Why are you in social media, anyway?

Why are we in social media? This is an important question to ask. Particularly for B2B companies. Because someone told you to? Because it’s fun? Because you opened the channels five years ago and now you’re stuck with them? Or because you have a great relation to your customers in social and thus the channels are actively contributing to your brand value?

Recently, I spoke to a marketing manager for a larger B2B company who told me that for them, social media had become ”a self-generating cost, hard to control, and quite demanding in terms of content”. They found it truly hard to see the value of social. In their line of business, a post in social media can seldom, if ever, be traced back directly to sales. And so, the question was if this company should quit social media entirely and spend the budget elsewhere?

This is certainly a question companies should ask themselves on a regular basis. Particularly B2B’s, as their sales cycles tend to be complex and thus the link between a social post and sales can be hard to track. However, as social media shouldn’t be seen as a stand-alone effort, I’d suggest to rephrase the question a bit to take the broader perspective into account. In this particular case, all social media channels were basically grouped and considered one single marketing channel, and the value of social was judged separately from other marketing activities.

How about rephrasing the question from “can we quit social” to:
What is the role of social media in our marketing mix and how do we optimize its value contribution?

Social media is not one channel, but a broad variety of channels, each with its own characteristics and opportunities. For a company, it’s important to evaluate the channels based on their ability to engage the desired target group. This is where the focus should be. These are the social channels where resources should be spent to build a good presence. It’s ok to leave a channel out, but do base this decision on a thorough analysis of your target group’s activities in and preference for this channel.

To be active in social is certainly a cost, but if you spend this money on daily conversations with your customers, it must be money well spent?

Social media works at its best when activities and content are an integrated part of the company’s overall marketing. The value of social is best recognized when combined with other communications activities. Social media conversations are low-noise and continuous, meaning that social can form the important base rhythm no song could do without. Other marketing activities tend to be either regular-but-seldom (think: customer newsletters or maybe your PR activities), event-based, or time-limited high noise campaigns. These all come and go, while well-managed social media stays.

To get the best out of your social channels, consider them the base rhythm and the small talk of your marketing efforts, taking the lead on nurturing the relation to people who already know you. This is when you’ll find the right targets to set for social, and thus will know if the activities bring value to your brand.

Finally, social media is too mature and too important not to be a part of a company’s marketing mix today. Ones the selected channels’ roles in the mix are defined, make sure there is a good measurement and reporting system in place. And that you have people who can actually interpret the numbers and initiate modifications of the tactics on an on-going basis.

Companies should demand just as much from their social media activities as from other marketing efforts. No one likes “self-generating costs”. The beauty of well-managed social, is that the company actually owns the channels and has full access to statistics, meaning that the company is in better control of social than of any other marketing channel – tactics can be modified on the spot.

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So why are we in social media? Why are companies spending budget on social channels? The simple answer should be: “Because it pays.” Because the close relation to influencers and customers nurtured through social channels increases brand value and makes the company attractive. It is however easy to lose track of this simple answer, when captured in daily operations. What I’d recommend is to occasionally take a step back to the drawing table and review the bigger picture: What is the role of social in your marketing mix and how do you optimize its value contribution? I’m sure the answer will be not to quit.

By the way, why are you in social media?

 

This blog was first published on LinkedIn May 6, 2016.

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