Driving Sales Through Social Media

The Social Media Sales Force

Social media has enabled companies (even some with notoriously poor customer service) to better field consumer questions and concerns. Major brands like Comcast, Dell and Best Buy have embraced social media as it has allowed them to connect with their consumers in a more immediate and impactful manner. If companies participating in the social media arena have greatly improved their ability to field consumer complaints and questions – isn’t it a logical to assume that companies will also be able to sell more effectively to their consumers as well? IBM believes so.

IBM was early to embrace the social media and, since 2005, has encouraged their employees to participate in the social media world. Now they are prepared to take it a step further. IBM recently launched a new skills initiative that will provide their business partners with education on how to leverage social media as a sales tool. I discovered this by reading the intrepid Todd Watson’s blog and now have another great source for business intelligence – check him out if you like this kind of stuff about the “big guys” like IBM and stalk him on Twitter at TurboTodd

Here are some of the things IBM associates will be diving into in the coming months:

- Training sessions on social media tools (Twitter, Facebook, wikis, RSS etc.)
- Social media guide available via IMB PartnerWorld website
- Webcast and podcast series on Web 2.0 social media opportunities and strategic implementation
- Live training session at the 2010 IBM Information OnDemand Conference
- Virtual and in-person workshops at the IBM Virtual Innovation Center and 40 IBM Innovation Centers worldwide

In part IBM, is educating their sales force because social media has impacted ‘business as usual’ so drastically. They want to not only educate their business partners about the vast collection of social media tools that exist today, but also equip them with skills to engage with customers (and potential customers) on a deeper level. Sandy Carter, IBM Software Business Partner VP, said the goal is to “elevate their sales and marketing teams with social media strategies to establish smarter business practices….” So, if the goal is to increase sales and recent research eMarketer shows that “daily Twitter users who follow a brand are more than twice as likely …to purchase from the brand after becoming a follower” – this leads me to believe that IBM might just be successful in their endeavor to increase sales. Sounds like a decent strategy. Your thoughts?

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like an awesome way to increase sales. I think it is great that they are addressing it from an “education”/training opportunity perspective. So many organizations are not strategic about the approach, but certainly doesn’t seem to be the case for IBM.

    Hadn’t heard the stat before “that daily twitter users who follow a brand are more than twice as likely…to purchase from the brand after becoming a follower.” Now if I can just get this to work for Sterling Hope… :)

  • Anonymous

    Sounds like an awesome way to increase sales. I think it is great that they are addressing it from an “education”/training opportunity perspective. So many organizations are not strategic about the approach, but certainly doesn’t seem to be the case for IBM.

    Hadn’t heard the stat before “that daily twitter users who follow a brand are more than twice as likely…to purchase from the brand after becoming a follower.” Now if I can just get this to work for Sterling Hope… :)

  • Shelly Kramer

    Thanks Amber! Engaging in social media isn’t a surefire way to increase sales but getting into the mix has definitely allowed the IBM team to become something more than just sales people to their consumers. Which is huge! IBM has definitely been smart about getting into social media (company wide) and are a better company for it. Best of luck leveraging social media with Sterling Hope!

  • http://inmedialog.com Alexandra Reid

    This is an excellent strategy on many fronts, and I’m very glad to hear that a corporation as huge as IBM is making a strong effort to teach all of its employees about social media. As so many of their employees are likely already using social media, it is important that IBM teaches them how to use it safely and effectively. Not only will this enable IBM to reach millions of new potential customers, but it will also encourage employees to point out issues that customers may be having with the brand. This will act as a form of damage control, helping IBM employees fix problems as they arise.

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  • http://18be.wordpress.com Clay Forsberg

    On the face, I agree with the premise of your post. Especially in the tech sector … to not participate in social media is almost like being “guilty by exclusion.” If you’re not on Twitter, who can you be?

    I do take issue with your closing statistic by eMarketing, however, stating Twitter followers are more likely to buy after they begin following you. If you have interest in a product or service, wouldn’t you try to gather timely.information from as many sources as possible. It only seems to make sense. And Twitter is the easiest way to do this.

    Also, I would be cautious using eMarketing as source to base anything on. I have heard several rather dubious claims by them in the past. And all seem to overstate the importance the role of social media plays in business. Twitter and Facebook have their place. It’s just figuring out where this place is.

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  • Shelly Kramer

    I absolutely agree Clay – the tech sector were the early adopters of a lot of today’s most popular social media tools. To not be engaged in some manner is definitely a big miss. Thanks for a heads up on the eMarketer stat. I definitely don’t think that getting a lot of Twitter followers for your brand will instantly mean more sales – but I do think (if your brand is doing a good job of engaging) that it will increase consideration by your consumers. I think just about all consumers today (myself included) spend time researching before they go out and buy, and Twitter and Facebook have become a big part of how people gather opinions about what products/services are best.

  • Shelly Kramer

    I couldn’t have summarized this article better myself! Absolutely agree that companies that ‘get’ social media and engage in the right way can benefit their business – especially from a customer service standpoint.

  • http://twitter.com/NBenvenuto Nicole Benvenuto

    Having had the privilege to be part a social media training hosted by IBM Interactive at the nonprofit I work at, I became further convinced of IBM’s rock-solid strategies and approach in the social media space. Not only were their consultants knowledgeable and forward-thinking, but they were able think through social media solutions that addressed the business challenges and mission of our specific nonprofit. So many “so-called” social media experts take a catch-all approach to applying the tools, so it was refreshing to work with professionals that knew how to tailor strategy to match our particular needs.

    Our participation in the workshop was made possible through an IBM-funded grant that offered the consultant services at no cost to our nonprofit. Though this may be strategic in IBM’s business approach, it’s also a tremendous civic service. It certainly solidified for me, IBM’s expertise in the field. I’m convinced this move to train up their sales force will position them even better as a thought leader in this space.

  • http://twitter.com/AjevaCom Ajeva

    I don’t think that because you have nth number of followers on Twitter means you can convert them all into warm leads = customers. Many are still having that misconception and yes, being a major brand with time-tested solution can be a win-win already. I believe that engaging your fans or followers are crucial in social media; you don’t simply shout out stuff out there. Now, let’s see just how long can these brands do that on a consistent level.

  • Anonymous

    I absolutely agree Clay – the tech sector were the early adopters of a lot of today’s most popular social media tools. To not be engaged in some manner is definitely a big miss. Thanks for a heads up on the eMarketer stat. I definitely don’t think that getting a lot of Twitter followers for your brand will instantly mean more sales – but I do think (if your brand is doing a good job of engaging) that it will increase consideration by your consumers. I think just about all consumers today (myself included) spend time researching before they go out and buy, and Twitter and Facebook have become a big part of how people gather opinions about what products/services are best.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t have summarized this article better myself! Absolutely agree that companies that ‘get’ social media and engage in the right way can benefit their business – especially from a customer service standpoint

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Amber! Engaging in social media isn’t a surefire way to increase sales but getting into the mix has definitely allowed the IBM team to become something more than just sales people to their consumers. Which is huge! IBM has definitely been smart about getting into social media (company wide) and are a better company for it. Best of luck leveraging social media with Sterling Hope!

  • Anonymous

    Agreed. To me, being able to get your consumers to follow you on Twitter does not translate to sales. It’s all about engaging with your consumers, not just trying to sell them something. A lot of brands are still learning this – hopefully they will figure it out soon : )

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