Social Media in Plain English

“Social media is not tactical and it’s not about the platform — social media is about the new way we communicate and absorb information. It’s about finding other people of like interests, and communicating with them on a massive scale. Nimble is the CRM tool we use to make this happen.” – Rick Kranz

The Big News: The Customer Is in Control Now

As Marketers and business owners, we’re used to controlling the messages our prospects receive about our businesses. We do this through our websites and marketing materials.

But with social media our customers and non-customers now control the messages our prospects receive. They can bypass our websites and our messages and go straight to their social network.

Even after I do a Google search for a product I ask my LinkedIn network for an opinion. Sometimes I don’t even do a search and just ask my network to recommend a product, because it’s easy to do that now.

Besides being scary because as business owners we are losing control of our marketing message, social media has opened up some really cool ways to secure new customers for your businesses.

Why Social Media?

I don’t think business owners really understand social media – especially my generation. I get questions all the time that sound like this. “Rick we don’t have much activity on Facebook. How do we get more Likes?” Why? I say. For what reason? What are you going to do with more Likes? The response we get is “Gee i really don’t know but I heard somewhere that facebook likes drive more business” Sure there are tactics for getting more Likes and we can even generate leads from the social platforms, but there is a much bigger thing here that can be done – I will get to it, I promise.

As business owners we tend to look at this new social media thing and define it by platform. We ask ourselves what should I be doing on Facebook? How the hell do I use Twitter? We try to approach it very tactically.

It’s Not About the Platform!

What we need to understand is that it’s not about the platform – Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. It’s about the new way we communicate and consume information, and this new way is not going away.

We even try to outsource it and get our marketing departments to do it for us or even worse have our marketing agencies handle it. I love when I hear someone say “Oh we just hired Becky out of college. She’s going to be our social media expert.” You gotta be kidding me. Nothing against Becky – she’s probably the only one in that company that actually understands social media – but it won’t work.

Here’s the problem with these approaches. Social media is SOCIAL. Let me say that again. The problem with social media is that it is social. It requires human interaction, and it is a huge time-sucker.

We as marketers and business owners try to use the social platforms the way we used email before we killed it and the way we used TV ads before DVRs killed that. We try to broadcast our message out robotically. We treat these social streams like they are platforms for us to yell out our marketing messages. This will not work.

It’s About the Context!

People are actually having conversations on these social media platforms. They’re communicating human to human. They’re finding commonalities and creating bonds. They’re forming giant networks around common interests, they’re asking and answering questions about products and services. They don’t give a crap about our stale marketing messages.

Unless – and this is a big one – the context is right. It’s not about the content, it’s about the context. I will explain more about that later when I show you the really really cool thing i promised to show you.

Back to my generation – remember when email first came on the scene? It drastically changed the way we communicated. No more faxes (remember fax machines?), no more letters, and it cut way down on phone calls. Let me ask you this question. Who among us said “This email thing will never catch on. I’m okay just continuing mailing letters and using my fax machine”?

Well here we are again with a whole new way of communicating called social media.

So this is the simple way I want you to look at social media. It’s a communication tool, just like email was a very different form of communication when it came on the scene.

The Future Is Already Written

So with this simple understanding that social media is a communication tool, I want to ask you another question. Would you outsource your entire company’s email communications to your marketing firm? Would you assign it all to Becky the new recruit fresh out of college? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well then why would you try to do that with social media? It’s a communication tool.

So are you going to be the one that says “I’m fine with just using email – social media is just a fad and will never catch on”?

These statements may not sound that ridiculous today, but in a few years they will be as ridiculous as if you had made that statement about email.

Empower Your Team

The principle is simple: It’s about empowering your sales team (and by sales team I mean anyone that communicates with your customers and prospects) with the proper tools for listening and socializing.

Back in the old days of selling, when CRM’s were just coming onboard, sales people spent a lot of their time gathering personal information about their clients and prospects. We wanted to know their birthdays, their kids names, their likes, etc. This made for a stronger connection. It was easy to do relationship selling back then. No one had access to a search engine to find your competition.

Guess what. Because of social media, this type of selling is back – and supercharged.

So here’s what I do, and what I recommend you set up for yourself and your sales team. Just so you understand, I am not that comfortable with social media, and this works great for me.

I Use Nimble

I use Nimble — a CRM platform that tracks all of our contacts’ social interactions. In case you’re not familiar with the term, CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management, but it really goes beyond your customers and manages all of your contacts, including prospects, suspects and everyone else you ever came in contact with.

Anyone that has ever been in contact with me or my company (meaning they sent an email to me or downloaded some content from our website) is automatically in our Nimble system. Not only is their contact information in there but so is their photo as well as their social media activity. We don’t input this stuff. The system automatically goes out and finds the person’s photo and social accounts, imports them and keeps everything up to date.

Besides being able to actually see what our prospects look like, we can easily see what they are interested in and what social accounts they’re active in.

Remember when I said I’m not that comfortable communicating through social media? This makes it fool-proof. Whatever platform my contact is on I can send a communication through Nimble as easily as sending an email.

More importantly, I have a wealth of information regarding my prospects’ personal interests. It’s so much easier to close a business deal when you can connect on a personal level first, isn’t it? Look how easy it is for me to quickly connect with a person through any social account. This tool also tracks all of our emails, sales opportunities, deals, and activities just like the more expensive CRM platforms.

The principle I’m trying to illustrate here is that I’m not spending time on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or LinkedIn listening. I’m not spending time on 3rd party programs like HootSuite to view my social streams of the entire marketplace. I’m doing nothing more than what I’ve always done and what almost every salesperson does every day. That is, go through my contact database and communicate with my prospects and customers. Except now I have much better intelligence about my prospects and a way to make deeper personal connections with them using social media.

In summary, here is my practical advice for using social media for growing your business:

First: Empower yourself and your sales team with a tool like Nimble that incorporates social communication. This allows your team to use social tools without having any prior experience and without spending any additional time.

Second: Focus your new social tools on the prospects you’re already working with. By ignoring the world and focusing in on the people that you are already communicating with, you will build deeper relationships, close more deals, and not spend a minute more of your time than you would have otherwise.

Rick Kranz is the principal of OverGo Studio, an inbound marketing service for small to medium sized businesses. Find him on Twitter @OverGoStudio