Nearly 40% of sales and marketing managers don’t feel their staff is in a position to take advantage of social media, according to a recent Alterian Marketing study.
Yet, research proves those companies that have developed social networking strategies are experiencing higher levels of sales, loyalty and satisfaction. How do they do it?
They follow these four steps any manager can take to develop a strong social media presence and attract more high-probability prospects:
- Identify and build your base
Most social media sites allow users to search by keywords, which is an ideal way to start building a following. Work with salespeople to develop a list of keywords and phrases you can use to find and join industry groups and fan pages on these sites.
Next, send an email blast to all of your lead lists, inviting them to follow you on these sites. You may want to consider offering a small incentive to boost response rates. For example:
- Toys R Us generated over 100,000 followers by offering a one-time discount to anyone who became a “fan” of the company on Facebook.
- Macy’s generated thousands of new leads by offering a diamond pendant to the customer who left the “Sweetest Tweet” on the company’s Twitter page leading up to Valentine’s Day.
- Develop ways to engage buyers
Buyer engagement is the one common trait almost all successful sales organizations have in common, according to a recent Global Innovations survey. But engaging buyers via social networking sites requires a slightly different approach.
Research shows that prospects respond negatively to companies that simply use their Twitter and Facebook feeds as billboards.
Instead, companies like Target and Zappos use Twitter to build rapport by asking customers for feedback about existing products or upcoming launches.
PetSmart has actually created an entire online community by regularly asking Facebook fans to post pet pics and discuss gift ideas. When a specific thread generates more than 100 responses, a PetSmart rep will log in and leave a comment, reminding everyone of a related discount or special offer.
- Heed what buyers are saying
Twitter provides search tools which allow organizations to monitor any onsite mentions of their company and its products or services. While Facebook may not offer the same capability, it’s important to monitor the comments customers leave on any social networking sites.
Not only is it an opportunity to engage buyers, it may also help salvage a relationship by responding to a question or helping the customer resolve a service issue.
Doing daily searches for your company’s name on Twitter provides an opportunity to generate a host of new leads. But it also gives you an opportunity to learn what customers really think about your products and services.
- Create a social hub
Once you’ve built a solid following, the goal is to give customers a reason to monitor your feed on a regular basis. Some companies provide helpful links or industry news via their Twitter or Facebook feeds.
Others pose questions about hot-button topics that encourage debate among customers. But the bottom line is to provide a forum where customers know they can interact with one another (and your company) regularly.
The more prospects return to your social networking page(s), the better the chance you’ll be the first one they think of when it comes time to make a buying decision.
Long term, having a social networking site is a low-cost way to boost sales and build relationships with very little downside.
Reprinted with permission from The Marketing Report, 370 Technology Drive, Malvern, PA 19355, 800-220-5000.