Social Media – The Consumer
There are several reasons why you would want to use social media in building a pipeline. If you do not have a database of all the suspects in your served market, social media can be an effective and efficient vehicle to access this pool. Or, if traditional demand creation vehicles are proving to be too expensive, too slow or producing poor results it may be wise to leverage social media. And, it is always a good idea to have a holistic approach to demand creation – include traditional vehicles and social media.
Once you have decided to embrace social media, the next question is how to create a social media plan. There are three primary avenues to purse: the social consumer, other people’s relationships / networks and the pack mentality.
Focus on the Social Media Consumer.
These are buyers that are active on the web and social media sites. There are 3 primary ways to connect with the Social Consumer and they are through user reviews, creating a sense of urgency and playing off of what is hot.
This plays-off of the vicarious experience concept—you can trust others that seem to be like you. Initially, and sometimes forever, buyers are reluctant to believe a vendor and more likely to believe another buyer. Reviews tend to be posted on websites and are included in blogs. Examples include: ConsumerSearch, Epinions, TripAdvisor, Amazon and AngiesList.
Create a Sense of Urgency.
The basic premise is that you have to act now or in a limited time period. Often times these programs leverage Twitter. Examples include: the airlines (Virgin, SWA, JetBlue), Woot, and Living Social.
These are the things that hit the social media vehicles and burn it up. The idea is to create something interesting and so engaging that an individual will evangelize on your behave (open their networks and endorse you). There are some people who like to be the first one to spot things and pass them along. Many times you will see these on social networking sites and sharing websites. Examples include: Slideshare, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Social Media – Other Peoples Relationships/Networks (OPR/N)
Leverage other people’s relationships and networks. In a nutshell, when you find one prospect or buyer you have a multiple effect because they find others like themselves for you.
Here’s a couple ways companies are using OPR/N:
Forward it Promotions – promotions that are based on an individual forwarding along a promotion via FB, Twitter, Email. Typically, there is a campaign that requires you to retweet the contest to your followers, in order for you to be included in the contest.
Quantity Discounts – if a buyer creates enough demand, they are entitled to a discount. This is the basic business model for Groupon. In short, the company offers a “Groupon” per day. If a certain number of people sign up for the offer, then the deal becomes available to all.
Social Media – The Pack Mentality
The basic premise is that there are leaders and followers and there really aren’t that many true leaders (to the shock and dismay of many). There are some people who are the visionaries, early adopters, evangelists and they build a reputation that they are thought leaders or the person that other people comment “ I know the guy or gal that…”. These are the people that can persuade others to do or not do things. These leaders are the people that you want to identify and build a positive relationship with and leverage their influence to help you sell. How do you do that, well, here are two ways:
- Find the Lead Dog. In the old days it was really clear as they were at the leading analyst firms, the trade and business press, authors and academia. You can still find lead dogs there but social media has empowered many more people to be the lead dog because of extreme segmentation, social media platforms, immediacy and domain knowledge spread to potentially anyone. However, it is still relatively easy to find a lead dog by a Google search to see who is blogging, has the most twitter followers, most Facebook fans and who has compelling content on sharing sites.
- Power users. These are the people that use a product or service and love it. Often times, these people could be the CTO or VP Development for most of the companies whose products they use. However, they are more interested in using the coolest and best technology of many companies rather than pigeon holing themselves. These people can’t be bought and can be a double-edged sword because if your product sucks, they will tell you and communicate that fact to their communities. But, if your product or service is great, they will voluntarily communicate that message. You can use this group as a research panel, focus group or beta group to gain invaluable information about product/service direction and functionality.
Bottom Line: Using Social Media in Demand Creation
The key is that there is no silver bullet when it comes to creating a pipeline–traditional or social media program. Nor is there any one social media tactic that “is it”. The task is the same as it has always been—sell to buyers. The game has changed though as the vehicles to find prospects and create demand that generates revenue has evolved. Embrace the new vehicles and techniques. Build integrated programs that span at least your average sales cycle or a multiple of it. Think holistically as demand creation vehicles are a puzzle that needs to be pieced together. Change is a good thing. Motion is a good thing. Try something, iterate, measure, optimize, rinse and repeat.
For more information about how to build an efficient and effective social media plan, please visit Go to Market Reseources.