by Adam Sutton, Senior Reporter
Social media is rarely a priority in B2B marketing. Only 16% of B2B marketers say the channel is "very effective," according to MarketingSherpa’s 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report
. However, that number nearly tripled in a single year (only 6% considered it very effective the year prior), and some B2B companies have seen good results on Facebook, LinkedIn and elsewhere.
One of those companies is Intuit. The global provider of financial software for small businesses, accountants and individuals is very active in social media. It maintains Facebook pages for many of its products, including QuickBooks, TurboTax and Mint.com.
Intuit’s Accounting Professionals Division (APD) focuses on the brand’s accountant customers and has dedicated social media profiles. Earlier this year, its marketing team wanted to improve its online reputation and grow its Facebook audience.
The team began to study the audience and uncovered a key insight:
"Our research showed us that the number-one reason customers use social media is to grow their practice, and attract and identify new clients and new opportunities," says Adrian Parker, Head of Social, Mobile, and Emerging Media, Intuit APD.
Parker’s team had information and a goal. Now it needed a plan.
The team launched a Facebook contest and two mobile sites for the accountants. The Innovators campaign, as it came to be called, launched on Nov. 9, to build the brand’s reputation and audience through training and engagement.
Here are the steps taken:
Step #1. Uncover content preferences
The team knew accountants used social networks to raise awareness and find clients. What the team did not know was how these motivations translated into topics of interest.
Intuit APD needed to understand the types of information that interested its audience before it could build an effective campaign. The team tested a variety of content through "trial and error," says Parker.
"We would always measure and monitor throughout the week to see what people were responding to."
The team noticed several trends:
- Images and video received more responses than text.
- Customers liked sharing their experiences and those of their colleagues.
Combining this information, the team hatched the Innovators Contest.
Step #2. Develop a user-generated contest
The Innovators Contest asked followers to share creative ways they found to engage clients through social media. The team organized it around a Facebook tab where visitors could learn more about the contest and send entries via text, photo or video.
Entries were judged on three criteria:
- Impact – the potential or actual results of the idea
- Creativity – in relation to the idea and its presentation
- Innovation – points for unique and inventive ideas
Three winners were selected each week, and were cheered as Intuit Innovators
on the team’s Facebook page. They also received prizes ranging from a $50 gift card to an Apple iPad.
Note: Be sure to review Facebook’s Promotions Guidelines before trying a contest on the network. (There is a link in the "Related Resources" section of this article.)
Step #3. Offer mobile training
To increase the stature and credibility of Intuit’s brand among accountants, the team worked with a vendor to develop two mobile sites to train the audience on some of Intuit’s software. Parker hoped this would enable more of the accountants to share their expertise.
"We saw it kind of as a customer’s path to purchase," says Parker. "It involved getting trained, getting certified, and then they could obviously share their innovation story."
The first was a mobile-friendly microsite
with the following features:
- Mobile-, tablet- and PC-compatibility
- Videos with customer testimonials, software training, and other info
- Social plugins to show live chatter about the brand on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
The second was a QuickBooks training and certification program
available as a SaaS experience through a Web browser. Here’s what it included:
- Compatibility with Apple smartphones and tablets (will expand to all mobile platforms in early 2013)
- Training courses and exams for certification
- Social sharing buttons
Most of this content had to be created from scratch, says Parker. This stretched development into a three-month process, but it also brought benefits. The team easily provided social sharing buttons, social plugins, and mobile compatibility without having to grapple with legacy content or technology.
Survey before and after
To make sure the mobile training earned good results, the team surveyed users before starting and after completion. This data helped the team understand whether the training made customers more confident in using QuickBooks and more likely to recommend the software to a friend.
Step #4. Promotion
Parker’s team operates across a laundry list of social networks, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Before the campaign, the team invested in a social content management system to make it easier to publish across networks and organize a strategy.
Here’s how the team promoted the contest and mobile sites:
The team created a Facebook tab
as the focal point of the contest. The tab presented an interactive experience similar to a microsite and included these features:
- Video – A large video automatically played when visitors arrived. In it, Parker introduced and explained the contest.
- Buttons – Next to the video were two large call-to-action buttons: "enter now" and "explore entries."
- Instructions – Just before the fold, the page listed a simple four-step process for entering the contest.
- Additional content – Below the fold, the page included a widget with updates from Intuit feeds across the globe. A countdown widget displayed the time remaining before the next set of winners would be announced. The page also had two ads for Intuit products.
The team mentioned the contest and training across its social networks with regular updates. This included updates about the contest
, as well as updates about the mobile sites
The team customized its profiles on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube
to provide a consistent look and feel. This offered consistent branding, and promoted the campaign across the networks.
The team kicked off the campaign with Facebook ads to reach its followers and other accountants. The ads were used to "ignite the conversation," Parker says.
Parker’s team partnered with Intuit’s PR department to identify and reach influential accountants in social media. The goal was to encourage them to mention the contest to their audiences and take part.
"One of our entries was from a really notable CPA, Michelle Long. She has a large number of Facebook fans and a notable following on LinkedIn, as well with about 50,000 people in her group," says Parker.
Intuit has more than 8,000 employees, and Parker was sure to spread word internally. His team encouraged others to mention the contest and mobile training in articles and social media updates using the campaign’s hashtag, #IntuitInnovators.
"The week the contest launched, our reach just skyrocketed," Parker says. "We invested in some paid media to really make sure we got attention. What was a pleasant surprise was the intensity of the reach and how wide our audience got, the feedback we got, and how much our share-of-voice increased."
Results after the contest’s first week included:
- 5x more reach on Facebook
- 22% increase in Facebook Likes
- More than 850 Likes on a contest post – a team record
"Double the reach would have been great, but to see 5-times surpassed our expectations. Now I think we’ll derive insights and apply those insights to actual future campaigns."
Results were also strong for Intuit’s mobile training page. Here are the results of the survey:
- Customers were 4.5-times more confident using the software after the training.
- Customers were twice as likely to recommend the software.
"This campaign has given us the credibility and a reason to talk to a whole new branch of financial professionals," says Parker.
- Intuit Facebook Page – Banner
- Mobile microsite
- Mobile training
- Facebook Tab – Contest
- Contest mention – Facebook
- Mobile training mention - Twitter
- Social media pages
Related ResourcesFacebook Promotions GuidelinesMichele Long, CPAMarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark ReportB2B Marketing: The 5 most common social media mistakesB2B Social Media: Cisco’s Kathleen Mudge shares her perspective on different networksB2B Social Media Marketing: 5 career killers and how to overcome them