Social Media? – It means the world to me!

When I was asked recently  “What does Social Media mean to you?” I answered off the top of my head and instantly – It Means the World to Me! I always try now to answer in Twitter speak concise and engaging….

This may sound trite and perhaps sarcastic – but I mean it!

Social Media means the world on so many fronts. For a start Access to the World geographically and demographically.  This week on LinkedIn I hit 10 million plus in my Three Degrees.

What does this mean – If I get an important message to my 800 plus direct connects and they each do the same and their connections followup as well…  That message will hit 10 million worldwide in an instant for zero cost to me.

If only I had something that important to say!!

But it also means the world in terms of access to your world – business and /or social.

It means unprecedented access to people you don’t know. People who may be interested in what you have to say.

But don’t take my word for it

“Technology is shifting Power away from the editors, the publishers, the establishment and the media elite.  Now its the People who are in Control.”               Rupert Murdoch

It doesn’t matter if your “world” is around the corner or around the world you can access it now without relying on the heritage media.

It’s not just about access to broadcast a message though … its more about reaching people who are listening and ready to engage.

So define your audience and craft your messages specifically for them and then let people listen …  but they will only listen if your message interests them. And if they listen it doesn’t matter where in the world they are … they will find you!!

But you must also listen before jumping in.

When I deliver Sales training I explain the most important skill in sales is the art of listening by telling people to look in the mirror and see if they know why…

Well you do have two ears and only one mouth…God must have been telling you something…. is my answer!!

But there is much more to making sales using digital media – Social Media is a key part … but only a part.  You need to surround and support it with Listening Web Pages (more about that later), Search Engine Marketing, Social CRM, AdWords etc etc.

But your the world can find you if you are prepared to listen rather than shout.


Even on Sunday – Harvey is listening

For the past couple of weeks Harvey Norman have been advertising Flip SD Video cams for $78 or $88. As the one I have has a cracked screen I decided to buy one.  So I took trips to two stores over the past two weeks  … but alas neither store had any in stock… despite being in the store at 9 am on the day the catalogue appeared.

So today I turned to Twitter to see if they were listening. In my Social Media presentations I quote the COO of Harvey Norman from a recent interview where he says he has a small team who listen to Social Media to ensure customer alignment so i was very pleased to have a reason to test them out.

As you will see my Tweet was reTweeted and very quickly picked up by The Manager for Social Media who apologised for the delay in getting back to me….even though he responded within an hour or so on Sunday evening!!

He followed through on email to get further details and has assured me I will hear from my nominated store tomorrow once they have one in stock for me.

So I am pleased to know they are listening … and outside of normal hours … and they are effective in responding and dealing with the problem.

In my next presentation I will go from quote to personal case study.

Twitter is changing service for the better …. just a pity there are so few that have embraced it  yet in Adelaide!!

Are you herding cattle or cats?

I recently came a across a blog by Chad Levitt who likened the changing approach to marketing and sales, esp in B2B, to herding cats when we are used to herding cattle. Chad Levitt is the author of the New Sales Economy blog that focuses on how sales 2.0, social, and inbound marketing can be used as a sales strategy for the Web 2.0 world.

As Chad says “The first thing about herding cats is….. “don’t let anybody tell you it’s easy!” If you’ve ever tried to herd a cat you know it’s damn hard. And anyone can herd cattle — they are slow, stodgy, and like to be told what to do. Cats are nimble, quick, and verrrrry hard to corner – so are our customers today. The parallel is that the majority of sales and marketing organizations are still trying to herd cattle, when the marketplace has changed to herding cats.”

I certainly think herding cats makes a very good analogy for the B2B marketplace today.

A key ingredient in herding cats is to supply the food they are seeking and this comes in the form of useful information… blogs, videos etc.

For some time I have been concerned that the people at the fuzzy end of business (PR, Marketing) believe they should control Social Media because it is about Communication.  But given they are the masters (along with Advertising) of one-way communication why should they?

Traditionally in business the best listeners and builders of dialogue are in Sales and Customer Service. While Marketing defines the what and who of sales it is the seller and the after sales servicer that pick up the How …  so who better equipped to understand what the market really expects of a business.

And then there are the internal “cats” how can they be harnessed to support the marketing efforts. Well that’s where HR comes in to develop and define policies on the internal and external use of Social Media. There are heaps of potential brand advocates within a business but they need to be told what they can and cant say.  An Outcomes focussed policy that encourages the use of Social Media can enable this rather than inhibit it!

So right now we have ”cats” everywhere looking for “food” from business but very few are producing the right “food” as they are leaving the “food” production to the wrong people. PR/Marketing traditionally sow the crops and hope for a good season or two….   While it is Sales and Service who are responsible for the harvesting and bear the brunt when a bad season comes along or PR/Marketing has decided to sow the wrong crop.

To try to fathom the best approach to implementing a good approach to Social media in business I recently ran a poll in LinkedIn asking:

Who should “own” responsibility for Social Media In Business environment? Who is best to Listen, Converse, Engage and Convert?

The somewhat surprising result given most of my LinkedIn connections are in PR and Marketing was the formation of a new cross functionality entity.

For more details on the poll

What do you think? How should such an approach be implemented?

In the meantime I will keep my focus on driving Social Media by focussing on Sales outcomes not just building Communities and Conversations.

Focus on Business Outcomes not on Social Media

When I speak about the potential that Social Media has to drive direct bottom line business benefits (eg Increased sales, reduced marketing spend, lower customer service costs etc) I hear that’s fine for B2C but it wont help B2B.

This has caused me to rethink my approach to selling Social Media to Business – I now focus on looking at required outcomes and working back to a Policy, Plan, Platforms (Web Presence) and Processes that will support these outcomes.

It is also interesting to hear from Marketing Mangers that business isn’t Social so what has this Social Media got to do with business, as they rush out the door to a Networking event, or to take a client to lunch or to a Conference in an exotic location!!

Rather than talk about building Facebook Brandpages, LinkedIn profiles and establishing communities it is important to focus on what the business needs and then on how to get there with the new tools and tactics available in Social Media.

The latest research from digital marketing agency White Horse highlights this in showing that while Business-to-business (B2B) companies are embracing social media, they are not yet as engaged as their business-to-consumer (B2C) brethren. This largely due to the internal barriers and beliefs that I alluded to earlier  .

While the research indicates that similar numbers of B2B and B2C marketers were not doing any social marketing at all, significant numbers of B2B companies say they had established a social media presence but had done nothing much more.

More than one-third of B2B marketers surveyed said there was little or low senior management interest in social media in their company, compared with only 9% of B2C marketers who said the same. In general whilst taking some steps in the social media space one third of corporate marketers say they need to learn more about social media to justify further investment, while this issue was a major focus for B2B respondents.

Not surprisingly 46% of B2B respondents said social media was perceived as irrelevant to their company, while only 12% of consumer focussed marketers had the same problem. As such it comes as no surprise that B2Bs also reported they still have a much greater preference for traditional marketing tactics.

Perhaps part of the problem for B2Bs in embracing Social Media is an unwillingness or lack of understanding when it comes to measurement.  34% of B2B marketers who said they were not measuring at all, at 34%,while it was just 10% of B2C.

Other studies have shown that B2B marketers are more effective at measurement because they focus on outcomes that matter to their bottom line, such as lead generation.

It is clearly in this area that major opportunities exist for B2B companies by realigning their traditional approach to marketing, sales and service to embrace Social Media. Whether you call it Social CRM, InBound Marketing or Research Based Selling it is clear that there are more effective business development and retention means available to business.

It is certainly well worth reviewing their business model to take a more client focussed approach to developing Interest, Consideration, Trial, Loyalty and Advocacy among their prospects and clients.

Given B2C companies (e.g. JetStar, Ford, Kodak) are now spending 25% – 40% of their marketing dollars on various forms of Social Media and reporting improved bottom line results there must be something in it!!

In my next post I will highlight some of the many B2B success stories.

3 Ways to Get More Leads and Sales with Social Networking and Referral Marketing

In my ongoing quest to find ways to introduce some tangible sales benefits to business by introducing Social Media I have found much be pleased about. This is because Social Media and good Salespeople have much in common.

Most good sales people already practice many of the things that Social Media relies on Listening, Relationship Management and Referrals. They also rely heavily on Word of Mouth to build reputation and business.

While Social Media goes a long way towards eliminating Cold Calling it does not totally replace real personal relationship building.

When I worked in Sales Management for Dun and Bradstreet Software (the then biggest business software company in the world)  the single biggest performance indicators used to assess our salespeople was their performance when dealing face to face with a prospect.

Once a year  a sales trainer from the US or UK would accompany every salesperson on a call and asses the key criteria – ability to build rapport, ability to listen for a problem that our products could solve, ability to position our solution and to negotiate access to the power in the organisation in return making the prospect look good.

Failure to deliver would inevitably result in termination.

Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO of Google, in his commencement address to the graduating class of the University of Pennsylvania in May 2009, urged college graduates to step away from the virtual world and make human connections. “Turn off your computer. You’re actually going to have to turn off your phone and discover all that is human around us.”

Even though we can’t replace face to face the right Social Media presence and the right approach to Social Networking can make SalesPeople highly effective.

Joanne Black, No More Cold Calling suggests 3 key areas to focus on

1.Develop a social media strategy: Like a sales plan or a marketing plan, write your social media plan. What is your goal? Who is your audience? What do you want to communicate? Leverage social media as part of your go-to-market strategy. How does your strategy link to your customer’s needs and your business priorities?

2.Establish relationships: Take the time to build your personal connections, pick up the phone and talk to people. Just because you have a name in hand, doesn’t mean you have a relationship.

3.Communicate useful information: Social sites are not for selling. They are for establishing connections, identifying ways to collaborate, and providing value. What tips can you provide? Link to other sites you strongly recommend. Get recognized as the expert and build your web presence. Be a resource.

Great advice that can help Salespeople take Social Media’s value well beyond Conversations, Fans, Blogs, PR, Consumer Driven Feedback, etc   to deliver real tangibles to the bottom line ….  cost-effective sales results!!

Retailers join Social Networks to sell… but people join to Socialise

Not surprisingly the latest research proves the importance of the right web presence especially if you want to sell direct online.

A recent (March 2010) study from the e-tailing group and PowerReviews found that half of Internet users research online before buying. Most said doing their own research online saved them time and made them more confident about their purchases.

While retailers’ sites played an important role in the research process, the respondents felt the most important factor influencing their decision was customer reviews. So if the site lacked user-generated reviews nearly half (49%) of respondents would look elsewhere.

But while the customers want user generated review – 71% said so in the survey, the retailers in an earlier e-tailing survey of Web based merchants were showed them heading to Facebook in droves rather than focus on user generated reviews.

They want Fans not feedback.

The “2010 Social Shopping Study” found that only  25% said  Facebook fan pages influenced their purchasing decision.

Maybe Facebook is becoming too cluttered and too Yellow Pages like….  or maybe its just that people don’t join Social Networks to buy. They want to use Social Media and Retailer sites that allow conversations…

Community and Social Media Tools US Online Retailers Employ or Plan to Employ*, Q1 2010 (% of respondents)

80% of retailers surveyed  publish on Twitter, but only 17% of respondents to the “2010 Social Shopping Study” said Twitter had a significant effect on their buying decisions. Overall, that survey found social networking sites were the place shoppers were least likely to do research (6%).

Similarly, sharing tools were the capability rated important by the fewest shoppers (20%), but they were merchants’ top choice in social strategies.

Social Media Strategies Considered Valuable* Among US Online Retailers, 2009 & 2010 (% of respondents)

So clearly while Brands join Social Networks to sell…..  people don’t join to buy.  But they do want to be able to converse with other consumers who have reviewed or used products they are considering.

A retailer needs to look at the total web presence and not just focus on one aspect because everyone does.

They need to be open to listening to the customers and then sharing that listening with their prospects on their site and in places where their consumers go for information … not socialising!!

A Brand Page on Facebook is a must but don’t expect it to result in sales!!