Is there any ROI to B2B Social Media?


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After all, when was the last time a Buyer checked Facebook before signing a PO?

Last week, I wrote about my experiences at Blogworld seeking differing perspectives on the ROI of social media, in my post The ROI of Social Media.  In that post I focused on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) businesses, where the customer base was heavily engaged already in Facebook, particularly.  This week, I turn my attention to B2B social media, which has been a slower build than B2C, since the key decision-makers do not rely on traditional social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) when making their purchasing decisions.

Jeffrey Cohen, on the blog Social Media B2B, recently wrote a post entitled, “Measuring the ROI of B2B Social Media.”  In this post, he wrote about measurement of the social media impacting a 4-step sales process:  Reach –> Engagement –> Sentiment –> Conversion.  He discussses how to measure the impact:

  • Reach – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn Followers, newsletter subscribers
  • Engagement — Twitter re-tweets, Facebook wall posts, blog comments, LinkedIn Group comments
  • Sentiment — Determined by assessing the type of feedback, either through text mining and/or human intervention
  • Conversion — Leads, Quotes and Sales

I agree that we can measure the social media impact on each of these steps in the “sales funnel,” just as Jeffrey has done in his post.  But I do not think we are done there.  I have two enhancements to this approach that has been successful in Best Practices for B2B selling in such industries as health insurance and business services.  These enhancements stem from one key fact:  B2B selling is not a straight line process.  Prospective buyers cycle back around in their decision process repeatedly until they come to a decision point, either driven by renewal dates or other external factors.  As a result –

Companies that have the staying power to support a prospect until they become a buyer get the deal.

How do you use social media to demonstrate that staying power?  By creating your own portals that provide information a prospect can trust:

  1. Develop trusted, independent content — offer content to your prospects that helps them make their decision.  Biased pseudo-sales materials not only does not help the prospect decide, they undercut your credibility and diminish your ability to make the sale.
  2. Personalize that content to a prospect’s expressed and unexpressed needs — Demonstrate that you listen to a prospect’s needs and can deliver them the information that they want, not standard “boilerplate” sales sheets.
  3. Deliver that content when and where the prospect wants it.  Permit prospects to share their decision-making timetable and make sure to deliver the appropriate content at key milestones before that time.  For example, if a prospect has a 4-year contract, bombarding them in Year 1 will not be effective, and will probably annoy them in the process.  Permit the prospect to “raise their hand” when they want to move farther down the funnel towards a quote.

Business prospects (and some consumer prospects), do not follow a neat funnel process when making a decision. They are influenced by their peers, vendors, web articles and sales contacts that they encounter throughout their sales process.  Some influences lead the prospect to reevaluate their potential decision, some accelerate it.  But throughout the process, trust will win out, the majority of the time.

So what are the key metrics in such a circumstance?

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Price
Mark Price is the managing partner and founder of LiftPoint Consulting (, a consulting firm that specializes in customer analysis and relationship marketing. He is responsible for leading client engagements, e-commerce and database marketing, and talent acquisition. Mark is also a RetailWire Brain Trust Panelist, a blogger at and a monthly contributor to the blog of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Marketing Association.


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