Paid media is losing ground to owned and earned media in B2B marketing. I don’t mean that B2B companies are spending less on paid media. In fact, they’re spending more — especially in industry and digital contexts.
But the efficiency of paid media is on the decline. So the race is on to bolster owned and earned media results. For example, think about your response rates for paid email today compared with five years ago. Now think about the role of social media strategies in your marketing plan today compared with five years ago. Admittedly, companies still have a lot of work to do to adapt social media marketing for B2B. But it’s clear that social media has made word-of-mouth advocacy more pervasive, more immediate, and more influential.
B2B companies have better odds of catalyzing word-of-mouth advocacy through owned and earned social media than through paid channels (including paid social media advertising). Advocacy marketing platforms can provide a powerful engine for social media advocacy strategies.
The Starr Conspiracy recently used advocacy marketing software from Influitive to test a compelling social media advocacy strategy. The goal of our test was to measure the impact of social media advocacy marketing on the release of the latest report from our Intelligence Unit, the 2015 Human Capital Management (HCM) Vendor Brandscape™.
I must first point out that this was The Starr Conspiracy’s most successful internal campaign to date. The report has already been viewed thousands of times and the engagement rates continue to climb. This is a popular report for many reasons: (1) it’s unique and the results are important; (2) the author, George LaRocque, is a well-known analyst; and (3) the Lightpaper™ platform upon which the report is published is an innovative content marketing technology that most certainly increases digital marketing results.
But these facts don’t explain one very important aspect of our results — more than 70 percent of our views and leads came from social media (both from within and outside our owned social media audience). On average, only about 30 percent of our results typically come from social media, with the rest coming from email and digital advertising. So what changed this time around?
Prior to releasing this report, we launched a strategy from within Influitive to grow our owned social media audience, with the specific goal to increase our owned (and earned) social media results. Here’s what we did:
- We created a series of challenges in Influitive to help our advocates build their social media networks. We provided them with tips on optimizing their social media accounts and gave them lists of people to follow. And we rewarded them when they hit certain milestones (like 500 followers, 200 connections, or 100 new friends).
- We promoted these challenges both within and outside the Influitive advocate hub. Influitive does a great job of sending reminders about challenges and automating emails that encourage advocates to return to the hub. We doubled down on this strategy by sending our own promotions outside the system that both encouraged people to “live” in the hub and motivated them to complete the social challenges.
- Days before the launch of our HCM brandscape, we began releasing challenges that rewarded our advocates for promoting the report in their networks. We provided recommended tweets and encouraged advocates to read the report for themselves (the report also contained live tweet links throughout). And we kept this up for days before, during, and after the release.
The results speak for themselves in terms of the efficacy of this strategy (in volume of engagements, quality of leads, and proportion of results from social media). But we also experienced some positive unintended consequences (the best sort of consequences). Our advocates became more satisfied and engaged because we were helping them achieve a goal they cared about — increasing their social media networks. They appreciated our investment in them and they showed it by helping us promote the 2015 HCM Vendor Brandscape Report™. We also saw a significant impact from earned social media due to our influence over owned social media.
If you would like to hear more details about this campaign or talk about advocate marketing strategies, please don’t hesitate to contact me.