January 13, 2010

How Sales Leaders Can Profit from Social Media

By Heather Baldwin

Facebook. MySpace. Twitter. YouTube. The list of social media sites and tools goes on and on. Think you can ignore them because they’re social media or because you think they’re passing fads? Think again, says Barton Goldenberg, president of Bethesda, Maryland-based ISM, a CRM strategic advisory firm. “This trend isn’t going away; it’s only getting stronger,” says Goldenberg. “And it’s not just for consumers. Sure, they led the punch, but there’s an unquestionable bleeding over into the business space.”

In a recent Webinar entitled, “The Growing Impact of Social Media on Your Customer Relationships,” Goldenberg explored the growing use of social media tools such as blogs, wikis, video, podcasts, social networks, and more. Not surprisingly, Gen Y is driving the whole social media phenomenon, but Goldenberg predicts that by 2015, the average Boomer will spend three hours a day using social media tools.

How can you tap into this growing phenomenon to engage your target audience in a whole new way? Goldenberg offered an eight-step strategy for implementing a social media strategy in your business. Here’s a summary of those eight steps:

  1. Determine goals. What are you trying to accomplish with your social media initiative? Are you trying to increase sales through word-of-mouth recommendations or by building brand strength? Do you want to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty? Decrease your costs? Before you do anything, figure out what you want to achieve.
  2. Understand your audience. Which constituency are you targeting? Employees? Customers? Prospects? Partners? Once you zero in on your audience, you’ll need to understand their “techno-graphic profile,” says Goldenberg. In other words, where do they stand in terms of technology adoption? Some will be leading-edge users of social media tools and some will be standing by, observing the trend.
  3. Lock on strategy. What is the primary reason for customers/prospects to visit your new site or listen to your podcast or watch your video? Is it for research? Marketing? Sales? Product development? Think of these as listening, talking, energizing, and embracing customers, respectively, as you decide what your tool is going to accomplish.
  4. Leverage resources. What type of experience can you offer your customer/prospect? What resources do you have that you can leverage? Depending on your goals, consider offering your audience research insights from subject matter experts and video (perhaps of one of your sites or of something you’re doing). Also think of ways you can energize your base to involve people in what you are doing.
  5. Engage customers. How will you draw customers to your site? This is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle, says Goldenberg. If you don’t get it right, it won’t matter how brilliantly you’ve done everything else. Think about marketing on your home page, creating links from other sites, buying ad words on Google, running contests for 30-60 days with meaningful prizes, and, of course, sending emails to your prospects and customers with links and updates.
  6. Set metrics. A lot of companies dive into the social media space without any forethought as to how they’ll measure success. Don’t make this mistake. Determine ahead of time the metrics you’ll use to determine whether your initiative has been successful. Is it engagement (number of visits/users, etc.), customer interest (the number of people who buy your product or give you valuable information), or a growth in retention figures? “You must have metrics and you must measure them quite religiously,” insists Goldenberg.
  7. Execute against plan. This step is self-explanatory, says Goldenberg. The key here is “against plan.” Don’t let your enthusiasm for the novelty of the new space cause you to wander in multiple directions. Stay focused on your goals and your target audience.
  8. Compile and assess results. Remember the metrics you set in step six? This is where you’re going to take a hard look at them. “At the end of the day, it’s the ‘results’ questions that tell you whether you’ve been successful and where you need to go,” Goldenberg concludes.