Q&A with Chris Thomas – How to Drive Business Value from Social Media Data

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Chris Thomas is a UK-based digital marketer, deeply specialised in social media, and experienced with programmes that span the full PESO (paid-earned-shared-owned media) mix 

Chris has focused on developing programmes to realise the untapped insight and activation value of social media on behalf of large global enterprises. Operating both agency side and, currently, in-house at Sage Group PLC, Chris has led & implemented integrated strategy, analytics & insight programmes that have transformed revenue growth, brand impact and customer experience. 

How do we get social media metrics taken seriously in the B2B boardroom? 

Chris: Social media doesn’t exist in a bubble. It’s part of a bigger digital marketing toolkit. So it’s actually part of a bigger question: how do we get social media taken seriously in the boardroom? Outside of pure paid media, I’d argue that social media programs make most of their contribution to top of the brand-building funnel rather than bottom of the sales activation funnel.  

B2B digital marketing historically has really overemphasized sales activation. A really great paper published last year, Binet and Field’s Five Principles of Growth in B2B Marketing, really tackled this at length. Now, what I’m seeing, especially here at Sage, is a bit of a swing back with more of a leadership focus on building the brand over pure sales activation and revenue generation. That is creating a much more natural showcase for social media as part of the marketing mix.  

Businesses are putting more priority on nurturing relationships with customers and prospects, which is going to pay off somewhere down the line. Especially for advocacy programs with influencers, customers, colleagues, and so on and so forth. 

So, how do we get metrics to be visible in the boardroom? We need to ensure we are focusing on the right metrics such as follower numbers, engagement, and black box sentiment measures.  

Is it really possible to measure the impact of B2B influencer marketing? 

Chris: This isn’t a simple yes or no question. The answer is broadly yes, but definitely with some limitations. For me, I look at influencer programs as almost having more in common with corporate PR, than the kind of sales attribution to media campaigns and of social media marketing for digital, and it has some of the same challenges when it comes to measurement as measuring PR. Can we definitively attribute revenue to a broad influencer program? I think probably not in most cases. However, we can measure the scale and the impact of activities and outputs along that path.  

Try to focus on using metrics to help us to tailor the performance story. It’s unrealistic to try to focus on a definitive binary, kind of evidential, successful failure in a single metric. It doesn’t really work like that.  

What do you see as the most exciting sort of new opportunity or development in social media measurement for 2020?  

Chris: The technology and the opportunities from data for social media measurement have been pretty static for a couple of years now. When I think about this though, in terms of opportunity, I feel like it makes more sense to think about social media measurement as being part of a larger measurement toolkit, and so it’s capable of complementing or being complemented by other measurement tools or methodologies.  

For example, we can use social media measurement tools or platforms to measure things that aren’t exclusively related to social marketing activations. We can measure the opportunity or impact of social activations using methods that are outside of our social media measurement toolkit. Think about primary research tools and syndicated panel surveys, things like GlobalWebIndex, which increasingly a really important part of the social analyst’s stack, helping to size and shape our audience’s social media behaviours. That’s where I think the opportunity really lies based on what I know today: with the integration of social media measurement tools and methods into that larger research and insight ecosystem. 

If you’d like to learn more about B2B influencer marketing, sign up for DigiConfand tune in for Chris’s session with Tim Williams from Onalytica and Rupa Shah from Hashtag Ad. Register for your FREE ticket here.