B2B Social media success is like the American ninja warrior TV show. Everyone makes it to the starting line and yet very few make it to the finish line. In fact, those that can make it just halfway through the course can sometimes advance to the next round, based simply on how difficult the course can be. They’re deemed, somewhat victorious for just getting ‘that far.’ The same holds true for B2B marketers. B2B social media marketing can be brutal but it’s not a loser.
If you’ve never watched the show, it’s essentially an impossible obstacle course that takes a lot of balance, agility, strength and sound judgment to complete. Those challenges, metaphorically speaking, completely exist in B2B social media in 2017. For those that were around in the “early days” of social media will be the first to tell you that today’s social media is a far cry from what it was back then. Understatements be damned, one could say that social media has evolved and still, others could say it has regressed.
So what is a marketer to do? Where does social media fit in the marketing mix? Should your organization have a social media strategy? The quick answers are: There is a path, it does fit into the marketing mix and yes but let’s quickly review what’s been happening.
Over the past 7-8 years, the act of truly conversing has slowly dissipated on most social networks, Twitter in particular. On other networks, however, see Snap for example, the act of communicating has escalated and changed. In reality, communicating in social media hasn’t so much as gone away, as it has been replaced by different types of communicating dominated more by imagery and less by conversations.
For marketers though, the one-way, scream it and blast it style of pushing out messages disguised as conversations, still exists today. Partly because a) they are struggling with a medium that deemphasizes the written word and embraces the emoji b) a general lack of understanding of how to use that medium and c) it’s not the only channel.
It used to not be like this. Social Media was at one point this living, breathing, conversational thing. Somewhere along the way though, marketers started to misunderstand the platform and treat social media and its content like it was an arms race. It became a content battle wrapped around the quantity and output of messages and how quickly follower ratios could grow.
Beyond that, companies became enamored with vanity metrics. Those are your typical likes, mentions, retweets, etc. In fact, orgs of all sizes still like vanity metrics, we all do. Why? Because it’s a tangible hard number that we can wrap our arms around. Like a unique visitor in the world of website traffic. How many times have you heard or have asked the question, how many uniques do you have or what’s your traffic like? It’s how we quantify and quantified success. The parallel is exactly the same as asking. “How many followers do they have?”
Recently I told someone that the same metrics that revolve around direct mail and direct e-mail success now apply to organic social media. Meaning that getting a 1-2% organic engagement rate via social is about equal to what you might see or hope to see in direct mail open rates. It’s almost considered a ‘win’ but not quite. It’s average. You would think that social media and social networks might have an advantage but social media marketers are generally not working off of lists. So for them, it’s all about the content and the creating of content. Engagement? That’s a bonus. Measurement? Maybe.
The crazy thing about social media content today? It’s not bad. In fact, it’s more visual than ever before. There are some great content creation tools these days and the whole process of creating content for social is an industry in and of itself. It’s not boring. It’s dynamic, it’s compelling and dammit, it’s clickable. But the kicker is, you have to see it. You have to find it. So really it’s not how the content is being packaged and it’s not how it’s being created or delivered. It’s more about when do you push that content out? It’s where and it’s why. Oh yea, and to whom matters too. Social media in a B2B setting is effective when the right content finds the right people at the right moment.
Blame it on growth and blame it on the “noise” that growth created but that’s the ‘other’ new reality. Getting the B2B customers’ attention is more difficult now than it ever was before. Your new digital marketing challenge is to figure out where social fits in your marketing mix. Keep in mind that it has to be there, you just have to decide which platforms you’re going to use and what the distribution of dollars and resources will be. Let me reiterate. Social Media efforts in a B2B setting have to be there for the simple reason that the customers are there.
Does engagement really matter?
What is engagement? Or rather what did it used to mean? Loosely defined in social media. it means that an action occurred, some type of reactive action occurred in the form of a like, a retweet, a mention, or a share. All of those actions dependent on, in theory, you, the user, doing something. Some, thing. Oddly enough, the actual true meaning of engagement could not be more diametrically opposed to what is happening here. You have either a formal agreement to get married or an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time. Neither of those really pertain to social media, do they?
In social media, because an ‘action’ did occur, marketers measured it in a positive fashion. The problem occurs or occurred, when nothing happens or happened after that. Thus, marketers were and are ostensibly hanging their hats on hollow metrics.
In email marketing or direct mail marketing, we can measure click through rates, open rates, conversion rates, leads generated and of course sales. These are things that happened after the fact. We don’t call it engagement. These are definite and distinct actions. We have a crumb trail we can measure. We have user data before and after the mail is sent. We can create a snapshot of the user based on that data. We can tailor content and give them what they want. Social media marketing on the other hand, organically speaking has to be more strategic in order to be effective. The tools and data are there but marketers are lazy.
Let’s explain it a different way. What kind of crumb trail or user data do you get from an egg with one name, no bio, following 50, with 10 followers and 5 tweets? Not much. Marketers will recognize and acknowledge the retweet, the mention and the share of the egg-but what does that really mean? Nothing.
In part two, let’s look at what a marketer should do. Let’s talk about what the distribution of marketing and social media strategies, tactics and activities should be and let’s talk about bang for the buck. The operative word being, buck, as in dollars, which should be your clue.