Time and again we hear about challenges many of us face laboring to demonstrate a quantitative, dollar-out dollar-in ROI on social media in a business-to-business, long sales cycle environment. I'm often asked, “If we can't coupon, or offer special deals, than what's the point?” We reply with statistics about expressions, show them charts of other b-to-b marketing managers who believe in its potential, and pull case study examples. But the heads tilted in confusion remain.
I challenge agency leaders to redirect the conversation. Today, a first impression comes just as easily through a Google search or a hashtagged Twitter conversation as it does through a networking event, a business card exchange, a conversation with your receptionist, or a visit to your website.
In fact, it is quite possible that a prospective customer has formed an opinion before ever coming in contact with a human representative from your company. A presence in social media is merely a starting point, an entry gate to a better dialogue with clients and prospects.
Here are four feel-good reasons why it's okay to value social media in a b-to-b environment:
1: It can lead to customer service improvements. Social media can help solve problems – externally with customers, and internally with processes. It can break down barriers, and get otherwise separate departments talking, like corporate communications and customer service.
2: You can demonstrate corporate momentum. No one wants to do business with a company that appears to be stagnant. You can't always measure it, but it's palpable. Social media allows you to demonstrate your company's momentum every day, not just when there's a news event.
3: It can augment media relations efforts. Reporters frequently find me or a client through a social media channel, and that engagement leads to interviews, which leads to coverage, which leads to website traffic, which leads to, well, leads. It's important to know that they are looking; and if they do not find you, rest assured they are talking to your competition.
4: Your SEO will thank you. Search engines reward those that do social media right. It takes planning and strategy, keyword mapping and influencer identification, content and optimization (not to mention time and money), but a comprehensive social media strategy that crosses channels and platforms and inspires engagement will go a long way toward improving search rankings.
So, the next time a client asks about the ROI on social media, let's make the case for the value of a good first impression. After all, the only number on a first impression is one.
Erin Allsman is VP of PR and social media director at Brownstein Group in Philadelphia. Find her on Twitter @ErinAllsman.