6 Burning Questions about Social Media for B2B

by Michelle McGinnis on Tuesday, May 29, 2012 in Social Media

I've been involved in a number of webinars and round tables recently on the topic of social media for B2B.  As it turns out, we're still fairly early on the adoption of social among B2B firms, but with our recent introduction of the Eloqua Social Suite, we have been lucky enough to work with some of the leading edge B2B firms breaking new ground.

I've assembled some of the most frequently asked questions and and used what we've learned to address them.

Q: In some cases, B2B's develop their own social platforms. Is this tactic effective or should we stick to outside social media communities?

A: There's a balancing act between maintaining an “owned” community versus taking advantage of existing public communities.  Owned communities, which can be built on third-party platforms, can be great for customer communities, building advocacy, or sharing best practices. However, they aren’t as good at driving net-new leads to your brand. As a best practice, even owned communities can be made public to increase the level of trust and openness your brand portrays.

Q: Are there benchmarks out there that measure B2B performance on social media?

A:  Unfortunately, most of the best benchmarking and analysis for social has happened in the B2C world so far. Though, firms like Aberdeen Research have started blazing the trail with their new report entitled “B2B Social Media Marketing: Are we There Yet?” available for download. We're also working on collecting some benchmarks and best practices from our customer base, so stay tuned.

Q: What are the benefits of developing social media metrics, a dashboard manager and trackable URL shorteners?

A:  First and foremost, before deciding on tools it’s critical to decide what metrics you want to track. We hear a lot of companies talking a lot about the number of re-tweets, Facebook “Likes”, or followers they’ve accumulated. But can you imagine going to your CFO asking for a bigger social budget based on the number of “Likes” you have?

We recommend looking at tools that help you track more impactful metrics like social inbound referrals to lead generation destinations (like landing pages or gated content). And if you have tools to match social identities to existing identities in your database, you can track the impact social media is having on your reach, pipeline velocity, and even sales and revenue. These are the metrics that your executives care about.

Q: A lot of B2B companies don't see as much traction on Facebook, but SlideShare delivers a lot of traffic. What are the best social media channels for B2B?

A:  There is no right or wrong social media channel for all B2B companies. The rule of thumb is to be where your suspects and prospects are, not to just choose the biggest, fastest growing, or sexiest. I recently spoke with an industrial manufacturing company that sells to people that are barely up on email. So in reality, they probably shouldn’t be focusing on social at all yet. While SlideShare and LinkedIn are social sites that tend to cater much more to business professionals,  you still need to do some leg work first to find out where your prospects are, and then produce high value content that’s easily consumable on those sites.

Q: We end up with a lot of noise when capturing social activity. How do collect this data while sorting the wheat from the chaff?

A:  We've always championed tracking both who your leads are and what they do. This applies to any channel, even social. You want to capture and score leads based on their social identities and behaviors so you can see which leads are hot, which are likely to buy from you in the future, and which are the "chaff." By collecting social data from tools like social sign-on, and following social activity, we can use that information to inform the lead score along with other digital body language like demographic data, web, and email activity. The key is looking at all that data together, not just one channel in isolation.

Q: Okay. But what is social sign-on?

A: We’re very bullish on social sign-on. Essentially, it lets prospects register for your content or offers using their social credentials rather than a traditional form. We know that the fewer fields someone needs to fill out, the more likely they are to convert. But more importantly, when you get a social sign-on, the social site returns precious. This can be then used to augment contact data to do social segmentation, lead scoring, or targeting.

Still have questions about using social media for B2B? Ask us in the comments below.

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