A couple weeks ago, I read a blog
post on Fast Company about the
value of B2B social media marketing as a sales tool. The initial question—is it
working for sales?—has produced varying feedback.
The author’s personal observations showed there are fewer people using
social media than the buzz around Twitter suggests, making it a questionable
medium for building business relationships—and sales as a result. The people that he anticipated seeing on
social media, including collaboration experts tech experts and reporters, were not
using Twitter, and he estimates that only 10 percent of a recent SharePoint
conference attendees had access to the platform—a slight bump over the 8
percent national average.
Although my observations are no more or less scientific than this
author’s, I’ve noticed the people following my Twitter account, as well as on
my current and former clients’ Twitter accounts, are typically individuals who were
social to begin with, and social media platforms—whether it be Twitter,
LinkedIn, or any of the myriad social media platforms— is just another tool they
use to communicate (just think of how many sales, marketing and PR peeps have
social media accounts). To focus on the Fast Company blog post’s audience for a
moment, I worked in the tech industry for several years as a PR account
executive, and I was also a little shocked to find that some reporters at
national outlets still have very little social media presence (although a small
piece of me wonders if that’s on purpose so us PR folks can’t find them).
With new mediums, I’ve found that the ability to play, make mistakes, test
and find willing guinea pigs to proof out your theories are crucial to making
it successful. Unfortunately, the very fact that your Tweet or LinkedIn post
can stay with you forever (I always think of the Ketchum
exec who didn’t favor Memphis very much or the F-bomb
heard round the automotive world) can be an intimidating prospect, which is why
I’m a believer that new users should take it easy on themselves, be prepared
for a lifetime of learning and get ready to take a few knocks along the way. However—social media is no different than any
other technology designed to help us communicate in a different way.
For me, the value of social media has always been to be at the right
place at the right time—and conversely, to make yourself available at the right
time in the right place. You never know when inspiration may strike you in the
form of a Tweet from someone you follow—and hopefully, some of my Tweets (for
myself or my clients) have inspired or educated some followers. That’s where
the relationship building comes in, with social media acting as another touchpoint
for your audiences.
Social media is like public relations in that it has a specific role in
the sales funnel: Serving as a prospecting tool. Ensuring that social media plays the
appropriate role will help you manage the effort that you put into it; a
process which requires research, tracking, goal-setting and measurement, regardless
of what industry your B2B company plays in.
Social media is certainly not a cure-all for finding the next big sale,
but it may just surprise you in different ways than anticipated.