Sales Guru Says, “Social Networking Is NOT Unproductive”


At the Sales 2.0 Conference in Boston last spring, a sales executive from Microsoft raised concerns that employees involved in social networking were wasting time that could be better spent selling.He is not alone in that opinion. A research group in the United Kingdom recently released a study suggesting that Twitter and other social-networking sites are costing UK businesses roughly $2.3 billion a year. An analyst for the IT firm that prepared the study called social networking a “productivity black hole.”But while sales managers are right to be concerned if their employees are spending their work hours socializing (online or off), social networking can be a powerful sales and marketing tool, according to Kevin Popovic, founder and communications director of the branding firm Ideahaus.Popovic believes that, when used for business purposes, social networking has the highest potential ROI of any kind of business communications. “You’d be hard pressed to reach as many of the right people as quickly as you can through these services,” he explains. “The traditional ways of connecting with potential customers often leave sales professionals in the dark, probing for information and building relationships that could more easily be discovered and developed online.”Using social networking correctly requires some forethought, according to Popovic. “You need to pick the right tool for each job. For example, if you’re trying to reach a large number of people with a consistent message, Twitter can be extremely useful. If you’re trying to extend your sales persona into a more personal realm, then Facebook is a great choice.”And such business-networking sites as LinkedIn and Plaxo are rapidly becoming ubiquitous, because people find them useful for promoting both themselves and their firms and finding out about prospects, partners, and even competitors.Even so, Popovic warns that it’s sometimes difficult for companies to get their arms around how to use the new technology effectively. “The companies that got into social networking and media early on had to learn by the school of hard knocks,” he says. “The challenge now is to learn from those early experiments and come up with a multipronged approach that builds on traditional marketing data.”To this end, Popovic has created a concept called “satellite marketing,” which he defines as “a communications strategy designed to connect an organization with its target markets via social-media sites and services.”The idea is to use social-media sites and services as marketing substations, or “satellites,” that are used in addition to or in place of such traditional media as print, radio, television, direct mail, and outdoor advertising.Satellites are configured with repurposed and strategically placed content from existing brochures, advertisements, Websites, public relations communications, branding, design, multimedia, and events on social-media sites, and then “set in orbit” around the prospect with the same diligence as traditional media.When planned properly, this kind of social-media planning builds upon the same demographics, psychographics, frequency, and impressions as conventional media planning, according to Popovic. “The goal is to expand the reach of the organization and enhance the results by creating relationships,” he explains, adding, “Satellites offer smaller, faster, dynamic communications opportunities, engaging prospects where they already exist.”