This year marks the 20th anniversary of Facebook. For the last two decades, B2B marketers have tried to figure out how to use social media to reach buyers. 

There have been starts and stops along the way, but we are now seeing social media being used strategically. As a result, CMOs are getting questions from the CEO regarding the role and importance of social media in driving business impact. 

Here’s a list of key things CEOs should know about social media in business marketing. The starting point is to determine if social media can have a measurable business impact. 

Is it important? Can it impact our business? 

It depends on the industry. Your goal is to investigate the possibilities. To do that, you must invest in finding the connection. It won’t just appear, it’s not clean and simple like other marketing channels.

It can be done. For example, if you are in the business of selling expertise, like professional services, here’s a freebie: the answer is yes. 

We found a link between online activity and the revenue performance of attorneys. By studying the LinkedIn behaviors of more than 500+ equity partners in a law firm we were able to show a link between the size of partner networks and activity, with billable revenue. Top billers had 47% larger networks than others and 74% higher social scores. 

But each industry, business and segment is different. The business impact may be enhanced credibility, increased awareness, improved content distribution and engagement, etc. But if you don’t look…you won’t find it. 

Is it strategic?

Social media is now considered the most effective B2B channel for driving revenue, per the 2023 State of B2B Digital Marketing report (download required). Let’s let that sink in. They said “for driving revenue,” not some perceived “fluffy” marketing goal like driving “likes” or engagement. It’s now driving revenue. 

Authors of the report, Wpromote and Ascend2, found that 60% of respondents said that social media was the most effective channel topping email, search (paid and organic) and display advertising. 

As a result, we now see companies like McKinsey, AWS, Novartis and SAP using very clear social media strategies to drive engagement and content dissemination at scale. 

Why? Because it’s where the eyeballs are and social media is quickly becoming (and in certain industries, it already is) the preferred content channel for millennial buyers. 

Do we have a strategy? Do we need one?

This one is easy: ask your CMO to see the social media strategy plan for the year. Ask them to explain why you are using certain social channels and what is the goal of each. You may see a look of shock and surprise come across their face. 

Even worse, and this happens too frequently, ask them to ask their social media agency what the strategy is for the year and why. And the answer is not because “that’s what our competitors are doing.” 

For too long, we have been throwing money and content at social media channels without much thought. Social is often an afterthought and, as a result, incredibly tactical. Do you need a strategy? The answer is yes, for many reasons. 

For one, to transition from tactical to strategic, you need time to plan. Creating good content and creative that aligns with a bigger strategy takes time. So, start with creating a quarterly strategy and plan. 

Effective social media use takes a village. Start with increasing visibility and changing mindsets. Social must be considered in producing any marketing asset — video, white paper, case study or event. How can social be used to promote these assets? And what will be required or created to support the execution in those channels?

Thinking and planning for those needs helps identify individuals or functional areas that can support building content for social channels. Instead of being behind the “eight-ball” scrabbling for something to post, marketing is now collaboratively building a monthly content calendar. 

Regarding the “village,” based on our research and experience, there are four parts of your organization that need to be involved in supporting social media: 

  • HR for recruiting and retention.
  • Sales for new customer wins.
  • Product for new product/solution announcements.
  • Corporate communication for community outreach, diversity initiatives and causes the organization supports. 

They should have input into the plan and stake in producing content to fill the calendar, as well as clear goals they want to achieve. That is, if you believe social media is strategic, if not, then you don’t need any of it. 

Should I be involved?

Now for the important piece: should you, as the CEO, participate in social media? That is a question that your organization will need to answer. For many CMOs, the vision of Elon Musk’s tweets dances in their heads when considering involving the CEO in social media. 

If the organization decides it is a good idea or you are already active, the question is the extent of your role. Are you best suited to be a content creator or a thought leader, or is the organization better served by having you as a sharer of content? Even just liking content will increase the awareness of your content and, most likely, engagement. 

Once your role is defined, the next step is training. Detailed coaching on the proper way to create, share and engage with social media content. This is true for the entire C-suite. We’ve interviewed many senior executives on this topic, and they were the ones who requested to be trained. 

If Tesla’s board had only asked me, I could have saved them a lot of money and a huge headache. Now, you need not only a strategy and a quarterly plan but also social media training. But you don’t have to have it all at once. 

Now that I know this, what do I do?

Social media is not considered strategic in many B2B organizations because it’s tactical. It’s tactical because it’s not planned. It’s not planned because no one has created a plan or calendar. 

There is no plan or calendar because there is no strategy. There is no strategy because it’s not considered strategic. It’s not strategic because it hasn’t been connected to business impact. There, that’s what you do.

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