Unlike my breakfast choice, the way we use social media changes almost daily. The constant flow of memes, news stories, and opinion articles that circulate, in addition to app updates, affect the way we engage with and view the social platform. Any given app update may open more opportunities to interact and adopt the technology to our preferences.
The fast-paced, social networking world has its ebbs and flows in business use as well. For example, if a business messaged you on Facebook five years ago you would be instantly turned off because Facebook was seen as a private area of someone's life. The way businesses and individuals interact on social media has changed since then. Users are encouraged to communicate with companies on Facebook to resolve any issue and companies have the ability to start a personalized private message with them. Social media is a way to constantly talk to customers and receive immediate feedback, all on a platform that they are comfortable with.
HubSpot’s annual State of Inbound Report drove home the importance of businesses expanding their social media use, especially in selling. Surveying 4,500 marketers that work with both B2C and B2B small to mid-size companies, the study found a growing trend of increased focus on social selling and communication moving into 2017.
Social Media Trends
Social selling as a sales method is currently outgrowing other sales department priorities. What exactly is social selling? The name gives it away; it involves actions leading to sales that take place on a social media platform. More specifically, it involves interacting and connecting with a prospect or customer. Replying to a customer’s comments is social selling, as well as optimizing a social profile for a specific persona who is coming to your page to shop. According to HubSpot, social selling "allows salespeople to delight their prospects rather than interrupt their daily lives with cold calls and hard sells" and then convert them into customers. Your company is probably doing different versions of this already, but if not, the State of Inbound study verifies why you should focus on it as 2016 dwindles and 2017 revs its engines.
Social Selling is a Growing Priority
State of Inbound (SofI) found that social selling will be the 4th highest sales priority come the New Year and is increasingly establishing its prominence as a sales method. Out of all sales priorities surveyed, including closing deals and improving funnel efficiency, social selling had the highest growth in importance from 2015 to 2016. More people are using social networks than ever before; in the same 2015-2016 timeframe Facebook added 220 million users and Twitter added 9 million. An increased audience means more potential customers to reach out to while they spend their leisure time carousing social networks.
Earning its Keep
The HubSpot report also found that social media is the least overrated marketing tactic among North American marketers. On the contrary, print and outdoor marketing were by far considered the most overrated. As this is a survey of marketers who work on the front lines and see what methods are successful, we can make the assumption that social marketing is one of the more effective marketing tools.
Business Communication Evolved
We all love logging in to Facebook to view our cousin's wedding pictures and stay in the loop over long distance. We also love following our favorite brands on social media. Besides viewing a business' content, customers shop products, ask questions, and submit reviews. SofI found that 42% of buyers communicate within social networks for business purposes. As more are involved in social media in all parts of their lives, brands can expect these channels to expand as a way to communicate with customers.
How Marketing and Sales Departments Can Adapt
Marketing and sales are always adapting. 20 years ago social media marketing wasn't even a thing and cold calls were all the rage. These departments will continue to adapt with the trends or will become uncompetitive.
Sales Social Surveillance
Social monitoring will need to become part of a salesperson's repertoire. An active presence on a social network enables sales to share relevant articles and nurture a follower into a lead. They shouldn't be expected to run all aspects of the account, but take a defined role in responding to questions and engaging with those that show interest in becoming a customer. A good start would be to commit a chunk of time every day to look into any interactions that they can provide value to. Building a trusting relationship from the beginning with the salesperson on social media will play a part in closing a sale down the road.
Even if sales is performing daily social checks, they still will not be able to capture every customer that pops up. Marketing, usually in charge of posting and monitoring all outlets used, will have to be in sync with sales objectives. A procedure can be set in place so both are comfortable handing off the torch after identifying a potential customer on a social network. They will also have to be trained in questions they can answer vs. what they need to hand off to sales.
Every situation will be different. Marketing may initially answer a question on social media and then notify Sales that the person has potential to become a customer. From there, sales can continue to converse with them and engage them further with follow-ups to progress them through the funnel. This relies on the marketing team being able to "qualify" initial leads before passing them along so they don't waste a salesperson's time.
Use What Your Buyers Use
A tool salesman wouldn't go to a coffee shop to try and find customers. They would go to a mechanic shop and get to know their target persona there. The same concept applies to social media. Use the technology that users are comfortable with and active on, especially when deciding how to communicate. Some may prefer a phone call, while others may prefer to keep communications on a messaging platform until the very end. We want to simplify everything for them, not make it harder using a technology that they are not familiar with.
We still have two months until 2017, but right now is the time to get ahead of the game and align your marketing and sales goals with social media trends. To read HubSpot's State of Inbound for yourself, visit the report's website and download your copy. If you are looking to immediately step up your social media strategy, visit Revenue River's social media marketing page dedicated to helping you.