How to measure ROI on B2B social media?
Looking back at when Northern Lights PR first started using social media – some six years ago – I have to say it was pretty much based on blind faith. All of our team went to conferences and workshops and kept asking for the B2B case studies: these were always promised, never delivered.
The case studies that were rolled out at events were inevitably consumer campaigns – and even these were not always convincing. The measures used were usually about YouTube clips going viral, thousands of ‘Likes’ on Facebook or Twitter going mad. When we asked, ‘what was the increase in sales?’ we rarely saw anything persuasive.
However, in the last year our own business has started seeing really good quality business coming through from our social media activities. The largest new contracts have come because we were top of Google searches for niche services – such as crisis communications and internal communications – and that is a result of our blog. We have never done or paid for search engine optimisation work.
Here I share the business we have won from social media and how it happened.
1. University of York
Two years ago, Nick Eggleton who heads up York Professionals, tweeted ‘anyone know a good social media speaker?’ for an event.
One of our clients, Denise Howard OBE, spotted the tweet and recommended me, on Twitter, kindly saying something like ‘you won’t get better’! (Thank you Denise)
I didn’t know Nick but we started tweeting and then the conversation went into DM (direct messages that are private between the two parties) and then to email. As a result, I gave a talk in May 2012 to some 50 lawyers, accountants and others on what I thought the B2B market should be doing in social media (this is the blog I wrote with my tips from that evening).
One of those attending was Amanda Selvaratnam, head of corporate training at the University of York. We already knew each other, a bit, but Amanda didn’t know we were doing so much in social media. As a result she asked us to develop social media masterclasses for businesses – we have now run half a dozen one-day sessions.
These have had such good feedback, we are now due to run a one-day course for universities on how to develop a social media strategy, in March. And we are now looking at social media strategies for the international market.
All from one tweet!
2. Government agency
A former client of ours from ten years ago needed help to develop senior, social media activities. She did a Google search and apparently we came up top of whatever search she did – which will have been down to our blog.
We had stayed in touch and she thought we were doing something in social media, but not really sure what and how credible we were. Seeing us come up top on Google gave her real confidence that we were the right people to use – and we have won the business.
Anyone who has heard us speak on the ROI of B2B social media, will have heard this story before!
We used LinkedIn to find new business in a new market, Dubai – and won an absolutely cracking client and project from our very first meeting in the UAE. We didn’t know the ceo of the company from Adam, but used LinkedIn to research who we knew who had contacts in Dubai and then got introductions.
The full story is here – and is probably one of our best social media ROI stories! If you do a Google search on ‘how to win business in Dubai’ you will see that this blog comes up top on the global Google search.
4. Crisis communications
Last year a professional firm had a client with a major crisis issue. They needed to find a PR company to help the client and Googled something like ‘crisis communications Yorkshire’. Northern Lights PR has three entries on the first page of Google for this and they liked our blogs on crisis comms (actually we weren’t the top PR company for this search but apparently they felt our blog demonstrated our understanding and expertise in this area).
Either way we have now had three pieces of work to help this client and others of theirs, through this one Google search. And it is our blogs on crisis communications that have helped on these searches, rather than things we do to get our website ranked high.
5. Internal communications
In many ways a similar story. A large, international corporate did a search for ‘PR companies internal communications’ and drew up a shortlist for a tender process. Again, neither of us had ever had contact with each other and they had never heard of us – but we came up on the first page of a global search for these words.
Of course, as I always stress when giving these case studies, what social media can do is start the conversation, put you on the radar, get the introduction. You still have to be credible, demonstrate your expertise, offer the right product or service and be charging the right price. Social media is not a magic wand. But it can cut through layers of formality and speed.
However, I still remember Thomas Power, a social media guru, saying it takes three to five years to build a community, which at the time both shocked and reassured me – this was in June 2010 and we had been blogging and tweeting for a year and were seeing few tangible, business results. It took us another two or three years to start seeing results from that date and in the meantime, yes, it was mostly blind faith that kept us going.
So what ROI should a B2B organisation expect for its social media?
While there are plenty of good social media evaluation tools (this blog by Chuck Price on 11 free tools for measuring social media success outlines some of the best ones), I think very few of these are going to help most B2B businesses.
Just as we have always said that PR and communications should be measured by things such as the new business relationships it can develop, rather than column inches, I firmly believe that B2B social media should be focused on winning new business – not the number of Likes and followers.
And we still firmly say that a really good blog with insights for your clients, should be at the heart of any B2B social media strategy. The above stories confirm that?
Do you have good B2B case studies you can share? What social media ROI measures are you using?