Regardless of what marketers say about social media, the rubber hits the road at budget time when they have to put their money where their mouth is. For B2B marketers, social media marketing ranks seventh in terms of budget importance trailing old-fashioned postal direct mail according to 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report conducted by Marketing Sherpa and sponsored by Marketo.
Where is social media in your B2B marketing budget?
Before you write off social media as a consumer-only marketing strategy, here are 3 reasons many B2B marketers overlook the importance of social media in their 2012 budgets.
- 1. Weak U.S. economy drives use of tried and true marketing strategies. The continued frail U.S. economy has made marketers reticent to use more experimental formats. It’s safer and easier to use the marketing strategies that worked best historically and provide an indicator of performance potential. As a result, there’s less perceived risk.
- 2. Marketers overlook the cost of social media. If social media has no cost, then there’s no reason to include it in your budget. Of course, this is a fallacy because social media marketing requires brand monitoring to track the conversation, content marketing to feed social media engagement, and headcount to participate on social media platforms.
- 3. Social media has weak or limited metrics. Across the board, marketers are challenged when it comes to measuring hard results from social media in terms of lead generation and sales. Last year, research from SmartBrief for Social Media and Summus Limited found that only one third of firms tracked social media marketing ROI after three years. Exacerbating this problem is the fact that some marketers don’t include a clear call-to-action and unique tracking code within social.
If you’re a B2B who does NOT overlook social media, but has yet to effectively incorporate social into your marketing strategy, here are 5 suggestions to get you started with social leveraging existing marketing strategies. If implemented effectively, your social media marketing can enhance other areas of your marketing budget.
- 1. Use social media to support your search optimization efforts (SEO). To this end, create a blog and integrate it with your website. Where appropriate, link to products on your website. When done well, these two marketing strategies support each other. Incorporate improved organic search rankings into your tracking metrics.
- 2. Create relevant content marketing. When implementing a social media marketing strategy, develop appropriate content. To ensure that you have sufficient content, plan your editorial calendar to include both unique and repurposed content with a new twist within social channels. Understand that using the same boring product information everywhere won’t cut it!
- 3. Incorporate contextually relevant call-to-action and related unique tracking codes. The bottom line is that it’s difficult to make a case for social media if you can’t show business results. To this end, it’s important to develop metrics that relate back to your business objectives at the point when you’re developing your overall marketing plans. Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with whatever you’re able to collect after the fact and the challenge is that social media can have an impact on soft issues that are outside of your regular tracking.
- 4. Add social sharing to your content. Cost-effectively extend the reach of your marketing by including social sharing buttons and related calls-to-action on your content. Use the dominant formats, namely Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and StumbleUpon. The aim is to increase your reach via earned impressions.
- 5. Support your social media marketing efforts with internal or owned media. Social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It requires marketing to drive readers and engagement. To this end, leverage your internal media, namely your website, emailings, business cards and email signature files to promote your social media executions. While a special targeted marketing promotion isn’t needed, it does need to be marketed.
Social media should have a place in your B2B marketing plans and budget. While you may want to believe that social media is free, it requires support both human and financial as well as senior management buy-in. Further, social media marketing must be integrated into your overall strategy to maximize its effectiveness and ensure that it’s cross-promoted and tracked appropriately.
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Where is social media marketing fit into your plans for 2012?