Tapping Into The World Of Social Influence To Drive Sales

Published: May 22, 2012

By Mark W. Schaefer, Marketing Consultant, Author, “Return On Influence”

What if you could find your most powerful online brand advocates and sales leads — whoever they are, wherever they are, and for little time and money?

Sound too good to be true?

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Well you might want to explore the idea of applying the new world of social scoring to your sales efforts.

If you haven’t heard of companies like Klout, Kred, Appinions and PeerIndex, you might want to tune in. These companies are assessing our ability to create and share content on the web that creates a reaction. In other words “buzz.”

And they’re distilling this ability down to one number … sort of a credit score for influence.  These scores are being applied in hundreds of interesting ways, including as one method to assess job candidates, prioritize service responses, create community and find powerful word-of-mouth influencers.  The process is not perfect, but it is quickly going mainstream as one of the most powerful marketing trends today.

Let’s look at two examples where these scores could be used in the sales process.

Who Are Your Company’s Most Effective Advocates?

I conducted a workshop recently with a large B2B services company in the UK.

I began with an overview of the basics behind these social scoring systems and what we can really learn from them.

Then I displayed a dashboard that approximated the relative social media effectiveness of many company employees.  It was an approximation of how effectively these employees could communicate through online channels.

The discussion was nothing short of a revelation to these top executives. One of the executives said, “I don’t know any of these people on this list! You mean they are representing our company?”

Indeed.  It was illustrative that 80% of the top influencers where in no way associated with PR, sales, service or marketing. Shouldn’t these departments be highly visible on the social web, especially in a technology and services-oriented company?

You see, today anybody active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social platforms can be a beacon for your company — and probably already are — whether you know it or not. Do you know who the TRUE face of your company is in the marketplace?  How can you engage them and learn from them?  How do you get your salespeople up to speed if they are not showing up on this list?

A company can certainly create a measure of competitive advantage by making all employees online beacons for your brand, products and services.

Enlisting Brand Advocates

Let’s say you are selling servers to large companies.  Wouldn’t it be easier to sell to the IT people who already love you?  There are powerful tools available today to find and connect to these brand advocates — by topic, by location, even by their sentiment.

These powerful influencers are also likely to be an important source of word-of-mouth recommendations.  Think of the relative power of a technology procurement manager skipping over your ad in a magazine versus hearing about your latest product from a trusted friend you had identified and cultivated as a brand influencer.

Even three years ago, it would have been difficult, maybe impossible, to find these people, but with these powerful algorithms the task is much easier, and a list can sometimes be curated even in a matter of minutes.

These powerful new tools could potentially be used to discover unknown or under-utilized resources at prospect companies, possible partner companies, or even as a way to find high-potential new employees.

If you’re interested in learning more about this trend, here are three steps you can take to begin your journey.

1. To understand social influence, you really need to understand social media. If you try to dive into social influence marketing without a fundamental understanding of these communication channels and how people use them, you are going to be frustrated, and possibly embarrass yourself with these important brand advocates. 

2. Determine how these powerful new connection points can fit into your existing strategy.  There is a first-mover advantage in this space, but think through carefully how social influence marketing can support your goals.

3. There are many free options available through some of the leading platforms such as Klout, Kred, PeerIndex and Appinions.  Explore these sites. A free or low-cost tool such as HootSuite already allows you to sort through the influence level of your existing contacts.

You can learn more about social influence marketing by reading Mark Schaefer’s new book “Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring and Influence Marketing.” Schaefer blogs at www.businessesGROW.com and is a faculty member of Rutgers University.

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