Study: B2B marketers still struggle to make sense of social media

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Social media has not just made the world smaller. It has also opened the door to bigger opportunities for B2B marketers. But with it, comes more competition, pressure to deliver, and overall confusion.

According to a recent research by Simply Measured, marketers mostly struggle to fit social media into the business equation.

There are four major challenges at play.

The first one lies in demonstrating the value of social programs. The report outlines how identifying ROI can be problematic, according to 60 percent of respondents. Also, challenges come up relating to tying activities to business outcomes (50 percent), and strategy (48 percent).

There is also a disconnect between social media goals and business goals. Respondents mentioned that they want to drive brand awareness and website traffic, but have a hard time leveraging data. The reason? “Many aren’t satisfied with their set of tools [e.g., social networks’ native analytics, social media management tools, web analytics solutions, and spreadsheets],” says the study. “This is a direct cause of the inability to tie social media to ROI.”

These numbers are confirmed by Millward Brown Digital’s Getting Digital Right 2015 report. Only 14 percent of marketers are confident that their teams effectively use available data, which represents a 25-point drop compared to last year. And 70 percent of respondents would increase their budget in digital, mobile, and social channels if ROI measurement was improved.

Also weighing in the balance is the lack of defined status for social media. Many marketers (57 percent) in the Simply Measured study consider that it falls within the marketing department range, while remaining answers range between communications (13 percent), other (16 percent), public relations (9 percent), and media (4 percent). It may explain why most organizations (65 percent) only have one to three social media-focused employees.

Some positive changes to report

Despite the aforementioned figures, the Simply Measured survey offers hope for the B2B segment. Brands and marketers are slowly shifting their approach social media, with an increasing focus on customer experience and content marketing.

Econsultancy’ and Adobe’s latest B2B Digital Trends report reveals that it’s not just about product quality anymore. More than 4 in 10 respondents want to make it “fun, valuable, and/or pleasurable to shop from” them. Two keywords matter here — strategy and culture.”

“B2B buyers now move far down the cycle before ever speaking to a sales representative,” says Stefan Tornquist on the Econsultancy blog. “This has changed the game for marketing, refocusing investment from sales processes to the customer. […] [Evolving B2B companies] understand that without a long-term view that is shared by executive leadership real change is difficult and slow in coming. They also understand that strategy and even investment is only part of the solution. If an organization’s culture doesn’t shift to reflect the changing priorities of their market any changes will only be skin deep.”

Further, B2B marketers overwhelmingly believe in the power of social media. According to Regalix’s State of B2B Social Media Marketing 2015 report, it is considered critical to communication campaigns, with Twitter and LinkedIn as the most used platforms (94 and 91 percent respectively) for customer engagement during the buying cycle. They are followed by blogging: More than 6 in 10 marketers use case studies and blog posts in the pre-sale stage, while post-sales see more posts and articles (59 and 55 percent respectively).

Also, most B2B marketers now monitor social media engagement (likes, RTs, shares, comments…) and brand mentions. Yet, sentiment analysis and customer demographic data collection are still overlooked.

What does it mean for B2B marketers?

As the studies in this article show, social media is gaining solid ground in the B2B world. Experts foresee companies investing almost a quarter of their digital marketing budgets into it within the next five years.

This is great news, of course. However, there are still pain points to address. Social Media Examiner’s 2015 Social Media Marketing Industry Report reveals that only 42 percent of marketers are able to measure ROI. The solution lies in long-term plans that include clear goals and KPIs based on segmented customer data.

Finally, while many plan to increase their use of Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, or SlideShare, proper research and education will help marketers understand how they can better leverage each platform to reach customers, interact with them, and improve overall results and sales.

Photo via Flickr user greyweed

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Cendrine Marrouat

Cendrine Marrouat

Cendrine Marrouat is a content creator & curator, social media trainer, author, and photographer. She is also the founder of Social Media Slant, a blog helping small business owners and solo-entrepreneurs to figure out the basics of social media. "The Little Big eBook on Social Media Audiences: Build Yours, Keep It, and Win", her latest social media ebook, was awarded a 2015 Small Business Book Award in the Social Media Category. Website: http://cendrinemarrouat.com