Although social media undeniably attracts b-to-b marketers as a bright and shiny thing, it often gets shortchanged at budget time because its ROI is rather challenging to demonstrate. This is somewhat understandable. Our CFOs are accustomed to calculating ROI in lead-generation terms; from there, it's a big leap to contemplate the “return on relationship.”
Yet, as marketing leaders, we must be prepared to have that conversation. In most organizations, it falls upon our shoulders to evangelize and educate teams about the significance of social media and the perils of ignoring it, as well as the potential upside of supporting and investing in it. It's up to us to paint the picture of social media as a journey through a landscape that's constantly evolving.
In 2010, Mark Zuckerberg predicted the following: “Within the next five years, every product vertical will be rethought to be social. Get on the bus.” Like everyone else riding the social media bus, our organizations are along for the ride. We don't exactly know where we'll end up (because we don't have full control of the wheel), but we know we need to be on the bus or be left behind.
Social media is not a “one and done”; we can't just buy a pass, thinking that we can get on and off the bus whenever it's convenient for us. It's actually a business lifestyle change—one that must be woven into the routine fabric of our business. What does this mean though, really?
A leap of faith
As long as social relationships cannot be quantified in dollars and cents, b-to-b organizations will need to assume (to some degree) that their social media efforts will generate long-term positive outcomes. Given an appropriate level of commitment and investment, the opportunities are huge.
Social media is a place to:
- Express thought leadership.
- Communicate and develop your brand.
- Measure your presence, share of voice, level of influence.
- Drive demand generation activities.
- Govern corporate communications.
- Gather timely market and business intelligence.
- Build and nurture a community with which to interact (gaining new understanding, loyalty and collaborative insights).
- Create new digital properties that can potentially drive new revenue streams through “freemium” models and ad sales.