As social media gets more mature as an industry, and brands have sunk big social media budgets into building presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ (not to mention the likes of YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram), the nature of how businesses will be able to engage on those platforms is shifting.   Your social channel strategy may need some major revisions.

Let’s look at Facebook Pages, and their recent shift on page post visibility, there has been a lot of talk and outrage about the fact that page posts no longer get exposed to the people who have liked the page.  In fact, only 6-8% of the people who have liked your page will see your posts, and rumor has it that it will continue to decrease down to 1% (which might as well be zero).  Brands and page owners must now purchase advertisements in the way of “sponsored posts” that you can target to your audience demographic. Then your posts will be exposed to your page audience, or a wider audience, and in effect, you are purchasing that engagement (whether likes or webpage views). For many brands who have spent a lot of money building their social community on Facebook, it turns out you don’t “own” anything, and now you will need to pay to continue to engage with the audience you’ve worked hard to build.Is social media fan building effective?

Just as more B2B brands are putting their toe into the Facebook waters, exploring beyond LinkedIn and Twitter, is it really going to matter that they’re taking a fresh look at Facebook now? Likely not. Unless they’re willing to spend money sponsoring posts, it may not be a good strategy to see if they can build an audience of “likes” for their Facebook page. It isn’t going to garner them additional traffic – except if you consider SEO social factors into this – but SEO opens another can of worms!

It’s unclear whether advertising on Facebook for B2B companies will be worth it. Twitter is also getting in on the advertising game, along with Facebook and LinkedIn.  What is Google+ doing? Is it better to shift and focus your attention on building your social community and engagement on Google+? They have Circles and ways to engage directly with those that have put you into circles (and that you also have in circles).  Many social media gurus are guiding their clients in this direction. 

Recently, I was with a group of women business owners, talking about the impact of social media and different strategies that their marketers are employing, and what became really obvious is that only 1 or 2 of the women in the room could point to any clear bottom-line value that their social media initiatives are driving or contributing to their business. The metrics just aren’t there for most businesses.

What are the options? How might businesses react to the changing social landscape that is no longer “free love?”

This may not be the shiniest and glitziest thing to ask you to consider, but how about focusing on building your email opt-in list? Email isn’t free either – since you must pay for your sends, but it’s got a measurable ROI that is documented. Right now, for every $1 you spend on email marketing, you will get $57 dollars in return. Keep in mind the money doesn’t fall from the sky, and you still need a content strategy with relevant and engaging content for your audience. But if you have a list, you have a very valuable commodity. Make it a priority to continue to build that list.

The thing to keep in mind with email, is that YOU own the list. That means that for the cost of an email, you can reach the people on your list when you have something valuable to say. Treat them well, add value, and they will share your emails with their colleagues. That’s one of the best forms of “social sharing” you can get! And if they add themselves to your list, that’s a “like” – now you need to keep their trust by giving them value they’ll appreciate.

List building is not a new strategy by any stretch of the imagination. Smart advertisers (from the direct marketing genre) have approached online advertising with the focus on building the list first, and getting a sale second. You can find ways to give something of value away for free (in exchange for a name and email), then you can follow up with additional information and offers that will have the “ad” for the free thing, pay for itself in spades. This could be the focus with social media advertising as well – use it to build an asset that you can use for your benefit over and over without having to pay for that traffic every single time. 

With that approach and the list you build, you can send emails, track responses, automate and personalize your messages (using marketing automation), and understand WHO is most ready to buy – which directly feeds your sales team.

The heart of your strategy, whether you are using social, leveraging marketing automation, or building calls-to-action for lead generation, is the valuable and relevant content that you make available to your audience.

This is where marketing technology can accelerate your results. Why? Because it isn’t batch & blast. Because it’s PERSONALIZED and TARGETED, it allows you to score activity, so you can more accurately gauge who is ready to be contacted by sales.