Social media is kind of a big deal around the net, you know?
Social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ have clearly established themselves as mainstays for consumers and companies alike. During our webinar last week on “How to use social media to leverage sales,” Richard Young, of our integrator Nimble, cited that, with more than a billion users, if Facebook were a country, it’d be the third largest — that’s influence. Though most social media platforms ostensibly got their start as communications platforms, they have grown to include news and social currency.
Case in point: Just the other day, I followed the 24-hour Le Mans race through Twitter while I was working on one screen of my dual-monitor setup. As a rabid Aston Martin Racing fan, I knew that I needed to work, but I just had to keep up with the play-by-play from the race. I felt the shock and awe of Allen Simonsen’s fatal crash early in the race as disheartening posts – and a subsequent official statement from Aston Martin – began filling my Twitter feed. Looking back, it occurs to me that I felt real emotion at what was unfolding, for me, through social media, perhaps for the first time.
The takeaway is that I followed the race, ups and downs and all, through Twitter. I found myself as captivated as if I were watching it on television. Social media has truly elbowed its way to stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside mainstream media – and it may go on to eclipse legacy media down the road.
Many companies are investing in social media these days. One is left to wonder, though, are they taking it seriously? The lesson I have learned as of late, is that social media is serious business. Social media platforms are a direct link to a brand’s audience, allowing a higher state of constant connectivity than ever before afforded. Brands are wise to take note and keep the connection open and valuable.
Nevertheless, for brands, social media is a critical link to their website – and, ideally, landing pages. According to data from Hot in Social Media, sites such as Facebook and Twitter are drivers of sales (implying that they are not sales destinations), exposing the need for social platforms to work with company websites to complete the sales process. In light of the continuing growth (and prevalence in our lives) of social media and in honor of June 30 being dubbed Social Media Day, let us look at smart and responsible branding through social media, as well as how social platforms can help you grow sales by bringing qualified leads to your webpages.
Get serious about social media
Richard taught us that the average person decides in 2.5 seconds whether or not to open an email, making it a dying form of sales communication, along with the more antiquated voicemail. Social media is a way to start a relationship with a prospective client that preempts a cold call.
One mistake that brands sometimes make is not taking social media seriously and not looking at it as a viable part of their business’ branding strategy. Many companies embrace social media in that they sign up, trick out a few pages, and post occasional blips as they feel the need. That is not making the most of social media.
55 percent of people check out social media before making a purchase.
Modern consumers only respond to brands that seem to be alive. As such, social media is the veritable pulse of your business. Consumers want to know that your brand is vital; and showing them through social media is the best way to let them check for signs of life. Smart brands are posting – regularly – on social media, keeping the blood pumping, so to speak.
If you’re using a CRM like Nimble, by just inputting (or bringing over automatically from Quote Roller) the name and email address of a potential client, all their social networks immediately integrate, even offering you the option of auto-following them. Nimble will populate a contact and social media profile for said client. Then, by seeing the last things they post, you can then engage in a conversation with them – and, thus, you’ve created a common point of interest. With each social media action you make, the higher you raise the likelihood that they will click on your email, answer your call, accept your proposal.
Keep it real
Social media is a success because it facilitates the transparency that modern consumers demand. In my example above, I mentioned Aston Martin Racing – which is a brand, among other things. They obviously engage their fans through social media for business reasons. When the going gets rough, they are transparent about it, sugarcoating nothing. Hats off to them, for that.
Just as they have, your business has to keep it real in social media. If something great happens within your organization, feel free to celebrate it through social media platforms. You do not have to air all of your in-company gossip through social media, to be certain, but if the news is bad, be as transparent as you can in all prudence. When Simonsen’s crash happened, of course, everyone was waiting to hear an official statement from Aston Martin, and much to their credit, they delivered an appreciable message in a timely fashion.
And maybe you heard about Flickr going from freemium to paid-for services called Panda and, well, failing as the site had a ton of errors. Instead of denying it, Flickr made fun of themselves on social media with this awesome Bad Panda photo and the popular hashtag #badpanda.
That’s what social media is all about: delivering what your followers are looking for, when they are looking for it.
Engage your followers
Another detrimental mistake that companies make in social media is treating it as a stage, not a forum. Truth is, social media is a two-way street. If you are doing it right, your social media posts will get many comments.
However, playing to the broad audience of social media platforms means you have to acknowledge them meaningfully. Remember how we said that social media is a serious business? You followers do not follow brands they do not care for. On occasion, though, the discourse will reveal an opportunity for you to display your brand’s customer service excellence.
Most often, the responses you receive in social media will be positive, but sometimes, one of your followers will address a concern. In the spirit of being transparent, as we mentioned above, you have to take the good along with the bad. If a customer has a legitimate issue, address it with civility and graciousness.
Even if the customer in question is expressing their grievance colorfully (ahem, you know, with lots of four-letter words), your brand will still come out gleaming if you address the concern with substance, while being courteous. In social media, even a complaint is an opportunity to come out ahead. You just have to monitor the dialogue, and contribute to it accordingly. Keep a cool head in social media, and you will benefit greatly from engaging your followers.
Remember, engaging your followers also means engaging with their content — not just posting your own and replying to their direct messages and tweets. (And don’t thank for follows and RTs — it’s shameless and tacky!) We at Quote Roller try to follow every new sign-up we can on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest, and we make a concerted effort to re-post and interact with their content. After all, why should they promote us if we don’t show an interest in them?
Support landing pages through social media
Social media, as omnipresent as it is, is really a means to an end. Consumers want to keep up with your brand through social media, but they want to do business through a webpage. Unfortunately, many new companies – acknowledging of the value of social media – forego having a functioning website, complete with landing pages, at all. This is a mistake, to say the least.
Companies with an active blog have 67 percent more leads.
Companies that use Twitter have twice as many leads.
Why wouldn’t your company take advantage of these free opportunities?!
Many upstarts (including at least one new Quote Roller sign-up a day) have a website that is perpetually “under construction.” Consumers feel more confident completing transactions through static webpages than social media. Always expect better results from webpages than from social media. You have to view social media as a tool to get visitors to come to your site. The lesson is that no one trusts the construction sign, so instead at least make sure to have what you do and an up-to-date way to contact you on your business webpage, until you have time to finish what you’ve started on it.
Are you using social media to grow sales?
It is safe to say that every modern business should be engaging customers through social media platforms. To ignore them is to fly in the face of sanity, at this point. Many users shrug off businesses not using social media. Do not allow your business to be one of those. By using social media to help get the word out about your brand, you can stay in meaningful contact with your audience. Just remember that transparency is the best policy, and social media is a vehicle to draw users to your main website, and you will do fine, as well as grow sales along the way.
How do YOU use social media to grow sales and win more bids?
Photos: Flickr Creative Commons