Hanging Out Where Our Customers Hang Out

I’ve been writing a several posts about social technologies and social selling (“Hiding” Behind Social Selling and What’s All This About Social Selling). One of the key points of the articles and the many great comments is, social selling and social technologies are different. Selling is social–regardless of the technology we use. Social technologies can expand and accelerate our ability to engage and connect in meaningful ways with customers. Usage of social platforms and technologies continues to skyrocket.

There are many that say “Engagement is all about the web and social platforms, that’s where all the action is at, that’s where the customers are at.” Well, maybe for them, but it’s certainly not for me. And in my informal polling, it’s not for many others.

Are the social platforms really THE place where we connect and engage our customers and prospects? Are our customers “hanging out on social selling platforms?”

Well, Yes—kind of, and No—kind of…..

Let me explain myself. Many claim the social platforms are THE means of connecting and engaging. If you are reading this blog, you’ve probably drunk the Kool Aid, and you may be starting to leverage social platforms to connect and engage. If you came to this article through Twitter or one of the sites where this post is syndicated, you are probably more biased to engaging people through social platforms.

But is this where your customers are really hanging out and is this where you first or best engage them? Well, Yes—kind of, and No—kind of….

Before I go on, let me make a distinction between using social platforms to research, analyze, gain insight and leveraging them to actually connect and engage one to one. I couldn’t do business without leveraging many of the powerful social platforms and tools to research my and understand prospects or customers. LinkedIn is critical to me. Tools like Insideview accelerate my understanding of enterprises and organizations. SEC.gov is one of my favorite social platforms…….Hmmmmm!

But connecting and engaging with prospects and customers on social technologies….. it depends.

I decided to do a very unscientific study. I started looking at some executives, wondering, do I connect and engage them through the social platforms?

Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com is keenly aware of social technologies, he’s always Chattering about it (sorry, I couldn’t restrain myself). So I thought, “Let me reach out to Marc through some key social platforms to connect and engage him. I go to my old standby, LinkedIn, turns out Marc and I have 44 contacts in common. He even publishes his email address, ceo@salesforce.com. But I look at Marc’s profile in LinkedIn, clearly he hasn’t devoted much time to his profile and presence on LinkedIn. LinkedIn is probably not a good way to connect with him–though I could leverage some of our common connections–but I’d probably phone or email them, developing a strategy to get introduced. (Again, a powerful research tool, but in this case probably not a good engagement tool.)

Not to be deterred, I thought, let me connect with him through Twitter. He’s got over 57K followers (including me) He’s following 697 people–no not me, as of this moment, he’s done 2,547 tweets. Hmm, my guess is a shout out, “Hey @benioff Let’s talk! Have I got a deal for you! ” isn’t bong to be very effective. But I’ve been a salesperson for a long time, I won’t be deterred, I’ll look at another social platform. I went to Klout. Here it gets a little confusing, he has two profiles, one has a Klout score of 82 another has a Klout score of 42. Maybe if I gave him a +K on Salesfoce, or Business, we might connect.

I’ve come to the conclusion that while Marc has great presence on the social platforms, it’s probably not the place he hangs out and not where I really want to connect with him. (Marc, if you’re reading, I’ll accept your invitation to connect on LinkedIn or your follow on Twitter.).

I then set my sights on Larry Ellison, of Oracle…….. Well enough said, just look at his LinkedIn and Twitter profiles. Fortunately, I sail and am well connected with people on America’s Cup.

On the other hand, my good friend Vala Afshar of Enterasys, @valaafshar, has a preference for connecting and engaging through social platforms. We first met and engaged on Twitter, and have since developed a deep and rich relationship, leveraging many channels, including the old school F2F. Vala recently made a brilliant hire of a marketing executive, primarily leveraging social platforms and technologies.

More seriously, the vast majority of my customers and prospects are still unaware or uncomfortable with engaging deeply or exclusively through social platforms. While we have generated a lot of business through these platforms, most everyone wants (some of the most tech savvy people in the world) still have a preference for non social platforms.

My point is, each person we want to connect and engage, has different preferences and channels through which we most effectively connect and engage. If we are going to connect with them, it’s our job to figure out where they hang out, where they are most comfortable in connecting and engaging.

Social platforms and tools give us tremendous capabilities in researching, analyzing and understanding. But social selling cannot be limited to the social platforms.

Maybe someday, but it’s not here yet.

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