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?

Three Areas for B2B Communicators to Focus in 2013

Another year and another post to avoid making predictions for next year. Frankly, there are too many…some good, some not. Last year, I used this space to talk about what actions were on my calendar for 2012, and I’m confident to say we accomplished many of my objectives. This year, I want to take this space to talk about the things we should focus on for 2013.

And there are some interesting trends to watch this year. The idea that your B2B brand

Do you find time to focus?
Do you find time to focus?

needs to think like a media company is one that is changing our landscape as communicators. Even CIO magazine has provided thoughts on how social media is affecting the IT enterprise. And reading Armano’s thoughts on what to watch in the year ahead is always a must read.

And to look forward sometimes you have to look to the past. I’ve learned a lot from the past five years of managing social media, which has made me think about what I need to do next year. Doing this is no easy task as there have been a lot of moving pieces in the world of communications in 2012. We’ve seen the rise in how powerful photography and images and

  • We live in interesting economic times. As the economy continues to struggle, communicators are being asked to do more with less. Our landscapes are much more competitive as our customers are prioritizing where they invest. We’re seeing more opportunities to communicate as social media allows us to deliver our message across many many platforms. So, as we struggle with priorities and marketing investments, we are provided with an enormous amount of options. You have to get better at making choices. This means you really need to roll up your sleeves, collaborate across your company (e.g., HR, IT, legal, marketing, sales) and understand the key drivers of your business, the competition, opportunities and outside threats (a.k.a, SWOT analysis). Maybe now is a time to really dig through your company’s intranet and read what is happening (I make time every week to do this).
  • Learn good data management. I don’t mean organizing all of your data into columns of traffic trends, but I mean really learn to understand it. Are you tired of hearing about big data? Yeah, me too. But the reality is that we live in an era of expanding data and most of it is ambiguous. We need to fine tune our analytical skills to better understand what works, what doesn’t and who to reach. Google Analytics can help us better calculate ROI. I feel that we still need to get better at social listening and gaining better insights from our audiences. That means turning data into actionable items. I’ve found that focusing on a few things helps to provide better thoughts and knowledge.
  • Ask the right questions. Good business people, not just communicators, know that asking good questions can reveal a lot and open doors. I wrote before about the importance of asking questions, and I can’t emphasize it enough. You may accomplish a lot if you don’t, but if you don’t focus and come prepared to ask tough questions, push the boundaries and think differently you are just implementing everyone’s ideas. I like to think our role as communicators is part cultural detective where we piece together the stories, participants and stakeholders to find the solutions.

We have a lot to do and a lot of choices. Prioritizing what we do and how we do it will be critical to our success as communicators not just in 2013, but in the years to follow. What are you focused on in the coming year? Let us know in the comments.

If you enjoyed this you may also want to read:

The Three I’s of Social Business Media

Five Lessons Learned from Five Years of Social Media

Is motivation the key to success?

The Trust Economy

Getting Your Degree in “Business Acumen”

How Well Do You Know Your Social Network? Probably Poorly

Five Lessons Learned After Five Years of B2B Social Media

A little more than five years ago we started our efforts in social media on an obscure website called Facebook. It was a step into uncharted waters at the time, but there was something about directly connecting with customers in real-time and getting instant feedback that felt right. But even back then it was important to put a plan in place and navigate carefully. Today, brands and professionals have been embracing social media and becoming more effective at integrating these tools into their paid and earned communications.

What signal is your social media program sending?
What signal is your social media program sending?

Since we started our efforts we have expanded and I have learned a lot about what works, what doesn’t and how to build content. Here are five things that I’ve personally taken away during this time and why they matter.

  • Have a plan. Without a road map of what you want to accomplish with social you may accidentally move forward, but that won’t last long. You need to have a goal for what you want to accomplish with all that you are doing. It can be as simple as drive traffic to your website or as complicated as connecting your individual sales team members to customers.
  • Content does matter. If you have a choice of posting something every day versus one really compelling piece of content opt for the one really compelling piece of content. People will remember your strong views told in words and graphics (translated into multiple languages) more than your relentless pursuit of content spam that says nothing. Here’s what I’ve learned about content as well.
  • Measure. I’m a firm believer that if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. But measurement is not easy and needs to evolve. If you’re relying on clickthroughs and “Likes” and retweets you are only scratching the surface of what you need to look for from social. I prefer to look at the big picture of social and how we are attracting people to our content over the long term, but also I want to have varying social metrics for each initiative. As campaigns vary in goals and objectives so should your metrics.
  • Be patient. Building awareness among all of your stakeholders takes time. Unlike many of the leading B2C brands that can leverage social among millions of consumers quickly, we need to build awareness by integrating our programs, focusing on really good content, taking calculated risks with what we say and having a long-view approach. I may have the luxury of being able to look at how we have evolved over several years, but even then we continue to try new platforms — like Pinterest and Slideshare — and we understand that we will learn from these activities over time.
  • It’s not a silver bullet. Using social media is still very exciting and comes with many rewards, but it should never be separate from your brand or stand alone as a way to communicate with stakeholders. The very essence of your brand and what you are trying to convey should come through in executive speeches, new releases, your website and social media combined.  However, due to the very sharing aspect of social it can be tempting to be different. Don’t do it.

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

Measuring B2B Outcomes: Part I and Part II

What’s your “I” in social media?

Do most online communities fail?

Are you ready for a real-time B2B world?

Still pitching to use social media?

What drives your b2b strategy?

Tuning into your industry

Blogging isn’t supposed to be easy


Social Media Week: The B2B Content You May Have Missed

It’s been a busy week in social media as cities, brands and people came together to discuss all things social — from Facebook’s initiative to remove bots to Instagram overtaking Twitter on mobile phones. We decided to pull together some of the best B2B focused content from this past week and share it with you. If you have any other links (including your own) that you think we should have included please add them in the comments.

There was a lot of content to consume this year.
There was a lot of content to consume this year.

Hootsuite has added a “conversational” dashboard to help facilitate better real-time collaboration (Disclaimer: I’m a Hootsuite customer).

LinkedIn (a favorite tool of B2B marketers) has rolled out an “endorsement tool”. Why don’t you connect to all of us here at B2B Voices on LinkedIn: Kate Brodock, Arik Hanson, Aaron Pearson, Allan Schoenberg.

Gartner says CMOs better start thinking like CIOs. Speaking of that relationship, IBM has a new study out looking at how CMOs and CIOs need to work more together. If Gartner and IBM are talking about this you better be paying attention (and fine-tuning your technology skills).

You’ve always wanted to take your social media strategy global; no worries, HubSpot has you covered.

Do you know the behavior of your B2B customers? This Buyersphere survey looks at that topic to determine just exactly what is the actual behaviour of B2B buyers (PDF).

If you haven’t started a Facebook page yet for your B2B brand (or haven’t given it attention lately) you better get going. A new study shows that brand pages are getting some serious attention.

I asked you earlier if you were ready for a real-time B2B world, but what does real-time search mean for B2B marketers?

Do you want to be more effective at B2B marketing? Focus on creating better content.

Are you thinking about how your mobile strategy is working? If not, you should because everyone wants it.

The doctor is in and it’s time for a social media check up for your brand.

If you like infographics you will not be disappointed by this one from Brian Solis: The Brandsphere and why it matters.

Last, but definitely not least, are you measuring your influence and what you do? Apparently the C-suite isn’t very impressed with marketers.


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?

How are you measuring influence?

Last week I spoke at the European Corporate Communications Social Media Summit on tracking influence and the non-financial ROI. The topic has been a key issue for our 233industry in 2011 as offerings such as Klout, Peer Index and the Social Business Index have garnered plenty of attention — both good and bad. I’ve written on this blog before about ROI (Return on Influence) as has Aaron Pearson (Dare we measure ROI?) and I’ve also written about the Social Business Index. The subject warrants discussion as B2B companies are devoting more resources to social media and in particular working to discover and measure what matters — the people, messages and sources.

For my presentation I was asked to address what we are doing and to help the audience target two questions:  Where should your business be spending its time and how much time should you allocate to the social channels?

I will admit, this is nearly an impossible topic to talk about and discuss in any great detail in under 60 minutes.

When I look at measuring the effectiveness of what we are doing I like to break down our metrics into two categories. By doing so, it helps me to focus on both the quantitative and qualitative items that can help us see what’s working and who/what matters. The two sets of metrics I like to reference are Attention Metrics and Influence Metrics.

Attention metrics tend to have a bad reputation. But don’t discount them. While they are hardly scientific and lack context, they can help validate over time topics and issues that matter to your audience and who you are trying to reach. Keep in mind that these are a helpful guide — but treat them as a guide since they are easily and readily accessible, but lack the depth you need to act on any strategic decision making.

The second set of metrics I prefer for better analysis are what I call the Influence Metrics. These will take more time from you and your team to assess, but certainly can give you a better indication of the content and people that matter to you. For instance, location metrics can better help you understand if you need to translate content or even add more content to focus on other regions, but you need to get an understanding from the business if that’s really ideal to sales and revenue generation. In our case, seeing the growing traffic from China helped make our decision to join Weibo. Another metric that matters is trying to know the people who talk about your company and products, but it’s not as simple as seeing if they’ve retweeted you or posted something on your Facebook page (more than likely they have not). You will need to find the tools and resources needed to locate and engage with them both online and in person. Take a read at what Vann Morris wrote about the value of B2B relationships in social media if you want to learn more.

The conclusion of my discussion was more of a reminder than anything else. It’s key for any program — social or traditional — to focus on what you are trying to achieve and how you will get there. I like to use a three step process that I’ve used for many other forms of communication — new product launches, events and white papers. First, decide what it is you want to accomplish with your program. In the case of social media this could be to increase the number of positive conversations (or decrease the negative) and build relationships with the people online whose opinions matter most (customers, bloggers, journalists); understand the metrics you will want to use; and, finally, analyze the content and then repeat. You may find that you need to change what you want to accomplish or perhaps you were measuring the wrong item. Some programs we use require more detail and more steps, but these three should provide a good foundation.

Even as the existing tools get better and more tools are introduced (like — and I suggest you try this one), the key to remember is that you need to always focus on what you are trying to achieve. You may need to adjust your tactics, but use your metrics to better understand if you reaching your goal — and don’t lose sight of your goal.

So what’s Next for ROI? I pointed to four key trends that we are all going to need to pay attention to in the coming year.

  • We are awash with data. At times it seems like we are drowning. But don’t despair as the technology to analyze this will continue to get better. Will it be perfect? More than likely not, but it will continue to evolve and help us better evaluate what we are doing. My suggestion is that you not enter into any long-term vendor agreements and make a concentrated effort to use the tools. The more you can engage with your metrics the better you will be able to tell a story about what’s happening with your brand.
  • CRM will matter even more, which means communications and sales have a tremendous opportunity to gather social data and apply it toward sales relationships. continues to integrate social capabilities and will provide more insight on your customers. While I’m a bit sceptical for the early results, it’s a step in the right direction and needs to be watched closely.
  • There’s not a silver bullet and never will be. There are some great resources and tools that help you move in the right direction, but one solution will not work for everything. If that’s what you’re looking for and expecting you will be disappointed. If you focus on using the tools to make you more efficient and better utilize your resources you will certainly move in the right direction.
  • Everything will move in real time. Are you ready for a real-time B2B world? Not only is the data growing exponentially, but it’s moving faster and faster every day. For example, StockTwits helps investor relations professionals now monitor real-time conversation, and those discussions are growing (we monitor nearly 45,000 posts each month about our products). Are you ready to monitor, report on and respond to this new era of public communication? In 2012 more B2B companies will look at who staffs and responds to these issues and the centralized v decentralized model debate will continue.

What are you thoughts on measuring and influence? Is this a case of too much information to make it matter or can we cut through the noise and build business solutions?

And while I like to delve into our metrics I continue to learn more from reading what some of the true thought leaders on this subject have to say. Here are some resources on this topic that you should read:

Social Media Measurement 2011: Five things to forget and five things to learn — Metrics Man

The Digitization of Research and Measurement — Metrics Man

Social Media Impact Takes Awhile to Gauge — KD Paine

Real Time is Wrong Time in Measurement — KD Paine

Making Business Decisions Through Data — Logic & Emotion

Why Online Relationships Matter — B2B Ideas@Work

12 Tools to Measure Social Media Influence (Maybe) — Social Media Today

Social influence matters! No, it doesn’t! — B2B Voices