You know social media is essential in today’s B2B world, but how can you tell if your social strategies deliver the intended results? All too often, your efforts seem to fall into a black hole, making it tough to justify the time and money required. And while social does a great job of starting the relationship, traditional sales and marketing tend to convert it to a sale, which means the effects of social can get lost in the shuffle. What you really need are ways to both improve and measure the impact of social media on lead generation and customer retention—and to translate that into metrics like revenue creation, costs, and sales volume so you can close the gap between social and your bottom line.

 

Nichole Kelly, CEO of Social Media Explorer/SME Digital and author of How to Measure Social Media, feels your pain. In a session at Ariba LIVE 2014, she outlined her company’s comprehensive three-pronged approach to social media that leverages social selling on LinkedIn, inbound marketing, and marketing automation to fill the sales funnel—achieving an average 15% contact-to-meeting conversion rate and 450% growth in the last year alone. Along the way, she described plenty of easy, low-cost actions you can take to start generating measurable results from social media in record time.

 

1. Make LinkedIn central to your social strategy. Though your industry may focus on other channels, Kelly finds that for B2B, LinkedIn members are most responsive; it’s a one-to-one channel initially. Though Kelly suspects this won’t last forever, right now, “When you send messages to people on LinkedIn, they respond at a ridiculously high rate,” she says. As you add new connections, LinkedIn’s robust Contacts manager provides an excellent place to categorize information and keep notes about your interactions: comments on posts or status updates, and links to articles you’ve shared.

 

2. Use tagged links and analytics to track inbound sources. Social is great for client retention and general networking, but how can you measure its impact on new sales leads? Every time you share a link to content on your website, make sure it’s a trackable link. Google’s URL Builder is a useful tool for tagging your links so web analytics can identify the sources of your traffic, enabling you to track different outreach campaigns, including social. Use one tag per channel so you can monitor each source separately. “If you’re not collecting this data, you can never get it back; it’s not retroactive,” Kelly says. “It’s amazing when you actually do it, because you’ll start to see everything that’s coming through your website.” When prospects turn into users you can analyze their site interactions, but first you want those visitors tagged as coming from social.

 

3. Pump up the volume: Use LinkedIn search to find new prospects. To grow your list of connections, define your targets and plug the parameters into LinkedIn’s powerful search tool. (Upgrading to LinkedIn Premium gives you eight extra search filters, along with access to full names and profiles and the ability to contact people you’re not connected to.) Save those you find in that search and tag them in Contacts as your prospect list, keeping them separate from clients. And spread your net wide. “You have to have high volume to get high results,” Kelly says. Your target will depend on your business size and goals, but try to start with at least 1,000 names, then use a multi-touch strategy to begin reaching out to them.


 

LinkedIn Daily Checklist to Optimize Results

  • Plan to spend 30-60 minutes a day
  • Update your status with a relevant article
  • View status updates, changes, and announcements in Contacts first, then on the LinkedIn home page; comment/congratulate where appropriate
  • Send three prospects a personalized note asking if they would be interested in meeting
  • Send three clients a personalized note or comment on a status they've posted recently
  • Post an informative article to one or more LinkedIn groups with a thought-provoking, conversation-starter question (then follow the conversation for easy updates)
  • Comment in at least one of the top discussions in groups
  • Accept LinkedIn invitations
  • Help at least three people each week - recommend them, endorse their skills, refer a client, and/or make a valuable introduction

 

4. Use LinkedIn groups to build connections via direct outreach. Analyze your prospect list to discover the LinkedIn groups these people belong to, and then join those groups yourself. Monitor group conversations to learn about prospects’ concerns, make comments, offer assistance when appropriate, and post links to relevant information. Note, too, that groups offer a little-known feature especially valuable for free accounts: group members can contact each other by direct message without a prior connection. So introduce yourself to key prospects by mentioning the group you have in common, then share an idea or one of your trackable links.


5. Consider content carefully. The right content strategy is key to your social success, and a personalized approach is best. LinkedIn Contacts can help you flag and organize the connections you most want to monitor, enabling you to track status updates like job changes, profile revisions, and similar shifts that give you a good place to start a conversation. Monitoring Google Alerts, forums, blogs, and groups can reveal prospects’ hot buttons, which you can use to develop highly targeted, straightforward content that answers their questions.


“When you’re reaching out to build relationships online, if you can share engaging and relevant content that doesn’t talk about your products and services, you actually can deepen those relationships a lot faster,” Kelly says. Pay attention to where people are in the sales cycle—if they express interest in your product or service, definitely follow up in kind. But for those who merely engage with you or your content, you can actually kill the sale by putting them into direct response campaigns prematurely. Purchasing intent is a key differentiator to identify in social; it’s the trigger where relationship building turns into prospect nurturing.

 

6. Analyze traffic to measure results. While the gold standard for social measurement is to push social data into your CRM system, web analytics is an easy first step to help you do some analysis. (For a good overview of the value web analytics deliver, go to http://www.google.com/analytics/why.) Let’s say you sent out 300 tagged links and want to know 1) how many site visits resulted, 2) how long people stayed, and 3) did they convert? You can use the behavioral information from site analytics to inform your assessments. If you can’t measure revenue right away, start by looking at cost metrics such as cost per impression, cost per engagement, and cost per conversion.


7. Optimize your website for conversions. “It’s crazy in B2B how hard we make it for people to buy,” Kelly says. Instead, optimize your website for conversion by developing multiple user experiences according to where your prospects are in the sales funnel. Kelly recommends having two to three points of conversion on every page by including:

    • Downloadable content for basic nurturing, creating a “soft conversion”
    • Higher-level decision-making downloads that indicate purchasing intent
    • Easy ways for users to raise their hand if they want to make contact or meet with sales

Automated marketing such as email or newsletter campaigns can also be tailored to prospects’ changing interest levels as they move toward conversion. It looks personalized, but is based on the social signals that people are sending.

 

8. Scale into big data technology. When you’re able to integrate social data into CRM, you can start to analyze social-tagged customers vs. control groups of non-social customers according to various metrics. For example, do they generate more revenue? Do they generate more sales? Do they close faster? Kelly has discovered that social is indeed different, having

    • A lower cost per lead and per acquisition
    • A longer sales cycle, not because social slows the sale, but because it catches prospects earlier in the process—well before the competition
    • A dramatically higher conversion rate to sales

Using advanced software like Marketo’s suite of automation tools and SME Digital’s TRKS.IT to track third-party links, you can integrate actionable social media signals into Salesforce, SAP, or other CRM systems to help you trigger appropriate actions, deepen relationships, and cross-sell to existing customers. Once you start scaling up your efforts, response rates skyrocket along with volume.

 

Find Out More

If you haven’t been measuring social media’s impact on your company’s bottom line, it’s time to start. For further details, tips, and ideas, watch the full session on the Ariba Slideshare site.