Knowing Who, Not How Many, Can Turn Social Into a B2B Moneymaker

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Bloomberg Media Group may have found a way to finally directly monetize social media—something that’s eluded most publishers—through a product called Social Connect 2.0 that allows marketers to serve ads to visitors as they come into the site via social platforms.

But the response of digital agencies makes it clear that it’s audience data, not ad-serving capabilities that marketers are hoping to see from Social Connect. “The ability for a publisher to layer in a level of behavioral or interest data they know through the social graph—that’s what’s valuable to the advertiser,” Digitas SVP of social strategy Jill Sherman told Digiday.

A recent survey found that b2b marketers are still prioritizing the same types of metrics that appeal to celebrities and 13-year-olds (likes and re-tweets). Given that brand awareness is still the primary marketer goal, that makes sense. But understanding who is actually engaging via social (particularly if they can discover and work with industry influencers among their audience) as well as driving action will be a key differentiator for b2b publishers.

“We're moving beyond the obvious numbers on the screen - shares and tweets and follower counts - and looking at social bringing white paper downloads, signups to services, attendance at webinars, and subscription to email newsletters,” says Paul Quigley, co-founder of NewsWhip Media, which monitors social media for clients. “In particular, converting social readers to email subscribers seems to be popular currently among both publishers and other companies. That's a more ‘owned’ relationship than someone ‘liking’ your Facebook page, but possibly never seeing a message from you again!”

The Last Frontier?

“This is critically important to audience acquisition—it’s the last frontier,” says Toni Nevitt, president of eMedia Advantage and chair of the ABM/CISD Audience Development Committee. “We market the hell out of people but social is still under the radar. If you think about defining the return on social media, it’s about brand awareness but it’s also who is following. Are the people engaging on your social channels the most valuable to you? It’s great to have a big crowd of followers but you need to know if those people are the key influencers in your market or just Mary Smith.”

And that can be the kicker. While Pew Research says more people are getting news from Facebook and Twitter, they also spend less time on site and return less often. With some social channels, it’s relatively easy to draw back the curtains on your audience—Twitter offers an excellent dashboard of monitoring tools as well the ability for users to download their followers. Others, like, Facebook, currently require a more manual process.

Beyond advertising, knowing “who” rather than “how many” can inform product development, unveil new potential partnerships, and even offer opportunities for monetizing content. “One client found they had a lot of companies that were following them, not just individuals,” says Nevitt. “That opens up the opportunity around data tools and site licenses. If you’re following us, can we take this a step further to customize for you?”

Stop Handing Off Social Media To Somebody Else

However, that requires social be a priority, not an afterthought. Social responsibilities—whether editorial, marketing or audience development—are often given to more junior staff members, not because they’re digital natives but because no one else wants to be bothered. “The problem with social for smaller companies is they have no dedicated team” says Nevitt. “It’s a Catch 22.  There’s no ROI so there’s no real investment in a dedicated team, but without a dedicated team you’re hardpressed to see an ROI.”

For those of you ramping up social efforts, you may want to check out two recent ABM CISD webinars:

Social Distribution for B2B Publishers 

How to Use Social Media as An Audience Development Tool Part 1

How to Use Social Media as an Audience Development Tool Part II


Matt Matt Kinsman is vice president of content + programming at Connectiv, the only association focused on the integrated b-to-b model—including publications, events, digital media, marketing services and business information. Prior to joining Connectiv's predecessor American Business Media in 2011, Kinsman was executive editor of Folio:, the leading information provider for the magazine industry.