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To succeed on social media, think beyond social media

If you want your company to use social media marketing effectively, you need to understand the place of social media in the buyer journey.

What’s the point?

I think about that question all the time. No, I’m not having an existential crisis. 

I think about it because it’s the first question on the minds of many of our clients and prospects when considering their social media marketing activity. Why is social media important for businesses? What’s the value of social media for B2B marketing? What is the point? 

It’s a fair question to ask. After all, it’s no good embarking on hours of social media marketing activity if that activity isn’t going to get your organisation some measurable results. It is, however, a very difficult question to answer. That’s because, for organisations, the benefits of social media marketing lie outside of social media itself.

This is completely different from the way most of us use social media day to day. As a result, we can incorrectly imagine the impact of social media marketing as self-contained on social media – as an additional service we’re paying for with results totally separate from the rest of our organisation. Ironically, those of us who use social media in our personal lives can be even more prone to this mistake.

For your organisation to understand “the point” and succeed on social media, you need to think beyond social media.

Organisations don’t use social media like people

Individuals and organisations use social media very differently, even if it doesn’t appear that way when you scroll through your feed. After all, so many organisations aim to use each platform just like personal accounts do. They want to fit in, whether that’s by joking around in the same way as popular personal accounts, getting influencers to promote on their behalf, or creating content in the same format and production quality as the average user. 

However, when we use social media as individuals, that experience is an end in and of itself. When our post gets a like or we get a new follower, that little spark of dopamine is enough to justify keeping us engaged with the platform. 

Organisations, however, can’t afford to look at social media as an end in and of itself. If you want your organisation to succeed on social media, you have to think of it as a means to an end. 

That might sound obvious, but because of the way we use social media in the rest of our lives, we’re always at risk of seeing social media as an entirely optional, additional activity that can be judged independently of all other marketing activity. It’s a mistake I see being made daily, often in the very early stages of a discussion about whether social media activity is worth it. 

It’s not just a mistake that social media sceptics make, however. It’s something us social media enthusiasts risk making as well. 

Consider these two examples.

The social media sceptic

The social media sceptic doesn’t think shouting about their company on social media is worth the time. After all, those hours could be better spent elsewhere. How is running a successful social media account going to win their organisation more work? 

What the sceptic isn’t seeing, however, is how many external opportunities can be unlocked by a strong social media presence. 

For example, if the sceptic’s organisation has employees who are posting valuable thought leadership content about industry news, those employees will build up a following and bank of work which can help them get opportunities to speak at industry events. Those opportunities can get them in the room with an audience of qualified leads, and win the business more work down the line. In a similar vein, social media is great for raising awareness of services and for recruitment, both of which pay off in the long term.

The social media enthusiast 

Social media enthusiasts are just as at risk of treating social media like an end in and of itself as their sceptical counterparts are. 

They end up treating their organisation’s social media like their own personal social media – seeing likes, comments and new followers as an end in and of itself, without focusing on their organisation’s long-term goals. You can create a data-driven social media campaign and follow every lead you can to get more likes and followers, but if your social media stops serving your organisation’s goals, you’ll find yourself doing a better and better job fine-tuning a social media account which has no impact on your bottom line.

Both the sceptic and the enthusiast are missing out. Both are treating social media like an island, separate from the rest of their business. 

Successful social media isn’t separate from the rest of your organisation’s activity. It is neither an additional but unnecessary string in your bow like the sceptics might think, or the be all and end all of your marketing activity like the enthusiast imagines. 

To understand why, you need to understand social media’s place in the buyer journey. 

Social media and the buyer journey

Social media is a stepping stone, a tool which can provide huge value to your organisation, but which cannot and should not be understood on its own terms. If you want to succeed on social media, your social media activity needs to be understood in the context of your wider goals. 

Once you start thinking beyond social media, there is another trap you risk falling into. Just because social media activity needs to be understood in the context of your organisation’s wider goals, that doesn’t mean that social media should be understood – and judged as – a lead generation activity.

Instead, you need to understand exactly where your social media activity fits into your buyer journey. Social media is far more likely to be where prospects see your services or buy into the expertise of your team for the first time than it is to generate a sale, for example. It’s also a great place to gain and maintain the trust of your prospects and clients. Just because you’re rarely winning new work in your social media DMs, that doesn’t mean that social media doesn’t have a decisive role to play in building and maintaining your organisation’s reputation, setting the stage for you to win more work off of social media.

So when you ask “what’s the point?” consider another question instead. 

“What’s the goal?” 

Design your social media activity to specific marketing goals and connect your marketing goals directly to your business goals. Instead of adding social media on top of your marketing activity like a dollop of cream, bake it into the batter. 

By weaving social media throughout your marketing activity, you can use it to amplify your recruitment activity, boost your organisation’s reputation, promote your team’s expertise and more. You already know what your organisation needs – stay focused on that, and you’ll get social media working for you, not the other way around.

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