Social Media is a tool. It makes it easier to communicate and engage with a large number of people across a very wide geographic area. Social Media is not the goal.
Now that's actually really important so let me say it again, 'Social Media is NOT the goal!" Having 50,000 Facebook Fans means squat if none of them visit your site or buy your product. Businesses operate to make money, not friends. That's why real social media success can only come once you leave social media behind and enter the world of IRL.
IRL, as the kids say, simply means 'In Real Life' or 'offline' or, more appropriate for the marketing world, 'where things get bought'. Businesses use social media to engage with other brands or clients, to research buying decisions, to ask questions, to watch videos of cats and to meet new people. What they don't do is hand over money for goods and services. Why? Because they can't. Outside of being able to buy more cows for your Farmville, there simply isn't the functionality to make large B2B purchases via social media. This is almost guaranteed to change over the coming years but for now, the purchase always takes place on a company website, by phone or in person - IRL.
Now, I know what you're going to say: 'But social media isn't about making sales, it's about brand awareness and reach and being a thought leader and getting people to think we're down with the kids, yo!' True that. It's about all those things, and underpinning them all, it's about relationships. But again, if you are the most well-known brand online, with a Klout score of 120 and Apple banging down your door begging for marketing advice, and still nobody is buying your product, what does it really amount to? A solid social media marketing strategy will build brand awareness and position your brand as a thought leader in the industry in order to allow engagement with lots of new people on social media, and then it will take those relationships and move them offline.
'Offline' can mean different things depending on the type of business you're running and how far reaching your staff is. At its simplest form 'offline' can mean 'off of social media', when a customer moves from your twitter account to reading your company blog or making a purchase on your website. In its deepest form 'offline' means conversing with a customer face-to-face or by phone. Real life human interaction (remember that?). Taking a new relationship outside of the confines of social media allows you to strengthen the bond. There are no character limits, file size or file type restrictions IRL This is where true brand loyalty happens. This is where purchases are made. This is where stuff gets done.
I understand (and as Birddog MD Scot McKee so kindly pointed out here) many B2B companies are still getting to grips with the basics of social media. With many businesses still figuring out how to get 'on' social media, how can we already be talking about leaving it? Keep up! Getting to grips with social media involves figuring out when to leave it. It's all part of the forward-thinking, long-game strategy we're all supposed to be focused on.
So how do you do it? How do you move the conversation from a medium that's public and unbiased, to one with a bit more of a home court advantage? All I can tell you is what we do at Birddog. (Well, I can tell you some of what we do at Birddog, they don't like it when I give away the farm, so to speak.) We give people a good reason to leave social. Whether it be to find creative and thought-provoking content on the company's website or to be entered for a chance to win a prize by signing up for a product demo or webinar, you have to give them more than what they can get if they simply stay on social. It's about creating new opportunities and then moving out at the right time to be able to convert those new opportunities into sales.
And as a bonus, all that great new offline engagement can be recycled and used as content for your social media plan. Waste not want not.
(social media vs. real world / shutterstock)