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.