Is Social Media Effective in Marketing Solutions?

Can We Tweet our Way to Greater Awareness and Higher Sales? Thoughtful Facebook posts, catchy tweets, stunning Instragram photos, a steady flow of Snapchat messages…all great ways to tell others about your trip to Paris, what you had for dinner last night, or to promote the latest nutrition bars. But do these tools work in getting your message across about your solutions? Can they be effective in communicating offerings that are complex and aimed at a business audience? Is it worth the time, budget and effort to use social media in promoting solutions such as data analytics software, cognitive computing capabilities, or IoT applications for manufacturing production? A Pioneering Study on the Impact of Social Media in a B2B World Solutions Insights surveyed B2B marketing professionals about the ways they are applying social media marketing for solutions. Our intent was to find out what’s working and what are the biggest challenges. We wanted to know not only how social media is applied today, but what does the future look like. In collaboration with The Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM), we conducted what we believe is a unique survey to better understand how, why, and when to use social media in marketing increasingly complex solutions in a B2B context. Over 100 solutions marketers from recognized companies and organizations, including Accenture, LinkedIn, Marketo, General Electric and PwC, participated in the survey. The respondents were almost equally divided between senior level marketing executives and mid-level managers and directors. They were also split 50-50 between traditionally producted-based and services-based companies. Five Ways to Ensure Social Media is Effective in Marketing Solutions In looking at the results of our survey we concluded that there are 5 ways that you can improve the impact of social media in your B2B solutions marketing programs:

  1. Move your focus from brand building to customer needs.A majority of the survey participants – over 80% -- listed brand awareness and enhancement as the main reason they engage in social media activities. However, their experiences also seemed to indicate that the results are greater when these programs are re-focused from brand to customer understanding and engagement. When asked to identify their greatest social media successes and best practices, there were many descriptions of how it was used to generate greater customer intimacy and virtually no examples around brand enhancement.
  2. Make sure you have compelling content.While dazzlingly new social media tools, apps and platforms are created on almost a weekly basis, the most important factor in getting the attention of your audience is relevant and valuable content. It isn’t nearly as sexy as new formats or channels, and it’s still really hard to have great content all of the time, but it’s the only thing that your customers really care about. A surprisingly low number of respondents – only 23% -- use different content for their solutions than they do for their products or services. Your customers have very specific business and operational problems – they want to hear about what you know and how you can help them regardless of how you connect with them. Make the effort to customize your content to reflect the unique value of your solutions in addressing their problem or challenge.
  3. Integrate across the rest of the marketing groups, sales and your partner ecosystem.Social media should be looked at as an integral part of the system that connects all of your stakeholders. Given the nature of social media, it can be highly effective in communicating quickly and efficiently in a way that ensures everyone receives your key messages at the same time, leading to communications alignment. While only 12% of the survey participants felt that they did a good job of integrating their social media activities, a much larger number recognized the importance of messaging integration.
  4. To Measure, adjust, measure, adjust...:The good news is that 25% of the respondents are measuring both social media impact and its ROI. The bad news is that 75% aren’t measuring these two important outcomes. Nearly all of respondents recognized the need to measure, and admitted that it was their biggest challenge. The optimum results of a social media strategy will only be achieved when both the impact and ROI are measured, and the proper adjustments in your programs and campaigns are made.
Be prepared to allocate more of you budget to social media. The survey clearly indicated that social media budgets are steadily increasing. On average, companies are spend twice as much in 2016 than they did in 2014. Their percentage of total marketing spend went up from 6% to 12%. These investments appear to be allocated equally between personnel and systems and tools. What Did the Experts Think about the Results of the Survey? We asked a panel of five social marketing experts who work for B2B companies and associations for their analysis and viewpoints on the survey results. You can view the “Expert Panel Highlights” in Part One, which will be followed by Part Two: “Challenges and Best Practices from the Expert Panel” and Part Three: “Five Ways to Improve the Impact of B2B Social Media Marketing.” To learn more about the results of the survey, or if you have any other questions concerning solutions marketing, please contact Steve Hurley at shurley@solutionsinsights.com or 781-686-1607. Author: Steve Hurley

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