B2B and professional service firms often challenge the value of social media – they are right to do so.
Social media tends to attract a disproportionate amount of attention (and therefore budget) due to the fact that it’s not only new and exciting, but also more visible. You can’t easily learn what your competitor’s email strategy is or what exhibitions they’re attending, but with one click you can hop onto their Facebook page and see every bit of content they’ve ever shared.
Social has a role to play, absolutely, but in order to understand that role you need to be clear on the metrics by which you’re judging success.
I’d suggest that there are three things worth tracking (with one clear priority). Everything else is noise.
- Driving sales qualified leads
The first and hardest to achieve is sales qualified leads. In other words, those people who are actually seeking to buy.
For most B2B and professional service organisations, it’s almost impossible to do this directly via social, particularly if the price point is high. Social is great for driving impulsive action, but complex B2B buying journeys are a different beast. If you’re a gym hoping to drive new members, Facebook is one of your hottest channels, but if you’re hoping to create beautiful content that “inspires” someone to spend £100k on a cyber security solution, you may be waiting a along time!
What is likely to happen instead is this:
- The lead finds you via another source – a google search query, referral visit or perhaps a direct brand visit having seen you at an event or heard about you from another customer, etc.
- Then they click on your social media to get a better sense of what you’re about as a company. A bit like the “About Us” page (one of the most trafficked pages on most B2B / professional service sites) but far more revealing and engaging, or at least it should be!
- Having spent a few minutes scrolling through your content and building up a picture of your expertise, communication style and culture (are these people they want to do business with?) they then go back to the website and make contact.
Every year we will have half a dozen decent leads arrive via social media. Of those, 4 or 5 will have followed the path described above. The other one may have taken a more direct route straight from the social platform in question – perhaps we were just in the right place at the right time..?
This my not sound like a lot and it isn’t reason alone to invest in social, but it’s certainly something to be tracked. It’s a metric that senior decision makers will understand and if just one of those leads comes off, it’ll pay for all our content and social activity for the next two years.
- Clicks to the website
The second priority metric is clicks back to the site. To be clear, clicks carry zero inherent value, but there are two reasons why I personally include them in the KPI’s:
- It is possible that referral traffic from social media platforms may act as a signal in your SEO efforts. This point is highly speculative(!) and is likely to be market dependent as Google’s algorithms are now primarily driven by machine learning, therefore the signals that apply in one vertical may not apply in another.
- It demonstrates an increase in the level of commitment from the audience (most people do not like leaving their social platform for another site) and that commitment is essential in driving the third and most important metric.
- Capturing MQL data
For me, this is the real point of your social media efforts. To build your database.
By MQL’s (Marketing Qualified Leads), we mean the contact details of anyone who falls within your target audience and has given you permission to make contact. They may not have a requirement today, but they tick all the boxes of your ideal prospect.
The data you receive may include telephone number which if you have an outbound sales function is fantastic. However, the real value for most companies is in the email, as this is an asset that can grow over time without a directly correlating increase in cost (unlike telephone numbers which are only as valuable as the sales people you’re paying to call them!).
The data you capture may feed into an automated email sequence that takes the user through a pre-defined journey, or they may just be added to a list of people who will receive targeted information every week/month. Either way, you are building one of just two real digital assets your company owns (the other being your website), and the compound value, if managed well, is likely to surpass the potential of any other single channel.
So, how does social drive this email capture? Lots of ways. Perhaps by driving clicks to the website which then generates a lightbox, or maybe you’ll be more aggressive and run direct response campaigns on the social platform itself. However, with likely cost per acquisition of anything from £5-£50 for most B2B organisations (depending on your audience, content and brand), the latter is probably only viable if you have a sales function making direct use of the resulting data.
And a bonus – the non-sales objectives
It’s also worth mentioning that not all the benefits of a digital channel can be measured in pounds and pence. Social media, as the name suggests, is probably the single greatest digital channel for communicating and strengthening company culture, making it a powerful tool for both recruitment and engagement of existing staff.
Unless you’re a really large business, however, this is likely to be more of a side benefit than anything that can justify direct commercial investment.
Most B2B organisations manage to somehow underestimate the power of social whilst simultaneously overspending on it. Social absolutely has a role to play. It’s a key touchpoint and has enabled companies to reach their audience in more targeted, cost effective way than ever before. However, in order to extract that value companies need to understand its place in the sales/marketing funnel (right at the top!) and the corresponding activities that need to surround it.
Above all, they need to know how to measure success.