Why Companies Need to be Prepared for Online Criticism

Social media has empowered businesses of all shapes and sizes across almost every industry to raise brand awareness, engage a global audience, boost traffic  and drive sales – when used the right way.

But it’s all about engagement and having a conversation. Social networking by definition implies a two-way relationship and people buy from people, brands need to be prepared to manage the bad with the good. No business model is perfect, and companies make mistakes. Are you ready to deal with the criticism?

Perhaps surprisingly, a recent survey revealed that just 29 percent of companies have a social media strategy in place, and two in five (40 percent) rated themselves as unprepared for online criticism.

Are you?

Social Selling in Action – 7 Pro’s share their tips

Do’s and Don’ts of Social Selling

DO…

…Be a Trusted Advisor. In today’s modern era, helping is selling. Try to add value and build trust within your buying community. They’ll turn to you when the time is right.

…Do Research. When I take sales calls and the person on the other end hasn’t done their research, I start looking at my watch. You have the data. Use it. With a combination of social monitoring and intelligence, find out what interests buyers before engaging.

…Be Authentic. Don’t be fake or sneaky. Social media has no governing body. Instead the users rule social and they’ll do everything to create a “safe” place to engage. Authenticity is a big deal in social. Violators of this rule are unwelcome.

…Incorporate Social Into Your Day. Social should be part of your daily activity. Set aside time to research, curate, and share content. Connect with people you meet as part of your process.

…Nurture Prospects and Clients. Social allows you to stay in the hearts and minds of your buying community without having to do the dreaded “check in” call or send a thousand emails. Buyers will follow people that add value.

DON’T…

…Talk About Yourself All the Time. Bragging on yourself or your company all the time is a turn off. Talk about, and share, other’s content – not just yours.

…Over Push Product. You can’t be a trusted advisor if you can’t hold a conversation without pitching. Social communities don’t want people pitching their products unless asked to. Being pitchy is unwelcome.

…Bombard Leads. You want to be where your leads are, but don’t immediately message them on every platform begging to give a demo or to visit your site. Build a relationship first.

…Be Nasty. Social media is not the place to bad mouth competitors. It’s not about ragging on the competition, but sharing how you can help followers succeed. Stay classy.

The Big Customer Social Shift

Did you know?

46% percent of the executives in the survey stated that they had increased their investment in social technologies in 2012 and 62% stated that they will increase their social business investments in the next three years.

Social business transforms the way organizations communicate by using interactive engagement models with customers, employees, and suppliers. To better understand the opportunities, challenges and risks of weaving social business into the organizational fabric, and to provide a path to progress for organizations looking to capitalize on its benefits, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) surveyed more than 1,100 executives and conducted 26 in-depth interviews with widely recognized social business leaders.

The study found that most companies today largely use social business in marketing and public relations. However, the use of social technologies and approaches is expected to rapidly extend into a wide range of front-office business processes, in particular customer service, sales and internal communications. Leading companies are increasingly incorporating social technologies into their processes to increase revenue, attract talent and share knowledge across and beyond the boundaries of the organization.

Over the next three years, the majority of survey respondents indicate they will increase investment in social technologies to improve and expedite communications and access to information and people. Organizations are applying these investments to:

  • Create valued customer experiences
  • Drive workforce productivity and effectiveness
  • Accelerate innovation.

Create Valued Customer Experiences

As today’s consumers become ever more technology enabled, failure to communicate with them through the media they prefer can create an engagement gap difficult to overcome. C-level executives recognize this, which is why, in two recent IBM C-Suite studies, the 2012 Global Chief Executive Officer Study and the 2011 Global Chief Marketing Officer Study, senior executives expressed a strong desire to use social tools to understand customers and create experiences that attract and retain them.   Leading organizations, such as American Express, are focusing their social business resources in three areas: listening to and engaging with customers, building communities to share information and insight and creating better sales and support experiences.

Drive Workforce Productivity

Applying social business technologies within a company and its surrounding value chain can substantially improve visibility of knowledge, finding and building expertise, and collaborating with partners and suppliers. This use of social technologies spans most industries, including, among others: automotive, banking, insurance, manufacturing, retail, and increasingly, government.  Organizations such as TD Bank, CEMEX and Boston Children’s Hospital are finding innovative ways of collaborating inside and outside the organization to improve productivity and reduce time-to-competence.

Accelerate Innovation

Social technologies have made it significantly easier to raise the visibility of new ideas, regardless of their source, allowing companies to acquire new ideas from almost anyone who touches their organization. Companies such as LEGO Group and Beiersdorf are finding new ways of reaching out to their entire ecosystem to come up with new ideas that have a direct impact on their business.  Social technologies also enable organizations to host structured innovation efforts like Jams and Hack Days as well as tap into collaboration arising from day-to-day work. The IBV study details how some organizations are implementing these approaches to accelerate innovation in their firms.

Embed Social in the Organization

Purposeful deployment of social technologies is integral to organizations realizing business value from their social business investments. Social business is a disruptive and transformative approach that can yield measurable returns when applied to specific business outcomes. Yet, this study uncovered the fact that only about 20 percent of organizations can identify key performance indicators and track ROI on social business projects.  Organizations also need to understand and mange the risks associated with employing social technologies to become more interactive with and transparent to customers, suppliers and employees.  The report noted that organizations need to implement change management practices if they are to deploy successfully social technologies.

The Business of Social Business IBV Study

Download the study from SlideShare

Selling through Social Media [Infographic]

InsideView‘s new infographic shows how effective social media marketing has become for B2B. I would have liked to have seen some statistics for Pinterest , YouTube and  Google+

The bottom line shows that companies that are using social and blogging platforms are generating more leads and more sales. Here are just a few of amazing stats:

B2B Social Media Tweetable Stats

  • 67%  more leads per month for companies with an active blog.
  • IBM reported a 400% increase in sales tied to social selling.
  • 90% of B2B companies reported using Facebook.
  • 53% of B2B companies reported using Twitter.
  • 47% of B2B companies reported using LinkedIn.
  • 33% of B2B companies reported using a blog.

 

Where has Social Media worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments below

They asked, “Do you facebook?” I said no

They asked, “Do you Facebook?” I said no, (ok I fibbed, I am on it, I use it to stalk my wife, it saves having a conversation later) joke hunny!

They said this would be an eye opening webinar, that Facebook was a sales tool in disguise, that sales people could build better relationships, reach new clients and drive sales. I was intrigued because I and I will be honest, dislike Facebook. But as always, I was receptive to being converted, so I allocated an hour of my time to revisit and maybe discover this potential.

I wasn’t converted and for 24 hours I struggled to understand why. I understood the privacy settings, the creation of groups and how you can feed different messages to different parts of your network, I get that, much like Google+.

My conclusion was that it must be more than just one thing, so here are three.

1) The webinar was run by a marketer, (nothing wrong with that of course.) But the conversation revolved around demonstrations of what brands were doing. Not what or how an individual sales person could benefit.

2) I have yet to hear someone in a B2B environment say “hello C’suite, will you be my friend on Facebook?”. Even rephrasing it to “Join my network on Facebook” doesn’t sound right.

3) With other platforms that I use for business, engagement and relationship building cant I just have one place that is mine where I can relax, chill out and if I feel the need to just talk rubbish I can. Yes I know your can separate by using the groups, but it just means they’re in the room next door.

So here’s my question? Can I convince you, the sales person, that Facebook is not the place for connecting with your clients?

Twitter – Business Networking on Steroids!

(also written from a Brand perspective just to be fair)

Seventy nine percent of Twitter followers (versus 60 percent of Facebook fans) are more likely to recommend brands since becoming a fan or follower.
Sixty seven percent of Twitter followers (versus 51 percent of Facebook fans) are more likely to buy the brands they follow.
Facebook’s shared links average three clicks, while Twitter’s tweets generate nineteen clicks on average

Want more? Ok!

Twitter users generated double the median monthly leads of non-Twitter users.
Consumers active on Twitter are three times more likely to affect a brand’s online reputation through syndicated Tweets, blog posts, articles and product reviews.
Twenty percent of consumers indicate they have followed a brand on Twitter in order to interact with the company – more than e-mail subscribers or Facebook fans.

If that doesn’t sway you, then there is always LinkedIn – where it does feel right to say “Join my network of business professionals”

See my LinkedIn posts

Statistic credits to
http://www.businessinsider.com/twitter-destroys-facebook-2010-12
http://www.emarketer.com/Article.aspx?R=1007639
http://www.exacttarget.com/

Smoke Signals! – Are you listening to me?

If your on LinkedIn and regularly visit, you will be familiar with the home page and the stream of updates from your network. A great way of keeping in touch, listening, sharing and engaging where appropriate.

It is a great opportunity to share something that grabs your attention, with others and to say “Great article, thanks for sharing” or “Here is my opinion”. Not only does it notify your  network they also show in the poster’s network. Visibility to others is KEY.

Take this example today – an interesting debate on customer services from Rob Wilmot. I liked it and by doing so shared the article to my network. I also wrote a comment directly on the post.

Whilst my first degree connections are all interesting people, providing great content, I want to know what my second degree and sharing and posting. Did you know you can?

Pop into LinkedIn and go to Signal – you can find it under the heading of news. Now you have the chance to see those smoke signals that have always proved a challenge to get to.

You can even play around with the settings to pick out “seniority” or even “company”. You can save them for future perusal. So add your likes, your comments, get your self visible to people you want to get through to. Earn the right through social capital to have that coffee.

Do you currently use this? What success’s have you had? Did you know you could do this?

Get Social Selling ROI in 2012

I have been in sales before I even left college, my first sales job was selling ice cream on a bike and then I moved to being an estate agent role, we were loved in those days. Twenty years later I am still in sales and still enjoy it. Sales is not a dirty word.

Selling on social media does not exclude the idea of having some fun, of which I do, and no, success is not as easy as being engaging and having personality.

The global economy and financial markets are about to collapse, jobs are scarce, and consumer spending remains weak. Enter the promise of social media. We’re nearly five years into the social media revolution, but most businesses are agonising, not revolutionising. If you are one of them you’re not alone. Yet despite what all the experts and research companies keep telling us, there are proven cases of social media usage generating a direct and measurable return on investment (ROI) for businesses. What’s their secret? They’re defining ROI as S-A-L-E-S generated from social media marketing, not engagement. And you can, too.

The Problem is Engagement

Want to remain in your current job forever or watch your business struggle to profit? Keep on engaging passively, without defining a worthwhile outcome. The truth is there are two schools of thought on how to use social media to generate ROI:

  1. Social media is a better way to influence, not sell. Hence, we work to create “brand preference” through repetition (reach and frequency) and engagement.
  2. Social media is a better way to create and capture demand, leading to a sale. Logically, this involves using relevant calls to action and direct response tactics when it is appropriate.

Whether a customer’s need is in early stages (latent) or advanced, social media can help bring sales to fruition faster because it is inherently interactive. The trick is to avoid wasting time influencing people (in hopes of earning purchases) and begin designing to sell.

For instance, ask yourself, “Are we developing ways to help customers’ understand their problems, goals or needs more clearly?” Take this simple step to assess your own perspective. Continue to explore your own, personal context by recalling a time in your life when you became more clear on what it is you really needed after doing some research. Consider how you suddenly felt better equipped to navigate toward answers, products, and services that met your needs. This is how social media can shine for your business.

The Solution is Simple: Sell

Executive leaders say marketers over-focus on the latest trends, “because they believe they represent the new marketing frontiers. However, they can rarely demonstrate how these trends will help them generate more business for the company. Marketers state their top marketing challenge is “acquiring a large number of new customers.” Next is “increasing retention rates and revenues from current customers,” followed by “increasing the quality and quantity of leads for field sales forces.”

If these are the challenges, then what are the goals? More importantly what does this say about fixing the problem?

Want to stand out from this crowd and demonstrate tangible ROI? Get back to basics. Sell!

Get Started Today

Here is a simple technique to create social ROI:

  1. Defining sales as the goal, not engagement
  2. Earning insights on customers’ pains or goals using tools like Facebook and blogs
  3. Answering very basic, common questions in ways that drive more discussion about that pain or goal to reveal and sometimes nurture purchase intent.

Remember: when customers understand their problems more clearly, they’re more equipped (and willing) to be gently escorted toward the answers they need—your products and services. They’re more prone to see a purchase as a pain reliever or means to achieve a goal.

“Our approach to getting going—attracting local customers and netting leads with our blog—was simple,” says River Pools and Spas chief marketer, Marcus Sheridan, who says this is a great way to get started right now.

“We’re successful at generating leads because we wrote down every question that’s ever been asked to us by customers. We didn’t care how generic or broad the questions were. These quickly became the titles of blog posts that continue to pay sales dividends over time when matched with calls to action for tools that solve even more problems.” Sheridan, like others using this technique, is leveraging how customers use search engines in early buying stages.

Join the Social Media Evolution

“It’s all about the relationship.” Phooey. It has always been about the relationship, trust (“social currency”), and listening. These concepts aren’t new. Let’s stop pretending that they are and earn the respect of CEOs again.

Yes, the reason most businesses aren’t achieving sales with social media has a lot to do with all the hype. Most of us are reacting to social media, getting sidetracked by the excitement of a false revolution rather than focusing on evolution.

The rush to “just do” social media has served to redefine our goals away from sales and toward tactics like retweets, friends, fans, and likes. I say false revolution because I see so few examples of social-media-revolutionized businesses and because those who are innovating and thriving are evolving, not reinventing.

Have you designed your 2012 social media strategy to sell by focusing on translating customers’ needs into problems they need to have solved? If so, when giving solutions, do you compel customers to take action in ways that give insight and allow you to nurture need to fruition?