Identify and Measure Social Media Influence for a B2B Marketing Strategy
Do you use Social Media Influence Scores to target key influencers for your Social Media Strategy?
Perhaps you do if you are in the business of selling to consumers or are selling to thousands of businesses a generic product like an iPhone or tablet. However, if you are in the business of selling to other businesses (especially the B2B Services sector), how do you target key influencers in your business market?
1. Building Your Business Influence Network
First, build your business influence network where you wish to do business. No point having 10,000 Twitter followers in England if you do business with small businesses in Sydney or San Francisco. No point in having all your key business and PR contacts in New York if you've now moved to Los Angeles. And there is definitely no point in having a network full of consumer followers, connections and contacts via Social Media IF you wish to do business with other businesses (or business people) of influence.
So review your social media network, as you would a database, and understand WHO first are businesses in the right geographic region. And then search to connect with more businesses like them. In other words actively build your business network online, like you would do offline in real life. You wouldn't want to be talking to fans of Lady Gaga or Justin Beiber if you are selling CRM software in L.A.. So why would you want to connect with them online?
2. Analysing Key Target Market Segments
In a business sense influence is about issues such as influencing business customers and prospects in your "target market" to consider using, reusing, trialling your products and services. More than 70 firms globally have developed their own proprietary methodologies for targetting and influencing business influencers. But for most businesses there is a big gap between their social media activity and their social media influence in a targetted business community.
The biggest mistake in measuring business influence like consumer influence is that you are using the wrong scientific method. The field of Buyer Behaviour has evolved from the disciplines of psychology, sociology, economics and research. Further, it has been distinctly divided into Consumer Buyer Behaviour (CB) and Organisational or Business Buyer Behaviour (OB). By using a CB measure to identify a business influencer is like saying Britney Spears can influence the purchase and uptake of a Salesforce CRM system.
3. Understanding and Mapping the Business Buyer Behaviour Process
To identify key influencers, we must first map the key components of the buyer behaviour process. That is "The who, what, where, how and why of buying behaviour." Only by accurately analysing who buys, what they buy and when they buy can we identify WHO and what the relevant business influencers are. For example, in the new B2B buying process the average B2B IT buyer needs to consume five pieces of content before they are ready to speak to sales (source: IDG Enterprise Customer Engagement Research, 2012).
Influencers are people that affect any component of the sales cycle, but are removed from the actual purchase decision. Consultants, analysts, journalists, academics, regulators, standards bodies are examples of business influencers. In terms of "what" influences, this is clearly in the realm of a robust content and engagement strategy and could include Whitepapers, Journal articles, Business Interviews and trusted Industry blogs, publications.
Therefore, each target market segment, must be mapped by which customers buy, where they buy, what they buy and why they buy. This needs to be done for each target segment. For example: small business, medium sized business and/or corporate business. This can be further segmented by industry type, size of business, number of employees, level of technology adoption and so on. Increasingly, what, how and why business buy, is mediated and determined by their online communities, network and organic search.
4. Identifying Key Influencers By Target Market Segment
Only after you have defined your key target market segments and mapped your customers buyer behaviour across both traditional and social media channels can you determine your key B2B Social Media Influencers. Identifying influencers in the buying process is key to reaching the right people at the right place at the right time. For example, you may assume a certain business journalist is a leader/influencer in the field of technology. However by mapping the buyer journey, you discover, the influence on IT purchases for SME firms comes from the CEO of the business.
Therefore, targetting CEOs through CEO-based online forums/networks or using a CEO-based case study on IT vendor selection may be more influential than getting PR via a high profile technology journalist. Influencers who may be pivotal to a key decision are not necessarily the "actual buyers." A B2B Social Media Influence strategy needs to identify all types of influencers and determine the best communications strategy for each.
For example a larger firm will be less influenced by a"salesy" online lead generation communications strategy, and one that involves a "We'll throw in the steak knives for free." Whereas this may be more appropriate for a solo or small business customer who is more price conscious. A larger business may prefer to read through a case study relevant to his/her industry and send an email for further information.
5. Creating a B2B Content-Based Inbound Marketing Strategy
As quoted above, business buyers in 2013 don’t like to be sold to. They like to search, evaluate, discuss, consider and purchase. Increasingly, this means less emphasis on "traditional push based sales techniques" and more emphasis on a strong content based Inbound Marketing Strategy. B2B Research 2012 from Green Hat identified that only 7% of business reported good ROI results from their social media efforts and four times that number say they are not happy with their social media results.
While LinkedIn remains the dominant platform for B2B social media marketing (used by 78% of respondents), the fastest growing platforms are Twitter and Youtube. Interestingly, industry blogs and professional blogs sit at around 30%. Clearly current efforts in B2B Social Media are not working. It’s one thing to "use" a platform for promotion and another to use it properly as an inbound conduit. I see hundreds of business using LinkedIn inappropriately only through lack of knowledge.
In conclusion, Social Media Influence measurement via Klout or other such measures for B2B maybe enticing but won’t be effective. The B2B SMI approach requires the same insight and analysis as the rest of your marketing strategy with concentration on targetting, "influencer identification" and "content driven strategy and measurement". Importantly, it is the integration of the "new world" B2B Social Media platforms with the OB process of searching, analysing and decision making that will determine effectiveness.
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