bad reputationHave you tied your social media efforts to a positive ROI?

Or, have you heard claims that social media marketing just isn’t worth the effort for B2B companies?

B2B social media has gotten a bad rap in the marketing community, with many marketers claiming a low ROI and seeing a lack of interest from prospects. A 2014 report from Forrester found that 26 out of 30 B2B companies failed to create compelling content that engaged their audiences, losing sales and buyers to competitors in the process. With such dismal numbers, it’s clear that B2B companies need to rethink their content and the way they interest potential customers via social media.

With an increasing number of B2B companies adopting social media marketing, a number of myths about it have spread as well. These misconceptions can be laughable at best – but also damaging to your marketing and sales efforts at worst. In this article, I’ll dispel five myths about B2B social media marketing once and for all, and show you why a robust social media strategy is vital to increasing sales, expanding networks, and growing revenue.

Myth #1: Social Media is Only for B2C Companies

In the past, social media marketing tactics have been hyper-focused on B2C companies, citing the personal nature of social media as a way to engage directly and intimately with individual consumers. Since businesses use digital spaces for professional, not personal applications, the logic goes, they are not as invested in social media and need to be reached via more traditional marketing channels.

Not so, says that Forrester report. It found that B2B technology buyers use social media nearly twice as much as the average U.S. adult. Other telling statistics? A full 100% of business decision-makers use social media for work , and more than 65% of B2B buyers research a vendor’s social media content before contacting them for a possible purchase.

In addition, since individual B2B purchases are often higher stakes than B2C purchases, they are more thoroughly researched, meaning that the community opinion of your company is of particular importance. Reviews and recommendations are easily and quickly distributed and are available through a simple Internet search.

It’s clear that B2B buyers are using social media at high rates to make purchase decisions, and the trend towards relying on social media is only getting stronger.

Myth #2: B2C Social Media Strategies Don’t Apply to B2B Companies

Similar marketing strategies, content, and platforms intrigue buyers at B2B companies and individual consumers alike. In fact, a recent study by Eccolo Media reported that B2B technology buyers found vendors through the same channels as B2C companies, with LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook proving the most important and Twitter, Vimeo, Tumblr, and SlideShare of slightly less interest.

In terms of the content, B2B buyers find case studies/success stories, technology guides, and white papers to be most the useful when making purchasing decisions though they also consumed podcasts, emails, blog articles, infographics, videos and product brochures/data sheets to a lesser extent.

Though B2B buyers may prefer slightly different forms of content, they, like B2C customers, still gravitate towards content that tells a story, reveals the human face of your business and fosters relationships based on shared values and experiences.

Myth #3: Social Media is Only about Lead Generation

lead generationWhile B2B technology buyers are most likely to use social media during the pre-sales and initial sales phase of a purchase, a full 25% say they use social media during the mid-sales phase of identifying solutions and considering vendors. Still others use it during the final sales phase of finalizing the vendor and purchasing the solution.

According to research from Gleanster, about half of leads aren’t ready to buy after an initial conversation. And for B2B companies, with more expensive products and services, the sales cycle may be longer, requiring more long-term attention to prospects. Social media marketing helps to manage leads and better connect your marketing initiatives with your sales outcomes. Continuing your relationship with leads and prospects via social media helps to cinch sales by learning about the content that appeals to your best leads and then tailoring your efforts to their specific interests.

Myth #4: Social Media Doesn’t Have a Clear ROI

The end goal of B2B marketing – whether traditional or online – is to generate sales and grow revenue. Social media marketing is no different. Companies can easily calculate the ROI on social media marketing by comparing the revenue accumulated through social media leads to social media marketing costs. The reason so many B2B companies have difficulty tying their social media efforts to real numbers is because the tools they use to measure their social media effectiveness – which are usually designed for B2C marketers – focus too heavily on engagement metrics like clicks, comments and shares. Instead, utilize a social media analytics tool that ties to your entire lead generation strategy and measures the conversions that your posts and social campaigns generate. If you’re using a marketing automation platform and/or CRM, integrate them with your social tool so you get the most precise data possible. (Oktopost and Act-On integrate, which means marketers using them together can tell which leads were generated by which social posts.)

If you find that your social media marketing is not giving you the results you need, you may need to rethink your strategy. Always be sure that your marketing goals are aligned with your company’s overall business goals. This will in turn guide your social media strategy and determine which social media metrics you need to track to figure our whether or not a campaign was successful. Social media is incredibly measurable, but educated decisions about strategy can happen only when you have the data to back them up.

Myth #5: You Will Reveal Your Secrets to Competitors

Marketing is about staying one step ahead of your competitors by knowing what your customers really want – sometimes before they do.

The truth is, if your social media marketing strategy is working or your products are clicking with buyers, your competitors will likely try to imitate you. However, refusing to connect with potential buyers in an authentic way because you fear being impersonated is not productive. More than anything, a strong social media strategy that taps into your buyers’ current mindset with relevant content will be very dynamic, and cause your competitors to have far more to fear.

With these five common misconceptions in mind, take the time to reexamine and revamp your social media strategy with our ebook, Conducting a Successful Social Media Audit. Improving your social media management will not only generate sales, but will also firmly establish your business’s voice as a leading authority in your field. A strong presence on social media is key to garnering the interest of first-time buyers and maintaining relationships with returning customers while edging out the competition.

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