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Social Media Integration Drives Dramatic Improvement in Search

Forrester Research executives Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff set us thinking WAAAAY back in 2008 when their must-read “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” laid out 4 distinct ways companies can take advantage of social media technologies: Listening (to customers), Talking(instead of just advertising to folks), Energizing (enthusiastic users of your products) and Supporting (internal employees as advocates). These principles have helped many companies (including us) stay focused through so many rapid changes in the social media landscape (Remember Buzz, Beacon, and Ning?) but it was too early to demonstrate impact to the bottom line.

In 2008, “Twitterati” was still an insult,

and Facebook was still viewed as something college kids used to organize keggers.  But even now, a full third of B2B companies are skeptical (see below: “somewhat or not involved”) about diverting scarce resources to risk engaging with social media.  If that sounds familiar, watch out, because your cohort is shrinking.  B2B Magazine’s John Distefano recently released results of a well-designed study that showed deepening integration among 600+ B2B Marketers.  Here’s the adoption curve:

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The upshot?  By next year, the percentage of B2B companies describing themselves as “very involved” or pursuing “full integration” of their social media program with other marketing efforts is projected to double from 1/4 to more than 1/2.

What is driving this deepening integration of Social?

Survey after survey (including ours) confirm that lead generation is the #1 priority for B2B marketers. But if you’re hoping social media will directly drive sales, you’re bound to be disappointed, and you’d be breaking the implicit agreement brands are expected to keep in the social realm.  But (and this is a huge but), social can accomplish what paid search and SEO are generally weak at, building brand/product awareness and reputation.  The proof is in the pudding. According to a massive B2B survey conducted by MarketingSherpa (free excerpt),

companies integrating Social see an average PPC conversion rate twice that of non-social adopters (6% vs 3%), while the average cost-per-click is nearly half ($35 vs $61).

Meanwhile, social adopters see a 60% bump in their conversions from organic clicks.  If you’re looking for the ROI from Social, we may just have found it.