One of the biggest challenges B2B marketers face is measuring the success of social media marketing.
Oktopost’s Daniel Kushner believes his company can help. On a recent Rethink Podcast, he discusses how to use social media to convert more B2B leads.
Today’s modern marketer needs to connect the dots between Tweets and MQLs. However, many B2B marketers are stuck in the rut of thinking about social media as just a top-of-the-funnel tactic, or they’re too caught up with surface-level metrics such as how many followers and friends they have.
There is too much money at play just to be content scheduling a bunch of tweets, posts, and updates. More than $5.4 billion was spent last year on social media marketing. But 34% of marketers claim tying social to business goals is a challenge, according to Simply Measured’s 2016 State of Social Marketing Report.
In this episode of the Rethink Podcast, Act-On CMO Michelle Huff interviews Daniel Kushner, co-founder and CEO of Oktopost. They discuss how B2B marketers are using social media to convert more leads, what marketers are doing right and wrong on social media, the differences between B2C and B2B social media marketing, and how to encourage your organization’s team members to becoming your social advocates.
Enjoy the conversation, and we hope you can get one or two takeaways that you can bring to your business.
Michelle Huff: Daniel, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself, and tell us about Oktopost.
Daniel Kushner: I’m one of the co-founders and CEO of Oktopost. We like to call ourselves the only B2B social media management and advocacy platform. Basically, Oktopost is a platform that is used for managing, scheduling, and measuring social media content. And, as we’ll get in this discussion today, we very much focus on the B2B aspects of social media because we see this as a very unique and special market when it comes to marketing and especially social media marketing.
Michelle: I couldn’t agree more. And it’s interesting just even talking to people in the B2B space, because I think people approach social media differently depending on where they’re at in the adoption curve, and how they think about it and their own buyers. Since you talk to a ton of B2B marketers, from your point of view what are people getting right about marketing on social media today? And on the flip side, where do you think they’re falling short?
Daniel: Social Media is very different for every company. Because on social media we’re kind of opening up ourselves and being very honest with this non-corporate talk, if it’s about employees, work environments, products, releases, etc. And when we look at our customers, some of the things they might not be doing as well as they should is the amount of content they push onto social. Because as social has advanced over the years, it’s become a very noisy place. And it was once was enough for us to tweet a couple of times a day ‒ maybe five times a day. Today, with the number of tweets that are getting pushed out by consumers, by companies, we need to increase the amount of content that we’re posting onto social media.
If we look at what a company will normally do when they develop content, we’re all in this game in the B2B world of content marketing. We’re generating the white papers, webinars, podcasts, blog posts, etc. All this content needs to get distributed onto social media. If I have a new blog post, sending out one tweet wouldn’t be enough. I would maybe write 10 or 20 different messages on the same blog post and schedule those multiple times. So, in essence I have dozens of different tweets going out at different times of the day for a single piece of content. That’s one thing I believe that many B2B companies could improve on: generating much more content on social.
The second thing is all about automation. We live in a world where a large part of the MarTech is around marketing automation. And I think when B2B marketers look at the social side, they’re trying to take that automation aspect to social as well. But in essence social works much better when it’s not automated. There’s only so much you can automate. In the end, as I said, it’s a very open and honest channel. And automating content, automating messages ‒ it just doesn’t work as well as messages and content being personalized.
I’ll give you an example of what automation can be. There might be a blog or a WordPress plugin, that whenever you have a new blog post, it will automatically create a tweet about that blog post. And how is it going to do that? It’ll be the blog title, put in the link, and send that out to Twitter. But that’s not engaging. And as I said, on a single blog post we can write dozens of different tweets with different content that really explains what the blog is about and not just repeating the title. So automation, from our experience, doesn’t work on social media.
And I’ll say the third thing is social media, like every other marketing channel, really needs to be measured. It doesn’t make much sense in us investing time, money, effort into creating content on social if we’re not measuring how successful the social is for us. It’ll be just like doing a webinar and not measuring how many registrants we have, or doing a trade show and not measuring how many business cards we collect. And it’s very much the same for social media. It’s a marketing channel that needs to be measured.
Michelle: For people who think of social as Facebook or Twitter, and how they use those platforms socially, can social media be an effective marketing channel? And how should people be thinking about it? Should it be the same or different than B2C?
Daniel: We definitely believe it’s a super effective channel. Actually, before founding Oktopost, I was VP marketing at another technology startup called Nolio. We were developing dev ops technology, selling to banks and telcos ‒ the classical B2B long sales cycle enterprise sale. And when we looked at the numbers at the end, because we were measuring everything in the platform, social media actually generated 25 percent of the new business. And this is B2B enterprise sales. So, it can be effective.
Michelle: How do you see B2C and B2B being different in terms of how marketers should use social media? Do you see big differences? I know that you’ve mentioned that you guys are really focused on B2B. What do you think are the big things?
Daniel: I think there are two major differences. The first, in the B2B market or B2B companies, they’re posting much more data or much more content onto social media channels than B2C. And this is counterintuitive, because B2C is full of images and content. But when we drill down and we look at what the B2B marketing organization is doing, they’re generating lots of content. We’re doing the blogs, and the webinars, and the white papers, and the podcasts, testimonials, eBooks, and white papers.
And all these pieces of content needs to get distributed multiple times onto social media channels. If we’re a large organization and we have multiple products, we’re multiplying that number again. If we have multiple languages, that’s another multiplication. And what we end up seeing is that B2B companies, they’re posting hundreds, if not thousands of messages on a monthly basis.
When we look at B2C, and I like to use Nike as an example, if you go over to their Twitter account you’ll see that Nike will post a single tweet maybe every couple of days. So, they’re posting maybe 12, 20 tweets on a monthly basis, far less than B2B. But on the Nike side that single tweet is now distributed to their millions of followers and gets retweeted tens of thousands of times. On the B2B side, we have much more content, but much smaller audiences. That’s kind of a complete reverse of what’s happening in B2C.
The second difference that I see is what are we measuring. Now, almost every single marketing event can be measured. If I’m going to a trade show, I know how many business cards I collected. If we’re doing a webinar, we see registrations and attendees. Even if we’re spending money on paid advertising, we have the technology to understand how many dollars I spent, how many leads, qualified leads, and we can follow that down the pipeline so we can understand the ROI of our marketing efforts. But when it comes to social, all of a sudden the metrics are very different. We see things like likes, and retweets, and shares, and comments, and followers month over month.
Now, going back to the pre-Oktopost days when I was VP of marketing, the CEO used to ask me one question each month. This was all they cared about. And the question was: ‘How many leads?’ And I couldn’t come back to the CEO and say, listen, we got 10,000 new followers on Facebook or so many retweets or shares. It’s all about the number of leads. This is the question every CMO is asked.
Michelle: OK, I’ve got a bunch of likes. What does that mean?
Daniel: When we’re looking at social media from a B2B perspective, there’s no correlation between the likes and the shares and the retweets to the actual business values. Am I generating leads? Is social media helping push leads down the funnel? What we need to measure in B2B on the social media side are the real business values: leads, SQLs, MQLs, and how they helped opportunities and closed/won deals.
Michelle: Yes, so that brings up, from your viewpoint, how does a B2B social media management platform like Oktopost fit with marketing automation?
Daniel: I think these two platforms were made to work together. Because if we look at social media, we use it a lot for top of the funnel, so it’s awareness and bringing in traffic. And then we capture this traffic using marketing automation platforms. If we look at Act-On for example … so what are we doing with Act-On? We’re doing lead nurturing, we’re doing lead scoring, and we’re doing lead attribution. And the way we’re able to do this within Act-On is by using the data that we have on the lead. So if we spoke about nurturing, sending the right email to the right person at the right time, how do I know who’s the right person at the right time, which email to send, is based on the data I have on that lead? And the same with scoring and the same with attribution.
Now all the data that Act-On has is coming either from the website visits because of the beacon code that I have, it’s coming from email opens, email clicks, it’s from data that I’m synchronizing with CRM, whether it be Dynamics, Salesforce, etc. But much of the social data is missing – well, actually, it’s not because you have the Advanced Social Media module. But this data, this social click data, is a whole new dimension that we have in Act-On that’s coming from social media that tells us a lot about our leads, what they like, the content they’re interested in, what triggers them. And we can use this additional dimension of data to enhance the way that we’re nurturing and scoring and attributing our leads within marketing automation.
I’ll give you an example of how these two platforms work together. Let’s say we’re using Oktopost and we scheduled a LinkedIn message. And this LinkedIn message is pointing to an article in the Wall Street Journal that discusses maybe our company, or maybe just our general topic or general area that we play in. So now we have this prospect that might be known in the Act-On database that clicked on a LinkedIn post and went to the Wall Street Journal. But because of the integration between Act-On and Oktopost, that click is now available in Act-On. So Act-On has additional information and different data points about this specific lead.
They know that they’re on LinkedIn. They know what they clicked on, what the topic of the article was, or they went to the Wall Street Journal. And we can use this additional data to help the nurturing and scoring mechanisms, and basically improve the way that we perform those actions within the marketing automation platform.
Michelle: We couldn’t agree more that the two platforms work really well together, as you mentioned, with the advanced social media, and we’re a customer as well with Oktopost.
Daniel: And I think just to add one more thing, Michelle, there was a Forrester report recently. They were discussing that marketers who can’t measure what they’re doing, they’ve got a very hard time maintaining budgets, or even getting new budgets. Because, at the end of the day, when we have a close/won opportunity, we want to go back and say, ‘OK, I have a closed/won, how did I get the lead, what pushed that lead through the funnel, and what influenced this specific sale?’ And if we don’t have all those data points, which is normally recorded inside the marketing automation platform, as we know as marketers, sales are going to take all the credit. So we as marketers, we have to understand and know how to measure all the influence that our marketing activities ‒including social ‒ have on the opportunity pipeline.
Michelle: So, better understanding what you contribute, but then also understanding all the different touch points and influencing that you have with that customer … And bringing up sales and marketing ‒ the whole dynamic: Do you think that there’s a difference in how sales should approach your product or just social media?
Daniel: I think there are two approaches. The difference in social media between sales and marketing, I believe, is that sales is more of a one-to-one connection, if we’re talking about social sales, communicating to prospects, customers, via social media. And marketing is more of a broadcasting onto social media for awareness and to trigger this engagement.
One of the things we see ‒ and at Oktopost we have plugins for Salesforce ‒ we’re working on Dynamics, where the sales reps can see the social journey their prospects are taking. So when we look at the interaction between a prospect and a company, it doesn’t always happen on the website. It doesn’t always happen through emails. It might happen through social. I might be engaging with a company, or not even engaging, just following a company, because I’m interested in their technology, and clicking on their social content, on their tweets, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.
With Oktopost and Act-On and the CRM now all tied together, we can see that social journey within, let’s say Salesforce, for example. So when that salesperson is going to send the next email, pick up the phone and have the next conversation, they can really now have that in the right context that their prospect is interested in because they’re able to see what they’re doing on social media, what links they’re clicking on, and what really triggers them; and it’s a great piece of information to start a new conversation.
Michelle: The richness of that very first conversation that sales can have when they can see what topics have engaged that person in the first place … you just have a much more relevant conversation right from the get go.
If there are customers or companies who are listening right now and they’re thinking, ‘OK, you’ve sold me, I want to start doing a lot more on social,’ any advice for trying to identify what channels work best for them? Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn? Do they have to care? Do you just go try to do all of them at once? What’s the best approach to get started?
Daniel: This is very much individual on a company per company basis. I’ve seen companies where LinkedIn isn’t doing anything for them and they’re getting a lot of leads and lots of traction from Facebook. And then we see the exact opposite. So it’s very, very different. I think first you should try as much as you can, as much as you have the bandwidth for. As we discussed in the very beginning, everything has to be measured. So using a platform like Act-On, like Oktopost, with the Advanced Social Media module, you need to be able to measure which channels are working. Now it’s not only which channels, but what type of content is working.
When we compare this to marketing automation, today it’s basically a no-brainer that, when I’m sending out an email, I want to A/B test the subject line. And why do I A/B test the subject line? Because I know that this is what triggers the open rate of the email. This is like standard practice across the world today. But what about social media? When I’m writing this tweet, when I’m writing a Facebook update, or LinkedIn update, am I A/B testing my content? Am I writing different pieces of content to see what resonates with the audience and what’s getting the most clicks and conversions?
It’s not only between which channels are best for my company, but what type of content is best for my company and best for my audience. So it’s really drilling down and analyzing the data from the macro, which is the channels, all the way down to the actual pieces of content. Let’s say, for example: Twitter with the emoticons, without emoticons, upper case, lower case, exclamation points ‒ what is really getting the most attention out on social media? So you have to really measure everything to understand what works and what doesn’t work.
Michelle: Could you talk a little bit about how you leverage the power of enlisting your entire team to be what you call ‘social advocates’? Maybe you can tell everyone a little bit more about that.
Daniel: At Oktopost, we love social advocacy. And, in addition to the publishing, we have a social advocacy platform. And I can definitely say, Michelle, that our most successful customers understand this hidden secret of using their employees to share the message. So if we said that the number one KPI or the main objective of the CMO is normally lead generation, we can now tap into the advocates to help generate these leads.
So what is advocacy all about? It’s about the marketing team, the corporate marketing, creating social content, and getting this content into the hands of employees or partners ‒ these are normally customer-facing employees, like from the sales, customer success, support, etc. ‒ and having the employees share it on their own LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter networks. Now, what does this do? It benefits for everyone. So it’s really a win/win situation.
One, we have the benefit for the company because they’re getting what we call social amplification. If we take in the social reach of all the employees, this is normally much bigger than the reach of the B2B company itself. So we’re amplifying our social. For advocates, it very much positions them as thought leaders in the industry. If, for example we’re connected on LinkedIn, and you constantly see that I’m updating my LinkedIn with industry-relevant content, it might go through your head that, ‘You know, Daniel is really into this social media stuff; he’s updating his LinkedIn on a daily basis. But what am I doing? I’m just clicking on a button in the advocacy program that shares content that the marketing team wrote.’ So it really positions the advocates as thought leaders.
And, the third thing: Our data isn’t siloed. It’s flowing between social and Act-On and marketing automation, and we can really measure the results of advocacy. And, if I’m running an advocacy program and I’m getting the whole company involved, I want to make sure this is working. I’m not wasting, not only the marketers’ time, but I’m not wasting maybe 200 or 300 employees’ time when they’re sharing the social content on a daily basis. But now when everything is fit into Act-On, every social click, we know if it came from an advocate, if it came from corporate, who wrote the message, what the message was about. We can really see if the advocacy program is working from: Who’s sharing? How many clicks? Are we getting conversions? Is it helping pipeline? And that can definitely help us improve the way we run the advocacy program as well. So we’re big believers in advocacy.
And just one more thing. We see, when we’re looking at the successful advocacy programs, it’s normally compared to online ad spending on social. If we’re considering or maybe we even have existing budgets to spend on social media pay per click, we might be spending $5, $6, or $7 per click, let’s say on LinkedIn. And if we compare the data to the advocacy ‒ so let’s say I just have maybe 100 advocates, and they’re sharing content, and the 100 advocates are getting a conservative 10 clicks a month, super conservative, so it’s 1,000 clicks a month. So 1,000 clicks from LinkedIn and social media, compared with what I’m currently paying LinkedIn or Facebook or Twitter for these clicks, is worth between $5,000 and $10,000. And I’m getting this almost for free from my advocates themselves.
Michelle: Free ‒ that’s like music to my ears. I think, as a marketer, I love the idea of message and brand amplification. And I think people kind of missed it when you were mentioning your few different points. I think what I love about it is how easily you made it to ask people to be advocates and to share your message. They might do it once, they might do it twice. I love it.
Daniel: It’s definitely easy. And when we look at advocates as a wide spectrum of different levels of advocacy, we have the super social savvy advocates, like they’re on social all day, and then we have maybe a group that, if you give them content to share, they’ll share it. And the nice thing about the advocacy platform is that we can serve all the different types of advocates that we have in the organization. If somebody’s more savvy, they can take the marketing message that the corporate wrote and change it to their own words. Because they feel that if they’re posting on their personal Facebook page, they want it to come from them, and they speak with a different tone or different angle than the company would.
So we see that different advocates, they take it to different levels, what they’re more comfortable with. And the advocacy platform that we have really can be tailored to each one of those different types of advocates.
Michelle: The fact that it is more authentic, it is another person, it’s their personal channel, how you can actually take your message and put it in their words for their network, is the best of both worlds. Well, I thought this was awesome. I always learn so much more about social media when I talk to you, Daniel. Thank you so much for taking the time today