Lately, I’ve been getting asked this a lot, “What is the true value of your social engagement?” Realistically, are the people that are hanging out on Facebook/Twitter, scrolling through pictures of cute kittens and the latest twerking videos even remotely interested in your business-oriented marketing messages? Is social media ever going to be useful for B2B opportunities?
Most of the time, I just stare at them for about a minute—with the blankest expression I can muster up—and then respond with something like, “It’s just cool to be popular,” or “You just need to know how to work your fans.” My response comes from my unwillingness and/or laziness to start explaining the variety of ways that social media has increased our ability to be data-driven marketeers within the last year. In my opinion, 2014 marked a significant turning point for social media: Facebook really became relevant as an effective B2B marketing tool and LinkedIn started becoming more than just a job search tool.
Social media is now the top Internet activity: Americans spend more time on social media than any other major Internet activity, including email.
Source: Business Insider
How to Leverage Social Media Marketing as a Lead Nurturing and Email Replacement Tool in 2015
Most of you have probably heard the term “email replacement” used before in some context or other, but for me, this has been the most critical use of B2B social media marketing. Email used to be great tool for lead nurturing in the pre-Facebook era when your browser homepage would be Yahoo Finance or Yahoo.com. But, in the age of instant information and instant messaging, email is becoming less and less relevant. With industry-wide email open rates averaging five percent and topping off at nine percent (for extremely efficient campaigns), it’s becoming almost impossible to communicate effectively with customers—past, present, or potential—including those on your house list.
Email rental campaigns are completely useless for bringing in any new leads, as they land immediately in the target’s spam box or get filtered out to a never opened email folder. One way to get around this is to use the three major social media channels (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn) as email replacement mediums to reach these people who have shown interest in your products. Both Facebook & LinkedIn allow us to target people using a variety of filters. While there are some inherent differences, Facebook clearly emerges as the best platform due to some of its latest targeting enhancements.
Advanced Nurturing with LinkedIn
LinkedIn gave us tools to target businesses before any other social media channel thought about it, but unfortunately, it fell behind on becoming a real email replacement tool due to the lack of individual targeting. What’s more, one of the major problems that LinkedIn faces is time-spent-on-site. On average, professionals only spend 5-8 minutes a day on LinkedIn (an increase compared to the more dismal stats of 12 minutes a month in 2010, mainly due to LinkedIn Pulse). That said, LinkedIn still provides a viable means of reaching individuals within specific departments from companies on your house list.
Essential Steps to Optimize Your LinkedIn Nurture Cycle
- Compile weekly lists of all the companies that have registered for your campaigns.
- Organize these companies into “solution groups” that fit particular products or solutions provided by your company.
- Prepare nurture messaging for each of these solution areas.
- Create targeted sponsored posts using company names and locations matching your solution groups. Make sure the locations match up with the cities where your leads are coming from (if you collect that information). If you are targeting a particular job function, you can choose relevant job titles to make your nurturing ads even more targeted.
Just to recap, even though LinkedIn does not allow us to target specific people, it still serves as a significant email replacement channel and may help in lead pool expansion within your targeted companies.
Email Replacement with Facebook
Facebook, on the other hand, is a true email replacement tool for data-driven marketeers. With the introduction of Custom Audiences and Audience Lists in 2014, Facebook now lets us upload our house list to create custom lists of Audiences. It then matches people against the uploaded emails and shows specific ads to specific people. You can go as granular as showing a particular ad to only a select group of 500 people or even less.
Key Tips for Maximizing Your Facebook Marketing Success
- Compile email lists of users that have registered for a specific product campaign or have shown interested in a specific product line.
- Organize these email lists using a naming convention you can follow through to your Ad Set name on Facebook.
- Upload these lists as Custom Audience Lists into Facebook.
- Create ads that directly address people with a stage 1 follow-up message for a specific product campaign. Run these ads during week 1
(e.g., Download Getting Started Guide).
- Develop ads with subsequent stage messaging and run those ads for the same audience list during week 2 (e.g., Attend Live Webinar on XYZ).
- Every week, you’ll get new leads so this cycle needs to be repeated and overlapped. Remember, all you are doing is getting eyes on your company and counting follow-up actions. Many times, people will not register directly from Facebook, but they will see the message and may end up visiting your website and registering for stuff later.
Email Replacement with Twitter
Just like Facebook, Twitter also allows you to upload email lists to target people on their feeds. You can post Promoted Tweets or Twitter Cards which will be shown to only those who match your email audience list. However, since Twitter collects very little demographic information about its audience and because a lot of people seem to use non-corporate email addresses with Twitter accounts (unverified statistically, but based on gut feeling), my experience with match rates on these campaigns has been rather bleak.
Engage Your Audience
There are some fundamental differences between running an email replacement nurture campaign and a lead generation or audience expansion on social medial channels (i.e., campaigns to increase Likes/Followers). Keep in mind the messaging should be more direct and is meant to be email-like for these campaigns. Moreover, because these ads will be shown to specific audiences, if they can speak to those people, then they will be that much more effective. Your ad visuals and messaging need to be more like follow-up conversations instead of original offers or fresh pitches. But then, messaging is an entirely different subject, and I will delve into that sometime in the future…
Happy Targeting in 2015 and Happy New Year to you all!