Our conclusion is we need a strategy. Otherwise we'll implode under the pressure. We have to get engaged, but we also have to stay effective. We have to be part of communities, but have to keep our business identity. We have to give freely, but we have to make money. As in everything else the issue is Return on Investment.
Overcoming these paradox is nowhere near as simple as it sounds.
The number of social channels, multiplied by the different ways contacts use them, and the number of tools available to monitor the firehoses threatens to swamp us. The return on investment is hard to tie down. Larger businesses will undoubtedly hold back, only committing to social media selling when benefits and costs can be calculated by the bean counters. Smaller businesses shouldn't do the same. Because of both the possible wins and the potential losses.
In the strategy we'll need to put some limits around the sites we'll monitor, where we'll contribute, the tools we'll use and ways we'll engage. We'll definitely be represented at Linked In, Twitter, Facebook and Buzz. There are some sites with a local focus which might make the cut.
We know at least part of our tool set, with Front Office Box, WordPress, Hootsuite, Gmail, and Gist. (We wrote in Social CRM Makes Sense at Last about how the integration of Gmail and Gist is working for us). There's a genuine business process in amongst all the confusion, reinforced by more recent experience.
And we'll need some basic rules like these:
- If customers can do something on the Internet they will - research, selection, purchase - it's so much easier than talking to sales guys, trying to sift the facts from the hype.
- Sales guys need to be where the customers are looking, because our competitors will be.
- Sales professionals need to provide what the customers are looking for - insight and ideas - and expect nothing in return- that's the nature of the new Internet.
- Sales people need to be listening and responding. When customers speak they expect somebody to be on the other end of the line.
- We have to be engagers and translators - business as usual for us, but now we have to do it on-line.
So we already have the sites, the tool set and some basic principles. Now we need to work out how much time we'll spend on which activities.
In our next article we'll publish on progress, in which case I'd better get on with figuring out what to decide on next.
For the moment there are many more questions than answers.
Have you thought about your social media selling strategy? If so what have you decided, and how did you get there? Did you choose the same sites and tools? Is it working for you?