For most B2B marketers, social media is still a “Johnny come lately” marketing element. Professionals are beginning to understand that influencers and buyers can be found online, but they are still puzzling through the details.
We’re often asked the very simple question of “how do I know if social media will help us” to:
- Reinforce our marketing strategy?
- Roll out our product?
- Launch or reintroduce our brand?
- Highlight our new speaking engagement or event?
- Promote our new message?
- Excite our audience?
The list of questions is endless, but what they really want to know is – will social media help us? Here’s a cheat sheet to help you decide if incorporating social media makes sense:
- Why now: What triggered our decision to include social media in this marketing program? Who made that decision? What outside factors influenced this decision?
- Audience Segments: Who do we want to reach online? Are there multiple stakeholders? How are they alike? How are they different? How do those conclusions impact the marketing stories we want to develop?
- Timing: When do we want the social media engagement to start? Some businesses think that their stakeholders are “out there,” just waiting to respond. That’s not true. You’ll need to start activating your audience before you need the campaign or program engagement.
- Business leader expectations: Who are the business owners for this project? How have they defined successful marketing in the past? What’s their attitude towards social media – are they willing to pilot, waiting for competitors to try first or simply cynical? You’ll need to understand their point of view in order to establish buy-in and success metrics.
- Desirable sync to other marketing program elements: Will this social media project be connected to other planned marketing elements? How can you build in synergies? For example, can the new white paper be housed on a special landing page that receives social traffic? In the end, social media is simply another marketing platform. Your internal clients may be tempted to say “let’s develop a Twitter or Google+ strategy,” but it’s your job to keep social activity strongly aligned with the company’s overall strategy and activities.
- Compelling content: Do we have powerful stories to share or just marketing messages? What kinds of content will excite our stakeholders? Are they interested in videos, Pins, cartoons, op-eds or e-books? Do you have enough “bricks” vs. “feathers?”
- Platform considerations: Where does our audience live online? Do we have enough differentiated content to support more than one channel? Which channel gives us the best chance to strike up a conversation? Which channels seem to be fallow for us? Facebook is the biggest, but is often not the best when it comes to business marketing needs.
- Web behavior: What kinds of customer clues can we find in our website analytics trends? Where do they come from? What pages do they visit when they come from social platforms? What kinds of content do they consume and/or avoid?
- Influencers: Who are the most powerful online advocates for your topic and/or content? What kinds of information do they share and at what time of the day? Do they have a blog we can comment on? A Twitter Chat we can participate in? A Google Hangout we can join? In other words, do we know enough about their interests that we can start to become friends? After all, these friends have the power to become an “engine” in our campaign.
- SEO keyword considerations: What are the words we use internally to describe our business and marketing objectives? Are they the same keywords that your target would put in a search engine? Or use in an online discussion on a message board? If we know the right words, we increase our chances of being seen as a business who understands our audience’s needs. It also increases our chances of being “found” by search engines.
- Are you willing to experiment with a small failure? Businesses struggle with social media fear. Spam, negative comments and, in some cases, compliance anxiety, can make a social media commitment seem questionable. Our counsel? Start small. There’s no need to sink a huge budget in a social media program. Instead, do one small project well and use that intelligence to build more factual benchmarks for next time.
Bonus consideration: A Year From Now: When in doubt, ask yourself, what do we want to have achieved a year from now? Do we need to have established a social “toe-hold” with our targets online? Or are we content to cede the lead to competitors? In the end, that question causes many choose to move forward, at least in some small way.
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Honest answers to these questions will help you begin to decide if social media can benefit this particular business objective. To be candid, sometimes it’s not a worthwhile path. But a thoughtful analysis will help you discover when it will truly add lift to your marketing strategy.
How do you decide if social media can help your project? What are the factors that make you abandon ship?