I have been working on a social media strategy for one of my business-to-business clients. We have been going back and forth for some time on the real value of social media, and whether or not applying limited available resources to a social media campaign is going to pay off in the long run. One of the biggest challenges in PR and social media is measuring results. Sure, you can track the number of article clips, or the number of followers you have on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Facebook, but is measuring quantity of any real value? My client, in fact any client, is interested in leads, not followers.
So how do you turn your social network into prospects? No one seems to have an easy answer here. Yesterday, I saw the most recent blog post from Marc Hausman, The Strategic Guy at Strategic Communications Group, talking about his latest social media initiative. The client was pleased with the increase in repeat traffic, but the program was a failure:
“You’d think we would be hitting high fives and chest bumps. There is a problem though. While important, awareness and positioning are not our benchmarks. It’s lead generation and in this area we have fallen painfully short.”
As I tell my clients, social media is part of a “long tail” strategy whereby you have to continue to invest in social media to get a return. But you need a solid conversion mechanism. In the case of Marc Hausman, he’s betting on a webinar. I’ve been trying to come up with alternate strategies for my clients, but converting followers into believers seems to be hard to do, especially in the B2B market.
I recently saw a presentation by Dominique Lahaix, cofounder of eCarin, an interesting online application designed to help you monitor and manage social media conversations and blog content. What he had to say about his service was interesting, but his approach to social media conversion was more interesting. As a B2B marketer, Dominique uses his blog and social media channels to nurture online conversations and develop followers, but then he carries it to a logical conclusion with an actual sales call. Rather than going through multi-tier marketing and qualification strategies, he engages in direct conversation, offers a demo, and makes a face-to-face sales call.
Apparently this approach, while not novel, is highly effective. And given the specialized nature of his service I can understand why.
Finally, I want to point you to a very poignant rant by one of the bloggers I follow, Olivier Blanchard of The BrandBuilder Blog. Olivier is a pragmatist, which is why I like him, and he regularly calls out the Social Media Snake Oil Salesmen. He has a lot to say about what works and what doesn’t in social media, but common sense still counts for a lot. If the strategy smells bad for some reason, or you can’t quite follow the logic of the social media argument, it’s probably because there’s nothing behind the curtain. Beware of the three card monte, and make sure that your social media conversion strategy measures something meaningful, like potential buyers. Gathering a lot of competitive followers, or consultants, or interested kibitzers isn’t going to move the sales needle, and it’s not how you should measure your results.