B2B Marketers: What’s Your Social Media Marketing Plan?

Planning your marketing initiatives is hard enough when you already understand what to achieve and are simply battling to get the resources to make it happen.

But what if you’re not even sure what your goals and KPIs should be?

That’s the problem many B2B marketers face with social media planning.

They don’t understand that when it comes to setting goals, there are four stages to social media. And the specific goals you set should be a function of which stage your company is in, and what your social media objectives are. Nothing undermines social media planning more than getting this wrong.

Here’s a framework you can use to figure out where you are on the social media curve, and more importantly, the right way to approach your social media planning.

The four stages of the social media maturity model

The Four Stages of Social Media

Stage 1: Activity-Based Goals

Remember the last time you joined the gym? Your first goal was just to show up every week, right? Then you focused on losing weight, increasing stamina, etc. The initial stage of social media is like that. The right goal at this stage is just being consistent with your social activity: the number of blog posts per month, tweets per day, and status updates per week, that you and your team can do.

Set your social media goal around activity, and put in place the workflows and resources necessary to hit activity-based KPIs consistently. That’ll create the right foundation to successfully move on to the next stage.

Stage 2: Audience-Building Goals

You’re now pretty consistent with blogging and social sharing but have no meaningful social media audience yet. You’ll know you’re at this stage because you start hearing from the team: “Hey, we’re blogging but there’s no traffic and no one’s sharing our posts!” It’s time to focus on building high-quality social channels filled with prospects, customers, influencers and — yes — employees!

During this stage, your social media goals need to be more about audience building. That means: the number of followers on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, plus getting blog subscribers. You’ll also want to track the reach and impressions generated by your social posts, as they should be increasing as you build out your social channels.

But keep in mind that it’s not about audience-size “optics” but the quality of the social channels your building.

Stage 3: Engagement Goals

At this stage, it’s increasingly about the relevance of the content you share on social media… since you’re already active with high-quality social channels. This means sharing industry publications, blogs, and top influencers that are especially relevant to target buyers. It also means posting lots of thought leadership content fueled by your blog and other content marketing efforts.

You’ll know you’re in this stage because people are regularly sharing your social posts, retweeting and mentioning your company’s social handles, and liking and commenting on LinkedIn company page updates.

The main goal now is engagement, and you’ll track KPIs such as profile visits, retweets, mentions, likes, and the overall engagement percentage. To get these numbers, you can rely on the analytics provided by LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook platforms.

Bonus: you’re now also ready to leverage social media to engage industry influencers and top tier prospects. Here’s how to go about B2B influencer marketing and social media account-based marketing.

Stage 4: ROI Goals

At this point, you can finally start measuring the ROI of your social media efforts. Why? Because your consistent (and increasing) social media activity and engaged audience are driving meaningful website traffic, landing page clicks, and … yes, leads!

It’s also now easier to get more organizational support to help turn the social media wheel faster. Why? Because everyone sees the progress you’re making! You’ll now be turning to Google Analytics and your marketing automation solution to track website visits, landing page clicks, and conversions.

Other things to consider

How long should you expect to be focused on a particular stage? It depends on the resources you commit and how quickly you can ramp up your social media activity. With that said, I’ve found that a good benchmark is one to two quarters for each stage. In addition, you’ll always be working on each stage but your goals and KPIs will increasingly reflect the next stage you’re moving into.

But what if you need to make a faster impact with social media? Then consider advertising on the social networks. Just keep in mind, paying for social media followers and clicks won’t build a valuable and lasting social channel unless you also take the time to invest in each of the four stages of social media.

And don’t forget… you must align your specific goals and KPIs to the social media stage you’re in — otherwise you may overturn your progress by trying to get to ROI before you’re ready!

Did you find this article helpful? Check out the Leadtail blog for more insights on B2B social media.

About the Author

Carter Hostelley is the CEO of Leadtail, and committed to making social media work for B2B companies. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Musings, opinions, ideas about B2B social media strategy, plus startups. CEO and Founder @Leadtail and contributor @CMSwire.