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This article delves into the misconception surrounding the role of social media in business, emphasising that it should be viewed primarily as a brand-building tool rather than a direct driver of sales, particularly in high-value B2B markets.

The misconception of social media

We recently worked with an executive who was obsessing over the “ROI of social media” – they didn’t see any and felt it was a waste of time to engage in it. In our experience, social media should be viewed as a brand-building exercise with only indirect sales impact. This is especially true within high-value B2B purchase environments.

Even when your social media activity directly promotes a certain offering, such as your latest consulting service or mining rig, it hardly does it at the point of purchase, meaning the best you can hope for is raised awareness – not a sale.

The key is to keep the purchase funnel in mind when considering the role of social media. It drives awareness, possibly interest and maybe consideration – but it is still one step away from the sale. It’s unrealistic to post to social media and then expect to see a sale. Instead, the more realistic approach is to do it – consistently – and expect a greater number of enquiries and a faster sales cycle.

Managing expectations is a big part of motivating marketing spending inside a business, and many executives don’t know what to expect from social media. Marketing communications are not the same as sales activation. One precedes the other, and this is how it should be measured. Social media is “social” – it is about opening up conversations, not being the final nail in the sales coffin.

Business benefits of social media

There are three core benefits to maintaining an active and curated social media presence as a business:

Builds credibility

Being on social media means your business is operational and “open for business”. It creates a sense of a “going concern” that is not afraid to show what it does and communicate with the world.

Showcases business culture

Social media provides a company with the opportunity to say who it is and who it wants to do business with. A strong culture attracts the right types of clients and employees by showcasing the company culture, whether it is key operational measures such as safety and professionalism or more unique identifying characteristics such as creativity.

Motivate your people

When a company keeps a profile on social media, it acts as a motivating factor to employees who can see what is important to the business – social media is a tool for communicating internally and externally. On social media, Employees who are proud of their workplace want to associate with it in public.

It cannot be entirely outsourced

It’s a common request and a misconception that a business can outsource its social media. Short of particular promotional campaigns, it is our view that you can never wholly outsource social media. You can’t outsource your voice to the world.

Posting interesting and relevant content requires a cross-functional approach whereby everyone is pulled in to ensure the business presents itself optimally. We recommend a monthly marketing meeting in which to update a rolling 3-month content plan with executive approval and functional support.

A consistent presence on social media can deliver tangible benefits when done correctly and consistently.