One of the recurring themes at our Funnel B2B marketing event this week was how businesses should come up with their social media strategy and how to measure the ROI.

For B2B marketers the challenge seems to be far more difficult than consumer brands, particularly when trying to get buy-in from senior executives.

Standard Life and Lloyd’s of London both gave presentations on how they use social and the stages they went through to set out KPIs.

We’ve already looked at how Standard Life uses LinkedIn and Twitter for B2B marketing, but here are six useful tips for building a successful B2B social strategy…

1. Build a framework

Addressing the fundamentals for B2B social marketing, Standard Life’s Craig Johnston said businesses need to appoint somebody to drive the social agenda, however nobody should own it outright.

We have a social steering group that sets the social agenda and identifies business problems. 

The steering group helped to create a framework that means the company is “prepared for all eventualities.”

It defined the business problems, identified a target audience, and selected the social channels and listening tools that would be used.

Johnston said that much of this can be done by looking at what other brands are doing well and repurposing it for your own audience.

The framework also defines which KPIs will be used to measure success.

2. Get buy-in from stakeholders

Lloyd’s of London went through a similar process to Standard Life before it started using social media.

Lucy Dawson said the company analysed the business opportunities that social offered, as well as the way its target community interacted.

This allowed it to work out the type of content required and how frequently they needed to post updates, which helped the team to identify the level of investment required.

Dawson also spoke to her legal department and tech teams to write up guidance for what staff could and couldn’t do on social media.

By going through these planning stages Dawson could then get the buy-in from key decision makers, as she convinced them of the business case and allayed any fears about risks to the brand image. 

3. Build a social presence

Johnston said that one of the main pitfalls that B2B marketers fall into is a failure to recognise the psychology of their audience.

In any online community only a tiny percentage of users actively contribute to the conversation while the rest are comfortable just listening in.

The challenge for businesses is to get more people to actively engage so they can drive more conversations with potential customers.

This can be achieved by encouraging people to share information and knowledge and rewarding contributions. Businesses should also identify ‘super users’ and acknowledge their status, perhaps by inviting them to guest blog.

4. Make the most of content

Most businesses have a lot of content on their websites and buried in whitepapers, and social is the perfect way to utilise it.

Dawson used an example of some corporate research the company commissioned into climate change, which previously might have struggled to get media coverage.

However Lloyds was able to gain publicity by creating infographics, posting facts and images on Facebook, blogging about climate change and running a Q&A on Twitter.

As a result the whitepaper was covered in The Guardian and by Greenpeace, which Dawson attributed to the work done through Lloyd’s social channels.

As a 300-year old business Lloyd’s also benefits from having a huge amount of historical content that can be repurposed for social marketing, and also means it has an excellent Facebook timeline.

5. Social metrics

There are a huge number of social listening tools available, but Standard Life uses HootSuite to manage its social profiles, Brandwatch to monitor buzz and Webtrends to track how people behave when they visit its website from a social platform.

But these tools aren’t particularly useful if businesses don’t have predefined KPIs.

Johnston said that while he monitors engagement metrics such as traffic, interaction, sharing, brand awareness and advocacy, for B2B marketers it’s more important to look at how social impacts the bottom line.

Therefore B2B marketers should be tracking how many leads and sales they get from social, as well as how much money they are making.

Using the framework mentioned previously and defining business objectives allows you to identify a correlation, and means you can find out if your social activity has been a success.

Similarly, Dawson said that Lloyd’s receives daily alerts on all social activities and monitors conversations on an on-going basis.

The stats then feed into monthly and quarterly reports, which are based on predefined goals. This allows the team to identify trends and adapt when things aren’t working.

6. Presenting information

Johnston said that when presenting results from social campaigns, marketers should shape the story around the metrics rather than the other way around.

However this can only be achieved if you have a predefined set of KPIs.

Similarly marketers should resist the temptation to present data they don’t understand or know the value of simply because it contains big numbers – this is only going to get them caught out in the long run.