The Five Laws of REAL Social ROI


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Another Social Media Week has come and gone, 5th year in a row. Where are we today? Have we really moved on from Social 101 and Social for Dummies? From a B2C perspective, I think we certainly have and that is inevitable given the popularity of social media channels and the ease of communication. We know that social advertizing has also come a long way with new tools and platforms available to marketers so they can drive conversion and monetize their social activities.

But I am not talking about advertising and certainly not about B2C. Our world, the B2B world is a completely different planet as we know. And on this planet, we still need a logical ecosystem. On my part, I have really made a very diligent effort to find B2B social media best practices. I look for the leaders who have driven innovation and change and been able to translate that into tangible results.

Social media is a great catalyst for effective demand generation but have we found the secret sauce for converting a prospect into a qualified lead or sale for a company? It all depends on how you deploy social within your organization. The need of the hour is to achieve total alignment of all go-to-market tactics. What is happening in most organizations, sadly, is that whether it is the hired consultants or in-house social media boss, these experts tend to look at social media as a single-focus tactic. But it is not a proven tactic yet! B2B marketers—my call to you is to start thinking integration and alignment.

I have seen recent advocacy of various measurement metrics, social ROI measurement formulae—this one here, I actually read with keen interest. On the surface, it does seem very logical and simple. I just can’t see a B2B company actually being able to use these formulae very effectively.

The organizations that have seen some B2B social media ROI worth mentioning are focusing first on becoming social organizations within their own four walls. Here is a good case study from CIO magazine about how TD Bank formed an enterprise social network that fuels innovation internally and helps serves customers better on the outside. The bank has seen ROI in the form of:

  • Time saving
  • Increased productivity
  • More effective communication

There are some useful lessons we can learn from the success of organizations like TD Bank in the case study I mentioned above, and more from Cisco—take a look at this SlideShare presentation: How Cisco Operationalizes Social Media for Repeated Success. Yes, I realize it is a bit dated but it still reiterates the point I am making about “looking in before looking out” and hence, I think it is worth reading. Here is another example of how this company shows “love”. With the combined effect of internal and external social media training, Cisco is seeing greater success in this space—as Elizabeth Houston says in this interview. She also stresses the point I’ve been making: Tons of people are interested in consumer products, but the audience in B2B is more of a finite audience – it requires a specific approach and targeted strategy.

So to quickly summarize what in my opinion should be the tenets / laws / rules, call them what you will of B2B social media:

  1. Test your social business initiatives—always—just as we always did with traditional lead generation methods. It’s not worth flying blind when your customers are signing your paycheck!
  2. Benchmark internal processes so that even before you start to test your initiatives, you know the direction you are headed in and the goals you hope to accomplish.
  3. Collaborate with your employees and learn and share together. Pushing social strategy down people’s throats won’t work, just as no other marketing tactics work either when there is not sufficient buy-in and commitment.
  4. Look at ways to utilize your company and executive leadership to see how social processes internally can be enhanced and become value-driven.
  5. Don’t worry about fancy metrics and formulae. Relationships cannot be measured by those yardsticks. Your social listening posts and proactive initiatives will yield better results and more meaningful measurement.

On one last note, I want to remind my B2B friends (because I am seeing a lot of this going on and I feel it is my duty to say something)—I don’t believe that employees or executives have the time to Tweet to your customers all day. And your B2B customers don’t have time to read them either. Let’s leave all this noise-making to the Hollywood stars and the Oscar stage. We have a business to run—we need to think Value, Relationship, Originality, Omniscience, Measurement—VROOM…let’s go! (Could not resist that…it came about as I wrote.

Social media for B2B – yes and yes – but how about using some common sense? What are your thoughts? Please email or call me, Louis Foong, at (905) 709-3827.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Louis Foong
Louis Foong is the founder and CEO of The ALEA Group Inc., one of North America's most innovative B2B demand generation specialists. With more than three decades of experience in the field, Louis is a thought leader on trends, best practices and issues concerning marketing and lead generation. Louis' astute sense of marketing and sales along with a clear vision of the evolving lead generation landscape has proved beneficial to numerous organizations, both small and large.


  1. You point out that we need to test social business initiatives “just as we always did with traditional lead generation methods” and I agree entirely.

    The key is that social media is just another way of reaching our target markets. Successful marketers have always developed communication strategies, and all activity, whether advertising, PR or one-to-one communication, was executed in keeping with the strategy. And this should hold true for social media too.

    And while I’m sure you are right in suggesting that many companies view social media as a stand-alone activity, they are surely missing a huge opportunity by failing to incorporate social media into their communication strategy, rather than simply ticking the social media box.

  2. Thank you for your input Ann, unfortunately Social Media execution is often delegated to platform specialists vs marketing savvy individuals. The flavor of the month approach is very prevalent when it comes to social engagement.

  3. Thanks for this update and all the excellent references. I agree with the thrust and also I agree with Ann that what’s often missing is a proper social media strategy, aligned with the business strategies. We also often see that companies do not do enough up front work in an in-depth social media assessment. That’s essential to get the As-Is right before moving on.

    I also think that this recent quote from McKinsey is relevant “… an organization-wide commitment helps companies ensure access to the steady diet of wide-ranging inputs they need to stay ahead of the curve.” That’s a neat phrase and describes what is necessary to drive a socially-enabled business forward.

    Walter @adamson

  4. You are so right. I recently saw an article in a reputable online marketing magazine suggesting that companies employ a young person to handle their social media. I made the point that age should not be the deciding factor, an understanding of the business strategy should be, but the writer did not engage with me on this.


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