Companies are flocking to social media like people to California during the Gold Rush. Like many of those people, some companies are finding the “promised land” to be less than expected.
While some companies see great success from social media, one has to examine WHY these companies ARE seeing success, and what brought them there in the first place.
Before examining any of their strategies, it’s important to learn why people “Like” or “Follow” companies and accept them into their social media lives.
- I Like This Company! – The customer uses this company’s services/products and truly enjoys them. They want their friends to see because it increases their status (or the perception their friends have of them) or because they want to spread the word that this product exists and/or ROCKS.
- Will Somebody Listen to Me? – People often follow companies they use in order to get help. Many companies use their social media for customer service, and it provides a quick outlet for people to ask for help, file a complaint, or leave feedback.
- I Want to Know More – People often will use social media to get the “insider knowledge” on upcoming products/services or learn more about the company. They also look for coupons, promotions and sales.
- I Work Here – Sometimes people follow companies simply because they work there.
The appeal of social media to businesses is clear when you look at the numbers.
- Facebook has 640M registered users, and 310M daily unique visitors
- Twitter has 200M users and 22M daily unique visitors
- 86% of people 18-29 years use social networking sites, 61% of those 30-49 years, and a growing number (47%) of those 50-64 years
- 50% of Twitter or Facebook users have recommended a brand
- 40% have liked a brand on Facebook
Obviously, social media should be considered if there is marketing value and it fits with your overall marketing strategy. B2C business models are more likely to see a benefit from social media sites such as having a Facebook or Twitter page, but what about B2B?
B2B and Social Media
B2B marketing has seemingly jumped head first into social media, with 78% reportedly using social media in their marketing mix. Most are using it, but only 25% of these companies have a defined strategy for using it. So why are they there? And why are they planning on increasing their social media investment (76% through financial spend, and 85% by dedicating more time)?
According to Circle-Research, very few see consistent ROI on their social media investment (21% of the 272 B2B marketers surveyed).
Still, there may be a benefit of using social media in B2B to foster relationships and educate and inform potential customers – both of which can influence a final purchase decision. Relationships can be an integral part of converting leads to sales, and social media may help customers interact with the brand before they purchase. It also provides a medium for customers to stay connected with the company through updates, continued education about products and value-add, and as a medium to contact support.
Another benefit may be portraying brand values and knowledge in an industry with reliable and intelligent content. While B2C purchase are often emotional, B2B are more rational and focused on information. Social media may even be a good place to solicit recommendations from existing customers.
For B2B marketers right now though, social media appears to be having the “promised land” effect. They’re there, but now that they are, what do they do? Let’s look at what companies traditionally use social media for.
What Do Companies Use Social Media For?
U.S. Marketing Executives were asked what they felt were the main benefits of marketing through social media in an eMarketers survey.
- Customer Engagement (85.4%)
- Direct Customer Communications (65%)
- Speed of Feedback (59.9%)
- Learning Customer Preferences (59.1%)
- Low Cost (51.1%)
- Brand Building (48.2%)
- Market Research (42.3%)
- Credibility of the “Crowd” (40.1%)
- Reach (37.2%)
- Great Lead Generation (21.2%)
- Customer Service (17.5%)
Cost versus Benefit
A full-blown social media campaign can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take up valuable time and resources that might have a better ROI spent on other marketing activities.
Expected Costs for a Social Media Campaign:
- Staff Costs – Do you add a social media manager or utilize existing marketing/sales personnel? How much time will a social media campaign take from these persons day? What is the customer response time window?
- Advertising – “If you build it, they will come”=Myth. Your company will have to promote their social media campaign through existing websites, literature, e-mail newsletters, or targeted ad campaigns
- External Fees – So you’d rather outsource. Are you willing to pay $100 (or more) an hour for a social media strategist? What’s the cost versus the value?
- Tracking and Analysis – There are many SMM tracking tools and software to help you analyse traffic data and give you a better understanding of what’s going on with your social media campaign; these come with a cost though.
- Success – What if your wildest dreams come true and your social media campaign is successful! People are Tweeting and Liking and commenting and expecting feedback. Do you have the cash flow to keep up and expand?
How Do I Make My Social Media Campaign Successful?
Jack Trout and Al Ries have famously said that marketing is warfare. Like war, you cannot jump into social media without a strategy and resources.
1. Research and Strategy and Decision-Making (Oh My)
Strategy actually comes second. Your organization needs to develop strategy based on objectives and research (which should be done before considering social media). Then comes a lot of decision-making. Which social media platforms to utilize? Twitter? Facebook? LinkedIn? D) All of the Above? E) Something else? Who will be responsible for managing the social media campaigns?
2. Ready For Take Off
You’ve made your decisions and have a plan of action, now it’s time to execute. Set up of a Twitter account, Facebook page, LinkedIn account should be fairly simple. You may have also set up a blog. Now what? Now comes the “social” part of social media. A great place to start would be following others and joining conversations. Comment on blogs and posts by others. Don’t forget to send out invitations to customers, partners and employees!
3. Let the Fun Begin
You’re starting to network, you may even have a few bites on the social media lines you’ve thrown into the vast waters of Facebook or Twitter. Now it’s time for content, content, content. Quality content. And relevant content. What kind of content do your followers want to see? What kind of tone do you want to present with your content? It’s important to be conversational and not generic and impersonal – social media can help humanize a company to people.
4. A Watchful Eye
You’re putting up content and networking and hopefully gaining followers, now you have to analyze the results. Look at your objectives and see how far you’ve come. Is there more or less mention of your brand? Do you have as many followers as you wanted? Are you engaging customers and partners and developing relationships? Is there more traffic to your site? Are links you’ve posting being clicked on?
5. Realizing Challenges
Marketers say the biggest challenges they’re facing include producing engaging content, producing enough content, budgets, and lack of buy in by executives.
Those Whom Strike It Rich
With all the struggles, trials and tribulations, and guesswork of social media, who has managed to find success?
The Man Your Man Could Smell Like To some, this is the Holy Grail of social media success. An incredibly clever, funny, viral, hit commercial sparked a social media frenzy over Old Spice. According to Fame Count, some of the raw numbers included a 5,404% increase in the number of followers for Old Spice in a 3 month period (4/10 to 7/10), and a 1,025% increase in YouTube subscribers in the same period. As of today, there are over 35million views on the original commercial video. It is also reported that in that same three month period, sales were up 107%. The popular ad was followed up by different campaigns including a “Response” campaign where the Old Spice guy responded to people’s questions, and a “Rivalry” campaign where Old Spice put Fabio up against beloved Isaiah Mustafa (Old Spicy guy). The great follow-up kept the conversation rolling and extended their success for months.
Is Social Media Right for My Company?
Social media is best for companies that have a solid strategy and good sense of what direction they want to go in. Before your business adds or increases spending on social media there is much research to be done, and other options to be considered like search engine marketing and traditional marketing channels.
If your marketing objectives include learning more about your audience and engaging customers, then by all means you should consider social media. Social media may also be an attractive option for smaller companies with smaller budgets, or niche markets who know they can reach their audience through social media.
But one must be prepared to fight for success through social media. Like war, it takes a good plan and good effort to get the results you want.
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