It's no secret that social media marketing is on the rise. Most B2B marketers know that they need social media to enhance their web presence -- after all, they are part of the estimated 1.7 billion social media users worldwide. Still, B2B marketers struggle with executing social media as a lead generation tool.
Although the business-to-business space has been slow to adopt social media, there's a gradual growth in the number of B2B companies using social media to generate leads. In its latest benchmark study, B2B Content Marketing 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends – North America report, the Content Marketing Institute found that social media was the most widely used tactic to promote content.
About 9 out of 10 B2B companies use social media channels as part of their marketing tactics. The survey found that B2B marketers use an average of 6 social media platforms.
Social Media is becoming more important to inbound marketers
According to HubSpot’s 6th annual report on inbound marketing, State of Inbound 2014, budgets for inbound marketing are growing. The survey, conducted in June and July of this year, found that inbound marketers view social media and other lead generation tactics as more important than they were even a year ago.
The growing importance of social media probably reflects the expansion in social media channels; changes to the buying process; the advent of marketing automation platforms; and better tracking of social media ROI.
Effectiveness of Social Media Lead Generation
While most organizations are using social media, they are grappling with how to make social media more effective for generating leads. In April of 2013, Ascend2 surveyed marketing professionals around the world about the effectiveness of various tactics for lead generation. They found that only a small percentage of B2B and B2C marketers considered social media marketing as the most effective lead generation tactic used by their company. As you can see from the chart below, only 19% of B2C and 11% of B2B marketers cited social media.
Ascend2’s latest 2014 digital marketing research, Digital Marketing Strategy Research Summary Report, was published in September, 2014. It found that social media and other inbound marketing tactics are now considered more effective as a type of digital marketing but still trail email. (This study was not specific to lead generation.)
Executing social media for lead generation
The Ascend2 2013 survey also found that marketers across the world are having difficulty with social media tactics for lead generation. Their study found that social media marketing was the most difficult lead generation tactic to execute. According to the study, 50% of B2C and 49% of B2B marketers cited social media as the most difficult tactic of those listed.
According to Ascend2’s latest 2014 report, social media is the most difficult type of digital marketing to execute. Social media was followed by other inbound marketing tactics.
This most likely reflects the level of effort needed to generate leads from social media. After all, generating leads from social media is more than getting consumers to “like” or “follow” you. Unlike a branding objective, lead generation involves the interaction of social media, landing pages, offers and high-value content to be effective. Many businesses are still having trouble creating and promoting high quality material on a regular basis.
Measuring social media ROI
A number of studies clearly show that measuring the ROI of social media is difficult for many organizations.
- According to a MarketingCharts Debrief report, the top challenge B2B marketers face in relation to social media is difficulty proving ROI. Half of the respondents cited this as a one of the top two challenges facing their social media efforts.
- Another survey of chief marketing officers described by Forbes.com found that 49% of respondents could not quantify whether social media made a difference to their companies. Only 15% had viewed a verified quantitative effect.
- According to HubSpot’s State of Inbound 2014 report, the percentage of marketers measuring ROI increased a mere 3% over the previous year from 50% to 53%.
B2B and B2C businesses recognize that social media marketing must be an essential part of their lead generation strategy. However, they are struggling though with using social media effectively. Part of their struggle relates to being able to measure their success in monetary terms.