Why Social Media Won’t Work For Selling

no_selling While social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter grow at staggering rates, companies are struggling to find value in these social media sites.  Afterall, if this is where your customers hang out, surely you need to be there to sell to them.  Right?  Wrong!

If you’re approaching social media as a “way to sell” then you’ve got it all wrong.  Companies need to look at social media from their customer’s perspective, and see it as a “way to buy.”  Your customers are not using social media to be sold, they may, at times, use it as a source of information and support to help them buy.

Helping Your Customers Buy

  1. Be relevant. First and foremost your social media presence should focus on being relevant to your customers.  Offering the information and products they want, when they want it, and how they want it.  It’s really about customer advocacy, which builds trust, and trust leads to longer and stronger customer relationships.  The number one issue for email unsubscribes is relevancy, and it would stand to reason that same issue will hold for all communication channels.
  2. Set clear expectations. Using social media to help customers buy is all about expectations – setting them, and meeting or exceeding them.  Be sure you let customers know what type of information they’ll receive and how often;  and stick to those parameters.

Blending Push and Pull

By combining the push of messaging with the pull of information and interactions, social media can be used to help build customer relationships:

The “pull” activities are more resource intensive, but that is where trust and loyalty will really be earned.  Stop using social media to sell, instead find ways to use it to help customer’s buy.

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The Key to Customer Advocacy is …

key_image.jpg  According to the article “Is Your Bank an Advocate” on the 1 to 1 website, simplicity is the key for banks becoming an advocate for their customers.  The article discusses the results from Forrester’s 2007 report “How Canadians Rate Their Banks on Customer Advocacy.” Making advocacy simple equates to a simple product set, simple messaging, first-call resolution, and working hard to solve customer issues.

But let’s make sure we define advocacy.  It is not about a series of activities you do that only focus on getting customers to be advocates for your business by spreading positive word-of-mouth and referring others.  It is a strategy that focuses on first doing what is in the best interest of your customers, and by doing so, your business is then rewareded with stronger relationships, more referrals and positive word-of-mouth.  The first one is focused on what customers can do for you, the second one focuses on what you can do for customers.  It’s the second one that will bear better results.

Those results include a higher product purchase rate average (3.4 vs 2.75) for those banks who score high on customer advocacy.  According to Bill Doyle, the author of the report:

“High customer advocacy leads to stronger organic growth.  Customers who feel that the bank is doing what’s best for them rather than what’s best for the bottom line tend to buy more, and bring in friends and family as new customers.”

In addition, Ron Shevlin’s work on advocacy while at Forrester found that consumers’ perceptions of their banks’ customer advocacy is the strongest driver of the intention to make future purchases from their bank.  Ron also goes into the three facets of advocacy (human, operational, and product).

While simplicity may be the key, you need to be clear on what type of advocacy you are working towards and why. Measuring the results of an advocacy strategy can certainly include product purchase rates, but understand that there is whole lot more going on here.  One needs to account for the positive word-of-mouth, the increased referrals, and improved customer loyalty that are generated by this type of strategy. 

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