Be More Social
In this fast-paced, connected business landscape, it can be challenging to stay on top of every internet trend and App Store addition. However, there’s one constant that should not be ignored: social media. According to We Are Social, there are currently 3.17 billion social media users, and according to Social Media Today, there are 1 million new mobile social users added every day.
If you need any more incentive to prioritize social media, listen to this: 74 percent of salespeople who beat their 2014 sales quotas by 10 percent or more said they truly understand how to use social media for prospecting, nurturing relationships and closing deals, according to Forbes. Furthermore, they were six times as likely to exceed their quotas than salespeople with a lack of social media skills.
There’s no doubt that social media needs to be a part of your company’s master plan. Here are five ways to get the most out of this technology.
1. Identify yourself
To have an exemplary social media presence, you must have a consistent brand strategy. So, what does a print and promo social media brand strategy embody? “Social media, like any marketing channel, can help build awareness of the breadth and depth of company expertise, products and solutions, and, in turn, position the organization in a positive light,” said Carolyn Goodman, president of Goodman Marketing Partners Inc., San Rafael, Calif. “B2B brands can do so by delivering relevant and meaningful content that helps their audiences solve a problem.”
Jim Gilbert, CEO of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., Boca Raton, Fla., agreed that social media is imperative to brand awareness. “Branding and social media go hand-in-hand,” he said. “They’re things that you must have in order to run a successful business in the 21st century. When people are researching your company, one of the parts of their research project is that they are going to look at your social media. They’re going to want to look to see that you have a community built there, that you’re responding to questions, and that you don’t have irate customers barking at you on your pages.”
And in building this strong brand presence, increased sales are sure to follow. “You can stimulate the buying decision if you have a nice balance of informational posts and sales posts,” Gilbert said. “Usually my ratio is 9:1—for every nine informational posts, brand-building posts, community-building posts, giveaways, etc., I will publish a sales post and drive sales that way.”
2. Prepare your social media strategy
Once you have an understanding of your social media mission statement, it’s time to start strategizing. While it might be tempting to skip this step, it’s essential in the beginning stages. “Have an objective and strategy in place before you start using social media,” said Goodman. “What do you hope to accomplish in these channels? Who are you trying to reach? What do you want them to do after reading your posts?”
From there, you’ve got to pick your specific outlets. Each social channel brings something different to the business channel. “Choose your social media channels wisely,” she said. “If you’re in a highly visual business, Instagram and Pinterest may yield more than Facebook or Twitter.”
But for most B2B companies, there are some tried-and-true social avenues. “LinkedIn is No. 1 for business,” Goodman pointed out. “As the largest business network in the world, it’s critical that key executives at [your] company have LinkedIn profiles that follow best practices: professional headshots, strong and consistent summary statements when referencing the business, complete profiles and links/endorsements to peers. Once that’s complete, create a business profile, followed by regular LinkedIn posts.”
YouTube can be your company’s next social avenue. For Goodman, YouTube is invaluable for distributing product demonstrations, how-to helpful tips or even videos that tell compelling stories. In short, it’s a marketer’s dream.
And what about Twitter? Gilbert described it as a useful communication device. “If you’re building a content strategy, you can use Twitter for help,” he said. “You can also use Twitter to reach out to influencers and build relationships with people.”
3. Put in the time
In the words of Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” When it comes to social media, you need to be willing to utilize your time and resources. “Social media is a commitment—a long-term one,” said Goodman. “So, you’d best be prepared to act (and invest) accordingly.”
Specifically, you need to put in the time. “If you’ve committed to posting regularly, then you’ll need to dedicate a resource to getting that done,” she said. “Monitor posts regularly and as soon as you note the quality is slipping, speak to your team and get a course correction.”
If your current team is strapped for time, there is a solution (if you can swing it): Hire a social media strategist. “If a company is large enough to have somebody who’s dedicated to the task, then they should do it,” said Gilbert. “Somebody who can write and curate great content, and is smart enough to know the business objectives of the company.
“For lots of companies, [social media is] somebody’s side job or it’s an afterthought, and that might get you into trouble—it’s the quickest way to kill a community or miss an opportunity,” he continued. “You need someone who knows what they’re doing at the helm [and] can make great decisions and write great content. So, if you can afford it, I say do it.”
4. Create engagement
Your company’s social media profiles are your platforms to shine—don’t just repeatedly post a sales flier. You need to give your followers a reason to come back. “Personality is a must,” Gilbert stressed. “It’s one of those ways to differentiate yourself from the other businesses. Between your personality and your content, that’s what’s going to do it. I always tell people that if you want to connect with me, find a way to get me engaged—don’t just connect with me and start selling.”
And if you’re hoping for the treasured chance to go “viral,” it’s going to take some work. “If you want your stuff to go viral, you have to either have content that’s really share-worthy, or it needs to provoke a response,” said Gilbert. “It can be a positive response, a negative response or a rallying cry.”
5. Take care of complaints
According to research and advisory firm Gartner Inc., failure to respond to customer complaints via social media channels can result in up to a 15 percent increase in churn rate for existing customers. It is critical to dissolve customer complaints quickly because all eyes are on you. “Handle customer complaints quickly and thoroughly,” said Gilbert. “The better you are at resolving the issue, the quicker you can turn someone from a negative customer into a customer advocate. These days, you expect bad customer service from companies, and when you get good customer service from companies, just that can go viral.
“The speed with which you respond to people is just as powerful as what you say, and it will definitely give you an edge if you respond quickly, so monitoring is key,” he continued.
In terms of specifics, Goodman had some pointers. “If the issue requires special handling, invite the poster to contact you directly so you can take the discussion offline,” she said. “If it’s a simple customer complaint, think about how you might handle it if the customer was standing right in front of you. First, don’t argue. Apologize and start talking about how you can ‘make it right.’”
When in doubt, remember these key words from Gilbert: “Post strategically, ask questions, push buttons and get responses. If you’re just pushing information, you’re not really building community.”