Re-Thinking Business Social Media

If you are an STM demolition and construction company, in a local market, should your marketing investment include Facebook and Twitter? 

If you think that is a mismatch, join the group. Yet, MGI Construction Company sees sales out there in Twitter’s 24 million followers. Or they don’t really and it’s just an example of what might be called social media sprawl – a vast, amorphous blob of robotic posts hopefully spinning around out there in anonymity.

Re-thinking business social media is long overdue. Most businesses have misunderstood it for years. There ARE brilliant ways to use marketing and sales promotion on the Internet but most firms don’t wait to find out. They see only numbers.  Managers who once used to commit huge budgets on the basis of a few thousand paid subscribers, take one look at Facebook’s 2.8 billion monthly users and say “We’ve got to be there.”

Actually, you don’t.

Business is a massive user of online – nearly 80% of all companies share content on social media.  Most of it is labelled B2C or business-to-consumer. Business-to-business (B2B) marketing is another story. How many Twitter followers want to buy a Caterpillar earth-mover?

Funding B2B marketing campaigns on most social media is described by a (male) friend of mine as being like peeing down your pant leg. All it gives you is a warm feeling. (The big exception is LinkedIn which we’ll come back to.)

Despite this inability to identify potential buyers of business products in consumer social media, firms have poured billions into the attempt.  Finally, the light has gone on. Marketers, who exist for conversions, realize they are competing in a quite foreign market that values community.

This week, a series of articles by MarketingProfs describes social media investment as a triumph of hope over hard evidence.

  • In the real world, what keeps marketing alive is data. Last year, 67% of B2B managers admitted they can’t quantitatively measure their social media impact (although they are planning to spend more next year…..!)
  • Another survey shows that social media engagement is a consequence, not a cause, of brand affinity. They followed you because they already liked you.
  • In one survey of companies which claimed excellent customer service, only 8% of their customers agreed with that assessment.

So, as it becomes increasingly clear that much B2B marketing is wasted on most social media, where should that money be spent? The answer has been there all the time: Customer service.

Using social media in customer care instead of social media marketing turns the photo from negative to positive. It is about community, not conversion. You are valuing the consumer, not the product. You are aligned with the community experience, not the sale.

Does that not sound a lot more promising than this admission from an SM marketer at Arby’s:

It’s difficult to tie what we’re doing in social with hard metrics around sales or store visits … However, when we take a deeper look into the quantitative results and look at the sentiment and passion intensity of the comments [on our Instagram posts], we’re driving significant positive conversations around our brand.”

“Positive conversations”? Try this metric at the next executive marketing meeting and see how excited the boss gets.

So, the focus switch to the customer experience shows the B2B world a real way how to profit intelligently from the vastness of consumer social media. But what about the original marketing  challenge? Is there a door to social media that will show ways not just to pat your customers on the back, but actually get them to the top of your funnel?

Yes indeed. I said we’d get back to LinkedIn. But it will have to be next week.

Happy Trails.

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