Julie Schwartz, senior VP-research and thought leadership at the IT Services Marketing Association, spoke with Inside Tech Marketing about how technology marketers can build effective social media programs.
ITM: Why do we hear such disparate reports about the effectiveness of social media? What can marketers do to improve social media strategy?
Julie Schwartz: What people say really correlates with their level of experience and sophistication with social media. The big problem that people have is that they are not sure how to measure the results. And part of measuring those results, especially where it relates to lead generation and lead nurturing, is are they able to integrate what's happening in social media with their marketing automation system so that they can track the usage of the different social media channels on a contact-by-contact basis, so they can see how people are progressing through the buying process? That's one of the links that is missing. There's a lack of integration.
The other thing missing is the integration of social media with the larger marketing strategy. Social media has to support and be supported by all of the other marketing tactics. An important part of that is, how do you integrate social media with thought leadership and content generation so you're contributing value to the conversation?
There is a maturity process that people go through. A lot of companies are in the early stages and just getting their feet wet with social networks that exist. They are not creating social media platforms. Other companies are building social media platforms, and they are not just monitoring engagement but they are managing social media. That's where you want to get. You have to go through the stages and learn how to get there.
... As buyers move through the buying process and become more engaged in a dialoge with you, you start moving them away from the public networks and moving them into the private community that you're building. You have people who are 100% opted-in at that point, and they are completely engaged in that dialogue. You can track that behavior, but you have to have that linked back to your marketing automation system so you have a database so you can track the behavior of those people, where they are in the buying process; and you can see how they progress through the pipeline.
We have found that social media is used by a good majority of services buyers during the buying process. They're not just lurking; they are engaging and starting conversations, contacting people, collaborating with peers and with experts. A big part of success with social media is the extent to which (companies) are breaking down the barriers with their subject matter experts, with the buyers, so they are able to put these people in touch with each other. It's really putting a personal face to the company.