Twitter

A recent Tweet from @khbelizaire of Media Snackers fame asked the question: ‘Developing presentation on sales and social media, do you have any interesting examples of ‘return on engagement’?’

Well I do, and as the 140 characters of Twitter are a bit restricitve to answer the question, I thought I would put forward my answer and ideas as a blog.

First off, let’s make sure we all appreciate that social media is about conversations and communities and not just another marketing channel to push our product messages down. With that out of the way, here’s how you can use social media as part of your sales process…

Finding Contacts

If you have a good idea of your value proposition and the typical client you can add value to, sites like Ecademy, LinkedIn etc are good places to find potential new contacts. These contacts may be interested in what you do, or may refer you on to people who are. But first you have to show your credibility and personality. People buy from people when all is said and done. So answering questions on forums etc. is a great way of showing your area of expertise and the value you can offer. It doesn’t matter where in the world you help people – they don’t have to be local. The point is to demonstrate in an open community your knowledge and expertise.

If there are specific words that potential customers might use in a Tweet then you can search for these words and find potential new connections. For example, I recently helped a wedding photographer with Twitter who used the key words “engagement”, “proposal” and “fiance” as search items. When they found Tweets with these words a “congratulations” Tweet was sent and a link to a “12 month countdown to your perfect wedding” acrobat document that detailed all the things that needed to get done, and when, in order to ensure the wedding went well. Of course the download was illustrated with the photohrapher’s wedding shots and the bottom of each page had a footer of her web address. So reasonably subtle and not too pushy. And certainly not an automated reply / follow approach. Over a 6 month period this approach has resulted in 4 wedding photography bookings.

Nurturing Contacts

Perhaps you find potential clients through more conventional means like direct mail, networking or cold calling. Once you have made contact I always look to see if these people are active on any social media sites. One tool for doing this is a free add-on to Outlook called XOBNI which shows which social media sites the author of any incoming email is active upon. I then connect and stay in touch through social media alongside our email correspondance. If you are involved in a long sales cycle (months / years) this is a great way of staying in touch, reminding your contacts of what you do and adding value along the way. In this respect the monthly eNewsletter (which tries to do the same thing) is slowly on the way out. Blogging is another great way of nurturing, educating and entertaining the connections that you already have. Readers of your Blog will get a feel for the person at the keyboard and, if they like your style, will feel more inclined to do business with you. Also of value are those who make a decision not to engage with you as a result of your style / personality. It’s unlikely you were ever going to develop that relationship to the point of doing business anyway. So potentially wasted time has been saved here to.

Gaining Clients

Again, when it comes to the time to get commitment from a new account you can use the postive recommendations recevied from others on social media sites as testimonials as to “why you?” compared to the competition. You don’t have to talk about how good you are: there should be plenty of connected advocates doing this for you. So ensure you have some positive testimonials on LinkedIn, Ecademy etc. Also make sure you favorite any Tweets you get saying “Thanks, that was really helpful” so others can easily look them up.

I reckon I spend 1-2 hours a week on social media sites working on my business. And much of this time was “outside” typical office hours when I am more likely to be using email / Skype / phone to communicate with my customers.  So around a 100 hours Tweeting, Connecting, Blogging a year. Max.  I like to think it also helped to nuture some existing relationships and protect my exisitng clients from considering the competition. And last year this helped me generate ~£15,000 of new business.

You do the ROI maths…

Oh, by the way, ROI is best thought of as Return of Involvement. It helps remind us that it’s about being involved, engaging with customer issues and generally helping out. If you don’t have that attitude… don’t even think about using social media as a sales process tool.

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There seems to me to be an increase in media activity regarding social networks such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Ecademy etc. These social tools were initially of benefit to the individual. They were used as a way of staying in touch with family, friends and contacts. Social media has now developed way beyond these possibilities. It can also be used to develop communities that have a shared interest or issue, connect specialists from all over the world and, increasingly, connect suppliers with potential customers…

During the last couple of years these social tools have increasingly been adopted by businesses. Sole traders and smaller companies have been (as usual) quicker on the uptake here. But more and more, larger organisations have been having a look at what these tools can do for their businesses. Some (Ford, Innocent, Compare the Market.com) have done a decent job in the B2C environment. Few, if any are doing anything of note in the B2B sector.

Within the last few of months I have been to a couple of seminars on using social media. Most of the attendees seemed to be interested in two things: 1. How do you use these things? and 2. How do I get more business by using them? I think the last question is the wrong one to be asking.

I’m a bit of an early adopter when it comes to social media. Maybe it’s because of my ‘techie’ background or possibly that I am also a small business looking to expand my client base. I have found social networking a useful way to stay in touch with clients (and potential clients), define my area of expertise through the help and advice (free and without obligation) I offer on line and to find new contacts that offer complimentary services or may be a potential supplier to me. What I have not done is to shout about what I do and to continually ask if the people on the internet want to buy some. This is where many of the larger organisations are going wrong with their experiments with social media. All too often social media is wrongly seen as a new marketing communications channel through which to broadcast the same old sales messages and special offers.

The clue is in the title: ‘social media’ – i.e. you need to be social. These tools should encourage conversation, dialogue and relationship building, just like a good salesperson does. Then, and only then, having built an element of credibility, trust and value can you look to new business potential. You wouldn’t go into a new pub and start shouting out to everyone present that you make great widgets and that you will offer a 10% discount to the first five people to put their hands up. So, if you mingle in the virtual world (or are thinking of starting) please don’t try this approach here. Start a dialogue – a two way communication. Don’t start shouting about special offers and widgets to all and sundry around you.

Otherwise your brand, image and reputation – around the world – will be gone in moments.

twitter1I’ve been a user of Twitter for well over a year now and have made some useful contacts and connections as a result. It’s even resulted in some business – but that’s not the reason that I Tweet (to use the jargon). However, last Friday I found that my Twitter account had been hacked into and someone (or something) was sending out Tweets from my account @TrevorLever.

Well I had heard of this sort of thing happening to celebrities. But why would someone want to do this to my account? Could it be the start of some identity theft scam? It left me with a very funny feeling about social networking (You can also find me on Facebook, Ecademy and LinkedIn) and has made me think twice about passwords, secuity and working in internet cafe’s.

Currently @TrevorLever is sending out Tweets with links to porn sites. Honest it’s not me. I’ve spent the best part of this weekend notifying all those that follow me of what’s happened as I have clients, friends and family following me.

So I have had to create a new Twitter account: @RealTrevorLever

If you are following @TrevorLever – please unfollow and follow @RealTrevorLever

The moral? I’m not sure – I need to think about that one a bit more.

Suggestions?