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Though this is probably an easy question to answer, depending on which team colors you normally wear, when you look a bit deeper it becomes more apparent that the answer is really “both”.  Maybe a better question is “Social Media: What’s in it for me?”.

Everybody’s talking about it.  Most of us are trying to figure it out.  Some of us have claimed to “master” it (likely at the expense of a number of ‘paying clients’ that allow us to learn as we go).  And even fewer consider it strategic to our daily business.

I’m hopeful that a few examples I’ll cover in this post lend credence to the role of social media tools and resources for both Sales and Marketing.  Social media is actually becoming the aggregation of great content, or resources, for the user.  One of the most unique characteristics of Social Media is that it naturally results in a perpetuation of content that is deemed relevant and valuable by people at large (called “trending”).  For a lay user, you can easily tap into the buzz of the world and drill down to get more detail than you could have imagined from any Encyclopedia Britannica (even if it was hot off the press).

Well, let’s take a look at why this becomes important to marketing people and why in the world a sales rep would spend any time setting up a Facebook page or Twitter account, much less a blog!  This should be fun.

Marketing’s Love of Social Media

Marketing people love to know everything about everything.  It’s not good enough to know a little more than the person next to you – that just means you’ve had a chance to lean over the cubicle to get their download and then enhance it with a quick Google search.  What really makes marketing people shine is NEW information.  Breaking news!  Exciting “I know what you don’t know” news!  That’s why they love social media!

Marketing people will do anything to get a survey filled out…need some gas, fill out a survey and we’ll send you a gas card.  Want to take the spouse out to dinner, fill out a survey and we’ll give you a gift card to one of many Brinker restaurants.  Want $100 cold-hard-cash, fill out a survey and we’ll mail it to you in 6-8 weeks.  Better yet, marketers don’t have to do this if we have a good set of targeted followers, now do we? 

Ad-hoc Surveys – hmm, I wonder what my followers, who happen to be interested in the same things I am interested in, think about product 789 (I know, 6 was afraid of 7, but that’s not relevant here).  Why don’t I just ask them.  A quick 140 character question on my Twitter account or Facebook update could net me 10-15 opinions easily – with no impact on the carbon footprint from those gas cards!

“Social Media Listening” – Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags.  Not a bad way to simplify the world of content.  If I just listen to the right hashtags, I am bound to learn more about whatever I am interested in than doing 20 Google searches.  Better yet, there’s wonderful technology out there, like Pulse Analytics from Mantis Technology, that makes this easier than pie.  Not only can you listen to what people are saying, you can determine the sentiment about the topic through these tools. 

Turn Social Research into Personalized Messaging – “Hey chocolate lovers, what’s your Valentine’s favorite flavor – 50% off a dozen by Feb. 7th!”  Now that’s speaking my language!  Available in Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and more!  Why not tell them what they want to hear (actually, that’s why they are ‘following’ you anyway, so treat them well). There’s a great approach, called B2Me, from an agency called White Rhino.  Relevancy is key.  Social media gets us there.


Sales’ Extended Conversations through Social Media

Why would a salesperson spend time playing around in social media when they need to be out selling?  Well, the simple answer is because the people they are selling to are playing around in social media.  Period.  So, the question really is, how do they maximize their time in Social Media.  Here are a couple tips:

  1. Join Twitter to follow your customers and top prospects (company accounts and select contact accounts, like the VP of IT).  You’d be amazed at how much strategy and guidance they give to the general public, if you’re willing to be part of the conversation.
  2. Join LinkedIn (or Google+) and request connections to your customers.  Then, don’t be shy to ask them for a referral – what a great way to show true trusted advisor status to your prospects by having your customers recommend you on LinkedIn.  You can also track executive moves here.
  3. Set up a Blog:  use it to promote your recent problem/solution situations.  Customers value a sales rep that can get things done.  This is your forum for bragging a bit (outside of the board room).
  4. Follow industry analyst or business publications to have the latest snippits of information at your fingertips
  5. Pay attention to who your customer contacts follow – they are high potential prospects for you since they are already engaged with your top customers!

The best analogy I’ve got is that social media for sales people is like the good ol’ boy network of days past.  Except today it’s open to anybody and it’s yours for the taking.  Get in – it’s much more amenable!

You see, social media is actually a tool and a resource for marketing AND sales.  As we get better at using it to its fullest, I would only expect the lines to blur and social media will just be part of the conversation…’hey, can you send that presentation over Slideshare?  We’ll make comments on the deck and then we can get the SOW finalized.’  That means we’re going to have to become more comfortable being ‘social’ now, aren’t we?

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