B2B tech companies are finally jumping on the bandwagon to adopt social media and digital services – but you may be asking “what took so long?” While these marketing execs are motivated to try new concepts, there is heavy pressure to direct their marketing spend towards attracting prospects that have important initiatives. Because social services were initially marketed as a B2C tool to build social buzz, they have historically been used by consumer companies that were encouraging more trivial purchases.
So, what changed? Data and metrics have transformed the social landscape entirely. With new and “instant data” providing insight into what’s motivating hard-to-reach B2B buyers to engage, marketing execs are beginning to ramp efforts to build influential and engaged audiences – to not only support marketing objectives, but improve conversions in the selling process.
What B2B marketing execs figured out is that social interactions create a lot of useful data that can be mined to understand their buyers better. There are two specific services that 10Fold clients are finding very useful: digital personas and social audits. Building personas becomes a predictive tool for social marketing executives, helping them understand both the types and formats of content that are important to a specific audience, as well as the topics and channels specific audiences engage with online (across multiple social channels). Whereas a social audit allows you to review and measure the success of your social initiatives, helping you to quickly learn what worked and what didn’t – to ensure you maximize impact with the buyers you are trying to engage.
Personas Help Predict and Position You For Success
When companies first started executing on social platforms, few had the foresight to think about what their audiences wanted to hear or engage with – nor were there tools to help social marketing executives find that information easily. Now we know customers aren’t all the same – far from it, in fact – and their uniqueness drives engagement with different topics and different content formats. Be sure to create personas for each title, each vertical industry, and perhaps personas for individuals based on the size of their company. Persona research provides in-depth insight into which common engagement practices work, which hashtags the buyers follow, and even how (and how much) they engage on each social channel.
You’ll know the content they like to post, and the content they share and like – and social personas also define assets that your audience finds interesting. Some audiences lean toward assets like videos when learning about a topic, product, or industry. Others might prefer a simple infographic, or a detailed text analysis. 10Fold recommends using social media tools (such as Brandwatch) to identify asset preferences in your audience. You might even be able to save some time and money required for more expensive assets (like video) if you know that your audience won’t interact well with it. Asset preference information can also be leveraged to maximize both your organic and paid social strategy, which comes in handy when you define your ad spend targets and build out content calendars.
With a persona study, you’ll know which groups your buyers join, and which ones they participate in. It’s almost literally a blueprint for building trust with them on their terms. In addition, a persona study identifies influencers and industry leaders they engage with on social channels. In short, the information derived by creating personas can help focus and improve your social results before you spend a dime on your programs.
If you are like most companies, you have a program going, and you’d like to measure just how effective you are with those programs. While social tools provide signals of your success (using FollowerWonk to measure social authority, for example), they often indicate a general improvement of a score – and it is important to know what helped you elevate your social scores the most (and the least) so you know where to put your time and money. In this case, 10Fold recommends a social audit.
Social Audits Reveal Bigger Isn’t Always Better
Simply put, a bigger audience isn’t necessarily better. A social audience should comprise only people that care about your industry and/or your category of products. It’s a group of people that depend on the type of information you offer to make decisions, make life easier or save money or time.
A social audit depends on assessing the relevancy of your followers, and you’d be surprised by how often followers are not actual people, but bots. You also might be surprised by how many undesirable people can wind up on your follower list. And this is a problem, as the wrong followers damage your reputation with potential “real” followers – who not only consume your content, but influence your audience’s decision to follow you or not. The good news is, most social tools can separate real audience members from irrelevant or “fake” followers. And you might find that if your audience is full of fake followers, the tools will penalize your social authority and influence scores. What’s more, you are wasting money and time trying to develop content for an audience that likely won’t respond or help you in any way.
Who You Know Really Does Matter – Find Out Who You Know With an Audit
Social Influence is another critical consideration when evaluating your audience. But what does influence mean in the social sphere? It means the user has a highly relevant audience (based on the topic the influencer speaks to), and that audience actively engages with that person’s content. B2B marketing execs know they must first identify the content that drives engagement from their desired influencers – and they must do this before approaching those influencers. Ultimately, the goal is to cultivate relationships with as many influencers as possible. Why? Influencers typically have very large audiences that likely will care about what you are saying. An endorsement from an influencer (which looks like a retweet, share or a like) can create awareness and interest in what you have to say faster than traditional marketing campaigns. Don’t forget that reporters and industry analysts-turned-social influencers should not be your only influencer targets. In fact, your own customers – who likely have excellent reputations, and perhaps frequently speak at conferences – are some of the best influencer targets to engage. Their “real world” perspective often plays the best with potential buyers. There is also a budding industry of paid influencers that engage on relevant topics with companies – and this is akin to paid relationships with certain types of industry analysts to help you promote a product or service.
Audit Feedback is the Breakfast of Social Champions
Once you assess the composition of your social audience, it’s time to evaluate your share of voice on a channel, particularly in relationship to your competitors. Audits can provide a wealth of insights into your competitors’ strategies for building and engaging their audiences. You’ll want to review their keyword strategies and even their campaigns. Also, look for the cadence of content creation, along with content formats that work best for them. Compare their audience authority and influence scores to your own scores, and pinpoint the differences in their strategy and execution to build even stronger impact in your own initiatives.
While social audits and persona development are very valuable to companies with social initiatives, they are not necessarily easy to execute. Finding social tools to mine data from all of your social channels is next-to-impossible (especially considering that LinkedIn does not provide APIs to evaluate LinkedIn initiatives, outside of its own tools). Usually these projects require a collection of tools and some manual labor, and the volume of data also plays a role in determining the time it can take to evaluate all of the data mapping to the criteria in a social audit or persona project. For example, large public companies can take days to evaluate carefully.
While potentially time-consuming, the insights you derive from a better understanding of your social audience and the content they engage with is invaluable. If you’d like more information on building social impact, you’ll find it here.