Recent research from MarketingProfs shows that 84% of B2B companies use social media marketing in some form, and the figure is likely higher for B2C firms. But that’s a bit like saying that most Americans exercise regularly; it’s probably true, but there is a big difference between walking the dog around the block a couple of times per week and training for a triathlon.
In social media, as in physical training, it takes time to see substantial results. And so, just as it’s easy to slip off a training schedule, it can be tempting for busy marketers who aren’t seeing an immediate payback from social media efforts to neglect those efforts. This is apparent from the large number of abandoned blogs, orphaned Facebook pages, silent Twitter feeds and the like littering the social media landscape.
I recently did some “spring cleaning” on my Twitter account using Twit Cleaner and was stunned—though perhaps I shouldn’t have been—to discover that hundreds of those “following” me hadn’t tweeted a thing in the past 30 days, 90 days, 180 days, even a year or more.
Billy Mitchell recently commented on this phenomenon as well, writing that “Although social media marketing continues to be a hot topic among B2B marketing professionals, a surprising number of B2B companies are (either) not planning to start, late to get started, only going through the motions with little or no results (or) have already given up.”
The good news is that, just like there’s never a bad time to start exercising (unless you’re in a body cast perhaps), there’s never a wrong time to step back, reassess, and re-launch social media marketing efforts. The first step is to take a look at your social media program and determine if you’ve got a results problem that’s really an activity problem. And understand that if that’s the case, you’re not alone.
I recently conducted a competitive analysis on behalf of a client looking at 10 companies in the IT management software market. Note that these weren’t hair salons or auto body shops or some other type of business whose core isn’t the online world; these are companies whose buyers were trading messages using now-obscure online communication protocols since before the Internet had a name, and long before the term “social media” was introduced. This is a group of companies that, although primarily SMBs, should be fluent in online and social communications.
So while certainly not a scientifically valid sample, the findings about social media use among these 10 companies are nevertheless telling:
- Two of the vendors’ websites have no social media buttons/icons/links at all, and three have only a limited social presence on their sites (e.g. social account links only on their Home and Contact pages).
- Only four of the 10 have blogs, and of those, three have had a total of four or fewer new posts in the last 60 days.
- Three of the companies aren’t on Twitter. Of the seven who are, three have fewer than 100 followers. Six of the seven companies tweet, on average, less than once every four days.
- Though nine of the 10 companies are on LinkedIn, though only three have complete, optimized company profiles and product listings. Eight companies have 50 or fewer followers.
- All of the companies can be found on Facebook, but only three have complete or professionally designed pages. Three others have unmanaged “community pages” which the companies don’t maintain and may not even be aware of. Four of the 10 pages have fewer than 10 “likes.” Four have no wall posts at all, and four more have fewer than 10 posts over the last 60 days.
- Seven of the ten companies have no presence on Google+, and only one has a complete, optimized profile there.
What should you do if your company’s social media strategy isn’t firing on all cylinders, or how do you avoid this fate if your company is just getting started in social media?The topic of social media marketing could fill a book (and has in fact, several), but here is a seven-step approach to get things moving in the right direction.
1. Research your company’s social media landscape, so you understand where your prospective buyers are congregating and active.
2. Listen to the conversation for a while before jumping in, so you get a solid sense for the tone, etiquette and group dynamics of each social venue as well the popularity of various specific discussion topics.
3. Develop content that answers the questions you see being raised. The more relevant your content is to the concerns of your prospective buyers, the more likely it is to be read and shared. In order to produce content on a regular basis without breaking the bank, find ways to re-use and re-purpose existing content (e.g. a white paper can be re-used as a presentation, a couple of blog posts and a bylined article) and spread the workload among several internal subject matter experts, so one writer becomes overwhelmed.
4. Respond to questions and engage your buyers and influencers in social media. Reach out. Interact. Build relationships. That will encourage followers to share your content and customers to reinforce your messages.
5. Convert followers to known prospects or even customers through targeted calls to action. This is where the “R” happens in social media ROI. Any time you are able to engage prospective buyers with your content, give them an easy (but not obnoxious) way to perform a conversion action: sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your blog, register for a webinar, download a white paper, or start a free trial. Make the action fit the content. Experiment. Keep it fresh.
6. Measure. The ultimate measure of social media success is leads or sales, but there are dozens of intermediate measures that, while not success metrics in and of themselves, are crucial for letting you know how your current efforts are working. What should you do more of, less of, or do differently? Running a social media program without metrics is like driving a car with no gauges. Not a good plan.
7. Persist. Building readership for a blog takes time. Building a significant presence on any social network takes time too. Establishing credibility, cultivating relationships, optimizing your online presence…none of this happens overnight. Stick with it. The losers are those with abandoned blogs, silent Twitter accounts, orphaned Facebook pages. Those who score in social media are often those who just keep shooting.
While most companies have now adopted social media marketing practices of some sort, many are still struggling to see the hoped-for results. If your company is in that group, you aren’t alone. Keep at it. Learn. Experiment. Measure. Tweak. Prevail.