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Social-media rockstars’ best practices: Part 4 — Building sales

6 min read

Brands & Campaigns

Social networks have caused a huge shift in how companies frame and execute their business. The success of Best Buy’s Twelpforce blurred the lines between marketing and customer service, using videos that feature the 1,000+ Best Buy employees on Twitter offering efficient, direct service. Dell’s Outlet on Twitter earned $9 million in sales.

Is there really ROI in the social-media space? Yes, there is.

Yet without expertise, this social business culture can be challenging — perhaps even becoming a time sink rather than a profit center. We’ve contacted the speakers and panelists of SOBCon2010 — a yearly think tank of the top social-media strategists, thought leaders and practitioners — to ask their advice on social-media best practices. Our questions were aimed at how to get the best return on social-media resources in raising awareness and building customer relationships, as well as in direct returns.

Liz Strauss

These interviews appear as part of our upcoming special report,Driving Your Bottom Line.” The first part of the report publishes Tuesday, March 23, and the second part will be sent out Thursday, March 25; if you’re not already a SmartBrief on Social Media subscriber, sign up today so you won’t miss them!

Some companies, such as Dell, have managed to use social media to drive direct sales, yet many companies are still struggling to make their social efforts turn a profit. What separates a company that can use social media to generate revenue from one that can’t?

Liz Strauss: Dell offers so many ways to meet with them on Twitter alone. Many Dell folks on Twitter are there to learn, to discuss and to help solve problems. None of them would think to interrupt people to sell to them. They talk like humans about what they do. The Dell outlet on Twitter is a separate channel. One key to Dell sales is the way they offer value, not just in low prices, but in fast easy ways to get to them. I think the combination is powerful.

I’ve seen it stated that AT&T has 13 full-time people, but not one account on Twitter carries an individual person’s name. I’ve only met one person from AT&T at conference. Not that AT&T isn’t there … but somewhere in the difference is that I’ve met RichardatDell, ChrisBatDell and LionelatDell. I know they’re real people with real names. That has to help lend credibility to the real people who run the DellOutlet on Twitter.

Chris Garrett: A big part of what separates the successes from the failures is knowing your audience well, and finding a match between what you can offer and what they want. Many of the failures focus on the media side of social media rather than the social — social media should not be seen as a broadcast medium but as a tool for engagement. If you listen first, then your community will tell you what they want and how.

Scott Porad: I think it has to do with when companies are, or are not, willing to show their human face to their customers. Companies that are afraid to show their human face, who want to maintain a sterile “corporate image,” will have a harder time capitalizing on social media. In other words, social media is primarily a human medium, so only companies that are willing to act human, warts and all, are able to use it effectively.

I believe this is evidenced by the success that companies are having using social media for customer service — for example, Comcast. Customer service is fundamentally a human interaction — two people talking on the phone. As a result, the customer service organizations in many companies already have the culture, attitudes, policies and procedures in place for human interaction with customers.

Erno Hannink: Completely dive into social media. Let all your employees use social media to make direct connections to the fans. Listen to your customers and potential customers. Use this information to improve your company, processes, services and/or products. Be transparent — let your fans know what you are doing with their comments. Are you not doing something with it? Explain why. Are you doing something with their suggestions? Reward your fans.

L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine: Companies need to shake off the “I heard Dell made $2 million from Twitter, we can do it too” dandruff; it’s causing anxiety. Instead, focus on the relationships, building the community.

Drew McLellan: I suspect that most people look at this aspect of social media through a very narrow lens. Dell directly sells computers. They can quantify that down to the individual order. That works great when you sell “a thing.” But if you sell accounting advice and someone Googles “accounting adviser for small business” and your blog shows up on the first page — did that help drive a sale? What if that person then spends an hour soaking up your smarts on your blog? And buys your e-book or after a year of reading you, hires you to speak to their chamber or to consult on their business? And profit might not mean direct dollars. What would you pay to be on the first page of a Google search for a term that’s near and dear to your heart/wallet? Social media can do that. What would you pay to generate PR or get quoted in The New York Times? Social media can make that happen.

How much effort might you put toward generating speaking opportunities where you are positioned as an expert in your field … to a room of 250 prospects? Social media can put you behind the podium.

Here’s the challenge with this question, I think. Social media’s ROI isn’t immediate. It’s a long-term strategy. And it is often an indirect strategy. That’s why having an actual social-media strategy with measurable goals (like # of speaking gigs or book sales or reporter’s calls) is so critical to recognizing the value of time spent. Sadly, most companies just create a Facebook page and tweet out their specials — and wonder why it’s not working.

Want more? Be sure to check out parts 1, 2 and 3 of the interview!


  • Chris Garrett is a professional blogger, Internet marketing consultant, new-media industry commentator, writer, coach, speaker, trainer and Web geek.
  • Erno Hannink is a consultant, author and blogger.
  • Drew McLellan created McLellan Marketing Group in 1995.
  • L.P. “Neenz” Faleafine is the chief evangelist for leading news-aggregation site  Alltop and the founder of Hawaii-based media marketing company Pono Media.
  • Scott Porad is the chief technology officer of the Cheezburger Network.
  • Liz Strauss is the CEO and a founder of SOBCon and author of
  • Hank Wasiak is the co-founder of The Concept Farm. Wasiak is also a best-selling author, keynote speaker, teacher, an Emmy-nominated producer and three-time Emmy award-winning television host.

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