B2B marketers are spending millions of dollars annually on social marketing programs, though nearly 30 percent are not tracking the impact of social media programs on lead generation and sales, according to a survey conducted earlier this month by Atlanta-based cloud marketing automation software vendor Pardot.
The revealing survey, which included input from dozens of companies, aimed to shed light on the developing role of social media in marketing. Questions focused on social marketing etiquette, the influence of social media on lead and sales, the most useful social media tools, and the cost to operate social marketing programs.
Not surprisingly, social media use among B2B marketers is on the rise, according to respondents. A full 95% indicated they use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube or corporate blogs to reach prospects. Yet despite the increased use of these services, only 70% are monitoring the return on spend for these programs. And among those who do, about 42% of marketers replied that zero or an uncertain number of sales leads resulted from social media programs, a startling high percentage given the resources required to operate the campaigns.
The gap between cost and return for social marketing may have something to do with social media protocols within companies, which are still evolving.
As uncovered by the survey:
- Approximately 11% of marketers said their companies have a formal social media policy
- 55% of respondents said contacting a social media-generated sales lead by phone or email is appropriate, even if the prospect had not invited the vendor to do so
- Meanwhile, 48% said it is appropriate to respond to a prospect via social media, if the prospect contacted the vendor via email or phone first
- 100% of respondents said it is acceptable to invite a prospect to join a marketer’s online social networks, though some suggested the invites be limited to networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, Plaxo and YouTube, versus more personal sites like Facebook
- 31% said it is acceptable to critique a competitor via social media
“Social media is an exciting and enticing sales and marketing medium, but best practices are clearly still emerging,” said Adam Blitzer, co-founder and COO for Pardot, which recently introduced a series of social media management tools for small business marketers.
More than half use internal free tools to manage social media
Another obstacle facing marketers who are engaged in social media are the tools and services they use for implementing and measuring their campaigns.
According to the survey, over 64% of respondents use “internal, free tools” only to manage social media campaigns, which may or may not be ideal for effective program management. Meanwhile, only nine percent rely on an outside agency or social media expert for help with social media marketing.
“There’s no question social media can be a powerful tool for establishing community and generating leads,” said Blitzer. “But to optimize its value, social media efforts should be monitored carefully and integrated into broader content and lead nurturing programs.”
Also of interest, the survey revealed that Twitter was the most popular social media channel, followed by LinkedIn and Facebook. And social bookmarking services and paid channels including promoted tweets were cited as the least popular tools.