Do you know the saying “I know that half of my advertising budget goes to waste, I just can’t tell which half”? Measuring the effectiveness of marketing is always a tricky proposition but how the heck do you measure the effectiveness of social media? Views and Likes are nice---but where is the value in them?

In the B2B and industrial marketing world, it’s in the self-selecting customers. These are prospects and customers who choose to follow your social media initiatives, such as your blog posts, tweets, or LinkedIn community. They have self-selected their presence in your life. How can you ascribe real value to these social media buffs?

Let us count the ways.

First, self-selecting prospects are free. All they cost you is the time it takes to write and post your thoughts. They come to you. Meanwhile, you haven’t spent a dime on a tradeshow booth, ad space, or an email list.

Self-selecting prospects also cost less to convert because they’re already sold on you. In a way, you’ve already started to transact with them because advice and guidance embedded in your commentary is providing them with value. Whether tomorrow or a year from tomorrow, the next time they make a purchase, you will likely be at the top of their short list.

You may think that social media is all spray and pray. Actually, the opposite is true. Not only is it ideal for target marketing, you can use it to more precisely target audiences than conventional media.

For example, take Ardel Engineering. Ardel is a full-service, precision CNC machine shop that uses social media including Google+ and LinkedIn to share perspectives on timely and relevant topics of interest to the aerospace and medical industries. Ardel’s director of Operations Mike Sterling recently stated, “Our social media program has helped set us apart from our competition and led to more opportunities within our core industries.”

Social media can also effectively be used to pursue new markets. By talking their language and generating conversations around topical subjects, you automatically assimilate your company in their sphere of influence.

Long-term, self-selecting B2B and industrial customers also are less expensive to retain. As long as you continue to engage them, they’ll consider themselves part of your community---and there’s no stronger bond of loyalty than that. Of course, engagement is no replacement for a sales force, and your sales representative should contact them regularly. But the engagements via your social media fill in the gaps between emails and phone calls, keep customers abreast of your latest product and service offerings, and help prevent straying to the competition.

Yet another value you can ascribe to the self-selecting customer is their referral power. Their endorsement of you to their colleagues and professional peers is marketing gold. It’s like handing out trust certificates. “If you like them, Joe, then that’s good enough for me.”

Finally, there’s one more value to the self-selecting customer often overlooked: their research value. Carefully crafted LinkedIn posts, for example, can be just as much about getting input from prospects as they are about sharing the opinions and ideas of the host. Do you have a feature or product improvement you’d like to float by your target audience? Are you trying to figure out if there’s a value-added service that could give you an edge over your competitors? Self-selecting customers don’t just want to hear what you have to say; they are also eager to share their ideas and demonstrate their knowledge and expertise as well. That makes them a research goldmine. A free research goldmine. No focus groups necessary. Moreover, the feedback is direct to you and about as honest and qualified as you can get.

Of course, all this self-selecting customer value does depend on an effective social media strategy. Just like any other marketing strategy, it requires you to align your content and posts with topics timely and meaningful to your audiences. And you do need to commit to regular communiqués. Companies that may not have the time or the in-house expertise often tap industrial marketing firms to do the work for them. Yes, this means the self-selecting customer is no longer entirely free but compared to other more traditional online and offline marketing options, social media is a great value because the media itself is gratis.

At any rate, I hope this brings an end to the argument about whether social media works and stops the “But where’s the value?” whine. All hail, the self-selecting customer!

Questions? Comments? I’d love to hear from you about your experiences with social media.

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Social Media’s Unique Asset: The Self-Selecting Customer

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image of Philip Paranicas

Philip (Phil) Paranicas is director of new product development at He is responsible for creating new products and services that support ThomasNet's mission of helping bring buyers together with sellers. Reach him via

Twitter: @Flip2Market

LinkedIn: Phil Paranicas