Sales and Sales Management Blog

June 23, 2009

Boost Your Sales series: “How to Find the Right Social Media Strategy for Your Business,” by Cindy King


How To Find The Right Social Media Strategy For Your Business
by Cindy King

“How can social media improve my business?” 
“What will Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn bring to my bottom line?”
“What is the ROI of social media?”
And…
“Are businesses really making sales through social media?”

These are questions I heard often this week while attending the Social Media Success Summit 2009 . They are heavy questions.  And there is a problem: the real answers people want depend on their business and their markets. Social media is about connecting with people.  This means connecting you in your business with your clients.  This is why I believe that businesses need to jump in and participate to find the answer to these questions themselves. 

In this article, I hope to help you get a little closer to these answers by telling you my own story as a small business owner using social media to reach international clients.

Why It Takes Time To Find The Answer

Less than a year ago, I did not even realize that a blog was social media. My blog was 6 months old and it was time to look for ways to improve my online presence.  I blog for business and had no time to waste.  Luckily I met Chris Garrett  who gently got me to look more closely at the other social media platforms, even though they seemed unsuitable for a small business struggling with time commitments.

So I reluctantly tried Twitter, while I blogged daily on two blogs, had a dormant Facebook profile, a LinkedIn account and a small group of social media friends to coax me on.  It took me 3 months simply to understand what social media was about.  Don’t panic, it does not take everyone this long.  But I had a few prejudgments against social media to get rid of and was not quite as web savvy as I am today.  I also found that I needed to understand several of the social media tools individually before I could see what was happening in the big social media picture.

Once I understood the social media environment the fun started.  I began to play with it, to see what value social media had for my business.  It took another 6 months to understand how the people in my market use social media and how I could use social media as a prospecting tool.

That is my social media story in a nutshell. 

For many businesses it is not that simple.  Management wants answers to those big questions before jumping in. 

What Is The Buzz About?

First you need to understand why social media is important.

Although social media started out as personal communication platforms, these platforms are in the process of becoming useful tools businesses to reach clients.  For example:

  • Facebook is used successfully by many businesses in the B2C world as a sales platform.  Other businesses are using the Facebook Pages as a hub within a strategic social media presence. 
  • LinkedIn is not just a place to virtually exchange business cards.  For example, there are polls and applications to share slide presentations.
  • Twitter is now widely accepted as one of the easiest and fastest ways for businesses to poll their audiences and get immediate feedback.  Tweets are now indexed by Google, which improves overall search results.

Although each of these social media platforms will continue to evolve, it is this form of communication that is important.  Social media communication will continue to expand in today’s customer-centric world of inbound marketing. 

Social media is a place to connect with your clients.  You need to find out what part this plays in your sales cycle.

How Can Social Media Help Your Business?

Before you can answer this question there are three important things you need to establish:

Right attitude – You need to understand how social media communication works.  You can only pick up the right attitude through participating. People have different communication skills, so this can take more or less time to get right.

Context – Many businesses wonder if their clients are on social media.  The answer is often yes.  Your clients are like everyone and probably spend time online. The real question is one of context. 

  • What are our clients doing on social media?
  • Where are they?
  • Why are they there?
  • How are they using social media?

You need to understand the context your clients are in when they use each social media platform.  Only then will you be able to find the right approach to connect with them on social media. 

Clear Business Objectives – Social media platforms have a wide range of bells and whistles… and things that can seem absurd in a professional environment.  If you want business results out of social media you must stay business focused and learn to navigate in this environment.

Although a direct sales approach does not work on social media, you can use social media tactics within a well planned soft sales approach based on a strong value proposition and engaging with people.

Clear business objectives also help you to handle some of the challenging aspects most people struggle with on social media:

  • Get over any personal issues you have with networking.  People who are good networkers in traditional environments usually adapt well to social media networking.   Social media highlights personal preferences and styles in networking.  Clear business objectives helps you keep to business networking.
  • Avoid wasting time on the gadgets.  There are many social media tools to “help” you get the most out of social media.  It is very easy to add on extras that do not add any value to your business strategies and get you out of focus. Clear business objectives help you to come up with a social media system that works for you. 
  • Stay focused on targeting the people you want to meet. 

Why My Tweet Plan Boosted By Business?

My first Tweet Plan revolutionized by business.  It opened doors to people I would never have dreamed of meeting.  Yes, I have had a few clients come to me through Twitter.  But this is not where I have had the highest return on my time investment. 

What I appreciate most out of Twitter is the ease in making high quality contacts.  Instead of using social media to get individual clients I deliberately looked for people who could bring me many clients.  I wanted high quality sources of referrals to help me develop my new business. 

What I found was that I can make contacts very easily on social media, but not sell directly.  To make these contacts work for my business, I need to take them outside of the social media environment.  Social media is simply a part of the initial cycle to find clients.

This is why I started the New Year by deciding to connect directly with one new Twitter contact each day.  By phone, or by email.  This means that my sales success rate depends on my traditional sales and business skills. 

And this leads me to the most important thing to remember about using social media to develop your business:  Take the conversation outside of social media.

Conclusion

Social media does not provide miracle solutions for businesses.  You still need good common business sense.  It does have one distinct advantage though: it puts everyone on the same playing field.  Small businesses can have the same business success as the big ones.

Today I have learned how social media works for my business. 

  • It is not just one social media platform that brings in the results.  People are different and multifaceted.  They bounce between Twitter, my blog, my website, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed.  They check out what I have to say in several places before contacting me directly. 
  • It is not just the inbound effect of people contacting me either.  I also go looking for interesting people and reach out to make direct content.  This is how I meet 2 or 3 good contacts each week.
  • It is not just me sitting alone behind my computer.  Several networks of friends for different social bookmarking activities and networking help me learn more and keep up to date. 
  • It is not just about my business and what I offer.  It is also keeping a tab on what is happening in my industry online.  This increases my business intelligence and gives me interesting information to pass along through social media platforms.

My social media strategy does not work for everyone.  Different business models need to adapt their social media strategies to fit their needs.

Cindy King is a Cross-Cultural Marketer & International Sales Strategist  based in France.  She uses her dual background in sales & marketing to help businesses improve their international sales conversion and develop country-specific international sales guides.  Connect with her on Twitter @CindyKing

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12 Comments »

  1. I enjoyed reading your article and your take on social media. I was glad to hear that Google does index Tweets. Many thanks

    Comment by small business success — June 23, 2009 @ 2:52 pm | Reply

  2. Social Media is a good place for brand building and you can find the targeted people here. Facebook, LinkedIn and twitter can improve your business if you are using these social media sites on right direction, Every business need different strategies.

    Thanks for sharing this useful information

    Comment by Yogesh — June 23, 2009 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

  3. This is a great post. As a business owner using social media to increase our business contacts it has been a challenge trying to maintain balance between all of the platforms. Thanks so much for the encouraging words…I will maintain persistence and begin to take the conversations outside of social media. Much Success!!

    Comment by Cj — June 24, 2009 @ 12:05 am | Reply

  4. A very convincing testimonial given by Cindy. The power of social media is way beyond expectations, simply because the exposures and networking are endless. Obviously you’ve put massive efforts into follow ups and engaging conversations with your potential clients — I believe this is the main factor that created success in your strategy. Well done.

    @wchingya
    Social media/blogging

    Comment by Ching Ya — June 24, 2009 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  5. […] is the original:  Boost Your Sales series: “How to Find the Right Social Media … This entry is filed under Management, RSS, Sales Management, sales. You can follow any responses […]

    Pingback by VandeNikhilam USA » Boost Your Sales series: “How to Find the Right Social Media … — June 24, 2009 @ 4:39 am | Reply

  6. Paul – First of all I’d like to thank you for publishing my article.

    I’ve received private comments through social media sites. One person is going to distribute the article to a social media class she gave. Another person would like something similar on LinkedIn.

    It is interesting that these comments were sent to me privately… and not through a blog comment here which is what i would normally expect. This makes me curious, raises a few other questions and leads me to think that social media for business will continue to morph.

    Small Business Success – I’m happy you liked it.

    Comment by Cindy King — June 24, 2009 @ 6:20 am | Reply

  7. Yogesh – I think you are right. You definitely need to find the right way to use social media for your business. Different businesses translate into different social media strategies.

    CJ – I think finding the balance between all the different platforms is one of the biggest challenges. On one side, you need to find the best place to meet and greet the people you want to hook up with. On the other side, you need to think of your own personal style and time commitment to make it work. That’s were staying business focused really does the trick for me.

    Ching Ya – I think it’s really the consistent effort that counts and not the volume of effort. I’m lucky though, most of my follow ups are by phone and with the time difference I schedule this at the end of my work day, just before my brain shuts off 🙂

    Comment by Cindy King — June 24, 2009 @ 6:30 am | Reply

  8. Interesting!

    I feel like there is a scarcity of good marketing today. Good marketing means which can convert the leads into sales. The only marketing that has moved me in the last couple of years is Social Media Optimization.

    Comment by Robert Alaney — June 24, 2009 @ 10:12 am | Reply

  9. Robert – I’d like to add that good social media marketing starts with a good fundamental understanding of your business and a coherent viewpoint of the forces at work. If you are not in the right place it’s hard to influence sales or have a decent value proposition that would interest anyone.

    I also see personal issues getting in the way of good use of social media for business. Some people need some time to adjust. I’ve also noticed some people with strong cultural traits that are not immediately “social media friendly”.
    Social media is people oriented and some people need to spend time finding the balance between personal and professional. Luckily it is easy to pick up! That’s why I’m sure we will see more and more businesses using social media successfully in different ways.

    Comment by Cindy King — June 26, 2009 @ 5:03 am | Reply

  10. […] @paul_mccord – Your company needs a social media strategy. Cindy King discusses how to set […]

    Pingback by Cross-Culture Tweets – Week 26 of 2009 — June 28, 2009 @ 9:26 am | Reply

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    Pingback by Sales Lead Generation - How to Boost Your Sales Leads by Up to a Hundredfold | Business To Business Leads — July 3, 2009 @ 6:11 am | Reply

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