keywords (which would be nice), but this can be set up manually using “Campaigns.” Campaigns are gShift’s method for creating different keyword groups to track (e.g., by product line, country, competitor, etc.). The ability to show country-based rankings (e.g., U.S. results for a company.com site, Canadian results for a company.ca site) is helpful.
gShift automatically tracks organic vs. paid vs. mobile (an increasingly important segment) traffic and goal conversions for each. Yes, you could do this from Google Analytics (GA) as well (in fact, gShift pulls a fair amount of its reporting data from GA) but gShift presents it all in one spot, attractively graphed out.
Backlinks remain a key component of SEO. gShift displays backlinks by site, backlinks by page (very helpful), backlinks by competitor, and even provides a list of “recommended backlink” sources. For your website, gShift will display your top backlinks by authority and referral visits, along with changes in backlinks over time.
For your competitors, the software identifies their target terms (anchor text in backlinks), top backlinks and ranking. From a pure competitive research standpoint, gShift isn’t quite as robust as a tool like SEMRush (which provides AdWords keywords and click costs in addition to complete target organic keywords), but it does offer significant integrated functionality nonetheless.
The ability to track external pages is another nice feature. gShift enables you to set up external pages to track in different categories: Press Releases, Blogs, social media accounts, videos, and shortened URLs (e.g. bit.ly URL links). It also finds and shows you “other pages in your pool,” referring pages you may not know to track. The software displays traffic, conversions, bounce rate, social shares and search rank on assigned keywords for all of these pages. Again, most of this data (other than search rank) could be pulled from GA, but gShift makes it much easier and faster to track these metrics.
SEO is a core element of WPO, and gShift covers this pretty well. It provides daily rank checking (but charges weekly—see “Pricing” below), with comparison to the prior day’s, week’s or month’s rank highlighted in green (improvement), yellow (no change) or red (decline). The tool offers page-level auditing (specific page+keyword combination), showing what’s done and supplying recommendations for optimization improvement across a wide range of attributes (meta tags, keyword density, alt tags, headings, code fixes, etc.). Helpfully, gShift also rates the relative difficulty of each recommended task.
For any given keyword, gShift will show the top ranking page on your site by search engine (though it won’t identify the page with the highest internal gShift score for that keyword, which would be another nice feature). gShift has partnered with WordStream for its integrated keyword research functionality.
In addition to the keywords you are tracking, gShift will display recommended keywords from GA as well as all keywords that have produced at least one goal conversion. What’s more, gShift recently announced capability that gives search marketers a pretty good idea of what’s behind the “not provided” keyword data in GA, by showing you which pages are being accessed along with the top keywords driving traffic to those pages.
gShift features extensive social media tracking capabilities as well, pulling analytics from Twitter (e.g. number of mentions and retweets), LinkedIn and YouTube all into one spot. For your videos on YouTube, gShift displays rankings for those videos on specified keywords with YouTube’s search function as well as Google rankings for those videos by keyword phrase.
Again, most of these social media metrics are freely available, but gShift saves the time and effort of tracking them all down from their native sources. gShift currently provides about 75% of the data available natively from the top social networks, with more metrics on the product roadmap (e.g. expanded LinkedIn metrics are anticipated to be added within the next 30-60 days).
The power of gShift lies in its efficiency for reporting (GA-type site data, social media metrics, and ranking plus performance of external assets like guest posts or news releases all in one tool), its SEO improvement functionality, and its actionable on-site and off-site metrics. Reporting is flexible; gShift enables administrators to add explanatory or analytical text comments to virtually any metric within a report.
Few (if any) other SEO and/or social media management tools provide the type of detailed data about a blog post, web page, external article or news release that gShift does because other tools don’t “ask the right questions.” Competitive tools tend to be more siloed, while gShift takes a web presence optimization-centered approach.
gShift Labs co-founders Krista LaRiviere and Chris Adams come from a digital marketing and software development background. In the early 2000s, they developed the Hot Banana web CMS product, which was acquired by email service provider Lyris in 2006.
gShift aggressively updates the product with new features. Among plans for coming releases are “engagement signals,” which will display, for example, how many people have commented anywhere (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) about a specified blog post or other piece of content.
gShift’s closest competitor is possibly SEOmoz, a powerful SEO suite which just recently added social monitoring. From a straight SEO standpoint, it’s hard to beat the deep functionality of SEOmoz. However, what gShift may lack in depth in this area, it makes up for in ease of use and overall user experience. Put another way, gShift is arguably a better tool for marketers looking for reporting on site and external asset performance, and optimizing those assets for improvement. SEOmoz provides more raw technical data for hands-on webmasters.
Limitations and Concerns
Backlink checking is limited to the “top” 500 backlinks for any site, page or competitor. For internal site pages, that’s generally more than sufficient, but home pages on even moderately popular websites can have far more than 500 backlinks. There’s no way to know what’s missing (other than using a separate backlink checker tool).
The internal keyword tool shows monthly volume, but doesn’t indicate ranking difficulty—a key oversight. It does little good to know how popular a keyword phrase is without also knowing if it’s feasible to try to rank for that phrase. This should be high on gShift’s list of features to add, but for now, users will have to utilize a separate tool or technique for this function.
In my opinion, gShift’s pricing is a tad high (for the SMB market) and the model is unnecessarily convoluted. The software is priced on the basis of “keyword rankings” (KRs). A KR is one keyword, on one website, in one country. And each keyword rank is automatically checked on a weekly basis, so a single keyword consumes four KRs in a month (or five in some months, one would suppose).
gShift’s baseline Small Business package (500 keyword rankings at $99 per month) sounds pretty reasonable, until you realize how quickly that can add up. 100 keywords, checked against one website in one country consumes 400 KRs per month. Add all of those keywords to one other country and that’s another 400 KRs. Check 20 of those keywords against three top competitors and that’s another (20 x 3 x 4 =) 240 KRs. In order to really make inroads into the SMB market where this product fits best, the pricing should ideally be somewhat lower and a whole lot simpler.
While gShift Labs doesn’t necessarily provide the single best tool specifically for SEO management, or backlink checking, or keyword research, or social media monitoring—it is the only software currently available that combines pretty darn good functionality in all of these areas in a single platform.
gShift Labs is the first software vendor to approach SEO, online PR and social media as parts of the integrated whole of web presence optimization. Small to midsized businesses in the B2B space who want to maximize their online footprints and opportunities to be “found” when prospects are searching for what they offer should definitely evaluate gShift Labs.
FTC Disclosure: gShift Labs provided no compensation in any form for this review.
Ultimately, as Olivier Blanchard has pointed out repeatedly, social media marketing has to demonstrate an ROI (though he acknowledges the questions have to be made more specific). In the b2b world, the “R” is generally leads (website call-to-action conversions) with some monetary value applied to them.
But it’s crucial to the social media ROI debate to recognize that “R” is an end-of-the-process measure. There are numerous in-process measures that may be impossible to tie directly to ROI, but are nonetheless critical in producing that final “R” value.
Consider automobile manufacturing as an analogy. There are an abundance of measures, from machining tolerances on shafts to the temperature in the paint room, which are vital to track during the manufacturing process. The C-level folks may not know or particularly care what these numbers are, but if those values are off, they will affect quality, which impacts rework and warranty claims, which impact manufacturing and repair costs, which impact the ROI of each vehicle.
Similarly, in social media marketing, there are numerous intermediate “process” measures that don’t fit into an ROI equation, but which are vital in optimizing social media efforts in order to minimize “I” and maximize “R.” These metrics don’t represent the goals of social media marketing in and of themselves, but are critical measures to help optimize processes to achieve the ultimate objectives.
Here are 46 intermediate metrics (and two final measures) to help marketers evaluate the success of their social media programs and optimize their associated processes. Most of these are easy and free to track.
Nine Blog Metrics
- • Overall traffic
- • Traffic quality (e.g. bounce rate, average time spent per visit)
- • Most popular posts (indicates topics with highest interest)
- • Search traffic
- • Social media/network-referred traffic
- • Other key sources of traffic (e.g., company website, newsletters, syndication sites)
- • Number of RSS subscribers (regular readers)
- • Number of email subscribers
- • Top visiting organizations (measure of targeting effectiveness)
Six Twitter Metrics
- • Total number of relevant followers (exclude the inevitable spammers and oddballs who seem to be attracted to any active Twitter account)
- • Interaction (@ mentions)
- • Retweets (reflects both level of engagement and quality of shared content)
- • Most tweeted links (i.e., which content is most popular with followers)
- • Influence (e.g., Klout and Kred scores)
- • Brand and mention tracking (e.g., from HootSuite or other social media monitoring tool)
Six LinkedIn Metrics
- • Number of company followers
- • Recommendations on products or services
- • Page views (of LinkedIn company overview)
- • Unique visitors
- • Click-throughs (on product links)
- • Followers by industry, function and company
Five Facebook Metrics
- • Number of Facebook page “Likes”
- • Friends of fans (indicates an organization’s total potential reach on Facebook)
- • Number of people talking about you (the number of unique people who have created content about the company page on Facebook in the past week)
- • Weekly total reach (the number of people who have seen one of the firm’s messages on Facebook in past week)
- • Most popular posts
Ten YouTube Metrics
- • Number of subscribers to the company channel
- • Total number of video views
- • Change in views and subscribers over last 30 days
- • Engagement measures:
- » Likes / dislikes
- » Comments
- » Shares
- » Favorites added or removed
- • Top videos, last 30 days
- • Playback locations (e.g., regular YouTube page, company channel, mobile device, etc.)
- • Top traffic sources
Two Google+ Metrics
- • Number of people / organizations in company circles
- • Number of people / organizations that have company in their circles
- • Note: Google has indicated that it plans to introduce more advanced analytics for Google+ soon
Ten Company Website and Cross-Social-Network Metrics
- • Total social media-generated visits to the company website
- • Lift in direct visits (an imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Lift in branded search visits (another imprecise but correlated measure)
- • Major social network visits by source
- • Traffic quality by source
- • Most-viewed pages by social media visitors
- • Top visiting organizations (all social media sources)
- • Top visiting organizations (by major social network)
- • Lead conversions (all social media sources)
- • Lead conversions (by major social network)
If you’ve utilized the first 46 metrics to continually monitor and adjust your social media activities, the final two—the real return on investment for b2b marketers—should validate and quantify the value of all your hard work.
Social media marketing has gone well beyond the hype stage and is now mainstream business practice. Still, questions remain: how do I use social media most effectively across the enterprise? Which social media monitoring tools should I use? What should I monitor for? How do I use my time and resources most effectively? What social media developments and trends should I be watching?
And of course, there’s the ongoing social media ROI debate: how do I measure this? Can social media ROI really be measured? Influential voices like Olivier Blanchard and Jacquie McCarnan present formulas and methods for ROI calculation, while Steve Goldman contends that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, and Jackie Cohen reports that more than a third of CMOs still have no idea whether or not social media marketing is producing any ROI.
What to do? Read on for answers to these questions and more from some of the best minds in social media in some of their best blog posts and articles of 2011 so far.
Social Media Strategy and Best Practices
9 Ways B2B Companies Can Use Location Based Services by Social Media B2B
The always-insightful Adam Holden-Bache contends that location-based services like Foursquare aren’t just for consumer marketers, and supplies ideas on how B2B marketers can capitalize such as through partnerships with non-competitive local businesses, incentives and rewards, and in event marketing (“Are you seeing a lot of your contacts attending certain business events? Whether it’s a local tweet-up or a major conference, this knowledge could be useful to help you plan what events you should sponsor or where you should set up your next booth”).
Is Social Media Really Living Up to Expectations? by B2B Lead Roundtable Blog
Brian Carroll talks with MECLABS Director of Research Sergio Balegno about the disconnect between social media activity and results in the B2B environment, and concludes that “marketers are expecting way too much too soon.” Social media adoption on both the buyer and vendor side is happening with incredible speed; the tools that we’ve developed to track other web marketing activities haven’t kept pace. As social media monitoring and integration with CRM systems improves, marketers will have the metrics and analytical tools to more accurately assess the value of various social media efforts and continually improve them.
The B2B Social Media Landscape: a portrait by Beyond
***** 5 STARS
The social media approach that nobody wants to hear by Hugo Guzman
Hugo Guzman explains the importance of listening and planning before jumping into social media (failures also noted previously here in the dirty dozen top 12 social media mistakes to avoid). He lists nine steps its imperative for companies to take in order to “build enough social karma (yes, I said karma) to facilitate things like guest posting opportunities, retweets, likes, etc.”
19 Social Media Best Practices [VIDEO] by Social Media Explorer
30 Ways to Use Social Media for Business People by SEOptimise
Citing a recent study showing that “94% of businesses actually do not use social media even for the most obvious task it’s good for: Getting feedback”–and another demonstrating that those businesses are less competitive–Tad Chef supplies a list of 30 ways businesses can use social media, among them to get feedback, get attention, debunk myths, forge relationships and build links.
5 ways to use social media to build a crowd for your event by Socialbrite
Tamara Mendelsohn of Eventbrite details five guiding principles for promoting events, including choose the right platform, publish your event to Facebook, and “define success metrics and don’t underestimate the effort required.”
Organizing Your Social Media Strategy by CompuKol Connection
Influence in social media: how to find the top bloggers by blur Group
The most underestimated social media asset by iMediaConnection
Noting that “the proper framework of enablement and empowerment can turn a company’s workforce into the most effective means of advancing the goals of the business through social media,” Lori Luechtefeld details IBM’s experience with transforming its business be empowering employees to actively engage as part of the company’s social media strategy.
It’s Not Your CEO’s Fault He’s a Social Media Moron by Social Media Today
Expand Your Social Media Mix: Twitter Alone is Not Enough by Web Strategy by Jeremiah Owyang
***** 5 STARS
Deftly weaving in a dinner analogy to social media, Jeremiah Owyang compares Twitter to shish-kabob (bite-sized morsels of information) that are tasty but need to be supplemented by “steak”–infographics, Slideshare presentations, blog posts–and topped off with online video for dessert.
26 Ways to Use Social Media for Lead Generation by Social Media Examiner
***** 5 STARS
Debbie Hemley compiles another brilliant A to Z post, this one focused on using social media for lead generation. Her list of tactics begins with Assets, Branding and Compelling messages and continues all the way through Word of mouth, eXcellence, adopting a Yes attitude, and demonstrating Zeal in your social media activities and relationship building.
Social Media Tools
10 Steps to Finding the Influencers in Your Market by Junta42
***** 5 STARS
The brilliant Joe Pulizzi details 10 steps for finding and cultivating relationships with the key influencers in your market space. For each step, he identifies the overall strategy, useful tools, and helpful tips for execution.
9 Social Networks Your Business Should Be Using by Likeable Media
The Social Media Strategists Power Tools [Consumption] by NewCommBiz
Social Media and Online Video
9 new rules for YouTube marketing by iMedia Connection
Greg Jarboe lists nine helpful rules for video marketing, such as “Rule 1: YouTube marketing is the new video marketing…YouTube gets more than 86 percent of visits to 77 video sites in this country.” (Hulu, at #2, gets less than 4% of visits.) And “Rule 2: You can’t make it on YouTube alone…even with close to 2.0 billion out of the nearly 5.2 billion viewing sessions in the U.S., only 38 percent of all viewing sessions occurred at YouTube.com…45.13 percent of viewers discovered videos by going to a video site (i.e., going to YouTube and running a search or clicking around the featured or related videos). But 44.24 percent of viewers discovered videos embedded on blogs or other websites.”
Social media: Adding video to your digital marketing plan by SignOn San Diego
Erik Bratt expounds on the popularity of video marketing (“video capability was the fastest-growing website feature for small-business advertisers in 2009, with one in five hosting website video by the end of the year”) and the different types of videos businesses can consider using, including screencasts, customer testimonials and video email.
7 Little Known Tricks That Will Get You More YouTube Views by SocialTimes
Social Media Case Studies
The Fantabulous Lists of Social Media Case Studies by Social Media Today
Looking for examples of social media success to emulate? Giedrius Ivanauskas supplies 17 lists of social media case studies such as WOMMA’s Case Study Library and 35+ Examples of Corporate Social Media in Action from Mashable.
B2B Social Media Example: GE MarkNet by Social Media B2B
Social Media Trends and Predictions
2011 Trends: Make Your Corporate Site A Social Media Hub by Business 2 Community
Pam Moore outlines a dozen ways companies can fail at social media marketing, from not understanding the social media “ecosystem” for their industry or hiring the wrong consultant/agency for help to assuming social media will fix a broken business (it’s won’t–it will expose it) and having unrealistic expectations in general.
Social media: What lies ahead? by iMedia Connection
Shelly Palmer predicts that Facebook will face increased competition from better tools, that smart phones will continue to advance and account for a higher share of online traffic, and more in this 11-minute video.
Are These Social Media Trends of 2011 Part of Your Strategy? by Social Media Today
It is the structure of social networks that shapes influence… and the structure is changing by Trends in the Living Networks
Ross Dawson delves into the concept of influence networks to explain why some tweets go viral and others don’t, noting that this is a rapidly evolving area and that research shows “professional blogs are the most influential news media in sports and the second most influential media in politics and national news, while personal blogs are the most influential in entertainment and the second most influential in technology. In general the influence of blogs tends to decay more slowly than other media.”
Social Media Policies and Regulation
10 Steps to Managing Employees on Social Media by Write Speak Sell
**** 5 STARS
Noting that “Well-written (social media) policies prevent public relations disasters and potential legal liability. In addition, when done properly, they also create environments that foster productivity and loyalty among employees,” Kyle-Beth Hilfer provides an outstanding 10-step list to use as a guide in writing a social media policy.
Social Media Policy Unites Social Media Initiatives by Social Media Today
Going down the same path as Who Should Write Your Social Media Policy?, Tim McCord emphasizes the need to create a team when crafting a social media policy and selecting monitoring tools.
NLRB Says Companies Can Not Discipline Workers For Posts in Social Media by iMedia Connection
In news that every company needs to hear thought most likely don’t want to, Chris Boudreaux reports on a recent case wherein the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) determined that “companies can not discipline workers who post criticisms on social-networking sites.” Chris concludes with: “This clarification by the NLRB is a big deal for a lot of companies in the United States.” Indeed it is.
Social Media and SEO
Why social media optimization is the new SEO by iMedia Connection
Noting that many people now “receive the majority of their news on Twitter or via posts on Facebook and LinkedIn before resorting to a Google search on any given topic…How many times have you seen an article posted on Facebook or Twitter that has either made you click on it, or urged you to suddenly search about the topic? It’s a fascinating process,” Dennis Franczak explains why social media optimization (SMO) is now taking center stage in online marketing and how to go about it successfully.
Jennifer Sable Lopez offers a nine-step checklist to making social media activities SEO-friendly, such as incorporating keyword research and making sure your content is easily sharable across the most popular social networks. She uses the word campaign unfortunately, but otherwise it’s a helpful post.
Why Not Be The CMO Of Everyone? by MediaPost Search Insider
***** 5 STARS
Writing that “every person in an enterprise is potentially an authentic, invested content producer, networker or influencer. Very often, employees in large enterprises are actively evangelizing their brands or products and no one in the home office even realizes it,” Derek Gordon advises CMOs to solicit content from the broadest possible array of contributors within an organization in order to develop more valuable, search-optimized copy.
Social Media Monitoring
20 free, awesome social media monitoring tools by Socialbrite
Top 20 social media monitoring vendors for business by Socialmedia.biz
J.D. Lasica and Kim Bale review 20 powerful fee-based tools for professional social media monitoring, among them Radian6, Lithium, Alterian SM2 and Attentio. For guidance on how to evaluate these tools, check out 9 Criteria for Selecting a Social Media Monitoring Tool.
Top 10 analytics tools for social media by iMedia Connection
Pam Sahota provides helpful mini-reviews of 20 free social media monitoring tools worth checking out, from Twilerts and Backtype through Proxlet (which, among other features, helpfully filters out those annoying Foursquare checkin tweets) and Trendrr.
Social Media Dashboards by CompuKol Connection
Neil Glassman raises a number of questions to help focus social media monitoring activities (e.g.,”Does your query language mesh with your consumers’ language? Or is it industry language?”) then makes three key recommendations to help organizations really get value out of social media monitoring.
Social Media Metrics and ROI
6 Critically Undervalued Social Media Success Metrics by Convince & Convert
Jay Baer details the half-dozen social media metrics and tools he views as the most meaningful yet undervalued, from the Klout scores of your Twitter followers (rather than just number of followers) to share of voice and inbound links.
Social media metrics: 5 things to learn in 2011 by Ragan.com
Social Media Strategists Look Hard at ROI this Year by eMarketer
According to research from The Altimeter Group, “when it came to social media programs, 82% of respondents reported they would be investing in brand monitoring in 2011, while 77% cited staff budgets and 78% training budgets…Creating ROI measurements tops the list of internal social strategy objectives for 2011, with 48.3% of respondents highlighting that goal.”
3 Ways social media market research can impact your business by ListenLogic
Noting that “Market research is now beginning to leverage social media in a revolutionary way that provides insights and impact across the organization,” Chris Karnes explains how social media listening can be used to measure marketing campaign effectiveness, drive purchasing decisions and inspire product innovation.
6 Buckets of Social Media Measurement by Take a Peck
Jason Peck details six “buckets” of metrics companies should use to evaluate the success of various social media initiatives, including business metrics, awareness (e.g. website traffic, searches for brand terms) and engagement (Facebook likes, blog comments, retweets, etc.).
Social Media ROI for Idiots by Social Media Today
Hmm, not to sure about the title of this post, as idiots are unlikely to get social media ROI. Or even to get social media for that matter. But regardless, Jacquie McCarnan helpfully provides several different formulas for calculating social media ROI, based on different factors such as qualified leads, employee retention, and customer engagement.
Measuring the Stages of the Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel by SocialSteve’s Blog
***** 5 STARS
Contending that social media ROI can’t be measured in isolation, Steve Goldner recommends instead measuring its contribution to the business through key performance indicators (KPIs) including awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy. His brilliant “Cyclic Social Media Marketing Funnel” graphic makes the post worth a look in itself.
Social Media ROI business measurement by Slideshare
***** 5 STARS
Social Media Research, Facts and Statistics
Gordon MacMillan reports on research from McKinsey showing that “companies that are starting to do it (social media marketing) well are being rewarded for their efforts (e.g., with higher operating margins and market share). More than that, it says those that fail to implement social media could be making a ‘critical mistake.’” He also shares four key steps McKinsey suggests executives should take to move their organizations forward.
Chris Boudreaux cites a study concluding that nearly 9 in 10 large-company CEOs believe social media is important to their business strategies, and that “43% of CEOs say they will ‘significantly change’ their strategies in the next three years to respond to customers’ increased use of social media and mobile devices.”
STUDY: Return On Investment In Facebook Eludes CMOs by All Facebook
Jackie Cohen summarizes and comments on a recent Bazaarvoice / CMO Club showing that “Nine out of every ten Chief Marketing Officers participate in at least three forms of social media promotions, yet many don’t know whether these efforts yield a return on investment…(while) 15.4 percent have a significant return on investment and 20.6 percent have an average return…34.9 percent said they don’t know whether they have an ROI, and 8.6 percent have none.”
How much does Social Media cost companies in 2011? by MackCollier.com
***** 5 STARS
Mack Collier very helpfully provides social media consultants, and companies looking to hire them, with pricing benchmarks for common types of projects. For example, ghostwritten blog posts cost anywhere from $50 to $500 per post, with most providers charging $100-$250.
Until recently, most social media case studies have focused on consumer brands. It’s not that B2B companies aren’t finding success in social media marketing, but more (in my experience at least) that they are less willing to publicly reveal their strategies for competitive reasons. Recently, that’s begun to change a bit as blogs like TopRank and Marketo have highlighted b2b social media success stories.
Digging into the results publicized in these case studies, what does B2B success look like? How are B2B companies evaluating the results of social media marketing efforts? Based on analysis of a number of published B2B social media case studies (in addition to my own client experience), here are some of the criteria used to judge success.
Common objectives for B2B social media marketing efforts include:
- • Increased brand awareness (e.g., measured by increases in direct web traffic and branded search visits)
- • Increased overall website traffic (particularly from branded search or visits referred directly from social media and social networking sites)
- • Enhanced brand image and credibility as an industry thought leader or category expert
- • Expanded social media following (e.g., number of blog subscribers, Twitter followers, Facebook fans)
- • Increased engagement (number, depth and quality of interactions with customers and prospects)
- • Leads and new business
Those last two are of the course the ultimate purpose of any marketing activity, though they can be challenging to measure in social media for a couple of reasons. First, social media activities more often influence a sale (by helping with awareness and branding objectives, for example) than lead directly to one in the B2B world. Second, it’s crucial to consider that a B2B firm’s social network isn’t made up only of customers and prospects, but includes industry journalists, partners and often analysts as well. While these other connections will never buy from you directly, they can certainly influence the marketing and direct business your way.
- • Blogging (a corporate blog is the center of most successful B2B social media programs)
- • LinkedIn (much more important in the B2B world than in B2C, particularly in light of recent marketing enhancements to the platform)
- • Twitter (used by more than 40% of B2B marketers, and that figure continues to grow)
- • Video / YouTube
- • Facebook (more popular among B2C marketers than in B2B firms, although a few success stories have popped up)
- • CRM integration (this will a key to success for B2B social media efforts, though few firms have reached this level of sophistication to date)
Common success metrics reported from B2B social media efforts include increases in:
- • Website traffic
- • Blog visits and subscribers
- • Twitter followers
- • Organic search traffic
- • Views of company videos
- • White paper downloads
- • Landing page conversion rates
- • External blog posts written about the company
- • Leads
- • New customers
Again, the last two items are the most important but often the most elusive. While social media typically doesn’t produce a high volume of leads, website visitors referred from social networks frequently convert at a higher rate than those from other traffic sources, and the leads are frequently highly qualified. As understanding of what to realistically expect from B2B social media marketing programs—and how to measure those results—increases, B2B social media use will continue to expand. Published success stories may well remain rare, at least for now, however, as companies remain reluctant to tip off competitors about what’s working.
The “ROI of social media” (or lack thereof) is a hot, and still hotly contested, topic. I summarized arguments from both sides a few months ago in The Social Media ROI Debate. More recently, numerous writers including Olivier Blanchard, Neil Glassman and Mark Schaefer have tried to make the case that social media ROI is real, can be measured, and must be measured.
Yet a Bazaarvoice/CMO Club study showed that only 15% of CMOs could point to a “significant return” from Facebook marketing efforts, while 9% report no ROI and 35% basically had no idea. Jacquie McCarman argued in It’s Not Your CEO’s Fault He’s a Social Media Moron that “Most C-levels will scroll down to the bottom line to determine effectiveness of any campaign but what many don’t realize is that the bottom line definitions have changed with this new-fangled internet technology. All of the old measurements are moot.”
Austen Mayor writes that although “executives like numbers,” social media efforts should proceed even without hard ROI attached because “The sooner a company starts climbing the deep functionalities learning curve, the sooner their Klout score will be at a respectable level,” and “social media might be bigger than the industrial revolution in terms of societal effects.” On ClickZ, Heidi Cohen reports that even at this stage, only one in three companies are even trying to measure social media ROI, because doing that is hard, though she also outlines five other social media metrics that matter. And another recent study from McKinsey concluded that, whether you can directly measure ROI or not, companies that embrace social media are more profitable than those who don’t, and “those that fail to implement social media could be making a “critical mistake”.”
It’s challenging to get the metrics really needed to measure social media ROI primarily because social media is much more like public relations than it is like direct marketing or search engine advertising. It can influence your prospects to buy from you, but doesn’t normally lead straight to a purchase. Nevertheless, social media activity consumes resources and therefore must produce business results–or those resources will be spent somewhere else. Marketers need to do the best they can with measurement, but also think about how to move their social media followers, who are often near the top of the purchase funnel, into and along the sales process.
The core of social media marketing efforts should be the corporate blog. Through a blog, marketers become publishers, providing their audience with relevant and valuable content. Publishing has historically relied on advertising, or sponsorships, to pay for content production. Corporate blogs can operate in a similar fashion, except that the sole sponsor or advertiser is the company itself. Essentially, marketers need to (carefully and tactfully) advertise on their own blogs. What should they promote? Here are 20 ideas.
Promote white papers / eBooks / reports for lead generation. According to MarketingSherpa (and many other sources), generating qualified leads remains the top priority for B2B marketers. Use “ads” in your blog sidebar, and in-post text links where appropriate, to drive visitors to your white paper or other gated content download pages. When you come out with a new white paper, summarize one of the main findings in a blog post with a link to the page to download the full document.
Generate webinar registrations. Again, you can “advertise” upcoming webinars in your sidebar. Also, as with white papers, write up a short summary of the webinar in a preview post linked to the signup form. After the webinar (if it’s been recorded), write a follow-up post answering questions from the event and directing visitors to the recorded version online.
Build your email subscriber list. Feature a newsletter signup box prominently near the upper-right corner of your blog. From time to time, write “teaser” posts informing readers of what content they are missing, but could be getting, as a newsletter subscriber.
Invite visitors to hear your experts speak or meet you live. Exhibiting at an upcoming trade show? Speaking at an event? Attending a local tweetup? Let your readers know! Social media is a great way to make more in-real-life contacts.
Get more from your presentations. For those readers who aren’t able to make it to that industry event to hear your product expert speak live, extend the life of that carefully crafted presentation by posting it on a social content sharing site like Slideshare. Include a call to action at the end of the presentation or a link to learn more.
Display testimonials linked to case studies in your sidebar. Your customers’ words are more powerful than your own.
Offer a free trial of your product (if practical).
Link to product information from within your blog posts. While it’s inappropriate to simply write a blog post extolling the wonderfulness of your product or service (that’s a marketing slick, not a helpful blog post), there will be times when, in presenting a solution to a problem, a mention of your product naturally fits in. Or better yet, a text description of your product (e.g. “help desk software” instead of the product name). Link it to the page on your website about that product. Most readers won’t bother clicking on the link, but those who do likely have an interest in the product. And as a side benefit, this is helpful for SEO.
Make your content easy to share by including social sharing buttons on your blog posts. This doesn’t directly lead to ROI, but when readers share your content, they are enhancing your reputation by implicitly giving your their endorsements.
Grow your social network by including links to your Twitter account, Facebook page, YouTube channel and other social media points of presence. Again, this doesn’t produce leads directly, but it gives you more “at bats” with your audience.
Integrate social media activities with your CRM system. If there is an individual in your CRM system who is also following you on Twitter, or who likes you on Facebook, or who has left a comment on your blog, that should be noted. If there are several individuals from the same prospect company doing these things, that should really be noted. Don’t pass up the chance to get closer to these people.
Respond to comments (helpfully and appropriately). It’s not always proper to “sell” when responding to a comment, but when pointing someone to information about your products or services that can solve their problems is pertinent, don’t be afraid to do so!
Amplify new product or service announcements (carefully). A blog post isn’t the place to publish a press release, but when apropos, it is a perfectly reasonable place to link to one. Promote the announcement in your sidebar or link to naturally from within a related post.
Answer questions in your blog posts. Some of the most popular posts I’ve written on this blog were essentially extended responses to client questions. Common customer questions will very often pertain to your products or services. Again, while blog posts shouldn’t be too salesy, it’s perfectly acceptable to mention products or services (with links to more information, case studies or white papers) when required to answer an inquiry.
Gather market intelligence. Response rates for email surveys continue to decline; who has the time to answer a survey? (At least without a very attractive incentive to do so.) A corporate blog is a great vehicle, however, for gathering intelligence from your customers and prospects in small chunks. Include a quick poll widget in your sidebar to gather answers to yes/no or multiple choice questions. Ask essay-type questions in your blog posts and encourage readers to answer with a comment.
Showcase your customer support. Got some great support resources online? An active and helpful support forum? A responsive customer support Twitter account? Write about and link to these resources in your blog; customers may need to be reminded, and prospects may (hopefully) be impressed by the breadth and sophistication of your support offerings.
Promote your “evergreen” content and assets. These can be things like lists (e.g., Aira Bongko’s extensive list of Twitter apps or Ken Burbary’s wiki on social media monitoring tools), industry-specific glossaries (like this one on IT service delivery terms), free online tools (HubSpot’s Website Grader has been a phenomenally successful lead generator), collections of resources, free software utilities–the possibilities are limited only by your creativity.
Highlight your partners. If you sell through any kind of channel, find creative ways to link to your partners, either within blog posts (for example, when discussing a specific topic where one of your partners has expertise or writing about a specific geographic region) or even by “advertising” for them in your sidebar. Helping your partners ultimately helps you. Recognition on your blog can even be an incentive for greater performance.
Make it easy for the press to contact you. A well-written blog can be a PR magnet. A journalist is conducting research for a story…finds your blog…is impressed by the facts and knowledge conveyed and wants to learn more. Where do you send them–to a standard blog “contact us” form? A better approach is to make it prominent and easy for members of the media to click directly to your website’s online newsroom or media page. Link to this in your sidebar and on the “About” and “Contact” pages on your blog.
Highlight your company’s community involvement. Okay, this won’t directly produce leads or sales, but it helps spread the kind of publicity that can definitely cast your company in a favorable light, help generate media coverage, and make people more likely to want to do business with you. Be strategic about this; look for opportunities to showcase your company’s expertise while also doing good for society. Two quick examples:
- • A manufacturer of industrial control devices donated some of its products and engineering expertise to students at a local college to help build a solar-powered vehicle for a green energy competition. The car won, but more importantly so did the students, the college, the company (which got some great press and was able to show off it’s engineering capabilities) and, ultimately, perhaps the environment.
- • An IT services firm donated the time of several of its developers to local non-profit groups for a weekend. Again, the non-profits benefited (by getting applications built at no cost, including an improved online donation system for on group), the firm was able to demonstrate the prowess of its developers, and the event was well-covered by local media.
Social media ROI may indeed be challenging to measure, but ultimately, it’s a business activity requiring resources and so it must produce a return. The ideas above are a place to start. Got more? Please share them in the comments.