Can B2B Companies Find Social Marketing Success? Uh, Yeah.

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Edmund Optics took its quirky corporate persona to social channels, and customers gave the company a second look.

Edmund Optics' anniversary timeline features a celebrity cameo.
Edmund Optics' anniversary timeline features a celebrity cameo.

Sure, plenty of B2B companies use social channels to engage with customers. But why aren't more of those companies talking about social revenue goals? That's the question Edmund Optics' Kirsten Bjork-Jones, director of global marketing communications, and Geoffrey Forman, marketing analyst, posed during their session at the 2014 MeritDirect Co-op.

The reason for their rhetorical query: At Edmund Optics, revenue is an essential component of its social strategy. The maker of optics, imaging, and photonics technology defines B2B social marketing success in several other ways, as well, including driving site traffic and identifying brand champions. Attaining this success starts with providing customer service, thought leadership, and other content. Edmund Optics' customers are hungry for content, Forman said, so that's where the company puts most of its social focus. Being responsive to queries is another success strategy. “If we don't respond quickly to customers [on social], why would they think we could get them their product quickly,” he said. 

Social success for the company also encompasses monitoring competitors and its industry, recruiting and corporate culture, and creating a brand personality. “Social isn't just about engaging customers,” Bjork-Jones said, adding that by monitoring the competition and the industry the marketing team can see the health of industry, as well as opportunities; for example, customers complaining that they can't get something they wish they could get. In terms of creating a brand personality, Edmund Optics has launched initiatives such as its #geekyfriday and #biothursday on Facebook, and an annual wacky holiday video that customers enjoy enough to share. 

The company's zombie-themed holiday video from two years ago garnered 5,000 views and got picked up by industry publications, one of which forwarded the email to its subscribers.

So how does this translate into revenue? Edmund Optics gets 10% of its referral traffic from social, versus 3% from the top three industry sites. Its Facebook page provides 30% of that social referral traffic, and LinkedIn provides 41%—based in large part on Edmund Optics' use of targeted sponsored posts.

Bjork-Jones and Forman shared seven tips for ensuring B2B social marketing success:

Don't be a quitter. Be all-in with social. If you don't post regularly it reflects poorly on your brand.

Dedicate resources. You need to interact daily on social, especially if customers are coming to you with service-related queries.

Create measurable goals. Not all objectives have to be revenue-driven; goals such as shares and content downloads also can be meaningful.

Be unique. Develop a personality that's true to your brand image and carries across channels.

Play well with others. Silos are old school. Integrate social marketing into your marcom mix.

Know your customers. Understanding your audience will allow you to select the channels that make the most sense for your business.

Rule, with flexibility. Develop a social policy and a set of guidelines that employees can follow to ensure they're on brand and on message.

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