IDG Global Solutions
One of my favourite movies is Planes, Trains and Automobiles. In it two mismatched travel companions are forced to endure each other and suffer through a series of unfortunate incidents as they attempt to make their way home for Thanksgiving dinner. In one scene, the two protagonists are on a snowy freeway late at night driving the “wrong way”. While they are on the right path directionally (homeward bound), they are literally driving into oncoming traffic. A concerned couple on the opposite side of the freeway starts screaming “You’re going the wrong way!” Not comprehending what they couple is trying to tell them John Candy assumes the couple is drunk and cynically asks Steve Martin “How do they know where we are going?”
This scene feels a little like what we see on a macro level from the increased push by B2B marketers into social media. Everyone has a goal(s) in mind, everyone seems to be heading towards that goal. Much like in the movie, the problem is one born not so much out of ignorance, but through a series of misaligned choices.
It’s only when we look at the unquestioning adoption of certain social media effectiveness metrics that marketers have been lead to believe are gospel and then examine the corresponding strategies being built on those metrics, that we start to see why some companies are heading down the “wrong way”.
When my firm asks our customers what they expect from a broad social media strategy we often get the following vanilla answers:
- Enhance brand awareness
- Cost reduction (on marketing spend)
- Improve customer experience
- Enable innovation (this is more ‘vanilla-swirl’ as not all companies state this as a goal)
- Increase revenue
No ‘shockers’ on this list and I have ranked them in order of immediate achievability (the ranking is just my humble opinion). Rather unfortunately many of the clients I speak with state enhancing brand awareness as their initial objective when the discussion starts but only really want to talk about getting to ‘increased revenue’ as fast as possible. Unsurprisingly, very few can articulate how they will map their strategy to achieving revenue growth – they just know they must!
As the conversation continues, cost reduction is quickly reclassified; this isn’t a goal, it’s the a priori reason to use social media. “It’s free” they say, “and once people start sharing and retweeting, our promotional costs will just naturally fall. Hooray!”
Improved customer service and enabling innovation are both brushed aside as many simply pay lip service to “listening” as a way to address these goals. Further marginalization occurs due to the fact that most marketers don’t have personal KPIs tied to these activities.
From there we quickly get to the topic they really want to talk about: how can I generate more leads from social media (i.e increase revenue)?
So rather than view the new “IT” thing in marketing as vehicle to enhance existing programs and achieve those goals, many marketers look at social media as a stand alone initiative. This view essentially forces most to apply metrics they feel should link directly to achieving specific KPI’s attached to more traditional objectives like market share, NPS or new customer acquisition.
And here’s where the initiative ultimately begins to fail and the “social media thing” starts to feel like a whole lotta hype.
In 2014, Gallup released findings from a poll they ran that showed less than 40% of its respondents felt social media had any bearing on their decision to buy a product. I’m sure this is disheartening to marketers; companies in the US spent over $5B on social media advertising! Seeing as how only 5% responded that it “strongly” influenced their buying decision, you have to wonder how anyone is tracking ROMI against this channel.
It’s a fool’s errand to attempt to question a consumer on his or her personal buyer’s journey as it pertains to their response to specific marketing tactics, but the findings are telling nonetheless: Assuming your social media program is going to immediately net you new buyers and bigger wins is risky – especially in the B2B space. You simply cannot rely on the usual metrics people apply to social media activities to gauge overall effectiveness.
The biggest problem we see in the B2B space is this: rather than crafting a strategy that leverages the data that comes out of a well defined social strategy to achieve their goals, businesses are hoping that social and it’s impact on their content marketing strategy will simply net them wins. Consequently the metrics being deployed are not only too simplistic, they aren’t in anyway “linkable” back to executive level goals like revenue generation.
The many successful marketers we speak to have reached this conclusion:
Social media enables success; hyper-attention to social media ‘success metrics’ does not.
If you want social media to work for your firm quickly look at adopting the following mindset:
- See it for what it is; a component of your marketing strategy that enables and enhances, not something tto be treated as a stand alone initiative.
- Patience is key.
- Move beyond measuring social media’s impact on your business via metrics that offer no real insight: page views, followers, shares, retweets, likes,etc.
- Use the activity and resultant data from social media initiatives to form what we call customer-centric outputs.
So now you’re very likely thinking or shouting to no one in particular “Jason! Oh mighty king of useless jargon, what do you mean by customer-centric outputs?” Right?
So in the spirit of #ThoughtLeaderiness I give you the Jason’s-Blocks-of-Simple-yet-Difficult-Social-Media-Outputs. It’s more commonly referred to as the JBoSyDSO(note to the fellas: The ladies love them some JBoSyDSO so drop it into conversation the next time you’re out at the club looking to make a great first impression – pronounced just like it’s spelled by the way):
To enable an output-based program you have to be patient. The value of the “outputs” only grow over time. As data aggregates, the ability to conduct longitudinal studies grows; insight into regions, verticals, companies and even individuals becomes so much more rich – and with this your ability to make intelligent choices in marketing, sales and product development improves.
And this is the difficulty many firms have: patience and willingness to make basic investments in the systems that enable an effective strategy. I won’t spend time on specifics of tools out there as the topic is myriad, but solution types can broken into 5 basic categories: monitoring, management, engagement, analytics and influencer. We can save this subject for another time…
Let’s briefly cover the outputs which are unique in nature but overlap frequently:
CUSTOMER SEGMENTATION: Can be used to analyze the nature of conversations by individuals or groups. Practically speaking, discussions mentioning company name can be linked to brand awareness, while posts where specific product, tech specs or attributes are being discussed can be used to identify an individual as a prospective buyer worth nurturing, or an account worth exploring. Highly active individuals can more easily be clustered as Hi-Po targets with corresponding tailored marketing strategies.
COMPETITIVE AWARENESS: Useful when monitoring competitive product launch announcements to determine sentiment versus your offerings. Also allows for competitor campaign countermeasures – especially when said campaigns involve FUD or otherwise unfriendly information being used against your firm.
CAMPAIGN CURRENCY: A great way to garner near real-time insight into the effectiveness of media and marketing initiatives. Not only does it provide you with the ‘what-is & what-isn’t’ working feedback, you also gain the ability to monitor conversations as they evolve vis-a-vis brand comparison enabling you to improve on future campaigns. Properly utilizing this information enables companies to more adroitly tweak messaging to meet customer interests as they change throughout the lifecycle of their initiatives.
FOCUS GROUPS: This is kind of a no-brainer. From a psychological stand point, people in general don’t always give the most honest of feed back with respect to brands, campaigns or products when put in a room with a bunch of strangers. Plus conducting these on-site groups is expensive and a pain in the backside. The impersonal nature of the web however is a different story, it allows for much larger sample sizes and ensures that feedback (data) is more easily archived and used in a far more scientific manner.
Proper deployment of these ‘outputs’ with social media acting as the engine driving them allows for the identification of tangible metrics and actionable data with respect to the aforementioned 5 goals:
- Brand sentiment, buzz and growth are, as mentioned, the most immediate and directly affected by nearly any campaign; your ability to influence and enhance are greatly magnified via social channels.
- As campaigns and initiatives are now being more accurately monitored via live feed back, tweaks can be made to eliminate spend on inefficiencies. Very expectedly, through comparative study over time, firms begin to see content distribution costs decline as a result of shares, retweets and the like.
- Customer feedback – both solicited and unsolicited – can be viewed across multiple products, channels and regions; services can be proactively deployed (and communicated) to a broader audience before larger problems arise; specific individuals can be quickly identified for a more personal touch.
- Based on trends and aggregate voice, combined with competitive intelligence, companies can quickly respond to market needs from a product perspective, inform key demographics of their “Next Big Thing” should they so desire, and use inputs from the corresponding feedback to improve product/service enhancements as they are occurring.
- Whitespace accounts, high-potential buyers and at risk customers are more quickly identified and addressed.
It is therefore advisable that the traditional social media metrics be used versus the outputs on an individual basis, not in trying to create direct correlations to the goals one seeks to achieve. Companies are best served by endeavoring to create more tangible links (KPIs) from the outputs to those goals instead. By doing this your social media initiatives will net far more benefit to your organization as a whole.
So in closing, be patient, stay focused on your outputs and not the minutiae of the metrics. By moving away from gauging success based purely on tactical, easily counted data points, and redirecting your energy to building outputs that link to your goals, you will right your “vehicle” and start driving on the correct side of the road.
Spoiler alert: They make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.