The B2B Business Case, Part 2

My previous post described the social media adoption gap that our “B2B Goes Social: a White Horse Survey Report” identified, and it noted that social media curmudgeons among the B2B C-suite were largely to blame for it. I then promised a three-part guide for building a B2B business case to win over those C-suites, but then only managed to deliver one of the lessons, which involved widening your CEO’s perception of what constitutes social media. Have you done that? Great. Here, then, are the remaining two lessons:

2. Social media is what everyone else is doing.

If you’ve ever observed toddlers at play, you know that the desirability of a given toy increases exponentially as another toddler plays with it, and it reaches a fever pitch if the other toddler appears to be misusing the toy, e.g., eating Barbie’s hair. With all due respect to both CEOs and toddlers, I must report that this behavioral tendency does not disappear with age, and you can use it to good effect in your business case.

At White Horse, we’ve made it a standard practice to present a sample one-month social clients in order to show them that conversations are indeed taking place around their brand. They really lean forward in their seats, though, when we show them what their competitors are doing—what share of the social conversation belongs to them, what perceptions accrue to them, and what keywords are used to describe them. All of this data can easily be obtained through a low-cost social media monitoring platform (we use Radian6 for our clients), and ginned up in a few hours of analysis.

“All well and good,” you might say to me, “but if I had budget to spend on a social monitoring platform, I wouldn’t be reading your damn blog post on how to get budget for social, now would I?” Fair point, and since we’ve already established that you’re not going to call me, I have no choice but to point out some of the free resources that can get you started. At the top of my list is the trial version of Alterian’s SM2 monitoring platform, which caps the number of results but gives you many of the slicing and dicing features that make analysis easier. Then you have a number of good scraping tools that leave the analysis entirely up to you: Google’s blog search, Addict-o-Matic, and, oh, what the hell, here’s the entire list of free social media monitoring tools.

So what do you do with all that competitive data? Think of social media marketing as a competition for a very finite resource: your customers’ attention. If data shows your competitors commanding a larger share of the social conversation in your industry, that share is essentially coming at your expense, whether you feel it directly or not. If, on the other hand, your competitors are falling short in social, so much the better for your business case: there’s a vacuum waiting to be filled by the first company in your industry that’s ready to liven up the conversation. In all cases, C-levels need to see social media marketing in a competitive context in order to see the light.

3. It’s about pie, not ROI

For decades, we marketers prattled on about the ROI of our efforts. Today you can’t throw a virtual rock without hitting five blog posts about how we all need to simmer down about ROI. While I am firmly in the simmer-down camp, I also have to acknowledge that we did this to ourselves. We got our C-levels addicted to hard data, and it is axiomatic that once someone is addicted to the hard stuff, you can’t get them off of it. Solution? You give them hard data that’s not ROI data. You feed them pie.

CEOs love pie. One of their favorites is the one that shows them the proportion of their paid impressions that can be replaced or augmented with free impressions. PR agencies have long been selling the value of this pie as earned media or “ad equivalency value,” so CEOs are used to seeing it. They get it. Once you’ve done your social media market analysis, it’s relatively easy to project how big that social media pie wedge will be.

Social media can also produce a pie flavor that PR usually can’t: the proportion of site traffic attributable to social sources. It’s all right there on the “Referrers” tab of your Web analytics dashboard. At White Horse, for instance, we can say that our social seeding program increased the proportion of our site traffic by 6% to 25% in six months, and that total traffic grew accordingly. We know that more traffic means more leads, and that we’d be crazy to call that ROI. But it sure is some tasty pie.

Other pies are possible, of course, but bake up these two, and I guarantee* that you’ll be halfway to making your business case. And if that doesn’t work, you can always call me.

*Not a guarantee.

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