On the surface, the signs of social media’s dominance are difficult to ignore.
Facebook has fenced in a healthy slice of the world’s population within its walled garden. Twitter is powering marketing communications and becoming the operating system for democratic revolution. LinkedIn is the business world’s de-facto rolodex.
Still, some grizzled refugees from the Dot Com Meltdown still wonder…“Does social media really move the sales needle?”
The Case for Social Media
At Fluency Media, we can’t ignore social media’s unique advantages.
- It’s Credible: While websites are recognized as commercial mouthpieces, blogs and Facebook fan pages are widely viewed as being more reputable and believable.
- It’s Fast: It gets easier every day to publish content across the web, allowing companies to engage with their audience quickly.
- It Spreads: The right content can unleash a branding windfall as the content jumps from blogs, Twitter, and Facebook.
Almost any product or service can benefit from the “humanizing” effect of a well-planned social media program. We’ve also seen how social media extends the shelf-life of pricier traditional brand advertising.
So why can’t social media get any respect in the “sales” conversation?
We suspect that the culprit is the current fixation on social media tools.
The Tools are Great. It’s the Strategy That Stinks
We call it Tool Addiction.
It happens when perfectly qualified marketing professionals assume that a social media tool is the solution rather than the “starting point”.
You can spot a tool addict when you hear tell-tale questions such as:
- Isn’t Facebook a great way to increase sales?
- How can we use Twitter to generate leads?
- Why can’t we use LinkedIn to boost revenue?
This all sounds great – on the surface – but the fixation on the tactic gives the illusion that there is a sound strategy in place.
What gets missed is the core premise of social media – the tools distribute engaging content. If your content is boring, thin, or disingenuous, the tools will only aggravate your problems, not solve them.
Marketing decision-makers need to take a step back and ask a different question – “How does social media HELP me make my case to potential customers”
From here, attention swings back to the real advantage that social media brings to the table.
How Social Media “Really” Sells
You can sum up social media’s sales bona-fides by saying:
Social media closes the deal.
However the hero isn’t your fancy eBook or stellar content.
It’s something, actually someone, else entirely. Social media builds relationships with customers, fans and evangelists and gives them a platform to close the deal for YOU.
The tools and platforms are just the “means” for telling your story, establishing rapport, and motivating your community. If Twitter was gone tomorrow, we would use email. If email was legislated out of existence, we would be back to the good ole in-home Tupperware parties.
The strategy stays the same.
Attract your ideal customer with great content, tell them a compelling benefit story, and make it easy for them to either buy or refer you to someone who will.
What a Social Media Sales Strategy Looks Like
Let’s take a look at a medium-sized company that has the opportunity to leap-frog to the top of their industry. The only problem is that they are caught in a traditional advertising stalemate with their competitors. Market share gains are clawed out a tenth of a point at a time.
Instead of slugging it out on cable channels for another year, our company decides to build sales generation directly into their social media efforts.
First, the company pulls out the big post-it-note board and brainstorms a list of 50 Feature and Benefit stories. These stories are mined from customer service, marketing, sales, and product development.
Next, the digital agency is told to find opinion leaders who have an audience filled with potential customers. The team scours blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, finding credible influencers, and begins assembling an outreach database.
Armed with a solid contact database, the company builds relationships with each of the influencers. Some influencers are offered exclusive reviews of the products; others are simply followed and promoted from the company’s social platforms. In a few weeks, the company begins to regularly catch the attention of key influencers in their niche.
During the influencer-courting phase, the company consistently publishes short stories on their blog that demonstrates the benefits of their product. They keep the story fresh by mixing text posts with video and even a podcast published via iTunes. They watch their blog and website traffic grow as their influencers start pushing traffic to their site.
Soon, the phones start to ring. When asked, prospects point to Facebook, Twitter, and the blog as the push to get them to call the company. They felt like they understood the company, its people, and, most of all – how the company’s products would help them.
The company capitalizes on the new influx of pre-sold customers by posting video testimonials to boost the credibility of all its online platforms. Soon the company inches ahead and then widens its lead over the former leader.
3 Easy Steps for Getting Started
Here’s how you can get a jump on your competition and begin transforming your social media into a sales juggernaut –
Step #1: Know How You Stack Up
It’s important to understand exactly how your competition is using social media to engage with customers. A thorough competitive analysis will show low-hanging fruit opportunities and hidden weaknesses. The data from this review will focus your social media strategy and boost its effectiveness.
Step #2: Build Your Story
Create a social media strategy that takes advantage of your unique story and product benefits. The goal is to pre-sell your products and services and give your prospects convincing reasons for picking up the phone. The best social media strategies use customer feedback, testimonials, and rich media to tell credible and compelling vignettes.
Step #3: Execute
Businesses are moving quickly to put their social media programs in place and begin optimizing their programs. Social Media is a hands-on media that requires first-hand experience before you feel comfortable with it.
This mean you need to get started now. Make sure your team (agency or internal) is nimble and fearless enough to wade in and begin pushing your program forward.
How are using Social Media to sell in your business? What challenges have you overcome?