“Coca Cola has millions of followers on FaceBook, that’s what we should have!” “Look at this Vine video where the woman tears up after receiving a gift from her husband; we need that same type of Vine from a beleaguered professional who uses our software!”
If you’re in the same marketing trenches that I’ve been in for the past fifteen years, I’m sure you’ve heard these statements (or similar ones) from silverback executives whose digital immigrant papers are still wet with ink. What these executives and even many trench workers in marketing don’t understand is the difference between a product affecting and permeating into someone’s life, not just their work life. Social has value for B2B, that’s been proven. However, we all need a dose of realism into just how much impact and staying power our social channels will have in our prospects’ lives before and after the sale. The comparison to B2C is an epic fallacy beyond just the sheer volume of consumers, here’s why.
The Famed Funnel Flow/Awareness Flip Flop
Social has finally come into its own, with mature metrics of measurability through the funnel to the final conversion. While some of the data is still fuzzy, we could at least begin placing some hard dollar value on the resources we have expended on ensuring every thought nugget from our respective organizations were Tweeted, Posted, G+’d and Pinned.
Once we achieved this Herculean feat, usually through intense manual labor of conjoining spreadsheets from disparate systems with Band-Aids and bubble gum, executives had to turn their eye of scrutiny to something else. Don’t hate, it’s their job. What it did though , was bring the value of social back to the original conversation of front-facing numbers like followers on Twitter and FaceBook, number of pins and of course the exponential reach of those messages.
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Executives Are Egomaniacs, Not Dumb
In addition to my daytime activities with large multinational software vendors, I do a lot of side consulting work for smaller organizations. This means I’m interacting directly with the C-suite when the organization might only be comprised of the C-suite. My conversations with these organizations are often breaths of fresh airs. These are gals and guys that just want to make some kind of measurable impact, not set the world on fire.
Head back over to my day job and executives expect our social channel to be as prominent as larger brands because they had dinner last week or went to a conference where their counterparts in B2C bragged about their huge social presence. Or the executive in question read an article that espoused how a brand made huge impact with little effort or funds, not realizing (or maybe not caring) the brand was firmly in the B2C realm.
The SMB executive has no ego or very little. They want to affect revenue – not have another notch on the side of their deep mahogany desk.
Executives also don’t understand that free to play does not equal success, merely volume. Again, these people aren’t dumb, just woefully uninformed. In part, the denizens of the Ivory Tower are correct. If you really wanted to out-tweet Southwest in a day you could absolutely do that. But as any social “guru” knows, content is the crux of social. The next step of social awareness success is to have that message carried not just to your followers, but to have your followers share with their followers and so on and so on. Pure volume of Tweets, shares and pins mean absolutely nothing. Numbers matter, but not all facets of marketing can be viewed in such binary terms.
Even Lightening In a Bottle Will Only Travel So Far
Let’s say you actually create the next Harlem Shake or Dollar Shave Club Video, I’ll lay dollars to doughnuts no matter how hilarious or engaging that video might be, you are still going to be festering in the land of B2B success metrics, not B2C. You’ll have great B2B metrics, but they will still be a modicum of the great social slice.
Frankly, we don’t affect people’s lives. Yes, our software or service is a wonderful thing that help people’s work lives, but not their real lives. We don’t affect passions, we make change in the part of people’s lives they generally resent.
As prospects people may follow us because they are researching vendors. After that research is done and the sale is made though, what do we give them to keep engaging? Support is certainly one facet, maybe even to keep abreast of feature creep as well. These instances are rare and have nothing to do with the thousands upon thousands of dollars we dump into our “erudite and entertaining” thought leadership. Much of what B2B produces is to fill the funnel. Why on earth would someone who already has our product care about this material? When you have a brand like Coke, SouthWest and the rest they permeate into all facets of a person’s life, the brand is omnipresent at work and at home. This is where zealot fervor is born.
The Marketer Test
If you don’t believe my words, I ask my fellow marketing comrades in arms to perform one simple test. Think about the tools you use in a day: MS Word, maybe a little PhotoShop, HooteSuite perhaps. They all have social channels, how many are you following? Our products have the same resonance with our prospects and customers; we are the means to an end to end the work day faster with less hassle. Once the laptops close, we are off their minds as they try to achieve the zen of work/life balance.
Now, let’s say for a second that you actually did follow these helpful tools. How often do you honestly engage with their content versus the real-world stuff you follow? Honestly…
Let’s Start Setting Realistic Goals, Shall We?
The organization that merely measures against itself is bound to lose in social, and the organization that benchmarks against B2C social will simply feel like a loser.
I’m not here to endorse any specific tools, but there are many that exist these days to help you measure your social volume and reach directly against your competitors or other industry players. I left industry bold so we ensure no delusions of grandeur slip into this discussion. Your industry is finite, if you sell software you shouldn’t be comparing against ALL software vendors. You should be comparing against only those solutions that solve the same problem as your company. If you add any more to the mix, you are back to comparing the apple to the orange. Not as big of an orange as your prior B2C comparison, but a big enough one to make you feel your efforts are for naught.
If you have examples where my words ring false, please let me know how you have engendered such copious and long lasting amounts of social love.