June 2, 2016: A few weeks ago, we covered the “2016 State of B2B Digital Marketing” report from Ascend2 and Marketo. Even though the most significant barrier to B2B digital marketing success relates to inadequate marketing budget, 84 percent of B2B marketers still believe their strategies are successful.
The top three tactics that contributed to this success? Email, the website, and SEO. Social media came in at a distant 4th, with only 33% of respondents indicating social media to be effective.
However as we covered just this week, B2B marketers are increasingly turning to social media channels as a critical tool for distributing content, according to recent survey results released by Regalix.
More than a quarter (27 percent) of respondents identify social media as an “indispensable” channel for content distribution in 2016.
So how can B2B marketers ensure that the budget for social media marketing continues to be supported by leadership? How can B2B marketers demonstrate that social media helps satisfy broader business objectives for lead generation and lead nurturing?
The answer lies in a combination of performance benchmarks that connect the dots between discovery, acquisition, and quality lead generation.
- Network Analysis: More thorough analysis of target networks and how social media facilitates improvements in communication to targeted audiences.
- Discovery Attribution: Better attribution between social media and top performing acquisition channel results (like SEO and content marketing).
- Lead Nurturing: Greater visibility (and communication of this visibility) into how social media impacts lead nurturing activities with prospects.
This post tackles some of the many ways we measure social media across these types of performance benchmarks.
Social Network Analysis
We often find social media success stories focused on primarily on “surface-level” performance such as overall network growth, number of updates, and number of general engagement metrics like retweets, likes, and conversations.
While there is a place in performance evaluation for these type of metrics, it is in deeper level network analysis that ongoing improvements in marketing performance can be realized.
Consider the following social media network benchmarks:
- Percentage of network that includes target audiences (customers, prospects, influencers, etc).
- Percentage of network that is associated with target industries/markets (using keyword identification).
- Converted audiences (targeted audiences that connect with an organization’s social presence or digital assets).
To do this type of analysis, we use a combination of resources. While this example focuses primarily on Twitter, it could potentially be applied to LinkedIn or Facebook as well, with comparable tools and data analysis.
- Twitter network analysis tools like Followerwonk and Contaxio.
- Twitter lists to segment audiences and objectives.
- Spreadsheets and a few key formulas for extracting and matching target keyword and information.
Bottom-line: A quality network leads to more effective social media communication and execution.
Network Analysis in Action
Based on the example spreadsheet above, we used Followerwonk to export a list of Twitter profiles from our client’s account. We matched target keywords to find the most applicable profiles for the organization to prioritize, building a Twitter list to monitor for engagement opportunities moving forward.
We also created a second Twitter list associated with existing prospects and customers, pulled from email marketing information. Rapportive is one tool for finding social media profiles based on email accounts.
The overarching goal is to demonstrate that the organization can build awareness with profiles associated to both lists, ultimately influencing the growth of our second list (prospects and customers) while continuing to find new opportunities for the first.
Social Media Discovery Attribution
List building initiatives do not need to focus solely on sales-specific objectives. Consider how networking lists help provide focus and improve the effectiveness of SEO outreach and content distribution as well.
My colleague Justina just wrote about how B2B marketers can leverage social media for SEO link building and content visibility. Here are a few key measurement activities to keep in mind:
- The number of connections made with key influencers and target audiences that can aid in link building efforts, based on social media communication.
- Publisher relationship development driven through social shares and networking.
- Overall inbound links acquired via social media activity.
Social Attribution in Action
As indicated in Justina’s post, KoMarketing’s own social media efforts helped our organization acquire at least twenty different links in the PAST WEEK alone, without any direct requests or communication.
Buzzsumo also offers the capability to track audiences that share an organization’s content as well as content related to SEO keyword targets. This information can be further refined based on audience and used to build Twitter lists for future outreach and communication, paid and organic.
With this information in hand, B2B marketers can demonstrate that social media efforts are having a more direct impact on SEO and content marketing performance, which ultimately helps illustrate improvements in lead generation and conversions across the website.
Lead Nurturing (Direct and Contributed)
At the end of the day, all marketing decisions have to point to lead generation in some capacity: direct and indirect. Fortunately for B2B marketers, the path to this analysis has been made much easier through technology innovation.
Conversion Tracking Through Google Analytics
The simplest way to know whether social media has an influence – direct or indirect – in lead generation is by setting up goal tracking in Google Analytics.
Once established, B2B marketers can gain insight into both direct goal completion (visits directly from social media) and contributed conversions (visitors that came in through social media at some point prior to completing a goal).
New to goal tracking in Google Analytics? Here are a few resources to get you started.
Performance Tracking Through Prospect Page View Reports
Another way to review the success of a social media program is to evaluate pages viewed by prospects driven through social media communication.
B2B marketing automation reports typically include prospect-specific page view information. By filtering this report to include referrals generated through social media activity, B2B marketers are better able to demonstrate how social media influences lead nurturing initiatives.
Here is a screenshot of how this can work through Marketo’s Web Page Activity Report:
B2B marketers should review page views associated with target prospects that came through search engines and social media profiles (highlighted in red above).
This way, marketers can build a case for how effective search and social (or any acquisition channel) has been at driving prospects to key content marketing assets and form submissions.
Google Analytics User Explorer Dashboard
Google Analytics recently launched the User Explorer dashboard as well. This report shows page view data per visitor, including acquisition date, channel, and device type.
While the data in this report is anonymous and contains only limited filtering/sorting functionality, it is plausible that this report will directly compete with prospect page view reports listed above.
These types of dashboards and reports build both the story of how social media directly influences leads and lead nurturing, as well as the impact on SEO and other acquisition channels.
Brand Engagement Metrics
Earlier in this post I alluded to the fact that “surface-level” social media metrics have their place in B2B marketing performance dashboards. This includes the following productivity-based metrics:
- Growth in network (but particularly followers associated with target markets and audiences)
- Per post impressions and clicks
- Productivity metrics (number of updates/time period, replies, mentions, etc)
- Engagement metrics associated with productivity (engagement rate, etc)
The problem with these metrics is that, by themselves, they fail to translate directly to lead generation objectives.
But the reason these metrics are important is that they help B2B marketers recognize patterns in success and opportunity.
Coupled with competitive analysis, these metrics help set a foundation for the necessary level and type of activity required to generate results that impact tangible business performance over the duration of a program.
I would be remiss if I failed to mention free social media analytics dashboards available in most popular social media platforms, like Twitter Analytics, the LinkedIn Page Analytics, and Facebook Insights.
But the major challenge with these dashboards is that they do not allow B2B marketers to dig very deep into the information provided. They also fail to connect with popular website reporting tools like Google Analytics.
That said, these dashboards can be used for directional guidance and as a starting point for more thorough research.
Ultimately, if B2B marketers want to continue to demonstrate the value social media has in influencing and generating leads and opportunities for the organization, they have to dig deeper into social media performance.
Network analysis, discovery attribution, and better visibility into how social media influences direct and indirect lead generation, are all critical areas of performance measurement.
Is your organization attributing social media productivity to strategic B2B marketing objectives in a different manner that is generating success? I would love to read your perspective via comments below.