Webinar Recap: Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector

Social media has made an impact in B2B marketing. According to Advertising Age, 58 percent of B2B marketers are increasing their social media spending this year, ranking it fourth among tactics with spending increases. Marketers are not only investing money, they are investing time, with 62 percent using social media for six hours or more each week and 36 percent for 11 or more hours, according to the Social Media Examiner.

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As spending grows and you commit valuable time to social media, this channel’s role becomes increasingly important in your marketing strategy. It’s essential to know how to do social media right. The recent webinar, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, shows how social media is being used by your target audience of technical professionals, presents the results from our fourth annual social media usage survey of technical professionals, and offers recommendations on how you can use this data in your social media planning.

Watch the webinar on demand.

Below are some of the highlights of the webinar.

How technical professionals use social media

  • The majority of technical professionals—56 percent—spend less than one hour per week on social media for work-related purposes. That still leaves a sizeable portion of this audience that is on social media for more than an hour each week.
  • For the most part, technical professionals are looking for content on social media: keeping up on company news, new technologies and products. But they’re also looking for you: 41 percent use social media to find new suppliers.
  • Technical professionals of all ages use social media, with some differences. Those under age 35 are more apt to use social media to find a new job, network and seek expertise, while older workers use social media for more traditional purposes such as reading news and product reviews.
  • Overall, technical professionals are passive users of social media. They tend to read and watch rather than post and participate. The most popular social media activity is watching video, with 27 percent watching a video a few times a month, whereas only 14 percent post a comment.

Preferred social media platforms

  • LinkedIn continues to be the most popular social media platform among technical professionals, with 74 percent having an account. Sixty-one percent have a Facebook account and 41 percent have a Google Plus account.
  • LinkedIn usage has shown growth every year for the past four years. Google Plus is also growing. Facebook and Twitter remain flat, but a large portion of technical professionals still use Facebook.
  • LinkedIn: 69 percent use LinkedIn to search for contacts and 47 percent to read product and industry news. Seventy-nine percent belong to at least one group, primarily to read discussions (62 percent). Only 27 percent actually participate.
  • Facebook: With the line between work and personal life continuing to blur, Facebook is not just for personal use. Top work-related activities on Facebook are following businesses and reading/researching content.
  • Twitter: 73 percent follow businesses and 27 percent read/research content.
  • Google Plus: 80 percent follow businesses and 25 percent participate in discussions.
  • Video: Overall, 48 percent of technical professionals use YouTube or other video sharing sites for work, although among 18-34 year olds, the percentage is 58. The most popular types of videos among technical professionals are product demos, how-to videos and training videos.

The value of digital resources

  • Your customers spend an increasing amount of time online using a variety of digital resources, but when researching work-related purchases, social media channels are not nearly as valued as other established digital channels. The top resources have remained consistent over the years: search engines, online catalogs, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com.
  • Technical professionals report that social media is not more valuable because it is not efficient, too noisy and not reliable. Technical professionals also say it’s hard to find useful content on social media. In addition, about a quarter of workers are blocked from using social media at work; using a mobile device offers a workaround for that problem.
  • A key takeaway is that to be successful with social media you must deliver the content technical professionals want. This will help elevate you above the noise and become more valuable to your target audience.

Recommendations for suppliers

  • It’s worth using social media as a marketing channel; however, don’t rely on it too heavily or divert resources from more effective and established digital channels.
  • To get the most out of your efforts, integrate social media into your overall marketing strategy. Establish a vision, strategy and goals for your social media initiatives.
  • Tie your social media efforts to marketing objectives. Research shows that social media is best used for brand awareness and thought leadership.
  • Get more of your organization involved in spreading your message through social media. Seventy-eight percent of technical professionals say they have never posted news or information about their company on their social networks. Create guidelines and rules for using social media. Make it easy by providing content for your sales, customer service and other colleagues to post.
  • Gain a more in-depth look at social media usage by your target audience and how you can most effectively incorporate social media into your overall marketing efforts.

View the recorded webinar.

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Marketing Chart: Technical Professionals with Social Media Accounts, 2010-2013

For the recent Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, technical professionals were about the platforms where they have accounts.

In 2013, 74 percent are on LinkedIn, 61 percent had an account on Facebook, 41 percent have signed up for Google + and 17 percent are on Twitter.

Over the years, however, LinkedIn has surged in popularity and Google + is on the rise while Facebook and Twitter have remained flat.

Technical Professionals With Social Media Accounts 2010 13

View larger version of this image.

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New Research: How Technical Professionals Use Social Media

Results from IHS GlobalSpec’s annual survey of technical professionals and their use of social media are now available. While many larger studies have been conducted on social media and B2B marketing, this is the only research specifically focused on the manufacturing and engineering communities.

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Download the research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector,” to get survey findings, practical tips and recommendations to help you evaluate your social media efforts.

The major conclusion is that social media has an established presence in the industrial sector and the use of social media by technical professionals has stabilized and is holding steady. However, technical professionals use social media primarily in passive ways. They prefer to read or watch content on social media platforms as opposed to actively post, participate in discussions or create content of their own.

Preferred social media platforms
The majority of technical professionals (56 percent) spend less than one hour per week using social media for work-related purposes. The most popular social media platform among this group is the professional networking site LinkedIn, with 74 percent having an account. Sixty-one percent have a Facebook account, and 41 percent have a Google+ account, although Facebook usage has stagnated while Google+ continues to grow. Forty-eight percent make use of YouTube or other video sharing platforms. Twitter lags behind with just 17 percent adoption.

Reasons for using social media
The biggest reason technical professionals use social media is to stay up-to-date on the latest company, product and technology news (50 percent). Forty-nine percent use social media to find and read product reviews, and 41 percent to find new suppliers.

Facebook and Google+ technical professionals will follow other businesses and groups within their industry. On LinkedIn, in addition to searching for contacts, they will join groups and read discussions, read product/industry news and search for suppliers. On video sites, they will watch product demo, how-to videos and tutorials.

Most of these uses would be considered early stage buy cycle activities centered on research and education. Suppliers need to build high brand visibility in order to be found by their audience during these stages and on these platforms.

Social media usage varies with age
Older workers and younger workers use social media differently. Not surprisingly, younger technical professionals under age 35 use all social media platforms more than older technical professionals do. The lone exception is LinkedIn, which has higher usage among the over 35 crowd.

Those over age 34 tend to use social media for traditional tasks such as finding product reviews and reading news. Younger technical professionals are more active on social media; they post, share and participate more than older workers. Younger technical professionals are also more likely to use social media to look for new job opportunities.

Social media lags behind other digital resources in usefulness
When it comes to researching a work-related purpose, technical professionals prefer established digital channels to social media. General search engines, online catalogs and supplier websites are the top three resources used to research a work-related purchase. No social media platform cracked the top ten.

The fact that these resources are more valuable than social media to technical professionals is the main reason (reported by 62 percent) why social media is not used more for work-related purposes. Technical professionals state there is “too much noise and not enough substance” in social media (52%). Users also report they can’t find valuable content, which likely contributes to the “too much noise, not enough substance.” The takeaway for suppliers is that you will likely achieve greater success with social media if you can deliver useful information to your audience of technical professionals.

An opportunity for industrial marketers
The survey asked technical professionals about how the companies they work for participate in social media. It’s interesting to compare how technical professionals think their company is using social media with actual participation. For example, just 24 percent of technical professionals say their company uses LinkedIn. According to the “2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing” research report, 72 percent of industrial companies participate on LinkedIn.

Also, 78 percent of technical professionals have never posted news or information about their own companies to their social networks. There seems to be an opportunity for industrial marketers to educate their own technical professionals on how their company uses social media. In addition, recruiting your own internal team to help spread the word on social media can be a viable strategy.

Get your copy of the report
Download your complimentary copy of the research report, “Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector.” Survey results are presented in chart and graph form, along with analysis and recommendations on how to best use social media to achieve your marketing goals. Don’t miss out on this valuable resource for industrial marketers.

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How do you use social media as part of your marketing mix? What tips or strategies would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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How to Use Social Media with a Purpose

Social media use among technical professionals is holding steady, and social media should have a place in your marketing strategy. Recent research shows that the majority of industrial companies now use social media, yet many still do not have a clear purpose, goals, or means of defining or measuring success. Wherever your organization is on the social media scale—ignoring, listening, or regularly contributing—you’re at the right place to step back for a moment to assess your strategy and to plan a logical, effective path forward.

Set realistic goals and objectives

Social media is oriented towards interaction, dialog, education and networking, and therefore may not be a direct driver of sales. But before you shut down your social media efforts, you should realize that technical professionals regularly participate in social media and in particular find it useful at the early stages of their buying cycle.

Recent research shows that the top three uses of social media among technical professionals are to keep up with the latest company news/products/technologies, to find product reviews, and to find new suppliers. These are all activities related to the early buy cycle when customers are engaged in gathering information and surveying the supplier landscape.
So if you are investing in social media in order to generate fast leads and sales, you may be disappointed. However, if your social media goals are to build thought leadership, foster a community, and generate brand awareness that will lead to engagement opportunities, then you may experience a high level of success.

Hang out with your customers

Doesn’t it seem like there’s always the next latest and greatest social media platform getting all the attention? It’s hard to keep up. And it’s almost impossible to spread your social media efforts across every platform available. That’s why it’s important to know which social media channels technical professionals like to use and to concentrate your efforts on one or a few of those channels.

According to IHS GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, LinkedIn is the most popular social media channel among technical professionals. Facebook and Google+ are next in usage, although in the past few years Facebook usage has stagnated and Google+ usage has increased among technical professionals. Twitter has yet to see widespread adoption with this audience.

Use this information to help direct your social media efforts. Establish company pages on these channels if you haven’t already. Post news and content to it. Invite customers and prospects to follow you. You’ll learn pretty quickly the types of content that resonate and you can start customizing each channel’s content to its audience.

Deliver Useful Content on Social Media

One of the biggest challenges technical professionals report about using social media for work-related purposes is that there is “too much noise and not enough substance.” The company that can rise to the top in social media is the company that provides “substance” in the form of useful information about new technologies, how to solve problems, relevant news and more. Use social media to deliver this type of content. You can post and link to white papers, articles, webinar invitations, interviews, news alerts and more.

Video is also a popular medium for social media users. Technical professionals use YouTube and other video sharing sites for work-related purposes. They’re looking for product demos, tutorials, how-to’s, and training videos. Establish an account on a video-sharing site and link to all your videos from your social media platforms.

Use Metrics that Matter to Measure Success

Technical professionals are passive users of social media. That means they prefer watching a video to creating and posting one. They prefer reading discussions more than contributing to them. Their most common activity on LinkedIn is to search for contacts. On Facebook and Google+, it’s to find and follow other groups or businesses within their industry.

By understanding what your audience is doing on social media, you will be able to define the metrics that are important to track. In this regard, the number of relevant people following your company on social media is what counts. If this number is increasing, you’re probably doing it right, and are increasing your brand visibility and gaining a reputation as a thought leader.

Integrate with other Marketing Efforts

Social media is one component of your marketing strategy, and like all components, needs to be integrated into your overall plan. Technical professionals still consider other online resources more valuable than social media for researching a work-related purpose: online catalogs, general search engines, supplier websites and GlobalSpec.com all rank high. Therefore, make sure that your social media presence is integrated with these other marketing channels. For example, links to your social platforms should be highly visible on your website. Or you can take advantage of integrating your social posts and videos on your GlobalSpec.com page.

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How do you use social media for industrial marketing? How do you measure your efforts? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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5 Ways to Upgrade Your Content Marketing in 2014

As 2014 gets into full swing, content marketing remains a hot and highly effective marketing strategy in the industrial sector. Your audience of technical professionals has an insatiable appetite for relevant, engaging and useful content, which means you have to keep the content marketing machine producing and distributing at a high level.

Resolve to upgrade your content marketing strategy so that it operates at peak efficiency. Here are five ways to get you started:

1. Re-purpose whenever possible

Re-purposing existing content into new formats helps you achieve three valuable benefits:

  • You don’t have to keep coming up with new content all the time.
  • You can reinforce your core messages across multiple mediums
  • You can give your customers flexible options to access content in their preferred formats.

Some people like to read reports, others want to watch videos, still others prefer to scan web pages or attend webinars. Re-purposing your content can serve all these needs as well as strengthen your brand and message.

2. Produce content for the entire buy cycle

The industrial buy cycle consists of distinct stages your customers pass through: from awareness and research, to consideration and comparison, to buying decision and procurement. You need content to support potential customers through all stages, especially the early stages, because studies show that many buyers do not contact suppliers until they are ready to make a purchasing decision. That means they’ve already done their research and narrowed down their choices of products and vendors to a short list.

Entice customers in the early stages of their buy cycle with educational content that establishes your company as a leader and an expert with a unique and advantageous way of solving the problems and challenges that your customers face. Use content that introduces new technologies, new ideas, analysis of trends, etc. Compare and contrast your approach to that of competitors’. Later stage buy cycle needs include specification sheets, case studies, ROI calculators, and warranties.

3. Expand the types of content you offer

White papers, blog articles, videos, webinars, research reports, case studies, data sheets—these are standard types of content that most marketers include in their portfolio and that your audience finds valuable.

There are other types of content you might consider as well. Infographics combining text and visuals have become increasingly popular as a way to explain complex ideas or processes. You can also create online polls and share results, or quick surveys. Stage a contest. Create a game. What about contracting with a partner to produce a mobile app? There are apps that calculate pressure drop, estimate pipe size, calculate volumetric flow, connect with other engineers, and many more. While not traditional content, an app is something that can go viral, showcase your brand, and help you promote other content.

4. Consider paid distribution of content

If you’re having trouble getting content into the hands of hard-to-reach prospects using typical channels such as your website, email or social media, you might want to consider paid distribution strategies. You can also use paid distribution to reach new markets.

For example, LinkedIn offers sponsorships that allow you to target a specific audience with your content, and the majority of technical professionals have LinkedIn accounts. You can also invest in promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook. Digital media platforms like IHS GlobalSpec offer a number of effective ways to distribute content to your target audience, including e-newsletter ads, online banners, co-branded webinars and more—all of which can significantly increase the number of prospects exposed to your content.

Focus on content performance

For all of your content, you should establish goals and metrics to measure performance. Downloads, views, shares, comments and more could all be metrics you decide to track. By tracking performance you will know what types of content are most popular with your audience and what channels work best for distribution. You will have better information to make decisions about enhancing your content offerings and distributing through those channels that are most effective in helping you achieve your goals.

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How will you improve your content marketing in 2014? What strategies for upgrading your content marketing efforts would you pass along to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Why Industrial Marketers are Dissatisfied with Social Media Efforts—and What to Do About It

Social media has found its place in the manufacturing sector. According to the 2013 Trends in Industrial Marketing survey, 60 percent of industrial marketers are using social media. LinkedIn, Facebook and video sharing sites like YouTube are the top three social media channels.

Yet even though a majority of marketers are incorporating social media into their plans, only a paltry 20 percent are satisfied with their social media efforts. Which means 80 percent are struggling, floundering or unhappy. Why is this happening? And what can you do about it?

Setting Expectations
One reason industrial marketers may be dissatisfied with their social media efforts may have to do with unrealistic expectations. If you’re using social media in hopes of generating a flood of ready-to-buy engagement opportunities, you’re going to be disappointed. While your target audience uses social media to follow their favorite brands and companies as well as keep up with the latest news and technologies, they still rely more on other digital channels such as online catalogs, supplier websites, and e-newsletters to search and discover products, parts, services and suppliers.

Setting realistic goals for social media and a having clear idea of what you want to accomplish will help with expectations. In the industrial sector, social media is probably best suited for building brand awareness, distributing content and establishing thought leadership than it is for lead generation. If you focus on these objectives and measure results in these terms, you might find you are doing a better job meeting your expectations. It’s not that you’re lowering your expectations, you’re simply re-setting them based on reality.

Benchmarking Efforts
Your social media efforts might be getting better results than you think they are. For instance, have you benchmarked your social media presence against what your competitors are doing? Are they getting better engagement than you are? Chances are, your competitors are in about the same place you are.

You can’t really expect huge engagement numbers in terms of likes, shares and comments. Industrial professionals are largely passive consumers of social media. They prefer reading and watching to initiating discussions or adding comments. What’s most important is that you are trending in a positive direction in terms of having more of your target audience following your company on social media and being exposed to your content. Those metrics demonstrate you are doing something worthwhile.

Choosing channels
It seems every industry expert is shouting that you must do more with social media. And doesn’t it also seem there are new social media channels popping up all the time? Marketers tend to get anxious about shiny, new toys, not wanting to be left behind. But who has the time and resources to engage with every social media channel? Ninety-three percent of industrial companies do not have a full-time employee dedicated to social media, so it’s almost impossible to keep up. Plus there’s the danger of spreading yourself too thin and getting back very little in return for those efforts.

It’s better to focus on one or two social media channels that you know your customers and prospects use and that you’re comfortable using. Contribute regularly, post content, and engage with your followers. As you find success with these channels and gain confidence in your social media efforts, you can begin to explore other channels as well.

Remember that social media is just one aspect of your overall marketing effort—and not the most important one. Keep your resource and time investment at an appropriate level, your expectations in line, and devote the majority of your efforts to the digital channels your audience uses most often.

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Social Media: How to Use Your Resources More Efficiently

By now most industrial companies have some type of social media presence, and many of them are discovering what a resource drain it can be. Even companies with a dedicated social media person or team are finding it difficult to keep up with all the different platforms, posts, tracking, following, measuring and more. For small companies with a lone marketer, social media might be another to-do on a long list of responsibilities. That’s tough. No wonder social media can feel like a black hole where your time and resources disappear.

But with a few adjustments to your tactics and resource allocation, you can significantly increase your efficiency on the social media front.

Focus on the most important channels
There are many social media channels, with new ones popping up all the time. Don’t get sucked in. Focus on the channels that give you the best opportunity for connecting with your target audience. According to IHS GlobalSpec’s Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector research report, the three most popular social media channels for engineers are LinkedIn, Facebook, and video sharing sites (such as YouTube). The top performer is LinkedIn, where 63 percent of industrial professionals have an account. Forty percent of engineers who use LinkedIn read product and industry news, and 67 percent belong to at least two groups. LinkedIn may be a good place to post your news, link to blog articles, or moderate a discussion group.

A company page on Facebook might make sense as well. Fifty-four percent of engineers have Facebook accounts and 81 percent of them follow companies and groups within their industry. If your company produces videos, starting a YouTube channel is a good strategy, so you can post your videos and extend your reach. Google Plus is also growing in popularity among your audience. On the flipside, just five percent of engineers have an account on photo-pinning site Pinterest. Focus your resources on those channels—or the single channel—that gives you the greatest reach and best results in terms of followers, comments, and views.

Integrate content across social media channels
What a time drain it is posting content separately to each social media platform you use. Instead, look for ways to post once and share across channels. For example, Facebook and Twitter have a connection so that every Facebook post can be fed to Twitter and vice versa. LinkedIn’s polling feature allows you to share a poll from LinkedIn on Facebook or Twitter. Often times, you’ll want to customize the communication for the channel but there are occasions – a press release or new product rollout, for example – where the same message can be used across all platforms.

Another idea is to add social sharing capabilities to your web pages. This will allow visitors to share a link with their followers on their own social media accounts. It’s an easy way to get your customers and prospects participating in your company’s social media efforts.

Automate social media functions
There are a number of free or low cost tools on the market that let you schedule your social media posts ahead of time. This is ideal for your evergreen content or information that doesn’t get old or outdated. You prepare the content and schedule when it runs. This way you don’t have to spend time updating each channel. While automating your posts and tweets can be a time saver, you still can’t ignore what’s happening around you in social media. Major breaking news stories can dominate social channels and a pre-scheduled message delivered during this time may seem out of place or, at worst, insensitive. Have a plan in place to determine how and when to pause your scheduled posts. Two tools to consider are Hootsuite and Post Planner. Some tools offer additional productivity features, such as tracking conversations, measuring campaign results, and even suggesting content for posts.

Take a team approach
Possibly the best thing you can do to alleviate the burden on your resources is to recruit a team of colleagues to participate in your company’s social media efforts. Even if you work in a small company, you probably have a few people who are comfortable and knowledgeable using social media. You will need to educate your new recruits on your company’s social media goals, the voice and tone that are appropriate to your brand, and other social media policies and guidelines you have developed.

Look for team members who can help functionally in creating social media content, or participating in discussions/responding to comments, or planning and scheduling. You can have different people focused on different platforms, or divvy up the work according to days of the week, or any other way that works for you.

Social media is growing in importance and has established its presence in the industrial sector. If you use your resources wisely and efficiently, you will be able to have a successful and visible social media strategy, without disappearing into the black hole.

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Four Ways to Measure Social Media Effectiveness

Many industrial marketers who are incorporating social media into their marketing mix are still unsure how to measure the effectiveness of their efforts. Last month, the Maven reported survey results about how your audience of engineers and technical professionals use social media and how industrial companies use social channels to connect with customers.

You can download the full report, Social Media Use in the Industrial Sector, which includes charts, analysis, and recommendations. Or view the on-demand webinar based on this research.

This month we’ll discuss how to measure your social media marketing efforts. As with any other marketing initiative, measurement is the only way you can intelligently manage social media initiatives and make improvements to your program. It’s not that difficult, as long as you understand your goals for using social media and pay attention to the metrics that matter.

The Metrics that Matter
There are four primary ways to measure your social media efforts:

  • Reach
  • Engagement
  • Sentiment
  • Conversion

The emphasis you place on each measurement is determined by your social media goals. Simply trying to get your brand name in front of the widest audience? That’s reach. Hoping your audience takes some type of action? That’s conversion. Monitoring reaction to a new product announcement? That’s sentiment. Let’s look at each metric and what it means.

Reach is measured in basic statistics: Number of LinkedIn connections, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, third-party mentions of your company, etc. Reach is easy to measure (you’re simply counting) and it’s easy to spot progress as the numbers increase. At the same time, reach by itself provides little concrete business value.

What’s more relevant is what causes your reach to expand. For example, if an industry analyst tweets about your company and you experience a surge of new Twitter followers, you can conclude it’s worth applying resources to get industry analysts to pay attention to your company. Or if you include a link to your company’s Facebook page at an online event you sponsor and get new likes, you’ll know that promoting your social media presence at online events grows your brand visibility. It’s this kind of intelligence that can help you hone not just social media marketing but all of your marketing.

Engagement measures audience response to your content. While it’s known that the industrial audience is generally passive in its use of social media, preferring to read and watch rather than post and comment, you should pay close attention to the responses you do get. Twitter re-tweets, Facebook wall posts or shares, blog responses, comments on LinkedIn discussions, length of video views—all of these forms of engagement measure how interesting and relevant your content is to your audience. You can test different types of content and see what generates the most engagement, then use the results to optimize your content efforts.

Sentiment measures the qualitative, emotional reaction to your content and company on social media channels. Are the reactions you get positive, negative, or neutral in tone? Are mentions of your products positive, but comments about your company’s customer service negative? By paying attention to sentiment, you’re taking the temperature of customers and the market and getting a sense of brand perceptions about your company, products, and services. It’s valuable insight.

Most marketers think in terms of conversions as the key metric in measuring the success of a marketing program. And if conversions are your goal with social media, then this will hold significance. Although in the social media world, it’s one metric, and may or may not be the most important one.

To measure conversions, your social media content must include a call to action: register for a webinar, download a white paper, watch a video, etc. Tracking social media conversions not only gives you straight numbers, it gives you data for comparison purposes across integrated programs. Did your tweet result in more conversions or did your e-newsletter advertisement? You can discover which channels are most effective for different types of offers, and the intelligence you gain can help you optimize all your marketing, not just social media.

Be sure to download the report and view the webinar to gain more in-depth knowledge about social media use and measurement in the industrial sector. Also, if this article was helpful to you, please spread the word using the share buttons below.

Do you measure social media? What insights have you found? How has measurement shaped your social media strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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