Much like any other medium of communication, organizations should only participate in social media if it helps them achieve their goals.
For most organizations, the most important goal to reach is based on revenue—sales, donations, etc. Revenue gives an organization the right to exist, and every company fails for the same reason: they run out of money.
Because of this urgency, there’s been an enormous need to bring social media to selling, and these attempts are all loosely linked under the umbrella of “social selling.”
With that said, trying to sell via social media alone is a waste of time for most organizations out there, because most people don’t buy based only on social media contact—though there are a few exceptions, like low-dollar charity donations.
There’s a lot to talk about here, but we’ll cut to the chase: very few B2B transactions will happen on social media (even on a network like LinkedIn). But there are plenty of ways to use social media earlier in the sales funnel.
There are three steps in the funnel where social media will make a big difference:
- Build Social Capital. The first step to a sale is to create a critical mass of content. Your brand needs to stand for something, and you need to articulate why someone should be doing business with you. 99% of purchases of complex goods and services start with a Google search, so you need to have something good show up when people Google you. What problem do you solve? And why should I think you can solve my problem?
- Build Connections. This is where LinkedIn makes a big difference, though Twitter is good, too. You absolutely need to build connections with individuals. (While Facebook is all about personal connections, Facebook is the wrong context for most B2B sales relationships because it’s about emotions, not rationality. And ROI is all about rationality.) Particularly on LinkedIn, people judge you by who you’re connected to. If you can build a robust set of connections (150+), you can be one degree of separation from tens of thousands of people. And as we know, people trust recommendations from their friends more than anything else.
- Prospect with Social Media. Once you know your buyer persona or target segment, you can start searching. LinkedIn has a particularly robust search function, but Twitter’s search is very useful in certain industries. Google+ is hit and miss—it has great search functionality, but profiles can be a little sparse. And most people don’t check their Google+ profile very often. In any case, a simple search can give you a list of prospects, along with an overlay of how you’re connected to them. And you know what to do from there.
Once you have an excuse to have a conversation with someone, social media becomes just another platform. Most B2B sales is done the same now as it always has been—via conversation, whether face-to-face or on the phone. Social media can do a great job of getting you closer to that conversation.
Image credit: CC by Marc Osborn