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3 truths about social media marketing in 2014

Social media is a strong source of growth in marketing. Recent research points to an increasing amount of marketing dollars being spent on digital media, including online and mobile channels (1). Overall, the total injection of cash into advertising is expected to jump to more than $180 billion, which is 5.3 percent more than the preceding year. Social media and mobile technology have become inextricably linked because virtually every network has developed an app that gives people an experience unique to the device they use to access content. Here are three key areas that B2B marketers should carefully examine:

  1. Panning for gold is difficult
    Social media provides customers with a forum to discuss and communicate with other clients in addition to business owners. However, getting actionable insights from the various dialogs conducted on sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn poses a problem for more marketers than you might expect. For instance, roughly 90 percent of 70 professionals involved in social media analytics and voice of the customer insights explained they use manual processes to investigate customer sentiment (2). Why? They aren't ready to hand over such an important aspect of their business to software. About 6 in 10 social media analysts indicated the keyword clouds that most programs use to gauge customers' responses don't go into sufficient detail to get at the heart of what people truly feel.

    At the same time, these professionals are responsible for helping marketers separate useful information from the onslaught of opinions and spam that companies can face when looking at social network posts. This is the single most difficult aspect of their roles, mainly due to the fact that it takes up too much time. The second most arduous task these analysts encounter is reading and comprehending all the content because of the sheer volume. One lesson drawn from this information is that it's unlikely that marketing or social media professionals can rely solely on an analytics platform to give them all the information they need. Instead, they need to actively verify and validate the trends that software may highlight. Because you're dealing with human communication, there's no way to avoid some manual procedures. Context is critical to understand customer sentiment, especially when looking at social media.

  2. Mobile is on the rise
    Smartphones and tablets are now often seen as the natural environment for social surfing. At the forefront of many marketing budgets is mobile spending, which is anticipated to show the strongest influence on marketing budgets in the coming years. This year, it will outrank all print advertising, as well as radio, in terms of the amount marketers are looking to spend. In fact, advertisers will pay more than $8 billion more on tablet and smartphone-focused marketing than in 2013 (1). This transition has come about largely in response to the ways people are changing their behaviors. Customers now engage with mobile technology more often and for longer periods of time than they do with other computing devices, such as desktops and laptops. Google and Facebook have been the leaders in ad spending, with the social network earning 68 percent of its total revenue in the U.S. in 2014.
  3. Referrals through social networks reap rewards
    With the rise of online channels to not only get information about a company but also make purchases, social media has become a strong engine for word of mouth. While referrals in bygone eras traveled literally from person to person through direct channels, social media allows business owners to get earned advertising from customers over an expansive online network. The workout club 24 Hour Fitness was able to garner a significant number of referrals by integrating social media into its membership campaign (3). Joe Beruta, director of marketing and communications for the company, explained the organization had previously depended on in-store initiatives aimed at boosting membership. According to Beruta, this wasn't cost effective, and moving the program online amplified the number of referrals as a result. The program gave members the opportunity to share a limited time trial offer with friends and family over Facebook.

    Accordingly, 24 Hour Fitness began allowing members and leads to log in to the company's landing page using their social network username password. As people signed up, the organization asked them if they'd like to invite others to join as well. The campaign eventually evolved to include other social networks. However, Facebook was the largest source of referrals, with Twitter and Pinterest following. As a result, 24 Hour Fitness experienced over 8,400 shares on social networks in January 2014. What's more, the business has witnessed in excess of 300,000 direct referrals during the initial three months of the campaign.

    Extrapolated to a B2B context, it's easy to see how companies can take advantage of a socially-driven referral initiative. Many enterprises that provide a service, such as a software platform, can use trials to drive decision-makers at businesses to get first-hand experience using it. They can then expand the referral network by asking if a user wants to share it with a colleague, offering a reward of either extended trial time or helping out by providing guided tutorials.

1. Total US Ad Spending to See Largest Increase Since 2004
2. Piecing Together the Story
3. Social Media Marketing: 300,000 direct referrals driven by merging social media and brick-and-mortar programs

Sheila Kloefkorn

With more than 25 years of hands on marketing strategy and operations experience, Sheila Kloefkorn is dedicated to developing marketing strategies and plans that help clients succeed. Some of the world's largest brands have depended on Sheila for marketing programs that delivered tangible and substantial results. Specialties: B2B marketing, lead generation, lead nurturing, sales strategy, marketing strategy, competitive marketing strategy, social media, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), mobile marketing, email marketing, website design, marketing plans.