The interrelationship between social influence and social selling reminds me of how internet marketing programs once were regarded by business owners. These programs were dismissed as the necessary “fluff”, “sprinkles on the cupcake” or business garnish a company had to indulge in to look “good”. The perceived value of these programs was siloed from the real meat of the matter: the products and services that company manufactured and sold.
Wisdom is always 20-20. That was then and this is now. I don’t have to tell you that after the financial debacle of 2008, the world became very flat and, most of all, digital. Your Fortune 500 company’s competitors could be a lean and savvy group of folks halfway across the world who are spreading their value through their internet and, most of all, social presence and social influence. Your company’s social influence within this dynamic, digital business ecosystem is hardly sprinkles on the business cupcake. Your company’s social presence is the front end of your company’s revenue generation cycle.
That’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? Consider what your current social influence footprint looks like.
How is it perceived by, well, everyone? You may assume that you are attracting potential customers with the contents of your tweets, blog posts, and posts on Facebook and LinkedIn announcements. However, from the marketplace’s perspective, your efforts might be a bunch of noise. Unfortunately, that noise impacts perception of your company’s brand, image and the success of your sales initiatives.
My business world involves OEM manufacturers, custom fabricators and engineering-intensive product and service companies. Let’s consider social influence within this business context. The technical and engineering complexity of the solutions these verticals provide creates a dismissive attitude towards their social footprint. It’s “nice to have” rather than a “must have” component for business development. Business results are measured in engineered outcomes. I agree – but where does your business cycle begin?
You are what your company Tweets. Your company’s social influence footprint impacts your marketplace credibility. Even if you are (literally) rocket scientists, the best way for me to glean information about you is online and via social streams. What impression are you giving Buyers, over time? Do you communicate your capabilities and strategies for value creation? If you have a haphazard and inconsistent social strategy, consider that the sum total of how your social media efforts impact customer perception of engineering outcomes. Now I have your attention.
Your social footprint is based on your understanding of your customers. Read the tweets and content your company has posted during the last month. Is it self-serving and internally-oriented? Does this material speak to the context and business cases of your customers? Like company websites, too many technically and engineering oriented companies have social profiles that appear to be created to please internal hierarchy: from the inside looking outward. Your social footprint reflects your degree of connectivity to your customers: from their perspective instead of yours. Perhaps it’s time to change your perspective.
Your social footprint creates a compelling case for my doing business with you. If I want to work for your company, what am I reading on social sites? If I want to hire your company, what conversations are you engaging me in? Does your company’s Twitter feed come across as a streaming job board? Do you blast out your company’s latest and greatest achievement, without considering what you want me to do with all the social information you put out there?
Calculate the social ROI of all of your activities thus far. There’s always room for improvement and growth. There’s no better time to retool and recalibrate than right now.
Babette N. Ten Haken, President of Sales Aerobics for Engineers®, LLC, catalyzes collaborative business transition, startup growth, and professional development. She works with non-traditional sellers, engineers, small and midmarket manufacturers, and technical startups. Her book on collaboration strategies and tools, Do YOU Mean Business? Technical / Non-Technical Collaboration, Business Development and YOU, is available on Amazon.com.