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6 Ways My Business Has Benefited from Social Networking

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Twitter website screenshotI’m asked a lot more now by clients and meeting planners to speak on how social media fits into customer experience marketing

(NOTE: new buzzword alert!) In other words, now that customers are in control of the buying process instead of us, the sellers, what can we do to give them a better “user experience” so they’ll seek us out?

Social media is both the disease and the cure of this new marketplace switcheroo. Just because you haven’t created a profile on LinkedIn yet or know what Twitter does or why anyone would want to *do* it, doesn’t mean your business hasn’t already been affected by this tsunami of social change. You just don’t know it yet. Don’t be Chrysler. Take a peek under this hood and take a test drive. You might find something you can use.

I confess, I’m fascinated by all the opportunities to apply social networking principles to my business, even though I have no traceable ROI yet in dollars for time spent. But I’ve definitely experienced intangible business benefits in terms of visibility, lead generation and customer service, which are also important components of business.

Here are 6 successes I’ve had in the past 5 months by actively participating on LinkedIn, Twitter and blogging.

  1. I started a LinkedIn Group that has now has 42 members. Now that I know what I’m doing, I make it a point to *talk* to each member when he joins and when he posts questions. My goal is to use this group as a sort of market research/testing lab for some of my ideas. They’re all potential customers for me.
  2. I’ve been interviewed and/or quoted 4 times by reporters. Here’s the article link to one, a prestigious magazine and blog in the CRM industry. I’m quite sure that if I’d sent a press release or an unsolicited email to this reporter, I would not have had the same result. But I was on the right social network at the right time when she went looking for sources on her article. The second interview positioned me as a guest expert on sales lead generation for a complimentary service to mine, ReadyContacts. (One reporter was with another well-known national magazine for small business, exactly my target market.)
  3. I submitted one of my blog posts to Marketing Profs, which they published
  4. I was part of a “mastermind” conference call with 3 other fascinating database marketers I’d never met who are in another LinkedIn group I belong to. We debated whether the term “database marketing” has been rendered irrelevant in light of “new media.” (We decided “not technically”…but we enjoyed each other’s thinking so much, we’re scheduling another call.) The 360-degree view of customer data used to be very 2 dimensional. Customers came into a store or called up on the phone to place an order. It went into a database. The demographics of that customer determined what a company’s next action (direct mail! telemarketing! email! catalog!) he’d receive. No more. Now “database” resides in the “clouds,” such as RSS feeds, Twitter followers, Facebook friends, etc. A customer may call, email, text, tweet, post a status update or a combination of all before finally placing an order. Which channel gets the credit? How do you track it so you can duplicate success? These are questions that intrigue me, and I was able to find 3 more people online who felt the same way!
  5. I was asked to speak twice on how to use social media for business. First for a marketing with technology seminar and second as an adjunct professor for St. Louis Community College on how to find referral partners with Twitter.
  6. Best of all, I conquered the 800# Automated Attendant. Putting on MY customer hat now, here’s an amazing customer service story about Charter Communications and my Internet service (actually lack thereof). The punch line is: I didn’t call the 800# technical support line; instead, a real human helped me fix my problem via Twitter. The story was so incredible to me (hey, I’ve used Charter for 11 years now and prior “customer service” experiences were not good) that I put this one into its own blog post.

None of the first 5 results are unusual or unexpected. I’ve always been involved with business networking, I look for good PR opportunities and I search for speaking gigs that put me in front of business people who can use my services.

The difference in using social media to accomplish these things is velocity. Before social networking, I averaged approximately 12-15 speeches per year and got interviewed once or twice a year. I’m beginning to see a direct payoff between my time investment in LinkedIn and Twitter and results like this. I anticipate if I keep having success like this, sales will happen because historically for me, speaking and PR leads to business.

It’s true that not every company has a business reason to use social media–yet. Its customers may not be online using social networks. But there’s no doubt all business is moving in this direction.

Who would have thought an entire US election could have been leveraged with social media? If it weren’t for Twitter, we may have sworn in President McCain.

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