Wondering Out Loud

Social media and revenue: fast friends or oil and water

If you don’t already, you need to subscribe to the rss feed at {grow}. Mark Schaefer, the proprietor, has been known to throw a bomb or two into the sanctified town of Social Media. Mark is one of those rare birds who believes that every company activity should lead to one thing…Revenue. That includes social media.

GASP!

I should add that I appreciate Mark’s instance on delivering to a hard ROI, but he might be asking for something that social media is not prepared to deliver at this stage.  Or are we, social media’s practitioners, not ready to be held accountable for money made? Whichever the case, it can’t last forever. After all, the day is coming when senior management will require social media initiatives to do just that and we need to be prepared.

The biggest obstacle to making marketing hay out of social media tactics is the culture that has evolved around it. The idea, misplaced or not, that a company cannot promote their products and services, the first commandment in the SM-sphere. Thou shalt not use Twitter to promote the “New and improved X”. Nor shall thou blog about the rave reviews customers are giving your services. Social Media is the purest form of communicating – no spin allowed – and marketing messages shall not go so far as to cast a shadow across its door.

 Forgive me for thowing my own bomb here, but that way of thinking is a bog ol’ bunch of hooey.

 Mark asks some great questions [emphasis added by moi]:

How is social media marketing any different from holding a company open house for community leaders or hosting a dinner to get to know some potential customers? Are those things about building trust and relationships? Yes, of course! But we also have no problem admitting that the ultimate goal is to burnish our image with these influencers to improve our chance of business success. Why are we so intent on carving out a special little place in the sun — where results don’t matter — for the social web?

Told you they were great questions.

Who wrote the rules that SM is different, that it can’t be used to openly market products to prospective customers? I’ve heard and read others who liken social media to a cocktail party or a round of golf: leading the event with talk about business is bad form. What the same people fail to mention, however, is that at every party and golf outing the conversation inevitably  turns to business. Believe me when I tell you, all parties know why they are in attendance.

Social media is a powerful way to build credibility, showcase thought leaders within your company, and prove subject matter expertise. But the real power is that is gives you direct access to your market. No more gatekeepers filtering your message. So why not include “traditional marketing” messages in your social media initiative.

I’m not talking about hitting people over the head with daily blog posts and podcasts. But what’s the problem with providing objective information about the industries you serve along with examples of how your products and services have helped others overcome the issues raised.

Try this and this for example. The first is a podcast about lot trace in food and beverage manufacturing. It’s product neutral. The only mention of the product I serve is in the introduction and close of the recording. The second is a customer video in which the COO talks about the wonderful lot trace functionality they have in FourthShift Edition.

And for good measure, here is a recording of Can O’ Worms, a streaming webcast we did about food safety. Like the podcast, it is product agnostic.

The three combined have been downloaded and viewed 2800 times. As Mark points out – views mean nothing if you can’t measure the number of sales qualified leads those views have produced. That, my fellow social media community members, is the crux of the matter. Luckily I can tie two actual deals to the customer video – not leads, deals.

There are ways to marry taditional social media (if there is such a thing in something so new) with marketing and the sooner you are able to expand your SM strategy to do so, the better off you will be.

You can’t afford to maintain the “purity” of social media, you must begin quantifying your successes. If you don’t the C-suite will surely pull the plug on your social media initiative.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Communications, Public Relations, Social Media | , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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