Selling Social Media

John Hope-Johnstone

Buonas tardes  my friend. This week I have been mulling over the loss of a sale last week and thinking how I could have better sold the value of social media to this company.

I did a one hour Power Point to the staff and Executive that explained the basics of social media. Some got it, some didn’t, which is average. However, in a follow-up meeting the top brass indicated that they believed that going into social media was going to be too much work. This “too much work” is an escape goat. It is never too much work IF you are increasing brand awareness and increasing sales. What I had done is failed to properly prove the value and show social media a solid quantifiable manner.

While pondering my initial failure (for I shall go back again, oh yes I shall), I came across the following piece of research:

It now seems obvious that the manner in which social media is sold to promote brand building (82%) would be different than say, sales prospecting (21%) and therefore my close to the prospective client would have to be different. Boy, I had got this “one size fits all” approach all wrong.

So now the big question is, how do we use social media differently for the two purposes (brand building and sales prospecting), or do we?. I think the answer starts in the metrics used at the end of the campaign. So let’s be brave and go through the two main categories (brand building vs. sales prospecting), found in the chart above and see which metrics best prove results from social media: (eek!)

1: Brand Building:  Social media excels in the area of brand building. If you drill down from the corporate mission statement to the brand promise to the communications plan to public relations you will find where social media resides. Here is a poor little example. I use it because I devised it when I was tourism director for Corvallis, Oregon:
Corporate Mission Statement (Corvallis Tourism): “To promote the lifestyle and economy of Corvallis through tourism.”
Brand Promise: “Corvallis, the Pacific Northwest’s most Beautiful College Town.”
Communications Plan:
A: To promote the corporate mission statement to 1: Employees, 2: Community key influencers 3: Educator relations, 4: Stakeholder relations, 5: Management Relations. Utilizing: 1: Media relations 2: Social media, 3: Speaking appearances 4: E-Newsletters.

B: To promote the brand promise to: “Consumers via both push (advertising, direct mail, e-mail etc) and pull marketing (social media, search etc), to obtain and capture third party referrals and to promote brand buzz.”

The metrics used in social media to promote brand building is best found in the “social” of social media. This requires community managers and brand angels to increase followers, fan numbers and blog readership that relate to your communities of common interest and key influencers within those communities. This is explained best in an excellent blog by guru Liz Strauss and guest writer Jacob Morgan.

“Brand building”, they state, “requires building trust and authority, this also takes the most amount of time. A lot of companies don’t understand what building trust and authority really entails and they are under the guise that this can be done in just a few months, not so. I would say give yourself AT LEAST one year before you start to see yourself or your brand START to get recognized as a trusted authority.”

“Ultimately the best way to begin to build trust and authority is by creating content that demonstrates your knowledge and/or expertise in a particular area. If you’re a master carpet weaver then you need to be out there creating content that shows you are a master carpet weaver (talk about different kinds of carpet, how to get started with weaving, where to buy the best carpets, etc). How does this help with sales? Well, the next time someone ends up looking for a carpet, guess who they are going to come to? Building a relationship with someone is great, but building a relationship with someone where you are considered a trusted authority is better.”

This work should be measured through a significant increase in positive consumer generated comments regarding the brand and an increase in consumer conversations. The totality ends up with a general increase in social media hits and conversions being found on the main brand Web site’s analytics.

Sales Prospecting:

The metrics used in sales prospecting are more easily defined and involve a higher degree of search engine optimization and search engine marketing. They involve motivating the social media follower to go from the social media, to the brand’s Web site for the particular reason of acquiring something of value. That something is often (but not always) knowledge based such as a “white paper” or a Webinar, either live at a future date or pre-recorded. These value offerings require name and email and often phone number. The company is informed that the participant has downloaded the white paper of been involved in the Webinar and is contacted after completion and after a suitable time has elapsed. More and more companies however are following David Meerman Scott’s advice and “just letting go” and NOT requiring emails or phone numbers for follow up. This tends to increase numbers of downloads and search engine rankings (the reason is too long to go into now).

(Jacob Morgan). “Social media doesn’t need to replace your current sales process, in fact, it shouldn’t. However, what social media can do is add to the prospects and ENHANCE your sales process. Two of the most powerful social media CRM tools in my opinion are facebook and Linkedin. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why:

  • Instead of making a cold sales call you can use facebook or Linkedin to get some personal background information about the person you are calling i.e. what their interests are, what’s going on in their life, who you BOTH know, where they are working, etc.
  • Not only can you use facebook and Linkedin to connect with a person directly but you can also get in touch with THEIR friends and THEIR connections. This turns your small network into an extremely vast one.
  • On Linkedin you can see exactly what companies you are connected with and who you are connected with at any particular company. I don’t need to explain why this is valuable…do I?”

Ongoing Relationships

“The traditional process for selling usually involves a severing of the relationship once the prospect declines (or perhaps accepts an offer). Sure the prospect goes back into the “prospect” bucket for a follow up call in several months but that really doesn’t mean anything. With social media you can keep the relationship and the dialogue going with that person and when they are ready to make a purchase you will know about it. How do you keep the relationship going? Here are a few ideas:

  • Comment on things they share
  • Share things with them that you find interesting or can help you build credibility
  • Send messages on special days i.e. holidays, birthdays, etc.
  • Check out their events to see when/how you might be able to meet

Another prospecting tool can be found in Twitter, not a platform that people usually consider a prospecting tool. However the advanced search tool of Twitter is very useful as you can search for people asking questions about your generic product or sometimes making comments about your particular brand. You have to fish a lot to find genuine seekers of information and not other marketers but the fishing is worth it. Using the search on all social media platforms is highly underused.  Joining groups that pertain closely to your product is also very important and can lead you to new key influencers.”

Well, I hope my musings for this week on selling social media has helped. Please leave me a comment if you have any great ideas to add to selling social media. Next week I will be posting about Push and Pull marketing and their place in the marketing mix. Thanks for reading, leave a comment.



  1. Thanks for mentioning my work around the new ways to measure and “just letting go”. Here is a free ebook I wrote on the topic. (May take a moment to load).

    Lose Control of your Marketing! Why marketing ROI measures lead to failure (2009)
    [Give this one to your boss, board, or investors]

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