Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sales and Social Media

I had five minutes of podium time to deliver my key messages to the 100 or so attendees at the Tech Council of Maryland’s executive event titled “Growing Your Business through Social Media.”

A number of speakers earlier in the session had basically glossed over the exciting applications of social media as a marketing and sales function. Rather, they chose to emphasize the threats lurking in the blogosphere and in communities like Facebook and MySpace. Every company must track the discussion and respond accordingly, they asserted.

While I agree that monitoring is a critical component of any corporate social media program, it’s merely the baseline. I said so emphatically and stressed three points that I believe make the business case to fund a social media initiative more compelling:

-Use lead generation, as well as the acceleration of awareness, executive visibility and thought leadership as benchmarks for success.

-It’s OK to sell in social networks, yet do so appropriately.

-Repurpose the marketing content most likely collecting dust on your shelves for social media programs like executive blogging and new media utilization.

The reaction from the audience was relatively muted. I chalk this up to the fact that most of the attendees are groping through social media and evaluating what is appropriate for their organization. I also wasn’t allocated the time to provide real world examples of how companies are leveraging social media to accelerate their business success.

Consider Strategic Communications Group’s (Strategic) social media program for security software firm Epok. We are positioning their application in Microsoft’s Sharepoint community through a mix of tactics including executive blogging, blogger relations and social network engagement.

Here’s the download on the campaign to date:

We launched an executive blog about six weeks ago and have had nearly a dozen posts. Our team has increased readership for each blog post using social bookmark sites, such as Reddit, Mixx and Digg. We’re also sharing content with Sharepoint groups in LinkedIn and Facebook, as well as leveraging Epok CTO’s Twitter and FriendFeed streams.

The results?

-We’ve secured an editorial piece for SharePoint Magazine through a LinkedIn connection.

-We’ve initiated a dialogue through Facebook with a blogger, who has since commented extensively on of our CTO’s post.

-An interview request came in through the comments feature on the blog from the editor of PBP IT newsletters.

-Most important, after posting a piece on improving battlefield communication, Epok was contacted by a government agency and it has turned into a sales lead.

I have a philosophical difference with the social media consultants who counsel their clients on the need to merely engage in conversations to build community. Yes on both accounts as there is value in connections.

Yet, never shy away from lead generation and sales as a goal of your social media campaign. This is what Strategic focuses on for its clients.

4 comments:

emailyogi said...

Marc,

I completely agree with you. Financial institutions are considered a little behind in this field and I have challenged them to think a little differently.

For example retailers sell using these channels to the consumer. Banks think this is not appropriate. What people forget is that the consumer is the same - he is consumer of the retailer and the banker.

So if people don't leverage these apt channels - they are wasting an opportunity to connect.

http://www.emailyogi.com/2008/09/get-innovative.html

http://www.emailyogi.com/2007/09/what-heck-is-web-20.html

I have a third post, I will try to find and it refers to lost opportunities.

Best,

Sundeep
www.emailyogi.com

Jim Lodico said...

I think you hit the problem right on the nose. We often hear excited talk about social media but nobody tells the "average joe" how to use it or even why to use it.

At the same time however, these same people are very quick to point out the dangers of a negative comment or a conversation gone astray. Add to that the constant drone of the teenager finding trouble on Myspace in our daily media and many of the people who can value from social networking the most, shy away in fear.

From a business perspective, social media outlets offer a wide variety of opportunities. From building relationships with potential clients to positioning yourself as an expert in the field, the platforms are in place allowing businesses to reach the online client in any of a number of ways.

From a public relations perspective, blogging and other social media platforms provide the opportunity to if not control the message, at least get your message out.

Your audience's muted reaction is fairly typical. While some are using these platforms successfully, many businesses just don't get it. They don't understand how to use the powerful tools that have been dropped in their lap.

As with any marketing strategy, set your goals, measure them as you progress and make adjustments as needed.

Just my thoughts,

Jim
www.jalcommunication.com

Vantage Resources said...

Marc I agree with you wholeheartedly. In fact, my company uses benchmarks as a healthy way to entice good natured competition between our business development consultants ... and it works! It was an uphill battle to get to this point and I faced many sceptics on the way, but thankfully over time people have seen their SMM efforts pay off (particularly on Linkedin).

Please feel free to invite me to your Linkedin network at http://www.linkedin.com/in/lyndahogan

Sundeep said...

Marc,

A little more proof to what you spoke about. I am with a travel company today (they make offers that are re-sold by travel agents). The owners are web savvy, yet very CONCERNED about getting MIRED in WEB2.0.

They put out an email to a smaller list of travel agents with a special offer. Their phones rang, we collected the questions - and put them on a blog.

Later this afternoon, we put out an email the email to the entire list of agents - directing them to the blog. The VP of (Direct) Marketing was floored to see the response.

What shocked him too, was that he had an intern in his office quickly create the blog etc.

I like your approach on today's article - have some thoughts - please email me at sundeep.kapur@gmail.com.

Best,

Sundeep
www.emailyogi.com
(this weeks posts deal with good and bad from the financial industry).