The question we get asked most often is about social media and its ROI. So this week’s episode is all about the strategies and tactics we use to help building materials manufacturers succeed in the digital world. If you’re trying to level up your social media presence, stay tuned.
More About This Episode
The Smarter Building Materials Marketing podcast helps industry professionals find better ways to grow leads, sales and outperform the competition. It’s designed to give insights on how to create a results-driven digital marketing strategy for companies of any size.
It can be disheartening for building materials companies to put a ton of effort into their social media presence just to get back crickets from their followers. Zach and Beth talk with Venveo’s own social media expert Ashley Stevenson to get into the nitty-gritty of the ROI of social media.
Social Media for Today’s Manufacturers
Ashley Stevenson has been in social media marketing since Facebook started taking off more than a decade ago. “It's part of my DNA, and I just can't chase it away. It's just there,” laughs Ashley.
One of the biggest rewards of working with Venveo’s clients is watching them grow. For Ashley, there’s a real thrill when clients find success in their social media strategy.
“We've seen them go from a small number of followings and small numbers of engagement to now creating and cultivating conversations and expanding that brand awareness,” she explains.
In this last year, the pandemic played a significant role in how most brands operated online — and it forced many building materials companies to ramp up their digital marketing efforts. Since so many people were stuck inside, they spent a lot more time online, which “made it a factor that they couldn't deny or get away from. [Manufacturers] had to be there because they weren't able to communicate in any other way with their customers,” explains Ashley.
And there are a few places where those conversations are especially successful.
Where Should I Be Online?
For manufacturers who don’t have a ton of time or a big budget, it helps to know where to spend your efforts so that it pays off. LinkedIn presents a great opportunity for manufacturers for that reason.
“It's always working. It's very focused on a business mindset. The community of individuals that is there is there to do business. They show up every single day; you're not surprised by anything that they post or who they are,” says Ashley.
“So, for a brand or business that knows 100% they need to be on social media, LinkedIn is the one that you can safely get there,” says Ashley. “You can see growth; you can see interaction. And for this climate that we're going through, with the hiring and employment crisis, everyone in that space wants to learn more about not just what that brand sells, but how you can work for them? Who works for them? What does that entire interaction look like?”
What we’re finding is that the kind of transparency that LinkedIn provides to your audience creates a great platform to engage with customers. “And I think that that's what's really important for that space, LinkedIn especially, because you get this CEO thought-leadership opportunity. You have the salesperson, you have your marketing person, you have your employees on the space that then continue to share and expand that conversation past you.”
When it comes to platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Ashley suggests that brands maintain a presence … but keep your priorities in mind. “People are not digesting Facebook the way that they used to digest it. It's an older platform, it's been there for so long,” says Ashley. “And then when it comes to Instagram, I would say that brands are having a difficult time trying to hop on the Reels trend because they feel like they need to be playful or to be cute or to copy another brand, and you don't have to.”
She gives brands a few tips if they’re not sure how to approach the latest social media trends. “Reels are a great way for you to have reach and get in front of a lot of eyeballs. It's the most similar to TikTok, which we know has kind of blown up in certain spaces. But if you already have an Instagram presence and you have videos and you have visuals and you have guides, then stay on Instagram, and you can convert and do something similar with Reels.”
Of course, you need a strategy before jumping in anywhere online, which is one of Ashley’s biggest responsibilities at Venveo and where we offer support to our clients.
“Why Do I Need a Strategy?”
Younger generations have spent most of their lives online and have a sort of intuitive understanding of how social media works. While that energy is valuable for a marketing team’s social media intern, it’s crucial to nail down your brand’s social media strategy before you send them off to post.
Strategy, Ashley explains, isn’t just defining what and when you post: “It's who we're talking to, what they care about? Is it going to help your business at the end of the day? What are the goals that are involved?”
Brands should look carefully at when their audience is online and the kinds of posts they enjoy interacting with most. There are a few questions that your strategy should address:
- What topics get the most engagement?
- What aren’t you discussing, and why?
- What questions are you getting most in your DMs?
A lot of times, marketers fall into the trap of just going on auto-pilot, scheduling posts and brand announcements.
But much of the value of being online is that you’re getting real-time data on who’s looking at your content, when they’re online and what they’re most interested in. A solid social media strategy helps you to take all of that into account.
How Can I Measure ROI?
The best way to determine what your ROI is on social media is to define how you actually want to measure your return on investment. So before you start pulling analytics, your strategy needs to define a few things. Ashley walks us through some of the processes at Venveo.
“When we work with a client, we do a couple of exercises,” explains Ashley. Understanding your audience is a key piece in your strategy because the goal is to have a conversation with people online. But you need to understand those people first and determine what that conversation will look like. So that means asking a few questions about your brand and products.
“Who's purchasing it? How is it being used? Who's installing? If you're wanting to create pieces for a specific audience, but then other individuals are going to enjoy it as well, what can be used across the board?” explains Ashley.
The next step is to define how you’ll approach the conversation and what your brand will sound like online: You’ll want to establish your voice and tone. “We talk about how that will be relatable or if it will be conversational and knowledgeable, if it will be playful and intriguing,” she says.
By first defining your brand, voice and what content and assets are available, you’ll be able to plan out how and when you’ll start posting on social media. And that’s when measuring ROI can start. But not all Venveo clients measure the same things:
- Audience Engagement: “Sometimes the return on investment is for them just to even understand who's watching them,” says Ashley. “Like, ‘Who's actually buying from me? I'm making things, but I don't know who's actually going there?’”
- Brand Awareness: Maybe you just want your name to be top of mind. “And brand awareness can be increased not only in followers but in engagement overall,” explains Ashley.
- Brand Sentiment: “If you're trying to get away from something that happened a couple of years ago and really change how people feel about the brand, that could be what they care about most,” explains Ashley.
- Conversions: Maybe you want to get people on your site, where they can place an order for a new product or get a free sample. Those conversions would help you measure your ROI.
And in some instances, you won’t be able to measure everything. For example, exchanges about your products between your social media team and an architect, contractor or homeowner through messaging applications like Facebook Messenger, Instagram Messenger, LinkedIn Messenger.
Direct messages tend to be bottom of the funnel questions. “‘What color is that?’ ‘Can I get that in my area?’ ‘Who can I talk to you about this?’ ‘I have a project coming up, I'd like to talk to somebody,’” noted Beth. “It is actually transactionally based.”
“Because we're in the B2B world, because we're in building materials, we don't get that very clean B2C X equals Y ROI scenario,” noted Beth.
If a building materials manufacturer has eCommerce, measuring ROI is a little easier. But that isn’t the case for most manufacturers.
“We don't live in that clean data world from an ROI for sales, but if you have questions about the ROI of your social media, I encourage you to speak to your marketing team,” says Beth. “I encourage you to speak to your social media team and if they're not getting questions about your products on a regular basis, then that's when I would start with the strategy, but it's very clean and simple. Those questions, those engagements, those conversations are happening.”
Who’s Doing It Best?
Wondering if there are any brands who do it right? There are a few manufacturers who have really impressed us online. But one stands out, and that’s Cambria Quartz — specifically, their Instagram presence.
“I think in order for you to be doing well on the platform, it's not just Reels,” says Ashley, “it's utilizing all of the opportunities that are available.” Cambria Quartz has mastered this.
“They're utilizing IGTV, they're doing Reels, but they are also focusing on Guides,” says Ashley. “So, if you have someone who's wanting to go and learn something very specific, they can go to the Guide section and then they can immediately get to a curated feed of those posts about all of those posts. So, you're making it easier for someone to find out information about a specific product.”
Cambria also has a clear and impactful marketing message, along with inspiring visuals to match. “Everything is really beautiful, high visual, everything tells a story. I'm not confused about who they are,” Ashley explains. “I know who they are. And I think that that's why they do really well.”
A large part of Cambria’s success is how they target their messages for specific audiences, without trying to reach everyone all at once. One post might be focused on specifying products for interior design, which is going to appeal more to architects and designers. Another post might feature a crew unloading a truck, which targets contractors and construction pros.
The bottom line is that your posts might not speak to everyone in your audience all the time, but the algorithms understand that. “Instagram is smart enough to know what contractors are going to find interesting and not based on the content that they're engaging with on a regular basis,” explains Beth.
Want Even More Insight?
The average person in the U.S. is spending 2 hours and 3 minutes on social networks every day.
Positioning yourself the right way, in front of your audience online, is key for manufacturers who want to stay in business today. And with the right strategy and legwork, you’ll get the returns you’re after.
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