As publishers lament their traditional media audiences’ transition to online advertising, B2B marketing pros need to focus on making wise choices across outlets and channels with the best marketing data that they can acquire. In the realm of social media, B2B marketing should be held to the same ROI standards as their B2C counterparts. Unfortunately, neither have a clearly defined set of social media metrics.
The Big Picture: Improve ALL Your Marketing Metrics
As your marketing audience transitions from offline to online marketing, larger brands have stepped back and redefined their traditional media channels into three categories:
- Paid media – any media for which you target and buy impressions among an audience. This includes print, broadcast and pay-per-click advertising
- Owned media – your branded website, social platforms and content
- Earned media – the unpaid ‘sharing’ of your branded content within social channels.
The key take-aways here are:
- You marketing budget should invest in all three categories, and
- Your social channel initiatives should transition from building a following to enabling engagement via social sharing.
Ramsey McGrory, CEO of AddThis, stated in Advertising Age:
Brands need to use data to create consistent experiences and engage consumers anywhere on the web – on their domains, on social platforms and within ads.
If your enthusiasm for advertising in traditional media has waned in recent years, it’s because your target audiences are no longer collecting information offline.
How Do you Measure the Impact of Social Media?
If traditional media advertising seeks changes in consumer behavior (to build awareness, interest, then trial), social media marketing can result in or more of several possible outcomes:
- Post Impressions: viewing a post.
- Page Impressions: viewing an owner’s social platform.
- Personal Actions: consuming content such as photos, videos or links.
- Public Actions: sharing content with their network.
These outcomes are ranked from good (viewing a post) to great (sharing content). Each of these has a monetary value that should be considered when calculating your B2B marketing social media ROI. Forbes Magazine recently published an outstanding case study of Tourism Ireland’s effort to calculate return on investment versus traditional media spending.
Social Media Data is Difficult to Compile Manually
It is simple to track social media referrals to your website and whether these are resulting in conversions. B2B marketing pros are already using the advanced features of Google Analytics to map their social graph as earned media efforts bring prospects closer to the bottom of the sales funnel. SocialMediaExaminer covers this topic at length in a post here.
Social media activity at the top of the sales funnel is much harder to track, but it may hold the greatest value. B2B marketing pros have a broad array of tools to choose from that help automate the collection of data for this important effort, but below are video introductions to two services (I prefer AddThis) that can assist you.
The value of a “share” will be counter-intuitive to some traditional marketing thinkers since the ‘sharer’ him/herself may not be a qualified lead. If we use conversion logic, the ‘sharer’ is providing only additional reach for your content. His/her follower audience may (or may not) include individuals that are part of your audience target, BUT the ‘share’ activity is important on two levels:
- The ‘share’ drives additional traffic to your website or social platform that may:
- Include qualified prospects for your business, and/or
- Be referring other authoritative ‘sharers’ to review your content and forward to their followers.
- The share is a ‘social signal’ to search engines that your content is relevant for particular topics. Don’t underestimate (or undervalue) the importance of these actions, which are becoming increasingly important to search engine marketing.
Anyone working on a Ph.D. in Marketing could write a dissertation on this topic (and likely has). Just for the benefit for search engine marketing, we know that the value of an interaction is greater than $0, but the best approach is to begin with some values that make sense based on rates that you pay for similar actions for each target audience.
- Reach: $1/M (example: $0.001 for each Twitter impression earned)
- Post Impressions: $10/M (example: $0.01 for each Facebook post impression)
- Page Impressions: $100/M (example: LinkedIn company profile view)
- Personal Actions: $1 each (or your average PPC cost for clicks to your branded content from a social source)
- Public Actions: $10 each (sharing a link to your blog post)
The exceptions based on individuals will skew these numbers greatly. A press release that is picked-up by print media as a result of the effort in social media can drive the value of a click (personal action) through the roof based on its advertising value (in square inches), so, as always, we need exceptions upon which to base our rules.
Marketers need to stop taking it on the chin when the ROI discussion begins and are asked to work instead on “value-add activities.” Present your estimates and remember that social media marketing is “non-linear” in nature. The upside opportunity of B2B marketing success is much greater than in traditional media.
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