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How to Establish a B2B Social Media Benchmarking Plan

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While the importance of setting up a social media plan makes sense for the majority of B2B organizations, establishing benchmarks for evaluating performance is less understood. While metrics like follower counts, network size, and social mentions lack a clear tie to business results, the immediate expectation of direct lead generation might be too aggressive.

Still, the 2011 MarketingSherpa report on social media reveals "more senior marketing executives are expecting either quantifiable ROI or outcomes that contribute directly to ROI."

Marketing Sherpa Chart: CMO Priorities on Driving Social Marketing ROI

Benchmarking social media performance is becoming more critical for sustained involvement, even for organizations in the trial phases of a social media campaign.

Here are some of the ways to develop performance measurements for social media initiatives that tie into the search engine marketing (SEM) needs of your clients, as well as suggestions on establishing metrics aligned to your Internet marketing objectives.

Establish Expectations

What is the basis for how social media should be measured? Marketing leaders expect social media outcomes that provide quantifiable ROI or contribute directly to ROI.

From this person's perspective, it means talented B2B SEM teams should have a stronger case for gaining part of the ownership of social media in their organizations. Social media helps contribute to improvements in search engine optimization (SEO) programs. SEM programs can be directly tied to ROI.

On a side note, while the outcome will be different for every organization, benchmarking should also be based on level of experience with social media and overall marketing objectives. For example, don't expect revenue generation if your team is still learning how to implement social media. The experience won't be there and the likelihood for failure is high.

Matching Benchmarks with Social Media Tactics

This second chart from Marketing Sherpa takes a more in-depth look at social media tactics, illustrating the positive correlation between tactical effectiveness and the degree of difficulty to implement.

Marketing Sherpa Chart: Social Marketing Tactics

Notice the similarity between social media and SEO tactical strategies. In efforts to acquire links and develop keyword visibility on a website, many of these tactics are already in play for SEMs.

The B2B Search Engine Marketing Assist

For B2B marketers looking to benchmark a social media campaign, consider how social media can impact the following SEO measurements.

  • Organic keyword visibility associated to social media-specific content. This can be measured with traditional keyword ranking and visibility reports, obtained through solutions like RavenTools, Web Position, and WordStream. Once keyword visibility is established, proper tracking must carried over to keyword referral reports via web reporting tools. In short, B2B search marketers need to keep track of keyword strategies used in social media content generation.

  • Number of links acquired via blogger and social networking engagement. Through a combination of Google Alerts, bookmarked sites, or link management tools found in solutions like RavenTools or Ontolo, B2B search marketers can research, track, and evaluate the quality of inbound links acquired via social media communications.

  • Number of links acquired through social media content. Whether acquired through true organic means, or as part of a blogger outreach plan, social media friendly content is (hopefully) link-friendly. Keep tabs on links acquired as a result of content generation efforts as well. Tracking entry points by page destination in your web reporting tools is a good place to start.

These types of benchmarks support improvements to SEO over time. In coordination with these initiatives, traditional SEO improvements (e.g., keyword referral reports and organic search traffic and conversions) require more focus as well.

Social Media Productivity Benchmarks

While follower counts and social mentions may never be able to consistently tie to bottom-line results, they can be looked at as a measure for social media productivity. Performance by social media channel should take into account activity levels, in an effort to establish a basis for time investment and resource allocation.

Here is an example of one of our reports, which illustrates specific activity level per social media initiative:

example data points

These metrics provide a snapshot for where an organization's social media influence is growing, and how much activity is being driven within specific channels. Collectively, they help explain the story behind how social media initiatives impact overall performance.

Social Media Benchmarking Frequency

Report gathering is much more frequent with social media. We tend to monitor social media progress regularly, often including the following checkpoints:

  • Daily management and review
  • Weekly or bi-weekly check-ins
  • Monthly presentation and analysis

While this level of detail might not be needed with every organization, the rapid pace to which social media can change almost always requires someone to be ready to react, report, and put initiatives in place fairly quickly.

Final Thoughts

The challenge with B2B social media benchmarking is really in the fact that there are multiple ways an organization can establish measurable results. This is one suggestion, tied to the already known importance of an SEM program.

As the Sherpa report suggests, there are certainly others, like customer support efficiency and member conversion, which may be just as important.

What has worked for you and your organization? I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback via the comments below.


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