Many B2Bs still have a lot to learn when it comes to social media smarts, according to a new report.
While most B2Bs know they should be engaging with their customers on social media, they're often not using available tools to harvest critical data and put it to use.
Rather, they treat social as a check box, said Jacques Begin, a research analyst in the technology practice at SiriusDecisions, a B2B research and advisory firm. The firm produced the report, SiriusView: Social Media Intelligence 2015 and Infographic.
“In some cases, marketers are mandated with creating a Facebook page. And once they're finished they check the ‘social box.’ Very little thought is given on how to effectively maximize a social presence afterwards in terms of intelligence, customer interactions and demand creation,” he said.
Track and Measure
Companies that learn to use social media effectively can reap significant rewards. “A corporate social media presence offers the opportunity to reach a highly targeted audience segment, gain mindshare in the market and create and amplify brand evangelists,” said Sam Bleiberg, Social Media Manager at Skyhigh Networks, a cloud security company.
But to do this the right way takes time and effort. You've not only got to get your message out there, but also track your efforts. One way companies do this is by using social media intelligence tools (SMI). The challenge is optimizing the use of these tools SMI tools.
SiriusDecisions reports that 95 percent of more than 100 B2B companies surveyed have corporate social media accounts, but only half use them regularly. Further, only 10 percent can “articulate the business value of social execution.” In addition, the report shows that only five percent of companies are able to successfully use SMI tools to find out how well their influencer programs are working and to build on them. Companies recognize the value of social media, said Bleiberg. "But measuring success poses a challenge, especially for B2B companies with a long sales cycle,” he said.
Missing the Mark
According to Begin, this is a missed opportunity. “Organizations require reliable SMI tools to discover, monitor and make sense of social signals being sent by buyers, customers, influencers and even competitors,” he said. “This intelligence is now foundational for a successful marketing strategy, as social media has become a more meaningful proxy for the marketplace. With accurate SMI, guesswork and assumptions can be replaced by fact-based decision-making.”
The Sirius report shows that while 60 percent of companies surveyed use some sort of paid SMI tool, only 15 percent think they’re using it to its full advantage.
One of the reasons that SMI tools were created was to help companies monitor their brand and reputation, said Begin. While they’re still used by many companies for that purpose today, today's tools have evolved and can offer even more. “When used for in-depth study of target audiences, SMI and search are effective, low-cost ways to begin audience-centric marketing without doing expensive market research,” said Begin.
Used properly, SMI can help your company better understand industry trends and its share of voice within the market. “There is no substitute for these tools when it comes to competitive analysis and benchmarking,” said Bleiberg.
Companies use paid social media monitoring to discover top influencers, gauge the relative popularity of industry topics and measure buzz around specific company events and announcements.
The problem, Begin said, is that “SMI tools are often used in a brand-centric manner, supported by little or no primary buyer research or investigation into industry, competitive or buyer-centric issues or terminology. The absence of audience insights – and a lack of agreement across product, marketing and sales on who target audiences are – can render the SMI tool substantially less valuable.”
Choosing the Right Tool
Before selecting a SMI tool, decide where you want to go and what will help you get there, said Bleiberg. “Define what winning will look like,” he said. “Visualize your desired results and work backwards to select the metrics that will guide you there.”
Consider your social intelligence needs within and outside of marketing. “Use these to craft an RFP and develop specific business use cases that you can pose to vendors during a proof of concept phase to help narrow the field of viable solutions,” said Bleiberg. “In terms of resources, understand the strengths (or limitations) of the people that will be using the tool and understand how much vendor involvement (in terms of initial set up, services and support) will be needed.”
In some cases that may mean you need to use multiple tools and then rely on an outside agency to meet your cross-functional SMI requirements, he said. Not ideal, but often necessary. And don’t assume that you’ve got to pay to get what you need.
“Before purchasing a tool, compare its capabilities with those available for free. You may be surprised with the robust features, including the ability to export data to Excel,” said Bleiberg. How can you use tools to their full potential?
- Make an effort to seek out actionable metrics or results that can inform future behavior
- Set up a clear workflow to ensure accountability within the team
- Spend time on social media sites to capture a nuanced understanding of the industry conversation
It’s also important to remember that while tools can boost your efforts, they’re not going to eliminate the need for the human component. “They are not a replacement for manual monitoring and anecdotal metrics. Top industry influencers may have relatively low follower counts while holding a great deal of credibility with potential customers,” said Bleiberg.
Begin agreed . “Social media intelligence by itself isn’t useful. It’s what you do with the results and how you socialize them into various campaign programs and improve them that matters – whether that be for reputation, demand creation or sales enablement,” he said.