Today, social media can play an integral role in your sales and marketing strategy, no matter the industry. But, how do we ensure our social media presence is effectively driving sales? Is social media just a collection of vanity measurements, or is it smart marketing that raises revenue and brand credibility? Used effectively, social media can help tell your narrative, keep your brand top of mind, and, ultimately, increase revenue. But, central to understanding social media’s role in your marketing strategy is understanding how and when it affects decision makers’ choices. Specifically, social media can be an introduction to your brand or a tool to keeping your brand top of mind, nudging B2B decision-makers closer to a sale.

Let’s Admit It – the Effects of Social Media Can Be Tough to Measure

First of all, let’s acknowledge it’s hard to measure social media’s direct impact on revenue, in B2C or B2B. According to a study by Adobe, 88% of marketing professionals cannot effectively measure their social media campaigns, including their ROI. Similarly, 46% of B2B marketers say they’re unsure if social channels have even generated business revenue. And, the point of marketing is to drive revenue.

But, Yes, It Still Matters

B2B decision-makers use social media as a tool to make purchasing selections. They don’t only rely on visits to your website or chats with your sales team; they peruse your social media channels to help craft a narrative about your brand and the value your service or product will bring to their team. Forbes research found that social media influenced 92% of B2B purchasing selections within the last year. At the top level – those who really control the purse strings – 84% of C-suite say they use social media to decide what to buy. Presenting a thoughtful brand and narrative on social media can affect these decisions.

How Do You Measure Success?

Determining the metrics that matter is the first step to measuring a successful social media strategy. Two popular metrics to consider when thinking about social media are:

  • Vanity metrics: these are the traditional currency of social media: likes, engagements, and comments. Vanity refers to how great they look on paper but can be their ambiguous relationship to driving ROI.
  • Conversions: someone takes action recommended by a social media post. Think read a case study or browse our product offerings. This then takes the buyer down a journey that will (hopefully) result in further action like a purchase.

These metrics should work in concert to define your understanding of a successful social media strategy. Final conversions don’t often come directly from social media posts in the B2B sector (the board deciding to purchase a company’s new health plan based on a LinkedIn post with catchy copy and appealing graphics is unlikely). But, when a company signs the contract for a new health plan or cable assembly is purchased in bulk, these final conversions are part of a larger buying that is more connected to vanity metrics than you may originally think. While direct contact with your sales team likely drove the final purchase, effective social media pushed this prospective customer closer to being a buyer.

According to Gartner, B2B decision makers get more than two-thirds of the way through their buying process before reaching out to a vendor. Social media is paramount in controlling the initial brand narrative prospects’ experience and encouraging them to reach out finally. Simply put, they would never get on the phone with the sales manager if the social media manager wasn’t posting relevant content on their feed.

First-click Vs. Last-click Attribution

Attribution refers to what marketing or sales initiative receives credit for the ultimate sale. Last-click attribution relies on the assumption that the last point of marketing and sales contact is the reason for the sale. For example, clicking on an RFQ embedded in a newsletter that becomes a sale would be the last point of contact. The newsletter would receive last-click attribution for the sale.

But, what about that first contact on a buyer’s journey that signals initial interest in your brand, product, or service? That first click is often engagement on social media. Perhaps you are a healthcare company sharing meaningful and relevant content on LinkedIn. A CEO’s or CFO’s first point of contact with your brand and story is this thought leadership. They like a post. Months, even more than a year later, they sign on for a plan with your company. Giving social media credit for that sale would be the first-click attribution.

In this example, social media kept your narrative top of mind while associating your brand with positive elements – thought leadership. The sale is not just the result of contact with the final salesperson or team but also from a far longer journey from prospect to buyer. While the impact may be earlier in the purchasing process, a strong social media presence is still meaningful to driving sales.

Research by Adobe found that changing measurement from last-click to the first-click attribution raised the revenue generated by social media between 25% and 95% in various industries. The drastic increase can be attributed to the unique environment social media creates for prospects earlier on in their buying journey, fostering brand awareness and brand loyalty for existing customers.

Patience is Needed.

In this model that redirects or spreads out attribution to marketing at multiple points in the sales process, patience is needed. B2B sales can take months or even years to move through the funnel. While social media provides essential signposts to further this journey, it’s still doesn’t happen overnight. Short-term social media pushes (a frenzy of posts for a week) won’t affect long-term purchasing decisions. Social media must be a concentrated marketing effort.

First-click vs. last-click attribution is not the most comprehensive method to evaluate who receives credit for a sale. Instead, it’s an important, simplified start to thinking about how multiple sales and marketing touchpoints work in harmony to move buyers through the sales funnel.

Remember, achieving a 1:1 mathematical relationship between social media investment and increased sales may never be possible, but don’t let that be a reason to discount social media. Investment in social media can be an effective element of your sales and marketing strategy.

Want to learn how better social media can impact your bottom line? We love generating revenue for our clients. Contact Red Caffeine today to start a conversation.

Kathy Steele


Meet The Author

I am passionate about people, obsessed with helping businesses grow, and love to support the underdog cause in my community. As a business leader, I'm an educated risk-taker who persevered through challenging economic conditions and a business divorce to be a two-time honoree on Inc. Magazines Annual List of America's Fastest-Growing Private Companies.

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