It’s clear why people are confused about what social media can do for a business… much of the information is contradictory. On the same day, I read two posts related to the effectiveness of social media, both showcasing different – and even conflicting – examples.
The first post, B2B Social Media Marketing: What’s the Real Deal on Effectiveness, shares mixed results of success with social media. What was most startling was the lack of perceived value in content marketing. The writer states, “Not one of these individuals has achieved results by following the content marketing strategy advice of so-called social media experts. In fact, the most successful, like Dennis Brown who has generated $20 million for his logistics company through strategic use of LinkedIn, have relied on traditional, tried and true B2B marketing as the cornerstones of their strategy.”
The second post, 5 Ways to Integrate Your Social Media With Your Marketing, concludes that a holistic approach is necessary to make an impact with digital marketing. The writer states, “Your payoff is content: Social media is useless unless there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Your content is the cornerstone of your marketing.”
Funny, both posts used the word ‘cornerstone’ to highlight vastly different marketing outcomes. What’s a reader to believe? I’m a marketer and I’m confused, so I can only imagine how a business owner might feel.
After further examination of the first post, I created a short list of what those B2B companies could attribute to their success in social media. That list includes:
- Establishing and nurturing relationships
- Raising visibility
- Enhancing credibility
- Starting a conversation
These are realistic outcomes for social media. In fact, I would argue that this is the core of social media – building awareness and enhancing relationships. While lead generation is a realistic goal, and something that can happen as byproduct of this core, I don’t necessarily believe it should be the end-all for every business. If it’s a goal for you, it’s important to understand the mechanics required to make that a reality. I’ll discuss this more shortly.
In the second post, the writer acknowledges that social media isn’t the most direct sales tool, stating, “Essentially, there is far more at stake in social media than sales.” She cites purpose as the backbone of social media, which can be actualized from a thoughtful, integrated marketing strategy.
Since it was a glaring contradiction between these two posts, let’s talk about content marketing. I’m going to use myself as example to showcase the strength of content marketing, particularly blogging. I’ve blogged consistently for seven years. As a result, I receive an average of one inbound lead per day. Forty percent of our current client base came to us through a Google search. We’ve served clients in Europe, Asia and South America.
However, it wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy. I am not a fan of formulas but, my formula, was this: lay a proper foundation, find your voice, talk about something others in the industry aren’t talking about, distribute content beyond business web and social media properties, find ways to transition content interactions and Google search queries, and keep at it.
Here’s why I don’t recommend my formula… the game has changed. If you want to enter the content marketing game now, you need a fresh approach. To generate leads, you must dedicate resources to break through the noise.
If you are going to pursue a content marketing strategy, you can’t half-ass it. This will be more about what you offer the marketplace and less of the tactical approach. If you can find what truly sets you apart and why people should work with you vs. a competitor, that’s half the battle. The other half is tying this into a holistic strategy, as the writer of the second post suggests. The days of ‘build it and they will come’ are over, not that they ever existed. But, content saturation is a real problem. I prefer to take the approach of my college professor who said everything we write (in journalism) should answer the questions, “so what and who cares?”
Now, that’s a formula you can apply! If you can’t answer those questions with your content, inbound lead generation via content marketing, is not for you.
This was one of the two ways content marketing worked for the writer of the first story. She mentioned her first lead source as, “inquiries after people found my company websites through search engines.” Bingo! Content marketing in a nutshell. I’m surprised that blogging is not listed as a larger part of social media in the first post, as I consider it the hub.
However, the writer explained that she is a blogger who is no longer receiving leads from content marketing. Could it be because they are not coming directly from a tweet or LinkedIn message? She did say that someone found her through an article in a business magazine. That proves that content distribution is a part of what makes content marketing work. If they can’t find you through your blog, add your blog content somewhere else and see what happens. Medium and LinkedIn Pulse are great, to start. If you can find a niche-relevant publication that shares an interest in your writing, it’s worth it to try. That’s what we did with our client, Lennie. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention influencer marketing, as well. It’s important not to overlook those who have people influence, rather than gatekeepers in traditional outlets.
What about content marketing to meet goals other than lead generation? Well, content can solve so many things. I reference specific blog posts for over half of the questions I receive from prospects or customers. Content can also build authority. If you’re talking about something that others aren’t, that’s a niche – and it’s helpful if you want to make an impact. For me, I write mostly about what’s important to my audience – helping business owners achieve success. My posts are not just about the latest Facebook changes; they are valuable to those in business, in general. Because of this, I’ve been mentioned over 30 times in Small Business Trends, alone.
The writer of the first story lists her second lead source as, “referrals from business colleagues, clients, friends, and relatives.” Yes! Relationships in action. Those relationships are real. But, they didn’t stop with F2F interactions. It was furthered by LinkedIn connections, tweets, and even email marketing. I would venture to say that most leads can’t tell you exactly where they found you, because by the time they hired you, you were ‘everywhere.’ That’s the power of online marketing, which is why I agree with the second post. It’s marketing integration at its best, and it’s giving us the ability to communicate with people we know on the channels that work best for them.
I pause and think, for a moment, when asked the question, “what can social media do for a business?” Without a doubt, social media is a complex beast – just as business is complex. That doesn’t mean social media doesn’t work. It only means it’s unique to your business. There’s no magic pill or simple formula, but with the right plan, social media can meet the goals you set out to achieve – and content marketing can still remain as a player in the game.