Direct Sales Benefits of Social Media. Opinions of Focus Experts and other Focus community participants are definitely divided about whether social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter can or should be looked at for sales enhancement. Perhaps unsurprisingly, opinions are strong on all sides of the question.
"We implemented marketing using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter and all are delivering conversions to sales," said Focus contributor Doug Marlowe. "We [previously] tried billboards, direct mail, [an] outbound call center, SEO [search engine optimization], you name it. Let's face it, our demographic is becoming more tech-savvy, and they love it when they can tell their friends, ‘I have a friend on the inside!'"
Focus Expert Dennis Tarrant was even more emphatic. "LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and lots of blogs have built our business faster than any other methodology. It's free [and] it brings prospects to us that ask us for information about our products and services. What better way to start a phone conversation?"
Indirect Sales Benefits of Social Media. Several other Focus contributors said that social media could drive sales and revenues by improving other areas, most notably recruiting and customer care.
"We are posting job openings on LinkedIn and we've gotten hundreds of qualified responses, as opposed to our listings on the major job boards" and at craigslist.org and the digital editions of several newspapers, said Focus Expert Catherine Calame. Compare the 600 mediocre responses from the media outlets in Boston, Seattle, Madison and Pittsburgh with 45 postings on LinkedIn and Twitter, which netted us over a dozen highly qualified candidates. In this case, with job postings, we see a higher value in social media - not to mention that social media costs zero dollars, and we spent $5,000 on the job boards. Those job postings are for account executives, so the result will be more sales," Calame added.
"Use of social media is not just limited to making more sales," added Focus Expert James McGovern. "It can be used for support purposes, community building or other activities that are just as important."
Social Media and Sales: Some Assembly Required. However, some Focus contributors argued that the question itself is flawed. "The question is based on a wrong premise," wrote Focus Expert Paul Young. "Try repackaging it like this: ‘Are your company's [copy machine] efforts translating into increased sales?' Why does that seem so obviously wrong? Because we understand the concept and use of copiers, but not social media….[S]ocial media is not a sales person. No Facebook account will ever close a single deal. It is a set of tools, just like copiers, scanners, and telephones. A question closer to the bone might be, ‘Is your company training users to effectively leverage social media?'"
Focus contributor Eduardo Pedroza agreed. "Increase sales? [L]et's be honest, social media is a channel, not a salesperson, it's up to the company's strategy to do that. Social media can be a channel to reach more people, exposure to new markets, etc, and then if the company is willing to conduct Internet sales they must be prepared to do that, put in place all in order to receive all this leads generated by social media.
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