Social media return on investment (ROI) is a tricky subject for marketers. But, for B2B marketers it’s especially difficult given the nuances of a B2B sale. In a B2B setting, organizations are looking for targeted buyers in specific roles and functions; the offering is more complex, pricing is complicated, and multiple decision makers often influence the final outcome. Moreover, investments in marketing are highly scrutinized with respect to return – marketers must be laser-focused on streamlining the buying cycle and influencing the pipeline. Businesses don’t buy products from businesses, people buy products from businesses – and surly buyers are out there on social channels.
Let’s face it, social media looks like it should be a compelling channel for B2B marketing; hundreds of millions of people engaging, learning, sharing, and interacting. Yet, eight out of 10 B2B marketers remain skeptical about the value of social media marketing in a B2B context.
Half of Top Performers include social media in marketing execution
According to Gleanster Research, about half of Top Performing B2B marketers incorporate social media channels in marketing execution (compared to 18% for All Other respondents). That means organizations that are outperforming peers in revenue growth, bid-to-win, and growth in the number of new opportunities quarter-over-quarter are two times more likely than peers to leverage social media. But, the number one challenge for these Top Performers is determining how to link their social media efforts to actual return on investment.
B2B social media success requires a very targeted approach
In a B2C environment marketers can use a baseline measurement before social media campaigns and infer return on investment by measuring sales before and after incorporating social media marketing. It’s sort of like fishing in the ocean. If you use a big net, you are likely to catch a lot more fish than you would if you dropped a single line. For B2C marketers, social media channels expand the net – it’s about exposing the brand to as many people as possible. That’s why the best social media case studies are often globally known consumer brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola. But for B2B marketers, buyers are few and far between. Using that same fishing analogy, B2B marketers are effectively fishing for a very specific type of fish in the big blue sea. B2B marketers don’t need nets, they need baited hooks. For B2B marketers, content is used like bait to attract hyper-targeted buyers in specific roles, industries, and functions.
Social ROI is hard to measure…
B2B marketers don’t have the luxury of directly linking social media efforts to actual return; too many factors influence the final sale. That isn’t to say it doesn’t happen. Buyers do talk and interact on social media, and million dollar opportunities do bubble out of social channels (See the “Million Dollar Tweets” sidebar in the Gleanster Deep Dive: Quantifying the Value of Social Media Engagement in B2B Marketing). But these opportunities are few and far between, so B2B marketers need to incorporate a variety of metrics when measuring the value of social media ROI.
…but not impossible.
This can be accomplished by aggregating a handful of key metrics and weighting these metrics by the relative value to the organization. The most common social media metrics measured by Top Performers cover a variety of categories including: distribution, interaction, influence, and action. These metrics range from strong measures of return to weak measures of return, but all remain valuable for the average B2B marketer. To measure social media ROI, marketers should select a handful of metrics that the organization truly values.
The Social Media Mean Performance Score Dashboard
Gleanster has a tool called the “Social Media Mean Performance Score Dashboard” which can be used to generate a monthly social media index or score. B2B marketers can set up the tool in Excel and generate a monthly dashboard report that provides some quantifiable metrics on growth/decline in metrics and the overall value of social media efforts. Using this tool, marketers can elevate the conversation beyond static metrics like “the number of followers.” The dashboard also keeps marketers laser-focused on key areas of social media that the CEO, shareholders, and the board truly value.