Almost as soon as social media hit the mainstream, marketers the world over declared its potential as a lucrative sales channel. At first, social-selling effectiveness proved elusive because many marketers used these channels, ripe for one-to-one interactions, as simply another broadcast tool. But brands are coming around, and the idea of social selling has taken on new meaning. As a point of evidence, look no further than Facebook’s recent launch of Custom Advertisements, in which a brand can target specific user sets by matching emails with Facebook.
As technology has evolved, solutions–from Google to LinkedIn to your customer relationship management (CRM) tool of choice–have made information-gathering on prospects and customers across social channels much easier. The trouble has not been in collecting the right information–although culling the social signals from all the social noise is no small task. The challenge marketers face today really can be found in collecting, analyzing, and effectively tying this information to marketing automation solutions at scale. A new crop of solutions, such as social marketing automation systems, aims to streamline this process, collecting the vital information social marketers need to interact online with customers and prospects in ways that foster genuine, valuable relationships.
Here’s how social customer acquisition and social selling are evolving, thanks to advances in social marketing automation:
First-Gen Social Selling: A highly manual, hard-to-scale approach to social selling with seven distinct steps:
- Social listening: Using various tools, such as Google Alerts, to track key sales targets and determine right time to engage.
- System checks: Perform background research, i.e., review interaction history in the CRM system. Understand a sales target’s needs and wants.
- Further research: Research potential inroads with the target customer, including existing network connections.
- Working the social graph, a): If applicable, ask network connection for introduction.
- Working the social graph, b): Use initial introduction to set up meeting. Offer relevant content ahead of time.
- Record updating: When target returns communication, log the interaction in the CRM system for future reference.
- Follow-up: Send follow-up email. When this is reciprocated, mark target as a “sales-ready” lead.
Next-Gen Social Selling: A scalable, targeted approach to social selling where marketers have the ability to build and apply their own segmentation logic for maximum sales results:
- Social Profiling: Make the whole social Web your lead-gen database. Listen for people rather than posts. Identify new prospects using social activity criteria (e.g., users who are engaging with competitors' brands, discussing specific topics, or who are taking actions that indicate buyer's intent) and automatically add these individuals your prospect database.
- Social Scoring: Build custom scores, based on company-specific business requirements. Apply weights to your social users’ activities, actions, and demographic information, and generate prioritized, dynamically updated lists of social targets. Export these scored lists to your CRM, marketing automation, or email provider to convert sales-ready contacts into sales.
- Social Campaigning: Use your own custom social scoring logic to create meaningful segments of prospects you can target with relevant messages and offers.
Consider Fox Broadcasting’s X Factor, a leader in next-gen social selling. X Factor used a next-gen sales approach during its record-breaking TV premiere, which generated more social buzz than any other television premiere to date. In the initial 72-hour period including and following the premiere, Fox collected more than 1.8 million mentions and 680,000 social profiles of previously unidentified fans across Facebook and Twitter. Since the initial success of X Factor, Fox has expanded its profiling to an additional 20 shows, collecting a total of 3.6 million profiles.
For Fox, this greatly expands the pool of fans and viewers, presenting new, targeted cross-selling opportunities. Fox can also use this information to identify interesting parallels; perhaps those who watch X Factor are more likely to watch The Mindy Project, but less likely to watch Ben and Kate. Fox can analyze these social insights and data to inform and improve its future marketing programs. All social-savvy marketers and brands looking to conquer the new social frontier can and should take this same approach.