Ok, You are Social. Now What? Are you converting social media hits into measureable ROI?

SAP North America’s Gerry Moran, Head of Social Media shared his company’s social mix which includes demand generation via content throughout the buy cycle, and it serves to generate awareness and engagement, influencing the buyer journey through conversion. Twitter is critical for SAP to drive topic and product interest in efforts to enable sales. He stressed the importance of coding each channel to know where the engagement or sale came from and understanding what each channel is supposed to do.

Ruth Stevens, B2B Marketing Strategist and Consultant, uses social to blog, tweet, and post on Facebook, leveraging calls to action and relevant landing pages throughout buyer’s journey.

Howard Yermish, Technologist, online Marketing Strategist, conveyed that social strategies are not just marketing. While any conversation can lead to conversion, social must be integrated or it won’t affect the company in the long term. Gerry agreed that social augments marketing and serves to holistically drive sales.  In fact if you look at channels like the spokes on the wheel, not any one does it all,  but rather, they work together. Define each spoke.

Ruth agreed and said you can’t always attribute a sale to one channel and stressed the need for content strategy. “It needs to be thought about carefully, avoiding random acts of content!” Mapping out the process, looking at not only the target audience but influencers of decisions, will help to craft the right series of messages that help move prospects along the journey. It’s much like a traditional editorial calendar in that it’s a thoughtful, strategic approach with your audiences in mind.

When Brian asked the panel what the most important metrics are for their organizations or clients, Gerry shared the engagement metrics of shares and retweets. For influence metrics, the clicks are important.  The audience will share, someone else reads, then click to register for content. His assumption is  that prospects consumes at least 3 or 4 pieces of good content prior to conversion.

Ruth uses cost per lead and conversion rates, while Howard added inquiries and traffic sources. He said “echoes” are what people share, and marketers need to follow the share to see where it goes. “It’s important to follow them, even though resources may be slim. Someone needs to do it. Teach people to listen.”

The question really remains as to “If I can’t track a channel specifically, how do I monetize? How to sell this to management? How to quantify my efforts to get more budget?”  The good news is the technology will continue to evolve, and get better.  It has to – because segmentation requires the data and technology identify and track behavior.  The use of key words is more important now than ever in targeting who’s talking about what.  For SAP, it’s not so much about having a Twitter account for every product but more about the conversation – what people are saying – about the product. Capture interest and build a community around it.

Isn’t that the goal of any B2B initiative? Identify the audience and their problems, and offer real solutions – not just from the company’s perspective (sell) but from a community of referrals and recommendations (tell).

When asked about the risk of the conversation and employees’ rights to social sharing, the panel was in agreement – people have always been able to talk about products and services but in a limited capacity. With social, conversation has greater reach and speed. Training and governance are required with any organization that unleashes power to the people.

The biggest take-away is this:  Social can be unpredictable but it works. Howard told the crowd to (1) design a system regardless of its complexity or lack of; establish a “I am doing this” approach so that you have a documented system; (2) run with it; (3) observe and track what’s happening; (4) get the data you need to make a decision.

What’s next?  Look for advancement in publishing and influencer content from LinkedIn and get on board with Slideshare. It takes some energy to keep up with the technologies but it’s the way of the world. And it keeps turning.

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