It’s easy to get caught up in the hunt for social media performance metrics that give you an ego boost.
But “vanity metrics” like number of follows, likes, retweets, Klout scores and even shares don’t really indicate anything about the success of your marketing in a business sense.
Vanity metrics may look impressive when people click through to your social profile pages to get a sense of how active and engaged you are, which can somewhat help add to your credibility online, but vanity metrics are extremely ineffective as signposts pointing to your success with capturing new qualified leads or acquiring new customers.
Social media is a great tool for any number of purposes, which can include building brand awareness, digital reputation management, industry thought leadership and customer service. But social media’s biggest game-changing potential is as a lead generation and nurturing tool, and this is especially true if you’re operating in the B2B space. The best digital marketing for B2B products involves a process of nurturing leads along the purchase funnel to the point of sales-readiness, so any optimized measurement of social media ROI needs to take this process into account.
No matter what kind of company you are marketing, it’s important to track metrics that show how social media use has impacted sales volume, revenue and costs. Audience growth, reach and engagement are all great, but they only have indirect business value. If your activity on social media isn’t directly bringing in business or lightening the load of other departments in your company, then you may have a hard time making a case that it’s a worthwhile investment of resources.
Metrics that Actually Reveal the Impact of B2B Social
At its essence, customer prospecting on social media is just a shinier, newer method of getting the word out about your brand’s solution. It also happens to be far more interactive, targeted, integrated and trackable than traditional media. In this sense, it’s a customer acquisition channel like any other, and it works by getting your message in front of people’s eyes, so it doesn’t differ so dramatically from traditional media.
Before social media entered our lives, businesses tracked ROI for other types of media such as event sponsorship, public relations, and advertising in print, broadcast and outdoor. Consider that even email marketing campaigns and outbound cold calling, two tactics that evolved drastically with the onset on social media are still often looked upon in gross terms only. There’s a lot we can learn by looking at the metrics that marketers have used for decades for these channels, many of which required a lot of estimating, extrapolating and assuming.
One key characteristic of social media that gets marketers so excited is the depth of measurement that it supports. Marketers have the ability to track impact with any number of integrated tools. When it’s all said and done, for every marketing effort, it’s key to track how much was spent and what the success rate was.
Calculate your cost per impression, cost per engagement and cost per lead. Then align these metrics with clickthroughs, lead capture conversions and eventual sales to see how much acquiring each new customer is costing you. And if you can itemize this data according to social channel, specific campaign, audience segment targeting and engagement tactics, you’ll really be playing with power, as you’ll have the ability to optimize your future efforts for efficiency and to double down on whatever you’re doing that is the most impactful.
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Here are some specific metrics that will make a splash in your marketing performance reports and give you a real sense of what directions to take as you update your strategy each quarter.
Social-Originated Percentage of Customers
This metric will show you what percentage of your company’s sales overall have been attributed to leads referred by social media channels. Depending on how your company handles attribution, this metric might or might not include accounts that originated as leads captured off of social media and were later nurtured towards sales-readiness on your social channels.
Skilled posting and interacting on social media takes a lot of time and care, and many marketers are constantly struggling to demonstrate the business value of their social media activity. If you identify with this challenge, then make sure you track your share of all customers acquired over time. You can also drill down further to see how many leads came through social media vs. how many originated in SEO, PPC and email marketing.
Social Customer Acquisition Cost
Add together all the marketing costs in a specific time period, including payments to others, overhead and time spent by employees on social media efforts. Now compare that total with the amount of new customers in the same time period, to gain insight into how much it costs your company to acquire customers via social channels vs. other channels.
You should ideally also slice the data into sub-metrics that compare customer acquisition costs for each social channel and each type of activity that you typically engage in on social media. The more segmented you can get, the more you can learn about comparative ROI, itemized according to audience personas, types of posts, types of content and channels.
Actions Taken as a Result of Social
When it comes to driving sales with social media, your goal as a B2B marketer is to lead potential customers along a conversion funnel that guides them towards ultimately making a purchase. Along the way, as part of this nurturing process, your prospects will come into contact with different types of content that you can leverage to build trust and to educate prospects about the merits of your solution. Therefore, measuring interactions with these key touchpoints can give you a deeper understanding of your funnel’s performance.
Measure how many prospects actually took action as a result of your social activity. What actions were taken the most? Did these actions lead the customers to the next stage in the funnel? How many of these prospects actually became customers? These metrics are important for informing future decision-making. They allow you to tweak your marketing efforts to create content that compels leads to react and become even more engaged with your brand.
Using Data Properly
Detailed data has become more readily available to businesses of every size in recent years. Remember, though, that reliance on data can be a boon for business, or it can hold you back. Brands that focus on the wrong data points will find themselves putting lots of resources into juicing up numbers that don’t actually matter, just because these metrics look good on paper.
To avoid getting sidetracked, B2B marketers need to focus on metrics that actually indicate ROI. The ultimate goal of any for-profit company is to make money, so your marketing metrics should illustrate the extent to which social media and other digital marketing channels impact your company’s bottom line.