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When it comes to getting attention, is social media the gold at the end of the rainbow, or a rabbit hole to avoid?

As conscientious B2B marketers, we want our marketing to grab the attention of our audiences. We need to connect with our customers. And we need for them to engage with our brand — regardless of the channel we use.

The goal for B2B social media (whether via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, pick your platform.) is to attract followers who are current or future customers and train them to turn to you as their go-to resource for thought leadership. As such, social media has two inherent problems:

  • First, social media is a push tactic in the sense that you put something out there, keeping your fingers crossed that your customer will find you and then check your feed/posts frequently for what you have to say. (Well-crafted social media posts that lead to engaging content, and well-cultivated followers, can move you from push to pull for better results.)
  • Secondly, there’s a heck of a lot of noise and a relatively narrow timeframe for your posts to get noticed. In June of 2013, an article on the Social Media Examiner website recommended posting 5-10 times a day on Twitter and 1-4 times a day on Facebook for an optimal outcome. That was three years ago, when the volume was much lower than it is today. Last year, a tweet reportedly had a lifespan of just 18 minutes.

Think of it this way:

Posts on social media, regardless of platform, are a lot like a flock of seagulls at feeding time. The bulk of them look alike, sound alike and are competing for attention with every other post published that day, that hour or that minute.

In short, ensuring your social media posts get noticed is becoming an increasingly difficult task.

Just take a look at these recent industry stats:

  • Social media spending in the U.S. is expected to hit $17.34B by 2019
  • 97% of companies use social media marketing
  • 89% believe social media increases awareness and exposure
  • 66% reported social media generated leads
  • 63% of marketers spend more than 6 hours on social media every week (19% spend more than 20 hours a week)
  • 40% of marketers think social media marketing is more difficult than it was a year ago
  • 59% reported not being able to measure their ROI on social media marketing
  • Just over half believe social media marketing is too time-consuming to manage

Your own consumption of social media probably isn’t all that different from your customers’ habits. Take Twitter, for example:

As a typical user, you probably review your home feed and scan recent posts published by the people you follow. The more people you follow, the more posts there are and the more swiping or scrolling you have to do. If you follow a lot of people, you may not have time to see all the posts published since you last checked your account. This is the limited window of opportunity we mentioned earlier.

Most people don’t drill down to look at posts from a specific contact and, like you, rely on the general feed instead. Unless your customers are constantly checking your latest activity, they may never see your recent posts. And if they don’t check in for a few days, they’re likely to miss everything you posted over that time. For this reason, the standard recommendation is to post multiple times a day and recycle posts over multiple days or weeks in the hopes of catching your audience. The problem with doing this, however, is that you’re adding to the volume, but not necessarily adding value. And you’re not the only one shouting louder — everyone is. So, just like the seagull analogy earlier, everyone is making noise and no single individual is being heard.

We recently examined our own Twitter account to get a better sense of follower activity. Here’s what we found. Several are following a few thousand publishers. Some even have thousands of their own followers. Hopefully they turn out to be good influencers and can help raise awareness of our agency with other marketers. But the math (and time) isn’t in our favor — if just one third of the contacts they follow publish one post a day, it would take over 5 hours to read them all (not including click-throughs to any embedded links). With a window of only several minutes or less for a post to be visible in their preview pane, it’s not encouraging that our prospects will see it, read it, or engage with it, so we’ll post it again and again and again — adding to the very problem we’re arguing against.

Social media does have a place in your B2B marketing plan, but as the industry get’s ever more crowded, it’s probably more in a supporting awareness role than a key lead generation driver. As with all communication channels, it’s important to invest your resources and budget in a way that engages with your customers and generates marketing qualified leads (MQLs) and in turn, sales.

Kick-start your followers and direct them to your preferred social channel(s) with an active offline campaign that gets their attention — without the extra clutter and distractions. Your new followers will be more aware of your existence, more engaged with your brand and better qualified for future sales.

Be sure to check out our Social Marketing infographic for more eye-opening stats on the state of social today. Then let us show you how an off-line campaign can help you get better results.

P.S. Now that you’ve read this, take a moment to look up a few of your own followers and see how many contacts they’re following. You can assess their engagement with the media by retweets, shares, comments and posts and apply these observations to your own efforts.