Roundtable Series: Social Media Promotion

Our ongoing Social Media Marketing Use Case blog series is based on recent roundtable discussions with social media marketing professionals. The series explores social media marketing topics with the goal of sparking open discussion and informing social strategy. The fifth use case in our series, social media promotion, focuses on how businesses can derive direct revenue from their use of social media marketing.

Recent studies have shown that almost 40% of people connect with brands over social channels because they want to receive offers and discounts. But another recent study stated that people disconnect from brands because of over-posting or irrelevant content.

Brands want to see ROI in their social media marketing efforts, and one of the core ways for them to associate revenue and profitability directly to social marketing is through running a social media promotion. Dell Outlet is one of the key success stories regarding the use of social media promotion. They have a Twitter account dedicated to selling discounted merchandise and have seen success in their approach.

These questions kick-started our roundtable discussion: How can a brand take advantage of online engagement with consumers to drive social media promotion? What are the rules of engagement and best practices?

Social Media Promotion | A Lesson From Traditional Sales Promotion: How Much Is Too Much?

  • Example: An outdoor products retailer sends out email marketing newsletters every day or two. They are not segmenting the list by interest, they are not providing special promotions other than through email marketing, and their promotions are similar each time (usually 20% off). While people are more forgiving of promotional emails around the holiday season (they are looking for deals), how long will it take the average consumer to disengage and unsubscribe? If this retailer were doing the same thing on social channels, how much less tolerant would a consumer be of this barrage of deals?
  • Brand exclusivity often drives how contacts perceive a promotion. Designer brands may erode their brand status by offering discounts too often; but when they do, many people will probably jump at the chance of getting 20% off of current season items.
  • Predictability may erode a brand’s revenue stream. If a retailer provides discount offers too often, consumers may just wait for deals before purchasing rather than looking for an every-day value retailer.

Social Media Promotion | Maintaining a Content/Promotion Balance

  • Users come for community and stay for good content!
  • While people are often looking for deals when they connect with a brand online, great content that pertains to the brand’s target audience will help the consumer engage with the brand on levels higher than just transactional promotions.
  • Brands that provide only promotions through their social channels will miss the opportunity to learn more about their customers, engage them further, and develop those customers into brand advocates.
  • Social channels may be the lead to a consumer opt-in for social media promotions, but it may also make sense to deliver those promotions on different channels. Savvy marketers will consider delivering promotions on multiple channels and let the consumer dictate their preferences and the rules of engagement.

Social Media Promotion | Different Rules for Different Social Channels

  • Twitter updates can fly by, and a consumer may see an occasional tweet. Multiple promotions may or may not be noticed and may or may not come off as annoying to followers.
  • Frequent Facebook updates, however, may have a greater annoyance factor especially if a contact doesn’t have a huge volume of communications from their contacts. The brand’s status updates may stay on the consumer’s newsfeed, and too many promotions (or even too many updates) may cause the consumer to disconnect from the brand.

Social Media Promotion | Different Deals on Different Social Channels?

  • Should brands offer different deals on each social channel? That depends on the brand’s goals as well as the audience profile on each channel.
  • If a brand decides to offer exclusive promotions on a particular channel, they better make sure that they follow through and make the deals worth the consumer’s engagement on that channel!

Social Media Promotion | Value and ROI From Lead Capture

  • Example: Pepsi Refresh campaign. Tons of people signed up to support different causes and Pepsi built a huge database. What now? How are they going to use this information? Where’s the ROI?
  • The database can lead to distinct, attributable ROI for social media marketing. Deal distribution, tracking by channel and by person, offer redemption in the retail channel, and direct ROI. This is happening today!
  • The database can also provide media impression data. ROI for traditional marketing and advertising used to be about media impressions and ROI based upon sales volume for a period during or after a campaign. With social, there’s a greater ability to measure the direct and residual impressions (through social sharing) in a traditional light and measure the redemption of social media promotions as well.

Intrigued? Would you like to join the discussion? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

B2B Social Series | 10 Social Sales Tips

Sales professionals are some of the earliest adopters of social networking. The problem is that most sales reps treat LinkedIn like a prospecting database for cold calling. It’s just too enticing when all your target prospects are out there showing off their company names, titles, areas of expertise, blogs, and opinions. You can use LinkedIn as a prospecting database, but it is probably the weakest and most professionally irritating use of the technology. To succeed at social sales, you must have something to offer beyond your product. You must be someone your customers want to know.

This is the fourth post in a series on social business designed to help B2B sales and marketing professionals make better use of social media by thinking in terms of social networking. This installment provides ten social sales tips that will turn social media into a lead generation machine for your business by following the B2B Social Business Bill of Rights.

Social Sales Tip #1 | Activate Your Social Sales Network

B2B businesses still have rather spotty usage of social networking. Most B2B sales reps are on LinkedIn, but far fewer have active Twitter accounts. Depending on the industry, B2B prospects and customers are even less likely to be active social networkers. Social Business Right #1 says you must expand your social sales network, so take the lead and give your sales reps, prospects and customers a reason to get more social. Use social channels like blogs, forums, Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to communicate with your customers and prospects. Encourage website registration using social networking accounts. And, create promotions and contests that require participation in social networks. Activate your company’s social business network by motivating its members to follow your company’s lead.

Social Sales Tip #2 | Capture Social Sales Contact Profiles

Upgrade your CRM to capture Twitter handles, LinkedIn profiles, blog URLs and Facebook pages in addition to the standard phone, email and fax. Does anyone still fax? Add these items to lead capture forms on your website and use data appending services to augment them. Your sales team can’t link up without the right social contact information any more than they can cold call without phone numbers.

Social Sales Tip #3 | Train Sales in the Art of Referrals

The most common social sales mistake is treating social media like a prospecting tool; it is a networking tool. Stick to direct cold calls and email for prospecting. The reason most sales reps struggle at networking is that they fail to understand the critical role of referrals in the art of networking. Sales reps are trained to hunt. Account managers are trained to farm. Networking is about gathering. Gathering contacts. Gathering useful tidbits of information. Gathering opportunities. Gathering things that you can share.

social sales

Social Business Right #2 advises that you build your social sales community by being helpful. Sharing referrals are not selfless acts of kindness, because reciprocity creates social networking karma. Smart networkers look for opportunities to provide referrals to those people from whom they would like to receive referrals. They know who they want to meet and what those people care about. They identify opportunities that can be referred and opportunities to refer them. Networking requires a gathering sales discipline. It’s not something you go out and do once a month. It’s something you incorporate into your daily routine, because opportunity waits for no one.

Social Sales Tip #4 | Train Sales on Social Networking Tools

If your sales team masters the art of networking through referrals, then your social network training will become an entirely different experience. Approaching LinkedIn with the mindset of gathering contacts that you might do business with or might introduce you to someone you might do business with someday and looking for ways to share information, introductions and business opportunities will generate many creative ideas. This proper use of social networking contrasts sharply with the more typical sales prospecting default of searching on title and trying to link up with a product pitch.

Each social networking tool from LinkedIn to Twitter to a personal blog offers different networking capabilities and opportunities. Sales reps should select the ones that fit their respective business needs and professional styles. However, mastering the ins and outs of the features, functions and formalities of each tool is essential. For example, if you choose to write a blog, you probably need to know WordPress and SEO. If you choose Twitter, you need to know how to use handles and hashtags. If you use LinkedIn, you need to understand groups and updates. Despite all your good intentions of being a helpful business colleague, it’s a competition for attention out there and mastering social networking tools is essential to social sales success.

Social Sales Tip #5 | Prepackage Useful, Share-able Content

Social Business Right #3 asks that you should accelerate information sharing within your social sales network. Maintaining a library of incredibly useful, industry-specific tidbits of information in easy-to-share packages like like PDFs, PPTs, Web links, and so forth can be a big time-saver, because when opportunity knocks to share some useful information, you need to answer quickly and concisely. Marketing departments can help sales reps in a big way by making sure sales is plugged into the content marketing pipeline for both original and curated content.

Social Sales Tip #6 | Invest in Digital Media Monitoring

The timeliness of shared information directly impacts its usefulness. Therefore, it’s important to stay on top of what’s being said in your industry everywhere from Twitter to traditional news. Staying on top of industry buzz has become impossible to do manually by reading your favorite trade publications. Strong media monitoring tools not only keep you informed, but they can become a competitive weapon for the social sales professional, because people gravitate to those who are always in the know.

The Tipping Point for Social Sales

There is a challenge hidden in these 10 Social Sales Tips, and since most sales professionals love competition, I will make it explicit. The ultimate goal of the Social Business Bill of Rights is to light up your social business network with viral sharing of business referrals through social networking, from simple retweets to new prospects, partners and personnel. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell provides a straightforward formula for enabling virality built upon three key network players: connectors, mavens and salesmen.

  • Connectors, are the people in a community who know large numbers of people and who are in the habit of making introductions.
  • Mavens are information specialists, or people we rely upon to connect us with new information.
  • Salesmen are persuaders, charismatic people with powerful negotiation skills.

Presumably, a strong sales rep is already a salesman in the Tipping Point sense. The challenge then is this: can you become a social sales triple threat by being a connector and a maven too?

Social Sales Tip #7 | Launch a Referral Reward Program

Operationalizing referrals throughout your social sales organization is no easy task. It requires new knowledge and new habits. By introducing a simple referral rewards program, you provide a vehicle to reinforce the habit of asking for customer referrals. It is a great misconception of customer referral programs that they drive referrals through monetary incentives and discounts to your customers. They do not. When a customer provides a referral, she is doing it in order to help her friend, not the salesperson or the company. If a customer is not happy with your service, she will not refer her friend regardless of the incentive, because it will make her look bad. The best referral programs provide a small reward to your customer (reciprocity, not an incentive) and an incentive to the prospect (which allows your customer to do her friend an even bigger favor).

The most important ingredient in driving customer referrals is never a reward or incentive. It is timing. You must ask for a referral when your customer is most willing to provide it. When she is happy with your service and feeling the reciprocity vibe of your social sales karma. While there are modern marketing tricks that can triangulate on the right time and place to ask for a referral through some online call-to-action, there is no tactic stronger than the sales rep asking for a referral directly after being told by your customer just how fantastically happy she is with your product and service.

Social Sales Tip #8| Increase Social Sales Productivity

Staying on top of every prospect’s and every customer’s social activity across multiple social netorks is an impossible task for most busy sales professionals. Therefore, it is essential to start investing in systems that boost their social sales productivity. Twenty years ago most sales managers would have scoffed at the idea of maintaining a pipeline of opportunities and simultaneous conversations with hundreds of prospects. Today it is routine due to the productivity impact of enterprise CRM systems. The social CRM systems of tomorrow will allow sales reps to hear and participate in thousands of conversations going on inside their social sales network, but outside of today’s enterprise CRM systems on the other side of the firewall.

Social Sales Tip #9 | Create Online Networking Opportunities

Now that you have your social sales reps all linked and followed, why not give them more opporunities to engage? Don’t let them just sit around waiting for that great article to share or contact to introduce. Create opportunities for your social sales reps to social network. Start a LinkedIn Group. Launch a community industry blog or forum. Create social networking events by integrating online networking into offline events. Or, just create social networking events, such as tweet-ups and contests. However you do it, give your social sales reps more online networking opportunities. More opportunities for online engagement mean more opportunities to strengthen online relationships.

Social Sales Tip #10 | Create Offline Networking Opportunities

Social Business Right #5 asks that you consistently work to convert weak ties to strong ties within your social sales network, so sooner or later you’ve got to take it offline. All the tweets in the world are still no substitute for thirty minutes over coffee. Help your social sales reps develop stronger business relationships by providing offline networking opportunities with prospects, customers and industry influencers. These can be as simple as a meetup at the local bar or as complex as a global annual user conference. As industry trade shows shrink in the wake of modern Internet marketing, there is a growing vaccuum that must be filled to satisfy the fundamental need of B2B professionals for face-to-face networking. Don’t forget to mind the gap.

This social sales blog post was cross-posted courtesy of B2B Marketing Strategy @chaoticflow

Roundtable Series: Direct Social Engagement

Our ongoing Social Media Marketing Use Case blog series is based on recent roundtable discussions with social media marketing professionals. The series explores social media marketing topics with the goal of sparking open discussion and informing social strategy. The fourth use case in our series, direct social engagement, focuses on how businesses can take advantage of the open nature of social media and have unprecedented, direct access to customers and prospects.

One of the core opportunities for brands and businesses to utilize social media marketing is to engage directly with their current and potential customers. While brand awareness is a first link in a business’ social marketing value chain, the ability to connect directly with a consumer to draw them closer gives the brand the opportunity to drive consumer advocacy, engagement, and feedback. How are brands outlining social engagement with customers today? What are the best practices they need to use to ensure positive consumer response?

Direct Social Engagement | Engagement by Consumer Type

  • Finding and publishing meaningful content for social sharing can be a daunting task. What kind of content are people looking for? What are the best practices for social engagement?
  • Altimeter Group published an “Engagement Pyramid” and accompanying tactics for marketing to different social consumers in the marketplace. They hypothesize that in social networks, 90% of people are audience members, 9% are editors (create content), and 1% are curators (heavily involved in online communities). Their recommendations for social engagement at all the levels of the pyramid are included in the SlideShare presentation below.

Direct Social Engagement | Should You Use the Same Brand Messaging on Social Media?

  • Your social voice should be your brand’s voice (reflecting brand identity, values), but on a personal level. A social voice should be just that…social (rather than just messaging/promotion-oriented).
  • The social voice, and the content and communications that are published socially, should reflect the pillars of the brand (the company’s/brand’s values) as well as the topics and flow of conversation from people using the brand’s products. For instance, an organic food product’s social voice should include content and comments about the organic lifestyle, organic recipes, sustainable farming, and other key pillars and topics that support the brand’s identity. This kind of content will attract the audience most likely to buy the brand’s products and create an opening for “Watchers” to become “Sharers” and even “Commenters” (in Altimeter’s terms).
  • The content shared on social media by the brand should enable target customers to identify and develop brand affinity and advocacy. Even brands with commodity products (e.g. gasoline) can engage with consumers based upon their brand’s pillars; for instance, an oil company can engage with consumers about conservation, ecology, etc. Just make sure that the social voice is a true reflection of corporate values; social consumers want to see authenticity in the brand’s social voice.

Direct Social Engagement | Brand Affinity and Brand Trust

  • People buy from the brands they like, use, and admire. If they find those brands on the social web, it’s an opportunity for the brand to get closer to the consumer.
  • When engaging consumers who may not have a relationship with the brand, a business should use a light touch first and then let the consumer set the pace of social engagement and communications. For instance, a brand can comment on a consumer’s Twitter status update and follow that person. If the consumer follows back, and even sends a comment back, it’s a great first step. Brands shouldn’t try to sell at first touch, they should let the consumer investigate the brand. Just following that person will introduce the brand to the consumer.
  • Most brands hope to drive new contacts to their website; social media (and content sharing) helps people find the brand, and the website explains what benefits the brand offers. Make sure that the website is clear, provides great content and value, and supports the brand’s social identity. Make sure links from the brand’s social pages (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube) are directed towards appropriate pages on the brand’s website.

Direct Social Engagement | Ask for Permission, Don’t Overstep Boundaries

  • Strictly adhering to the communication preferences of the consumer helps you keep that consumer engaged and develops trust.
  • The “ask” should not be done at first touch; however, asking at various junctures on the brand’s website, Facebook page, on landing pages, etc. is desirable and acceptable.
  • Remember: Date first before thinking of marriage!

Direct Social Engagement | Measuring Value

  • There’s pressure from management to have measurable, tangible results from social engagement. In fact, some within corporate leadership still don’t see the value and are afraid of seeing the negative comments that are being posted about them. Remember that the comments are happening whether or not your company is listening; social engagement is an opportunity to receive feedback from customers and to turn negative consumer experiences into positive outcomes. But you can’t do that if you’re not listening to and engaging with social consumers.
  • The value can be measured like other media–impressions, clicks, and even commerce. The use cases are there but the business needs to commit to moving forward with social marketing in order to prove the value.

How are you engaging with consumers? What value has it brought to your company? We’d love to hear from you!