5 Reasons B2B Sales Need Social Media

“We’re in B2B sales, we can’t use social media.”

I hear it many times. B2B salespeople who think they can’t use social media, because social media is just for fun. It’s just for kids. Their clients don’t use it. Blah blah blah.

I don’t know who keeps perpetuating the myth that social media is some kids’ playground that “real” businesspeople aren’t allowed to use, but it’s wrong. There is no one who can’t benefit from social media. Even spies can use social media — the CIA has one at ICouldTellYouButI’dHaveToKillYou.com.

But I was in B2B sales long enough, in a past life, that I can see exactly where and how B2B salespeople can use social media.

1. Solve problems.

The best way to find customers is not to call them up, one at a time, from a phone list, and hope for the best. The best way to find customers is to happen upon them when they have a problem, and fix it. Even if it’s just a small problem that’s easily managed in a single Twitter message or 500 word email, you will get a person’s attention when you help them.

You answer their question, show them how to fix the problem completely, and they’re grateful. They’re so grateful, they check out your profile, see who you work for, and visit your website.

They don’t buy anything from you right then, but they start paying attention to you on Twitter, on LinkedIn, or an industry discussion board. They see you helping others, and they realize you solve problems. You’re honest, you’re helpful, and you provide value to them.

And then one day, they realize they have a problem where they need your help — paying-you-money kind of help. You meet, show them how your product can fix their problems, and they buy it.

2. Become your industry’s expert.

Solve problems for a lot of people, not just a few. Start a blog and write important articles about industry trends. Write articles about how trends in other industries affect yours. Write articles that show people how to fix a common problem. Write articles about other articles other industry people have written.

But do it without pimping your product. Don’t write commercial after commercial about your products. Don’t write about “5 ways our rotary wankle engine beats the competition.” Don’t even write about problems where your product is the only solution. People hate that, and will ignore you.

Then, share those articles on your social networks — Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. As your customers and prospects read your articles, they’ll figure if you know enough to write about these issues over and over, you must know what you’re talking about.

Not only will they think you’re an expert, they’ll realize you know enough to fix their specific problem. They won’t want the help from the person who just called them up for the 8th time. They want the expert whose wisdom they’ve been reading for the last several months or years.

3. Deepen relationships.

Social media lets you connect with other people, in all industries, all career levels, all over the world.

You can be Twitter friends with your favorite customers. You can be LinkedIn colleagues with important decision makers. (And you can keep tabs on the competition.)

Social media lets you deepen important work relationships without constant face-to-face meetings. You can find out interesting things about people, things you would never learn in a real meeting. And things that show you care about them as a person.

“I saw on Twitter that you got a new puppy. How’s she doing?”

Now you’ve connected with them, gotten to know them better, and you can start deepening that relationship. Only it doesn’t stop growing when you’ve left them. You can continue to grow it when you’re back at your office.

People buy from people they like. By using social media to grow your relationships, you can get people to like — and buy from — you.

4. Avoid gatekeepers.

Anyone who is in sales has learned that gatekeepers are the bane of our existence. It seems their sole purpose in life, the reason they were put here on this earth, is to say no to salespeople.

Guess what.

Those people are not monitoring your customers’ social networks. They’re not on Twitter blocking your tweets. They’re not on LinkedIn intercepting your group discussions.

Your customers using it themselves. They’re paying attention to you. They’re reading what you have to say. And because you’ve done the previous three steps, they’re willing to talk with you on the phone or meet with you face-to-face.

Because the one phrase that trumps all gatekeepers, and is like sunlight to a vampire to them?

“He asked me to call.”

5. Keep up with client turnover.

People move on. They get promoted, they change jobs. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called someone only to find they left that job. All that work, all those phone calls and meetings, wasted. I could catch up with that person in their new job, if the gatekeeper was willing to share it, but a good bit of the time, that wasn’t possible.

With social media, because I’m keeping up with the people in my industry, I know when someone is moving on. I see their announcement on Twitter, I get the profile change notice on LinkedIn. I can send them congratulatory messages, follow up after they get settled in, and help them in their new role.

Occasionally, I can connect them to other people who can help, or write a blog post that relates to their new role and ideas to consider in their new position. (Sort of like this one.)

Social media is a force majeure in the business world, even while old school sales and marketing pros are still questioning whether and how to use social media, not realizing it’s already being used to great effect. Especially by the competition.

If you want to stay up with current trends and be a valuable resource to your current and potential clients, start using social media tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. (But that’s for another post.)

It sure beats playing Dialing for Dollars day after day.

Scott Stratten Smacks Down Realtors Who Misuse Social Media

Scott Stratten is pleading with Realtors to stop misusing QR codes, social media, and even advertising claims. He’s having a go at Canadian Realtors, but the message applies to American ones as well.

Here’s the gist of his complaint:

  • QR codes are for mobile phones. Don’t point a QR code at a desktop website. Create a mobile-friendly website. If you can’t do that, don’t use a QR code.
  • Don’t just put Facebook and Twitter logos on your advertising. Tell us where to actually find you on Facebook and Twitter. Make it easy for your clients to find you.
  • Don’t treat your Twitter feed like a listing service. If you’re not engaging buyers and sellers, then you’re not going to get any benefit out of social media at all.

Coming up this week, I’ll have a post about five ways Realtors can properly use social media.

15 Social Media Tactics to Promote Your Upcoming Theatrical Show

We just finished the 10-day festival of independent theatre and weirdness known as the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre Festival, and I had a chance to see a few shows, including a couple of old favorites.

I also had a chance to talk social media — because I’m an annoying geek that way — with a couple performers, and decided to write a blog post based on what I told a couple of them.

Didi Panache and Wayburn Sassy of the Screw You Revue

Didi Panache and Wayburn Sassy of the Screw You Revue

This post is written for any musician or performer, especially the independent theatrical types who depend on ticket sales to make their living. For some of these performers, they bounce from festival to festival and make a good portion of their income from their take. Some even use one festival to pay for the next one.

This is a strategy they can use to improve their take next year.

What You’ll Need

  • A laptop computer
  • A digital camera with video capabilities. If not, your laptop’s camera will do.
  • A Twitter account.
  • A blog (WordPress.com or Blogger.com are great free platforms, as is Posterous.com and Tumblr.com)
  • A YouTube account.
  • A Facebook page. (This is different from a personal profile. You want an Artist’s page.)

What You’ll Do

These are in a general chronological order, but not in a do-one-then-the-next lockstep order. I’m using the Indianapolis Fringe (#IndyFringe) as an example, but this will work for any concert, performance, show, or festival.

 

  • First, make sure your Twitter bio includes a line about the name of your show, or your most famous character’s name. If you only performed in one festival, put the name of that in the bio too. “You may have seen me at the #IndyFringe Festival!” You can always change your bio, especially as you move from festival to festival, or follow specific groups of people.
  • Start following people on Twitter. People will follow you back, especially once they see that you’re a performer at the festival they went to, and even moreso if they were at your show. To find people who were at the festival, do these steps:

 

  • Go to FollowBlast.com and do a search for #indyfringe, and follow anyone using that term. Keep in mind that these hashtags only work for about 30 minutes, so it’s actually a good idea to access this site while you’ve got some downtime at next year’s show.
  • Build a hashtag archive at TwapperKeeper.com. I’m still trying this out, but I’m hoping it will collect old hashtags, unlike FollowBlast.com. However, it only goes back 7 – 10 days, and back for 1,500 tweets. It will then go forward and continue to save tweets. You should set this up before your next festival starts. Work in conjunction with the festival organizers, because they may want to use your archive as well. Also, before you start, search to see if anyone else set up an archive before you so you don’t duplicate efforts.
  • Go to search.twitter.com as another way to search for #hashtags. Put in #indyfringe and see what you can find. Search results are somewhat limited, but you may be able to find older tweets that FollowBlast and Twapper Keeper couldn’t, especially if you’re seeing this now, and are scrambling to recover those old tweets.
  • If all else fails, try Topsy. It’s not 100% accurate, but it gives you more than you might get if you’re looking for a festival that ended three weeks ago.

 

  • Check out the festival organizer’s Twitter page and follow everyone they follow (not everyone who follows them). If they have been good Twitter stewards, they have vetted the people they’re following. Those people will include other performers, supporters, festival-goers, and other people in the industry or festival business. (This last group could be a good connection to getting into other festivals!) Do this with any festivals you plan on going to next year as well.
  • Use Twellow.com and Twellowhood.com as a way to find other people who are in the cities where you’ll be next year.
  • Why You’ll Do It

    Okay so far? You’ve built your Twitter list for a very important reason: Promoting stuff! You’re going to promote next year’s show through videos, your blog, and even email newsletters. Here’s how.

    Zan Aufderheide of Welcome to Zanland

    Zan Aufderheide of Welcome to Zanland

    • Now you need your camera. Start shooting some short videos. Update us on what you’re doing, where you’ll be, thoughts on stuff you did this year. Treat it like a diary. If you’re an actor playing a part, do it in character, especially if that character is going to be back at the festivals next year. Shoot the videos in character, or tell some jokes, or give people a preview of what you’ve been working on. Shoot some rehearsals, some special messages to individuals, or perform a new song.
    • Post those on YouTube.com (make them public), and make sure you fill out all the details, like Title, Description, etc. (all this stuff is indexed by Google, which makes your videos found more easily by people searching for you or the festival).
    • Share these videos on Twitter and your Facebook page, and post them to your blog (do the same with any photos you take). This will accomplish a lot of pre-show promo before you ever set foot in the city. And if you can get people buzzing about the show before you start, you’ll be selling out more shows.

    You can get a Flip camera for as low as $170 now, and if you think that’s still high, use the money you were going to spend on fancy-schmancy postcards and spend it on the camera instead. The postcards are immediately dated once the festival ends, and you can’t reuse them. The video camera will pay for itself with all the videos you shoot and the postcards you don’t buy.

    Finally, there are a few things you want to do next year, to get ready for the next off-season.

      • Build a mailing list of all your attendees. Send around a clipboard before your show begins, or have them sign up before they leave. Ask people for their HOME email, not their work email — especially if your show is laden with profanities and cross-dressers. Guard this with your life. Promise to never, ever spam them. Use it only for newsletters and occasional social media communication.
      • Load that list into a Gmail account (here’s why you should use Gmail), and then either use the Rapportive.com Gmail plugin, or upload the email list to Gist.com, to start finding where your list members can be found on the different social media networks. Follow them on Twitter, and connect with them on Facebook.
      • Send out an occasional newsletter — no more than once a month — and email it to them. Let them know what you’re working on for next year so they get excited about your upcoming visit. Give them an opportunity to unsubscribe, but try to give them useful information so they won’t want to.
      • Use your video camera to shoot post-show testimonials and get them up on your blog as soon as a show ends. Tweet the new blog posts to your Twitter network during the show, so you can continue to remind people you’re there and you’ve got an awesome show. Ask your Twitter network to retweet your show information, so they can help you spread the word.

    There is so much more you can do with social media. Believe it or not, this is just scratching the surface of what can be done. But while it seems overwhelming, keep in mind two things:

        1. This will get easier as you do it more often.
        2. It beats the hell out of busking and handing out postcards in 90 degree heat.

    Photo credit: Erik Deckers

 

The Difficulties of Writing With Nonsexist Language

I was called a sexist because of a single tweet.

At a blogging session at Blog Indiana, I said, “If you’re opposed to ghost blogging, then let the woman who answers your phone introduce herself to every caller.”

I actually hesitated for a moment. What was a less sexist way of asking this? I knew there was a potential for trouble, and there was an easy way out of it, but I wasn’t a big fan of the solution, so I skipped it.

Then I followed it up with “If you’re against ghost blogging, let your copywriter sign her name to your brochure” to balance things out.

Sure enough, I got called out by Mary Long (@lawfirmPRwriter): “or how about “the PERSON who answers your phone shouldn’t introduce themselves?” Not all writers are men/women are secretaries.”

Yes, absolutely. Not all women are secretaries (actually, they’re administrative assistants now, as I’ve been reminded many times), but Mary’s solution is the one I was trying to avoid.

Now, I loathe the “he/she solution.” As in “If you’re against ghost blogging, let the man/woman who answers the phone introduce himself/herself.” That’s just ugly.

Or, I could be a little more generic and use “themselves,” but it’s actually wrong. And since I just got done giving a keynote about the importance of language and writing, I didn’t want to abuse the language, even though I had just advocated the overthrow of the “don’t end your sentences with a preposition” rule.

The problem is if I talk about the one person who answers the phone, I can’t use the plural themselves.

Plus I’ve been admonished by our editor on No Bullshit Social Media not to do that, so I hesitate doing it now.

So I fell back on what I usually try to do, and balance it out. I’ll use the male pronoun sometimes, but because I know better, I balance it out by using the female pronoun and possessive at other times.

And if I do something like “the woman who answers your phones,” I’ll follow it up with “let the copywriter sign her name.”

I don’t always have the space, especially on Twitter, to be completely nonsexist or inclusive in my language. And I don’t want to be as politically correct as I had to be in the 1990s, filling every grad school paper with he/she and him/her.

I have to be satisfied with being nonsexist over my entire body of work, and making sure that I balance the hes and the shes. I make sure that I don’t always talk about nurses as being women or doctors as being men. It’s not a perfect solution, and it requires the reader to read more of my work than a single 140 character remark, but it’s the best solution I’ve found.

It can be a real struggle and I would know what solution other writers have found. How do you solve the sexist language question? Have you found a workable solution? Do you have any suggestions?

10 Ways To Spot Bullshit In Social Media Vendors

My friend and writing partner for No Bullshit Social Media, Jason Falls, has an interesting take on what today’s social media hippies have in common with the early hippies of 1964.

In 1964, Beat Generation poet and newly-crowed author du jour Ken Kesey packed a merry band of friends into a van and led the group across the U.S. en route to the New York World’s Fair. Tripping on LSD most of the way, the Merry Pranksters sat out to enlighten America. Incredibly, though stopped by police on several occasions, according to a new documentary film about the journey called Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place, they were never arrested. Kesey’s friend Neal Cassady, who was the inspiration for Jack Kerouac’s On The Road protagonist Dean Moriarty, drove the bus and would fast talk his way around the law enforcement officers.

Remember, this wasn’t deep into the hippie era in the U.S. Some would argue this particular bus trip was the first real exposure to what hippies would become that much of America had ever seen. So when the police pulled the bus over, there wasn’t an automatic level of suspicion about pot or LSD or kids doing drugs. Besides, LSD was still legal then. The bus occupants were an eclectic bunch from California armed with movie cameras. “We’re making a movie,” was probably all the excuse Cassady needed to use to get around many unsuspecting law enforcement officers in that era.

Similarly, when social media’s early pioneers, only a few of whom I suspect of illegal drug use (joke), stood on their virtual pedestals and preached on and on about how the new world of marketing was all about conversation and engagement, many of us were razzle-dazzled by the potential of fulfilling the Cluetrain vision. Brands could become one again with the people. Perhaps even get on a bus, drink drug-laced Kool-Aid and enlighten the world.

While I didn’t live through the 60s, my parents were in the middle of it. Perhaps I am a direct result of them. Still, I wasn’t there. It’s hard for me to opine on what did or did not happen and why. But taking the pragmatists view that the grand bus trip that was the Beat and Hippie Generations was less about enlightenment and more about getting high, one can see the world of social media as less about enlightenment and more about playing online all day.

Okay, perhaps I’m being a bit snarky.

Like the police officers duped by Kesey’s merry band of Beats, businesses from the initial inklings of social media’s priests and prophets until recently have failed to see through the bullshit. Engagement, conversation, listening … all well and good, but where’s the other half of the equation? Where’s the money? Where’s the revenue? Where’s the business?

Certainly, there are dozens of companies who have seen the light, or gotten lucky with the opportunities, and have recorded social media successes. The Dells and Southwest Airlines of the world are to be commended for early adoption and visionary activation. But the vast majority of businesses are better trained cops. They still see social media as bullshit.

If only someone could convince business owners, small and large, marketing managers and the like that when you add the word “marketing” to the phrase “social media” it is not only about conversation and engagement, but also about business, the industry could continue to grow, perhaps more rapidly. Erik Deckers and I have (humbly) tried just that with our upcoming book No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide to Social Media Marketing . In it we recognize the genuine and genuinely accurate recommendations of the purists. But we also see through the fast-talk, smoke screen.

It’s not about playing online all day. It’s not a virtual commune where we all get enlightened. It can be a market. And goods and services can be bought and sold there. Companies are welcome, but if they play by the rules of the road, as it were.

For many of the puritanical themes, Erik and I spot the bullshit. In order to help you do the same with the consultants, agencies and experts you’re dealing with as you navigate the road of social media enlightenment, here are some warning signs you might have a bullshit artist at play:

10 Ways To Spot The Bullshit In Social Media Vendors

  1. It only takes them 15 seconds of the first answer to mention Twitter.
  2. They talk continually about “conversation” “listening” and “engagement” but never define what those are or what it means for your company to practice them.
  3. They fumble around, covering their tracks with ministerial-type rants about customer service when you ask them how social media can drive revenue.
  4. They talk about “the rules” of social media marketing.
  5. They only produce case studies everyone knows — Dell, Southwest Airlines, Comcast — and can’t cite local or small-business case studies readily.
  6. Their references don’t include businesses they’ve activated a social media strategy or tactic for.
  7. They talk of “building community” but focus the conversation on social networking software (Ning, Jive, etc.) rather than communications strategies that will foster community among your customers.
  8. When you ask about your website or search engine results they say neither have anything to do with social media.
  9. When you ask how they do market research they answer, “I use Google.”
  10. Just as you get to the desire to reduce customer acquisition cost, their eyes glaze over and the check their phone for messages.

We’re sure you have more ideas on how to spot the bullshit. The comments are yours.

For a free chapter of No Bullshit Social Media, jump over to the book website and download away! While you’re there, be sure to pre-order your copy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million or Que Publishing.

And order a couple extra for those bullshit-sensitive friends and clients. We’d be honored if you did.

Your pre-orders should arrive in late September.

What Will Twitter Do With TweetDeck?

I use TweetDeck to keep up with different groups of people, making my Twitter stream easier to manage and follow.

The news that Twitter just bought TweetDeck for a reported $50 million has me a little worried, because Twitter has a history of killing its acquisitions, sort of like Lennie and soft things in Of Mice and Men.

It got worse after Mrinal Desai gave his five reasons why they were going to do it. It made me wonder, would Twitter really spend $50 million to kill a program that makes Twitter work better than their clunky interface?

If they were smart, Twitter would use TweetDeck as a way to win new users, not kill it to force people to use Twitter.com.

I use TweetDeck to keep up with different groups of people, making my Twitter stream easier to manage and follow.

TweetDeck makes using Twitter easy

I don’t know how many people I’ve talked to who didn’t get Twitter. They stared at Twitter.com and tried to keep up with the 50 people they were following. “Everything keeps going by so fast, I can’t even read it all.” TweetDeck lets you divide your Twitter stream into columns, either based on search terms or groups of people, and tweets are easier to read and follow.

Twitter.com is about as clunky as an old Edsel with square wheels, and is a pain to use. I hate having to click to see different tabs If they want people to use Twitter, they’ll keep TweetDeck around.

Twitter can feed ads into TweetDeck more easily.

Imagine if you’re forced to use Twitter.com for your Twitter stream. My tweets go by so fast on there, I’ll get a couple hundred in 10 minutes. If Twitter wants to slip in an ad, it will be easier for me to miss. While Twitter may be able to sell ads based on how often they’re served, “served” does not equal “seen.”

TweetDeck, on the other hand, makes it easier to see the ads. If I have a hashtag search column up while I’m watching a Colts game, I am more likely to see an ad that is not only slipped into that stream, but it can be targeted to me because I’m talking about the Colts. There are already enough bot programmers in the world, Twitter should be able to figure out how to serve targeted ads to people based on their conversations, and should be able to slide them into searches and lists that meet certain requirements.

For example, put a sporting goods ad in a sports hashtag discussion. Slide a restaurant ad in any list labeled with a city name, or even based on a conference hashtag.

TweetDeck is Just Awesome

I like TweetDeck for any number of reasons (to be fair, there are plenty of people who think HootSuite and Seesmic are awesome too. They’re wrong, but I support their beliefs.).

  • TweetDeck lets me communicate with my Facebook, LinkedIn, and FourSquare accounts.
  • I can support more than one Twitter account, which is important since I manage Twitter accounts for several clients.
  • It lets me view pictures and watch videos in little pop-up windows, rather than just visiting the original website.
  • I can schedule tweets for any minute, not in 5 minute increments like HootSuite used to do (they changed it, but when I had to make the decision, HootSuite was still only doing 10:15, 10:20 etc.)

There are a lot of Twitter clients out there. If they want to kill any apps, they need to look at some of the smaller ones that don’t do very much and kill them instead. It would clean up the market a bit, it would prevent future problems by saving them from accessibility and interface problems, and could give them a preferred client to send people to in order to help them use Twitter better.

My hope is that Twitter is taking all of this into account, and will keep TweetDeck as the official Twitter client. If not, I’m hanging on to mine as long as I can, and will use it for as long as it can send and receive tweets.

Personal Branding Twitter Chat on Friday, April 29 at 12 noon EDT

TweetChat window

I’m hosting my first Twitter chat on personal branding next week.

I participated in my first #PRWebChat last week, and had such a good time talking with other PR professionals that I want to host my own Twitter chat. In fact, I have to thank @prweb for hosting this, and hope they will join me on mine.

I will be hosting the first personal branding chat — use the hashtag #PBchat —on Friday, April 29 at 12 noon EDT. (It’s the day after #PRWebChat’s discussion with Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz — I know where I’m going to be that day!)

The easiest way to participate is to go to TweetChat.com, sign in using your Twitter account, and then enter pbchat in the hashtag window at the top of the page.

TweetChat window

Enter "pbchat" into the text box at the top of the window.

I will be posting pre-written questions about every 10 minutes, all about personal branding, and you can answer, discuss, debate, provide tips, or even ask your own questions. My questions are just guidelines, but you’ll be creating the conversation.

Whether it’s questions about job searching, networking, career advice, or even just growing your personal brand online and offline, we’ll be asking and answering over the lunch hour on April 29. (And if there’s enough interest from my West Coast friends, we’ll do one for them as well, at 12 noon PDT.)

So, please block out the time on your calendar, and join us for as long as you can.