Rich Clark Marketing

Opinions from Rich Clark one of the UK's leading Marketing Professionals


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Using Social Media in a B2B World

Without a doubt Social Media is a really important element of modern life.  Individuals use it to connect with friends, old acquaintances and even celebrities.  Organisations of all sizes are using the likes of Facebook to make contact with their customers.  This doesn’t appear to change, if anything Social Media is likely to play an increasingly prominent role, especially now that Google states it will use buzz as an influence in its ranking.

When I speak to friends who work in a B2B environment they often ask what can they use it for.  I am also asked the same question when I speak at conferences.

Despite the repeated questions on how should B2B organisations adopt Social Media a Bizreport study outlined some interesting and surprising statistics.  86% of B2B firms already have an active Social Media presence compared to only 82% of B2C companies.  However the same report suggests that those B2B firms aren’t making the most of their presence with 32% engaging with their base on a daily basis, compared to 52% of B2C companies.  This is backed up by the fact that 34% of B2B companies aren’t tracking their activity in any way either.

Gut instinct is the same as if I was in a B2C environment. Use the channels in the way they should be used and create approaches that are right and targeted to your audience. The key thing I would advise anybody to do first however is understand why your business should be in Social Media and what is your aim of being there?  Can you offer the audience something they can’t get elsewhere or provide them with a point of view they don’t easily get.

Once you have defined your sense of being (in Social Media terms) you should integrate it into both your overall business processes and your overall Marketing strategy.  The reason for doing this is to ensure it becomes a part of your everyday activity in your business, automatically enabling you to avoid the pitfall of engaging in the stats in the report.

Perhaps more importantly in B2B than in B2C you really need to define what each channel will be used for.  That being said this is still an important factor in B2C however there is also more of an overlap of channels for B2C.  Remember, just because all the buzz and scale is with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and YouTube you may decide that one or all of these channels are not suitable for your business.

A key part to any social media strategy is the reason for being.  Offer your customers something to engage with, provide a currency that will ensure they want to engage with your company. This will be different depending who your business is, what it does and your position in your sector and with your customers.

For example, if you are perceived as an expert in your field then your strategy will be completely different to if you are purely a distributor of kit.  We need to take one step back to the start of that sentence, the key part is how you are perceived by your customers, not how you perceive yourself.  You don’t need to undertake expensive brand studies just generally ask your customers some new questions, unless you already know the answers.

Obviously in a B2B environment customers are often as concerned by the commercial aspect so if you are in a position to offer something unique for those that engage with you via social media (voucher codes or free services) that could provide a boost to your numbers, however that alone will not necessarily help you achieve your goals unless its a continued programme of activity that provides real additional value.

The whole ethos of being an expert provides real social media gold.  What can you give to your customers that will help interaction and engagement.  A great example is to provide content they wouldn’t get elsewhere.  A builders merchant could provide HowTo guides for builders on ways to save money and time on specific projects such as building a conservatory.

A distributor of electrical components could provide a service to the end user but as an aid for their B2B customers.  The distributor could provide a mash-up of the UK map which is fully searchable and links to electricians in their area, with examples of their work and testimonials.  The distributor in theory could also create income from charging electricians to appear on their platform if scale was achieved.

IT training companies could really demonstrate their expertise by providing a community and forum on their own website where their trainers can answer delegates questions on site and in theory offer clinics at agreed dates to really give in-depth support to their delegates.  This would really add ongoing value to delegates and support them and their employers further in to the lifecycle.

These were just some basic ideas that could be adopted and across a number of sectors.  If you are in a B2B environment, feel free to make contact and I can see if I can devise something specific for you.  Also check out this B2B Social Media infographic


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Measuring Return On Social Media

Measuring Return on Social Media Presence

This has been the fear/worry/challenge/competitive edge of almost every company that has any form of social media presence.  From a simple company Facebook page to a fully integrated Social Media strategy.  Speak to a number of agencies or many online marketers and they will tell you it can’t be measured beyond the simple metrics such as number of fans or followers.  Perhaps at the incubation stage and to a degree the baby stage that was correct.  However now social media has grown up a little, into a healthy little toddler things have changed.

In theory you can’t directly measure the impact of a brand TV commercial, but companies do.  It is the same for social media.

Remember the strategy

A lot of talk is around the utopian idea of getting an ROI from your social media spend or presence.  However for some brands this isn’t just a case of pounds in the till Vs pounds handed out to agencies or media owners such as MySpace.  As with any channel development or Marketing activity, you need to understand what you want to get out of your social media presence.  Your strategy may be a simple one that only looks at your impact within the channel, therefore a basic upwards trending number of fans may suffice.  Your strategy maybe to increase UVs to your core website, as such you need to measure the referrals from your social media presence.  Like a TV ad you maye be trying to influence brand perception so you would look at traditional brand metrics such as awareness and consideration.  Some strategies require an emphasis on loyalty or ROI, these can be much more difficult to prove, however not impossible.

Just consider before developing any tactics or implementation, what your objectives and goals are.  Then measure.

Understanding the basics

When measuring against any goals you need to understand what is your norm or otherwise known as the baseline.  You need to look at any pre-strategy figures and work out your norm, or the contribution you can expect without implementing your strategy.  This baseline should be measured over a long period of time to take into account one-off fluctuations, seasonality and peaks – you should then use a trend line and determine your norm.

Once you have claculated your norm, it is easier to determine what the goals from your objectives should be.  If for instance your site has 10,000 UVs a week then to expect a 100% uplift from a strong social media strategy may not be impossible.  However if your site gets 100,000 UVs a week, it may be more difficult to gain a 100% uplift, although not impossible.  This seems really basic stuff but it is often forgotten. I have spoken to Managing Directors and Marketing Directors that think because there are millions of people on social network they should be talking telephone numbers in terms of traffic uplift, sadly it doesn’t work like that.  It may be easier to get a massive groundswell if your activity is in the channel the people use, you could get a massive following on Twitter as the people are already there and its their environment, rather than expecting them to come to you.

Anyway, once you know the norm of whatever metric you want to track you can more easily identify any uplift from your activity.  However it may not be all down to the new strategy, other factors might be in play, that is why it is advisable to implement a good web analytics tool.  Omniture is widely regarded as one of the better packages along with Coremetrics, however if you have your own site or limited budget then Google Analytics may suffice.

OK, but now what?

So you know what you want to get out of your strategy and you have worked out the basics, but now what?  Sit back and watch everything work away and drive you towards your goals or personal bonus.  Not eaxactly.  Sometimes people expect immediate results.  Stick it on Facebook and they will come.  If they don’t see an uplift straight away, the strategy has failed.  Wrong.  Well potentially wrong.  Remember when working in social channels you are entering the end users territory.  You have to earn the right to be there.  Give them something to talk about, make yourself interesting, but don’t make things up.

So what do I do?

Don’t look at things with immediacy in mind.  When you create a coupon for your affiliate network or raise your bid caps in Google you can often see an immediate (or quick) effect.  However you need a longer view with Social and you need to look at things outside of your specific influence.  A great area to explore is Social Media Influence or Buzz Metrics.  There are various tools and service with varying levels of robustness and credibility.  In the UK there are market leaders such as Market Sentinel and Nielsen Buzz Metrics.  There are also some freebie or cheaper tools such as Viral Heat and PostRank Analytics.  These cheaper tools are sometimes less robust or feature on a specific platform such as Twendz.  What all of these tools have in common is that to varying degrees they track what is being said about your brand or site on other platforms rather than just looking at core measures such as visits or upstream and downstream traffic.

The majority measure trends and SoV, some measure snetiment and others rank influence on brands and/or topics.  All of these are important as although your activity may not imemdiately increse traffic, it may improve the sentiment towards your brand, increasing peoples’ perception of your brand and in turn increase their potential to engage or buy.  These tools can also aid your search activity.  As product or brand experts you might think you know what people type in about your brand, however more comprehensive tools help you identify what people are typing or saying about your product.  Giving you more insight into which words you you optimise or focus on in paid search.

But can I make money from it?

Well as I wrote at the beginning of the piece remember what your objectives are.  The short answer is yes, you can make money from social media and yes social media can increase users propensity to buy, however your activity may not lend itself to that.  But various surveys have taken place that demonstrate you can specifically get an ROI from your social media presence.  According to a recent survey by eMarketer, c. 51% of US internet users are likely buy from at least one brand since becoming a fan on Facebook.   When it comes to would they recommend to a friend the number increases to 60%.  That is one indication of an increased propensity to buy.

Before you all clamber out and create or refresh your Facebook page, Forrester outlined a stark statistic.  More than one third of online users visit at least one brands social media presence, yet less than half rated the experience rated their experience as having a positive influence.  One method that the likes of Starbucks and Dell use within their social media presence is exclusive offers and promotions.  It is this sense of providing something special for fans that makes the experience positive and influence future buying behaviour.