The two most prevalent reasons B2B organizations have been slower to adopt social media practices in comparison to B2C companies are, a lack of ability to measure results, and the mindset that social media “doesn’t apply in our niche industry.”
Social media is still a teenager on the global business stage, especially in B2B. In fact, for many B2B organizations, the teenager characterization is being generous.
The fact is that social media is like a telephone in two ways. First, it’s a communication tool. Second, it’s here to stay whether you’re a B2B, B2C or something in between.
Consider how much trepidation occurred in the early days of the telephone. Can you imagine executives sitting around in a meeting saying something like “We will never give every employee a telephone because we can’t control their conversations”? I bet that was said more than once.
As silly as that sounds today, it’s exactly what many B2B executives have said about social media over the past ten years. In fact, there are still businesses that block employee access to social media from their company-owned computers. Someone should tell their executives that their employees have smartphones with access to the world in their palm.
I’m not the first to write about how to measure B2B social media results. But, you might find my perspective different than other articles in an online search on this topic.
Below, I offer three top ways to measure B2B social media results. If these three results are achieved, they trickle down to many other measurable results.
Social Business Not Social Media
Start by eliminating the phrase social media and replace it with social business. Most businesses don’t think of themselves as media companies, even though it’s popular among content marketing advocates to think that way. If you manufacture industrial products with long, complex sale cycles, the last way your executives think of themselves is as a media company.
An organization that thinks like a social business understands the social channels exist much the same as the telephone. They exist to communicate, to engage, to listen, to learn, to serve, to inform and to a certain extent to sell. The main point is they exist to support the operation of the business. Social channels represent an opportunity to engage customers and to integrate them into your business. Measuring strategic business outcomes through social starts with a mindset shift away from social media – to social business.
In the 2015 State of Social Business, Ed Terpening, Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group, points out that organizations are moving beyond social for the sake of marketing and are focused on integrating social across the business with emphasis on employee and customer advocacy. The report also points out that 82% of businesses (surveyed) are either fully integrated or in the process of integrating social with their digital strategy. What this means is that businesses are acknowledging that social is part of the fabric of day to day business operations.
My conclusive point on this first B2B ROI attribute is that being a social business is requisite. Stop thinking about social media. Start thinking like a social business.
Employee Recruiting And Retention
One of the greatest challenges all B2B companies face is recruiting and retaining employees. Corporate recruiters know that the best talent is gainfully employed. Progressive B2B companies are training their recruiters to use social to identify and woo prospective employees to consider their career opportunities.
Consider Cisco’s Socialvenger program. This program serves to train Cisco recruiters how to use social media to fill their pipeline with qualified candidates. The program gamifies the process. Recruiters select a superhero avatar as they learn how to use social media in their recruiting process. Socialvengers has accelerated the learning curve for corporate recruiters at Cisco, while contributing to their recruiting efficacy.
Employee turnover is costly in any industry. It’s especially costly in B2B due to the specialization of many companies. Retention is very high on the priority list for B2B execs.
Implementing employee advocacy programs is one way to strengthen the bond between the employer and the employee. Consider AveryDennison’s Get Social program. Here’s how James Moat, Digital Director, Global Digital Corporate Communications describes the Get Social program:
“We identified our employees as a prodigious opportunity to help drive awareness of our brand and launched an employee ambassador program, which we named Get Social. But it was more than mobilizing employees as advocates – and it’s more than social media channels too. We wanted to start a movement to embed social media into our very culture…”
AveryDennison employs more than 26,000 people. Clearly, they operate as a social business as illustrated by their Get Social program. They even call it a movement. That sounds pretty strategic to me. Don’t you agree?
Sales Process Improvement
This article wouldn’t be complete without a strong mention of how social media can be harnessed to sell products and services in B2B. I admit, I’m not a fan of the phrase social selling. I understand the intent of the phrase. Rather, my advice to you as a B2B professional is to be a social business practitioner to improve your sales process, resulting in improved sales results.
Take Dell for example. Bryan Jones, Vice President of North America Commercial and Global 500 Marketing, has been on a mission to train Dell Commercial sales staff to harness social channels to engage with prospects and customers to strengthen relationships and identify new sales opportunities.
Last year, Bryan commissioned a research report through Carnegie Mellon University. The resulting report titled ‘Digital Transformation – Social Selling Research, Insights and Best Practices,’ contains key findings on the impact of social in B2B sales. These include that 75% of B2B buyers are influenced by information found on social channels; 67% of the buyer’s journey is now done digitally, and 97% of the time cold calling is ineffective.
Dell’s Social Media and Community University (SMaC U) has trained more than 16,000 of its employees on how to use social media in the course of day to day business. Amy Heiss, Director of SMaC U at Dell, describes it this way: “We empower team members and executives to use social media to amplify Dell’s brand messages and to connect with our customers.”
Amy has witnessed many examples of Dell sales professionals improving their results by effectively integrating social engagement practices into their sales process.
If social media is analogous to the telephone, then it behooves B2B companies to embrace the potential it provides to communicate and engage with employees, prospective customers, current customers, suppliers, and partners. The way to measure results is to measure the impact of specific programs like those mentioned in this article. AveryDennison, Cisco, and Dell are harnessing social media strategically to achieve measurable business results.
I would argue that AveryDennison, Cisco, and Dell are examples of B2B social business in action.