Today, on Focus.com, I took a moment to weigh in on the question that is the title of this blog post. It’s a good question but the question, I believe, was answered long ago. Social media is being taken seriously by plenty of professionals. However, it isn’t so much that social media doesn’t serve business well, the problem is in how people are approaching how they use social platforms. This is what I had to say in response to the question. I’d love to hear what you think!
“Great question, Bill.
I think Michael started off the conversation right by reminding us of the biggest problem that I see with regard to how business views social media. They are looking for the “magic wand”, the quick fix and it just doesn’t exist. Technology merely enables a well thought out process. Every single failure that I’ve seen all leads back to this point. People jump onto the technology, they have no idea what they are doing or what they want to accomplish, they haven’t targeted their message, they don’t know how to leverage the tool and then when it flops, they proclaim social media a failure.
What will it take to see some real success?
First, let’s start by separating the discussion, because how companies use social media for marketing versus how they need to use it drive sales opportunities is different! The referenced GM article is a good example of the marketing side of it.
Two, you can’t slap traditional marketing or sales approaches onto social media platforms and expect it to work differently. In other words, don’t use social media to “cold call” or mass broadcast spam. That’s no better than spam email (which I hate by the way). And, don’t think of social media return in the same way you think about print advertising return. To succeed - you have to THINK differently! This world is about giving value first. Most companies on both the sales and marketing sides of the house have it backwards.
Three, people need to reset their expectations, which gets back to Michael’s point. I saw this with CRM systems. They were to be the panacea and generate all kinds of “revenue”. Really? My salesforce.com account doesn’t close business for me, I do. The system is designed to help you capture information that you utilize as part of your sales process, but it doesn’t do the work for you. Likewise, people complain that LinkedIn doesn’t work in terms of generating new business opportunities. Not true at all, but if you thought you just needed to set up a profile and the money would come pouring in, well, you are mistaken.
Four, from a sales perspective, salespeople and their management need to get real. Buyer behavior has changed, so sales approaches and process need to adapt also. This is largely not happening. Gartner says that about 80% of the buying process happens before a prospect ever interacts with sales. So why are so many reps still using the outdated “dog and pony feature benefit” pitches over email or cold calling or worse when they get the meeting? Understanding what’s important to the prospect counts and you can find the information online. Not doing your research is inexcusable. Visible and compelling online presence counts. Offering up value in advance of sales opportunities counts. Recommendations count. The reality is that if you don’t leverage social media to your advantage, your competitor who is will kick your butt.
Five, needs to be buy-in and support from upper management and upper management needs to be visibly engaged in social themselves. Social business success requires a shift in mindset…it is a process and not an event.
Six, understand the technology. Not everyone needs Twitter. If you sell B2B, you should be rocking LinkedIn with referral building, lead generation, sales research, etc., but you may not need anything else. Just because someone says it’s cool (think Pinterest) that doesn’t mean it is the right tool for what you want to accomplish.
Seven, invest in training for your employees. If you don’t give your people the proper training on the tools, what they are designed to do and how to use them, how do you expect them to get any sort of successful result? After all this time, I am still surprised at the number of salespeople who don’t do anything more with LinkedIn than invite people to connect. My gosh, there is so much more to it. But, unfortunately, people just don’t know what they don’t know.
Eight, and my biggest pet peeve, by the way…have a plan! It all starts with a plan, you then clearly define your target (applies to sales and marketing), choose the RIGHT tools, implement consistently and then measure and track.
Social media isn’t broken but how most people and companies are approaching the use of the platforms…is!”