How to Cash in on Social Media and Drive Real SMB Value

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Posted by Andy Wendt

SMB social mediaBy Vishal Sankhla, co-Founder/CTO Viralheat

Since the inception of social media, marketers have been looking for ways to justify their efforts and demonstrate return on investment. In the early days, quantifying the ROI was difficult, leaving many to question whether social media was actually worth the effort and the risk.

Over the last few years, the advantages of social media have become clear, and brands are seeing an unmistakable ROI from their social media efforts—namely a quantifiable increase in sales. The question surrounding social media has shifted from “Should We?” and “Why?” to “How can we do it better?” to maximize the sales opportunity. The open environment of social media, in which people compulsively share details of their daily thoughts and lives, has proven to be a tremendous ecosystem to influence their behavior and decision making, especially when it comes to making a purchase.

In fact, recent studies have found that nearly 50 percent of marketers have acquired customers via Twitter while nearly 60 percent acquired customers through blogging. But, with so much happening so fast, how can you harness the potential and take advantage of the opportunity?

By following a few simple steps, businesses of any size can cash in on the social media mentions surrounding their brands and their company to provide outstanding value to the sales team, and even help grow sales.

Start by Listening

It’s no secret that you learn more by listening than you do by talking, and in social media, this axiom holds true. By listening to the conversation happening on social media about your brand or industry, you can gain a much better understanding of where sales opportunities lie. Fortunately, a new breed of social media listening and monitoring tools have evolved alongside the new media itself, purpose-built to help brands monitor the conversation taking place across the broad expanse of the social media landscape.

Using the right tools can help you narrow the focus on the types of conversations and keywords worth monitoring. Capturing and digesting this information turns this wealth of data into actionable sales leads. Taking it a step further, some of the most advanced social monitoring solutions can even measure the human intent of posts, helping to identify the truly valuable leads who are at the decision point among all the chatter. With this ability to sort conversations by their purchase intent, you can determine when to approach leads at the right time to capture them at the purchase point.

Timing is Everything

Once you’re monitoring and listening effectively, it’s critical to know when to approach the lead. Timing truly is everything: jump too soon and you risk scaring them away with an overt pitch, but wait too long and you risk losing them to a competitor. Carefully monitoring and listening for keywords in real time can reveal intent and the perfect opportunity to approach audiences at the point for purchase, where you’re most likely have the greatest impact. For example, if the social media manager at a laptop company sees a tweet that says, “Looking for a new laptop, not sure which one to buy. There are so many options,” this is obviously a great opportunity to engage with that person and offer insight into your products. But, again, you won’t hear their cry for help if you’re not listening.

Engagement Closes the Loop

Once a lead is identified and you’ve determined the timing is right, engage with that person to close the loop and cash in on the opportunity. Because new customer engagement is critical for any brand, especially when proactively approaching sales leads, it must be handled with care. Think about it: Twitter only allows you 140 characters to make a great impression so you must use these characters wisely. Start by alerting the consumer to a current sale or promo code, offer advice or even ask questions. To avoid coming off as spam and overly pushy, address the person by name and add personal touches beyond simply tweeting back “check out our sale.” Humanizing the interaction and your overall social media strategy will create a much stronger connection with your community and future customers.

Once a plan is in place, continuously monitoring mentions, perfecting your timing and engaging with potential customers will feel natural and organic, as it should, for both you and your audience. Developing this system into an efficient workflow by implementing the right kind of social media management and monitoring platform can make the process much less overwhelming and much more productive and profitable