Up until the Industrial Revolution, all goods were made by hand. A hierarchy evolved that included skilled workers who were part of guilds, and these groups required that members protect trade secrets to keep their skills in high demand. In order to learn the trade, a person would have to spend years as an apprentice and work for free to become a full-fledged tradesman.
Technology changed industry
Then came the Spinning Jenny (which changed the way yarn was made), and with it, the Industrial Revolution. Once this shift occurred, many of the tasks that once required skilled workers became automated, and these new machines could easily be controlled by “unskilled workers.” By means of the assembly line, Henry Ford took this one step further.
Technology is changing marketing
Fast-forward one century later, a similar revolution has occurred. Marketing used to require hands-on, time-consuming labor. Today’s marketers are certainly highly skilled. However, the requirements demanded of today’s marketers have become far more complex, and even the most skilled experts can’t accomplish them on their own. The Industrial Revolution brought with it new technologies to automate various processes, just as the digital revolution brought with it new software, including what’s now known as marketing automation.
Marketing automation is changing marketing
Marketing automation platforms, such as Act-On, can perform tasks that not even a team of 100 marketers could do manually. Having lists of thousands of contacts, and being able to segment leads and then send them the most relevant content, is something that is absolutely necessary in the modern world of marketing. More specifically, it’s something that was impossible prior to the tectonic shift in marketing.
The creation of social media led to social marketing
Automation was not the only aspect of marketing that was turned on its head in the last decade. Back in 2004, a young Harvard student created a simple website in his dorm room. Then called “the facebook,” the behemoth we now know as Facebook was never meant to be a marketing tool. One of the biggest barriers to Facebook’s marketing potential was that it was a closed network. At first, only certain colleges were allowed to join, then, gradually, it became open to all schools. But, you still needed a “.edu” email address – something most marketers didn’t have.
WhenFacebook opened up its network to the wider world in September 2006, a lot of brands and businesses created Pages. The world of social media marketing exploded.
Along with Facebook, other social networks emerged, with each one focusing on its own niche. These include Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and – for professionals – LinkedIn.
In the last few years, we have seen a further evolution of social media marketing, one in which both B2Bs and B2Cs play an active role. There has been some pushback in regard to utilizing social media as a marketing outlet for B2B, mainly because of the perceived inability to measure ROI. Along with that, many B2B marketers still stubbornly cling to traditional marketing tactics.
It would only seem logical that these new marketing strategies would intersect, especially considering the ever-increasing complexity involved in managing social media. However, unlike email, social media needs to be … well, social. Herein lies the problem.
While social media marketing itself, in most cases, shouldn’t be automated, it can be coupled with an automation system to enrich lead data for nurturing and remarketing purposes. Since automation systems track behavior such as visits to a website and clicks on emails, why not expand this to include social actions as well?
There are several specific actions that can be tracked by automation systems in order to better understand lead behavior and the path to purchase. These include:
Prior to the modern marketing revolution, understanding how people interacted with your marketing content and your company in general, was extremely difficult. With the advent of digital marketing channels, this has become much easier. One of the ways to follow a lead’s interest in your company is to monitor the number of times he or she clicks on a link. Historically, this refers to clicks on your website or in emails. However, with the advent of third party social media platforms, it is now possible to easily measure interactions with your social posts, including clicks on links in your posts.
Clicks can be an indication of several things:
- Interest in content you have shared
- Interaction with, and awareness of, your company
- A lead’s relevance to your industry
- Your level of thought leadership
As mentioned earlier, the perceived inability to prove the ROI of social media has been a huge stumbling block in its adoption by B2B companies. These companies, more so than B2C, are interested in generating leads; awareness is not a top priority for most.
What many B2B marketers don’t know is that social media can definitely contribute to lead generation. By utilizing third party platforms, these leads can also be measured. The ability to generate leads from social media, and add those leads’ social interactions to your automation platform, can increase your reach and optimize your sales pipeline.
Social media marketing challenges are becoming manageable
Last Social Interaction
First or last click? Knowing which one you can attribute a lead’s conversion to is a highly contested topic. While each click indicates a certain interest, identifying a lead’s last social interaction with your company is a crucial part of the sales process. The data is more recent, and indicates your lead’s current position in the sales funnel.
Having this data populated into your automation system is one thing, but it’s what you do with it that counts. A marketer can have the most up-to-date, rich data on a lead, but if he or she fails to leverage it correctly, then it is all for naught.
One of the most powerful aspects of an automation platform is the ability to score leads based on various actions. Scoring can be used to trigger certain marketing activities by showing you how warm a lead is. If, for example, a person clicks on a certain number of your social posts, you will know that they are ready for the next stage of the sales cycle.
Social data can be used for lead scoring in several ways:
Looking at social clicks – how many times a lead has clicked on your social posts – is a great indicator of the person’s interest in your company.
- Understanding which social campaign caused a lead to convert can indicate which aspect of your company’s product or service sparked interest.
- Each social network attracts a different audience. Knowing which social network a lead came from can give you a better idea of his or her personality.
Each LinkedIn Discussion Group has its own topic, professional focus, and members. This data will help enrich your understanding of your leads and help you provide each one with the most relevant content.
- B2B companies generally utilize the personal profiles of their employees for evangelist purposes (if you are not doing so, I suggest you start). Each one of these profiles has different connections. Knowing which social profile was used to publish a post that a lead converted from can provide crucial insight.
Adding social data to your leads enables you to segment them into various buckets. In this context, knowing where they are in the sales cycle will help you understand the level of nurturing they require. If, for example, they have a lower lead score (as a result of fewer social interactions) you will know that the type of content you send them should be more top-of-funnel and thought-leadership related, as opposed to sales-y.
One of the greatest benefits of marketing automation tools is the ability to target campaigns; in other words, you can send the right content, to the right leads, at the right time. By using a combination of lead scoring and various triggers from social actions, you’ll be able to understand who your leads are, what they’re interested in, and where they stand in the sales cycle. Once you understand this information, you can create targeted campaigns for lead types in order to generate sales more effectively.
Pick the Right Tools
There are many tools in today’s marketing world. Most marketers start with an integrated platform, but even the most sophisticated platform cannot stand alone. For the highly specialized, critical function of social media marketing, modern marketers need a diverse mix of tools, as well as the ability to integrate the data from each one into the core platform data, in order to successfully push a lead down the sales funnel.
Daniel Kushner is a cofounder and the CEO of Oktopost — social media management software that helps B2B marketers manage content and measure the true business value of their social media marketing.
Facebook images used with permission from Facebook. See the entire company timeline.