What CEO’s Need to Understand About Social Media

by · January 8, 201322 comments

The surge of social media’s importance seems pretty obvious for marketers. It’s pretty hard to ignore when you see announcements like Facebook’s October announcement that monthly active users hit 1 billion or Twitter’s growing population with 72 million active accounts (who tweet at least 5 times a day) and 96 million accounts that have tweeted at least once in the last 30 days. Or the truly revealing data in The Social Habit that shows that 56% of the US population has an account on a social network. The amount of people on social networks is growing rapidly, but for many CEO’s that just isn’t enough to give full support to a marketing channel that has been hounded for lacking real ROI. In a study by the Fournaise Marketing Group, they found that 73% of CEO’s think marketers lack business credibility. The top reason is because marketers focus too much on the latest marketing trends such as social media, but can rarely demonstrate how these trends will help them generate more business for the company (74%). Smart CEO’s aren’t going to be wooed by growing user counts, but at the same time there is a lot of promise in social media that CEO’s need to understand. And it all connects to driving sales to the bottom line.

Social Media and Content Marketing are High Funnel Marketing

One of the biggest problems companies struggle with is how to put more sales opportunities into the top of the sales funnel. We expect that if we can put more in the funnel we should see more sales as a result. The reality of today’s conundrum is that most sales funnels start at the action and conversion stage when someone becomes an “active” or “qualified” prospect shown at the bottom of the funnel on the right. But online marketing allows us to touch people who are simply not ready to buy, right now which can add up to three layers to the funnel. That doesn’t mean they won’t be ready to buy someday. To be clear, these people have always existed in your buying process. The difference is that now we have tools to identify them and measure through the entire funnel. Social media is one of the ways we can do that.

It’s natural that CEO’s are skeptical. For a lot of companies social media efforts have very little to show for themselves. Your web analytics package could be a contributor to the problem of social media ROI. One of the key reasons social media has struggled to show ROI is because many current tracking systems only track the last thing a prospect touches before converting, but the social media conversation usually happens before this point and therefore doesn’t get any portion of the credit. Traditional website analytics won’t tell you the whole story when it comes to ROI for any online marketing program. Whether you are using social media or not, your website has more visitors than it has conversions so considering how to increase conversions on your site is important.

The Top Questions for CEO’s to Ask Themselves

  1. Do I want to get to potential buyers before my competition?
  2. Do I want the opportunity to build brand loyalty with these potential buyers so they select my company over the competition?
  3. If I could build that loyalty for comparatively low cost would it make good business sense?

The reality is that most CEO’s would say yes to all three of those questions. Those who wouldn’t probably aren’t the greatest CEO’s to begin with so we won’t waste our time there.

Well guess what. You can absolutely do that using digital marketing and content marketing strategies. Don’t get lost in the lingo of social media. It isn’t about social media, it’s about filling the funnel with potential buyers and existing customers so you can nurture them through the buying process. Social media is ONE of the channels we use to do that. The real question is whether or not your digital marketing strategy is set up to deliver on those objectives and if it’s not you have every right to hold back investments until it is. There are three points in the process that are important to understand. Social media visitors come from the social media channel to your website and have an opportunity to convert into a buyer or subscribe to your email content. To do this effectively it requires a connection from the social channel through content and into a lead nurturing program.

You Must Convert High Funnel Visitors into Active Prospects

social is ABSOLUTELY about sales

Understanding how to turn all of these people who are swimming around in the top of your funnel into qualified prospects can be a daunting task. There are a lot of “social media” marketers who will tell you that you can’t sell in social, you can’t promote yourself, or it isn’t about sales. Frankly, those aren’t the type of marketers you want running your social media strategy. Those are the type of marketers who don’t understand business objectives. You can sell in social, you can promote yourself and social is ABSOLUTELY about sales. But you can’t do it in the same way you’ve been doing it in the past. It requires an approach that is probably very different than what the company has done in the past. It’s one that focuses on presenting the option to buy as a secondary focus, rather than the primary focus. If you want your company’s social media strategy to deliver on business objectives ask these questions.

#1 Have We Made it Stupid Easy To Convert?

When you are dealing with high funnel visitors it’s important to optimize the path to conversion from the social channel to the nurturing program. If you click on the link in your latest tweet that sends you to a blog post is there a way to subscribe to your email program? Can you get to the page to buy something within one click? Can you provide your email in exchange for content that shows you are a qualified lead for the sales team? If you are on Facebook can you do the same things? The question isn’t whether or not social media can drive business results; the question is whether or not you’ve optimized the conversion path to make it possible.

#2 Do We Have the Right Content?

Once you’ve optimized the path to conversion, the next question is whether or not you have the right mix of content for your high funnel visitors. This group requires a different type of content mix than your qualified leads. They are interested in your CONTENT; they have not said they are interested in your PRODUCT or SERVICE. So it’s important to have a nice mix of informational content that is interesting to your target audience and decision making content. Decision making content is specifically designed to indicate that a high funnel visitor has entered the decision making process and may meet the criteria for a qualified lead. Does your website have both? Do you have a blog that allows your team to quickly publish both types of content and organize it in a way so that visitors can find it easily? Do you share both types of content on social channels?

#3 Have You Set Up a Nurturing Program?

The goal is to collect email addresses from these potential buyers so you can remarket to them to stay top of mind. To do that efficiently, you will need a email nurturing program. This isn’t the “hey meet with my sales team” or “here’s a coupon” style of email program most companies are using. This program needs to focus on providing useful information and value to the audience while also presenting the opportunity to move to the next stage in the sales process. We use information to present the opportunity to buy, to schedule a meeting, or to attend a demo, whatever is most relevant to your company.

#4 Do you Have a Testing and Optimization Plan in Place?

The last step is for companies to have the ability to test what is working so results can be optimized. This includes A/B testing for calls to action on your blog and your landing pages. It requires the ability to know which status updates drove conversions and which emails are delivering the highest ROI. Setting up the framework for measuring through the funnel is a necessity that is often overlooked.

At the end of the day CEO’s need to understand that it isn’t about social media. It’s about getting to prospective buyers before the competition and nurturing the relationship to drive to a sale. That’s smart business. The challenge is that too many marketers haven’t identified the problem they want social media to assist with solving and they haven’t structured the measurement system to show where social media contributes to the sales process. Part of the problem is setting appropriate expectations for where social media fits into business objectives. The other part is designing a strategy to deliver value to the bottom line.

What do you think CEO’s need to understand about social media? Leave a comment and join the discussion.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

    Excellent post, Nichole. I think this paints a terrific roadmap for how CEOs and marketers to think about social. I think you hit the nail on the head with your point about needing to determine what social media will solve for your company. I think all too often, we try to force it to be all things to all people, when really, social media efforts should be more focused in one area (i.e. awareness, conversions, loyalty, etc.).

    I also think there’s another problem with CEOs and social media – many feel like they need to adopt social media and be on all channels just to keep with the times. Essentially, they feel the need to check the box, so to speak, without thinking about how it fits into their overall strategy, where their target audience is hanging out and how to implement the effort.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Laura – Thank you so much for the feedback. One of the challenges for CEO’s is that the connection with social media and business objectives hasn’t been made for them. We can’t expect CEO’s to take the time to understand every new marketing channel, we have to show them the value on objectives they care about and the objectives that impact the bottom line. For example, if we can demonstrate that if a prospect touches the social channel at some point on their path to conversion they convert significantly better it makes a huge difference in how they perceive social media. It changes from that fluffy marketing thing, to something that actually impacts business results. But it requires marketers to step back from the “coolness” of social and start talking in business language. 

      Once that connection is made, lightbulbs go off and real investments begin. At least that’s been my experience. 

      • http://www.flybluekite.com/ Laura Click

        Love this and totally agree, Nichole!

        One challenge I bump into, especially with smaller businesses with smaller budgets, is tracking conversions from social. Certainly, there are tools that can help do this on the enterprise level, but it’s much more difficult to track that connection if you can’t afford those kind of systems. Do you have any recommendations for small-to-mid-sized companies?

  • http://twitter.com/JustPlainCarpe Chris Carpenter

    This article framed SM great in terms of high funnel activity.  I really like that positioning.  We have actually found that there is as much value internally for SM; for employees to see the fruits of their labor presented in an accessible public forum. 
     
    As with any information outlet, who is your audience?  What are their expectations?  Are you building a SM presence to match who you are rather than round-pegging a square hole because the internet said this is what you need to do in SM to succeed?  Figuring out how to be appropriately present (to who we are as a company and brand) in social media has been a very different process than figuring out how to have a social media presence, if that makes sense.  Figuring out what [all] success means in SM is even a bit of a challenge.

    In my experience, social media decisions are not made by many CEOs.  Once companies reach a certain size, those decisions of execution turn over to marketing, brand managers, or corporate communications folks.  They are possibly line items on a budget or interpretations of cascaded goals. My company doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be so dependent and focused on SM that it requires the attention of our CEO.

    While it is true that the social media platforms are the same base playing field for everyone, the demands of our individual market segments influence our social media presence more than the new conventional wisdom of “what you need to do to succeed in social media.”

    My first bad assumption about social media was that one size fits all.  I manage social media for the Life Sciences division of a global multi-billion dollar company.  My CEO is very different than a $25M company’s CEO, and very different from a $100B company’s CEO.  Our marketing strategies are different, our product segments are different, our tools are different, and our resourcing models are different. Our customers are different. The scaling is different…engagement and social media usage, adoption, and norms differ in the US,  Europe, Asia, S. America, Africa, and emerging markets OUS….not to mention generationally.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Chris – Thanks so much for chiming in. I agree 100% that most CEO’s shouldn’t be involved in decisions about social media. And frankly many of them aren’t getting involved. As such their “buy-in” can be the biggest barrier to adoption and investment. And for larger companies, you are right it is less about he CEO and more about an EVP,  SVP or similar title supporting the effort. 

      As you’ve likely experienced when you work for a global multi-billion dollar company the complexities are incredible and therefore so are the risks. I’d love to chat about what you are working on. It sounds like you have a great case study in the works! :-)

  • Dara Khajavi

    What an excellent post. Social media is constantly changing and evolving. This makes it exceptionally difficult to utilize. Effective social media marketing requires quick action, honesty, and research. This is an unique combination that many companies are still becoming accustomed to. In the past, marketing campaigns would take months even years to develop. Social media speeds up the marketing process. However, this also makes it difficult to for CEO’s to adapt. This post was incredibly informational for any CEO or future CEO.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Dara – Thank so much for the feedback! I am honored that you enjoyed the post and found it relevant for CEO’s. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1782983001 David Daniels

    Very much enjoyed this tough-minded, sensible article. We tried to share on our G+ page and the G+ link on your profile 404′d?

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Hi David – I apologize that the Google + link on my profile isn’t working. We are looking into the issue to get it updated, but in the meantime my profile is at https://plus.google.com/u/0/112237851747136969667/posts. Thank you so much for commenting and sharing.

  • arwynb

    A very god article!

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.pirlando Daniel Pirlando

    I enjoy this article

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  • jackie

    great article, very informative

  • http://twitter.com/911SmallBiz Sue Cockburn

    Excellent article! Thanks!!

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