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For social media to thrive well into the future, discipline must be used to gauge its impact on reputation, demand creation and sales.

Prove it. If you’re a b-to-b marketer that has responsibility for any type of social media endeavour, sooner or later you’re going to hear these words from someone in the organization that wants to understand whether the latest marketing craze is for real.

A common social media cliché is that it is difficult to measure because its core aims of engagement and alignment are qualitative in nature. At its core, this belief is fundamentally flawed, as social media tactics by their very nature are backed by a host of quantitative web analytics. In this article, we discuss a strategic framework for the measurement of social media’s impact, and cite specific measures in the three core b-to-b areas that social media tactics are commonly employed.

Building the Framework

In past research, we have run a variety of social media activities – from blogs to wikis to social networks – through three b-to-b filters, including reputation, demand creation and sales productivity/enablement, and discussed their relevancy to each. Behind this backdrop lies two core categories into which specific metrics should be placed. These categories include:

Activity. A group of primarily quantitative metrics derived from fee-based (Omniture, Cision) or free (Google Analytics) web analytics packages. Activity-based metrics are specific to the social media channel in question, ranging from the number of members in a community to the number of responses to your blog posts.
Results. Results metrics tend to be related to broader goals of the business, from revenue generation to pipeline building and customer retention. As such, they will be both quantitative and qualitative in nature, and will seek to tie specific activities to desired business outcomes.

Metrics: Reputation

Reputation in the social media universe takes two forms: Your own community of customers and the community that includes anyone else that talks about your organization. With this in mind, key metrics include:

Activity. Company mentions and overall sentiment in the social media universe should play a part in identifying where to focus reputation building efforts. Track readership and comments (e.g. frequency of posting) for your own social media efforts, as well as on other social media sites including Twitter, external blogs and communities.

Results. While activity metrics such as the number of unique visitors and discussion threads help to determine social media utilization, organizations must seek to link participation to desired results. What are the differences in behavior for customers and prospects who are a part of your social media community versus those who aren't? Do they tend to be more loyal, or to refer your organization at higher levels? Are they more predisposed to buy multiple products? Uncovering these answers involves expanding the data collected not only from community platforms, but also through interviews and customer surveys.

Metrics: Demand Creation

A variety of social media activities are being woven into field marketing’s tactical mix, both in terms of pre-seeding demand creation programs and a component of the programs themselves. Key metrics include:

Activity. While activity metrics in this category (e.g. page views and unique visitors for a blog) say little in isolation, when analyzed together they can form a qualitative picture of the impact your social media efforts have on demand creation. Which podcasts are being accessed more frequently by vertical or role? Which keywords and phrases used in social media activities are contributing to better search performance? Where are blog or community visitors originating from? How many RSS subscriptions have you generated, indicating the content that is being pushed into various marketplaces is being judged by key audiences as valuable?

Results. While it’s relatively easy to track individual users that read your blog or download a podcast, you may have to wait months or even quarters to have enough data to determine how social media is impacting the performance of the demand waterfall. Tracking such results requires a data collection infrastructure that not only identifies social media users, but also tags their interactions through an application such as a marketing automation platform. If social media is being used to accelerate pipeline, upticks in deal velocity and opportunity-to-close conversion rates also can be examined.

Metrics: Sales Enablement

As sales leaders seek new and innovative ways to increase the knowledge bases – and thus the efficacy – of their reps, a variety of social media deliverables have emerged as viable options. Key metrics include:

Activity. The majority of marketing measurement around sales enablement takes a service bureau approach; how many of the target audience are using what is offered to them, and what is their level of satisfaction when they use it? Social media is no different, whether product marketing has built a series of blogs that can be accessed by reps, or that reps can consult with an internal community when they have specific questions as to how a deal scenario should be approached. Taking both a utilization – and utility – approach allows initial benchmarking to be conducted, and rates to be tracked over time. Specific goals can be set for getting a percentage of the sales force on board, as well as increasing satisfaction scores.

Results. Over time, the ability to convince skeptical salespeople that social media deliverables are need to haves will be predicated on the organization’s ability to compare performance when these deliverables are used versus when they aren’t. Do reps that embrace social media close more deals, and do they do so at a faster rate? In addition, do desirable outcomes such as a reduction in training time and an increase in knowledge levels occur when activities such as podcasts and blogs are used versus standard web-based modules?

Summary
In isolation, social media measurement is little more than Web traffic tracking. To truly understand its impact, b-to-b marketers must track how and when social media is being used through the entire buying/selling process, and how specifically it is making both easier. Not only does this require taking both an internal and external perspective of social media, but creating a strategy that adapts the variety of social media activities at your disposal based on specific reputation demand creation and sales enablement aims.

 



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