How Do You Define “Impact” in B2B?

This week Paul Gillin and I discussed on the latest episode of FIR B2B the “impact” of social media. As Paul pointed out, a new survey finds that CMOs expect social media spend to grow from 7.4% of budgets to 10.1% in the next 12 months. That’s a trend we have seen in recent years as organizations dive more into digital. That number will continue to increase; however, the challenge according to the study results is that firms are finding it difficult to measure. I think it’s safe to assume we are all in that camp. Why is that? Is it a lack of resources? A lack of direction?

As Jay Baer pointed out back in 2012, not measuring ROI is your fault. This remains a great read for all of us as we think about metrics.

In my opinion, measuring “impact” will vary from firm to firm and even within firms from division to division. We each have different ideas of what success looks like and how it will matter to our organizations. To measure impact or ROI in B2B you always need to understand what you are trying to achieve first. I have always leaned toward breaking down what to measure into three categories: awareness, education or sales. Hootsuite outlines three steps to achieve ROI. Just always remember, no social media ROI measurement is perfect or comprehensive, which is why narrowing your focus and knowing what you are trying to achieve ahead of time is so important.

To measure impact, B2B firms should focus on what they want to achieve ahead of time.
To measure impact, B2B firms should focus on what they want to achieve ahead of time.

I like to think that metrics come into two categories: Attention or Influence. These are broad categories but I try to break down how they can help you can do. If you’re still looking for way to measure impact, Glenn O’Neill has an excellent post listing five resources on communicating evaluation results. I particularity liked the toolkit from the Pell Institute and the evaluation guide from the CDC. Altimeter also offers a great ROI Cookbook that’s worth reviewing. Personally, I think when it comes to metrics and measurement you need to always think about asking the right questions.

What do you think makes is most difficult to measure ROI? A lack of resources? A lack of direction from the business? Too much data? Let us know in the comments.

When Dealing with Big Data Ask the Right Questions

It’s impossible to not talk about data these days. In fact, when I speak at conferences or talk with other communicators the questions and discussions often turn to metrics, analytics, data and evaluation.

In fact, Paul Holmes of the Holmes Report has made the argument that the agency of the future will need to focus on measurement and data. And one of the biggest pieces of news

Do you see opportunities or noise?
Do you see opportunities or noise?

in metrics this year you may not have heard about was the launch of Measurement Standards – a cross-industry effort to simplify and unify the measurement of social media

Before you decide to get a degree in quantitative analysis or fill out a job requisition to hire a data scientist…take a deep breath. Even you, as a non-expert in technical analysis, can play a key role in understanding the onslaught of data you are gathering. Here are three things that you need to consider and start doing today.

1. Understand Your Business Objectives. If you aren’t sure what the business wants or needs, how will you deliver relevant data and information to them? While you are emailing a monthly PowerPoint full of bar charts, pie charts and statistics, I’m not quite sure that’s what they need. Always keep in mind that your goal is to connect the business objectives to your marketing objectives. What good, insightful data can really help you uncover are the three I’s for your business — influence, information, insight.

2. Build Your Team. You wouldn’t create all of your company’s content alone. Why would you do data measurement alone? It’s impossible. If you are not talking with your web team, social media point person and product marketing people you will continue to drown in data and simply not use it (but don’t worry, someone else will figure it out and become a valuable resource). What I’ve found to date is that by getting the right people involved you can eliminate a number of false positives and focus on the data that matters.

3. Are you asking the right questions? I’ve written before on the importance of asking good questions. Here are a few questions that you should be asking that can lead to better discussions about your data: Where did the data come from? How does this data compare over time? What are the areas of weakness about this data? Can we overlay this with other data to show a pattern? What makes this data significant — an image, news announcement or platform used? Does the data include outliers or false information and how did they affect the results? What can you conclude from the data to help decide your next move? What may make your data invalid? Asking the right questions throughout the process of every project is imperative to your measurement success.

Once you know what the business is trying to achieve, you have a team in place and you are focused on asking the right questions, you should be better at delivering results that matter and that help you budget and allocate resources better. I suggest you start small, pick a project, choose your team and see what results you find. If you’re still looking for help you should also consider buying Digital Marketing Analytics.

If you enjoyed this post you may also want to read:

Can B2B Brand Inspire? 

Social Influence Matters! No, It Doesn’t!

How are You Measuring Influence?

Five Questions on the Profession of Public Relations

Are You a Brand ambassador?

Other Voices: Julie Meredith, Radian6

Julie Meredith is a Community Engagement Specialist at Radian6 with a focus on social strategy as it relates to financial services. I had a chance to engage in a Q&A with her on the topic of  measurement in B2B and financial services.

You concentrate on financial services at Radian6 and there’s been so much discussion about the role social media plays in that industry. Most stories present the industry as social media laggards — is that a myth that’s been created or do you find that financial services firms are still learning?

Financial Services companies are certainly still learning. Slowly. With the hefty regulations around the industry, it’s no wonder financial services are slow to adopt, and tap into the amazing resources social media provides. The marketers and public relations professionals that work in the financial services industry, are smart, forward-thinking people that understand the enormous benefits of being active in the social space  The problem is they need to make a case for it – by creating a strong social media policy that is in-line with the regulations they are facing.

Do clients in B2B communications and B2C companies come to you with the same set of questions and challenges or are they different?

B2B and B2C financial services companies are both coming to us with the same questions and challenges. They’re hesitant to get involved in social media on account of their industry regulations, but they all seem to focus on the same thing – just finding a way to be active in the social space. However, they’re missing the big picture: just by listening alone, and  measuring sentiment around their products, brand, competitors and industry, they are tapping into a market research tool, with almost unlimited possibility.

At the very foundation of social media is the concept of listening. What do you tell clients who come to you about the importance of listening?

To me, Listening is King and Content is Queen. To gain a competitive edge, financial services companies need to use the power of social listening to find out who their community is, and what they want to know. Then they can start to engage with their community, provide efficient customer service that will create long-lasting relationships, and begin to share relevant,
useful content within their network that will give them credibility and influence within their community.

Metrics are historically not a function of communications. When we look at the people who make up the executive suite they come with a history of working with spreadsheets, financial dashboards and concepts like Economic Value Added and various financial ratios. How have metrics in branding and social media changed things for communicators?

Although most companies have a tough time determining the ROI of social media and tracing it back to their bottom line, metrics in social media have given companies a way to not only measure how often their products, brand and competitors are being mentioned throughout the social space – but they can measure the sentiment around it – and who is talking about it. This is an unbelievable resource that just can’t be compared to any focus group or market research program.

What trends do we need to be watching now when it comes to measurement?

B2B companies need to be watching industry and competitive trends. Competitive intelligence and understanding your industry is key to knowing your share of voice within your industry and how you can tune your products to better serve your clients. Having a clear understanding of your industry and what is trending within it, you will have the tools to generate leads. From a media relations/ crisis management perspective, keeping an eye on what is being said about you and your shareholders will put you way ahead of the game.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

Do most online communities fail?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Still pitching to use social media?

Are you ready for these five trends?

What drives your b2b strategy?