There is a lot of hype around using Digital and Social media. Using them for what, precisely?
Well we use them in our personal lives to communicate with our friends, family, and anyone that wishes to connect with us, mainly through social media. We also fulfil most of the ‘must do’ things from our computers, either at home or ‘for a minute’ at work. We check our bank balances, we buy stuff, we book flights, we check out places to go and what’s happening in the world. And we also work online.
It’s this working online bit that’s getting most of the attention nowadays. On the social side, we all accept the ‘like’ button on facebook, posting digital images, e-mailing friends, paying bills as normal and organic. When was the last time you said to a friend with wonderment ‘I paid a bill online today’? We don’t even think about it. But all of those things have a clear if assumed purpose. Sharing information, making arrangements, getting the basics sorted out. Like checking if you have enough money in the bank to pay the bills, and then doing precisely that. Useful purpose-driven actions.
Back in business-land, what’s the purpose? Well it rather depends on what we do. I work in a Sales organisation which believes in customer fulfilment, ‘however they want and wherever they are’.
Netting it down, our mission is to fulfil current and prospective customer’s needs by selling them a wide range of products that they in turn have a need for. In the old days, this happened by physically visiting the customer, shaking their hand, talking face to face, drinking lots of coffee, and convincing them that they had a real need which we could fulfil. Or alternatively identifying a need that we didn’t know existed, and then trying to fulfil that too. Now, we state clearly, we meet them ‘however they want, wherever they are’. So how DO they want, and WHERE are they?
Research all says they want to meet us online, on digital platforms, and in the most efficient way possible. They are under time pressure, and they are looking for the most effective way to meet their needs. The ‘how’ is by a matrix of communication vehicles, the ‘where’ is the cloud those are hosted on, or indeed the old-fashioned phone that facilitate dialogue . But beyond both of those, they need a person they can deal with, who can help them define their need, propose a solution, and build trust in themselves in the process. Which in turn helps close the deal, most likely by e-mail or exchange of electronic contracts. It may be difficult to close a deal on Digital and Social media, but it’s very easy to lose one. So how to move the conversation?
My view is that the key is the intelligent construction of a trusted persona that the customer can check out, if they wish. That encompasses every and any platform that they can query to know who they are talking to. It involves building rational, honest and engaging profiles in places like LinkedIn and Twitter. They should check out who they are talking to, just as the seller should check out the prospective customer, and be briefed to have an intelligent and informed conversation. So what kind of profile should the customer find when they google their contact? How does your profile describe you? A wild and crazy guy on Twitter? Who simply re-tweets canned corporate content? A very easy trap to fall into btw. It’s worth noting that research suggests the best Twitter content is a mix of who you are, what interests you personally and professionally, and some – note, SOME – material you would like to share. Why do you think many Twitter profiles say ‘Opinions are my own. I only re-tweet occasionally’?
Suppose your googling customer finds someone with a badly written LinkedIn profile, without endorsements? And if the seller has an online Rep Page/Business card/Landing page, does it contain meaningful content? A professional. or at least representative photograph? It’s all part of the digital jigsaw. Once you put it out there, you can’t take it back. So at the end of the day, it’s actually not rocket science, to use an old cliché.
Decide on a purpose, figure out what the preferred digital/social channels are to realise that. Learn how to use the tools of those channels. Put the pieces in place to build confidence, trust and a rational persona. Then don’t think about it, just do it. Practice makes perfect.