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This chapter is from the book

Social Media and Revenue

Over the last several years, social media has grown from novel curiosity to proven revenue generator. In 2008 and 2009, Dell made over $6.5 million additional revenue from its Twitter accounts.3 Zappos was a start-up whose marketing consisted almost entirely of social media (including hundreds of Zappos employee Twitter accounts) and was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $928 million.4 Numerous small- and medium-sized businesses made money on Facebook in 2011.5

The business-to-consumer marketer took notice. Marketing budgets began to move toward social media. But what about businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B)? Does social media work for them, too? And are they using it?

In 2011, Accenture completed a study demonstrating the following:

  • Although five out of six business-to-business executives thought social media was very important, only 8% would say their company was “heavily leveraging” social media. They had started but weren’t at full steam.
  • Only 5% of B2B executives reported a strong formal link between their social media activities and their strategic customer initiatives—meaning social media had yet to be integrated with goal planning and tactics. Their social media activities were ad-hoc and not systematized.
  • Nearly one-fifth of these executives doubted their company’s ability to make the right social media investment decisions.6

Most businesses know social media is important and have begun some kind of social media marketing, but they are not using it to its full potential and aren’t sure they know the best way to do so.

Increased revenue is almost always the ultimate goal, but many steps need to happen along the way to that goal. If you increase awareness of your company and its solutions, you can get more leads for sales. Better thought-leadership and prospect education can increase how many leads decide to buy (making the sales force’s job easier) and how many customers you keep (making customer service’s job easier).

Sometimes you can prove that social media efforts create new sales, especially if you have sophisticated tracking in place. Does your sales CRM (customer relationship management software) show if the lead came from LinkedIn, Facebook, or Google? If not, you’ll have a tough time proving the true value of your Internet marketing. You sometimes hear from customers that they saw you on one website or another, but memory can be unreliable. We’re busy these days, and we consume more advertisements than we even remember. We may not know exactly how we first heard of something or even why we bought it; other times, we’re not capable of being honest with ourselves about why we make certain decisions. Good tracking removes some of these obstacles and can give us clear data about which marketing, advertising, and sales campaigns contribute to the final sale.

In situations where tracking is adequate, social marketers often report impressive results. But of course, it depends on how you’re doing your social media marketing. Slipshod or inconsistent efforts are unreliable. The best thing to do is to find the companies that have been successful and follow their process. These lessons can come from other LinkedIn marketers, social media marketing with Facebook and Twitter (because of the similarities between them), and even other types of online marketing, including Google, AdWords, and email. In Chapter 2, I cover some of the best practices in social and online marketing that can be applied to LinkedIn marketing. Later in the book, we look at tactics that have been proven successful, specifically on LinkedIn.

Even if you follow best practices, all social media marketing is relatively experimental, with LinkedIn marketing and sales even more so. Our understanding is immature and spread thin across many verticals. Metaphorically speaking, we’re at a point in the frontier life where some scouts have barely made it back to safety and others have followed routes that led to riches. Your journey doing advertising, marketing, and sales on LinkedIn will be an adventure and an experiment, but you can ensure that failing tests are quickly recognized and stopped whereas successes are maximized and repeated. The successes will more than make up for the failures.

This is the time. By starting now in social media, you create an advantage for yourself. In the online world, the early adopters gain the lion’s share of the spoils. This pattern has repeated itself over the last decade: New technological opportunities create new companies like Netflix and destroy or damage others like Blockbuster. If you’re one of the business people who put off creating a website, put off doing Google ads, and put off search engine optimization while your competitors began to eat away at your market share, you know what I mean. Those in business who take a few calculated risks are the ones who win big. Companies that wait are forced to play catch-up in a field of greater competition, more obstacles, and higher prices. The biggest profits are there to be captured now. I realize that often the bigger the company is, the more risk-averse it may be, but I believe the systems and processes taught in this book will help you maximize opportunity while minimizing risk.

Although this book is about LinkedIn, the same lessons can be applied to Facebook, and this pattern won’t change in the foreseeable future. Technology moves faster in the twenty-first century, so you don’t have a year or two to think about whether you should leverage these social platforms. In fact, they may no longer be a good idea in a couple of years. What if smartphone platforms such as the iPhone and Android release apps that do all this without Facebook and LinkedIn, and people switched to them? Yahoo! has had its peak time and is now, according to sites such as Google Trends and Alexa, half as popular as Facebook.

A number of clients I’ve worked with find Google AdWords competition and prices to be rising. Some no longer spend money on AdWords, and others have cut back to only the most profitable keywords. Some businesses cannot use AdWords because people aren’t aware of their products enough to search for them. A number of companies that use third-party pay-per-click optimization services are doing better than ever with AdWords, but these are companies that have enough money to spend both on agencies and their high-level tools.7 Search engine optimization also has become more and more competitive. Companies working on their natural search presence constantly improve their content and increase their inbound links, raising their rankings or solidifying their authority. Every day, a company just starting in the natural search game faces more of a challenge.

The marketing mix decision is different for every company, and your mileage will vary with each marketing and advertising channel. If AdWords is a model, then these opportunities become more expensive for years until third-party companies properly calibrate ways to make them more efficient. While those costs are increasing, you should get involved in LinkedIn and figure out how it can benefit your business. LinkedIn will only become more competitive, so the biggest opportunity is now.

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