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How can e-mail drive interest in social channels?

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By now the initial buzz of social media is beginning to die down. We've all placed clever little logos on every page of our websites and used integrated tools like AddThis to “socialize” page and downloadable content. That's all well and good, but now that social media has become an initiative for many companies and an actual department for many others, the question of results is creeping more and more to the forefront. How can companies use social media to yield real results?

First we need to clarify what results mean. If it's rapid monetization of social efforts, please, wake up. To approach social media with the intent of seeing a rapid boost in top-line revenue is beyond optimistic—and into the realm of the unreal. If, however, your strategy is a bit more rooted in reality and the conversation that social media can stimulate, then by all means, keep reading.

E-mail is a great way to communicate. We are seeing e-mail move farther back in the marketing cycle, however, as b-to-b buyers have become inundated with messages that are unsolicited and don't speak to them about their true needs. But once you've created that bidirectional exchange and a prospect is moving further toward your sales funnel, social can be a great way to continue conversations more in line with personal preference.

For me, I love Facebook, though probably not in the way that many do. On Facebook, I ‘like' many of the vendors I use day to day, and I scroll through the news feed on my iPad late in the evenings. Content for most of the organizations I follow on Facebook tends to be more interesting than the e-mail communications I get daily from those same organizations. For example, being a Salesforce.com partner, I get about 100 e-mails per day on partner program updates, release notes, usage stats and so on. I read very few of them. But when I engage with Salesforce.com on Facebook, the content is more dynamic. Just the other day the company posted a video of [Salesforce.com CEO] Marc [Benioff] on CNBC's “Mad Money,” which I watched, all the way through. Good luck getting my attention with that during the day—or via e-mail. This tells me something, and it's something we assist clients in all the time. Behaviors change around the medium through which the message is distributed.

Knowing this, why don't we just ask buyers how they would like to receive information, along with the types of information they would like to receive? For example, “Would you like us to communicate with you on LinkedIn instead of e-mail?” Now, we know that buyers aren't always honest with us because we are all evil sales people. To address that challenge, we can also track these preferences and correlate them against behavioral info. What pages are they visiting on your site, what are they downloading, and are they watching your “Mad Money” video? Using that info, we can tailor follow-up marketing that is truly of interest. That's creating the conversation. Social is just another path to get it done—and sometimes it's a lot more stimulating exchange.

Justin Gray is CEO and founder of LeadMD (www.leadmd.com), a marketing services firm focused on organic lead generation and the successful deployment of marketing automation.

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