Back in April, Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, the world’s largest marketing and communications group, voiced doubts about corporations using social networks: “…social media sites are less commercial phenomena,” he said, “they are more personal phenomena, more similar to writing letters to our mothers than watching television. Invading these media with commercial messages might not be the right thing.”
However, a ZDNet article, also quoting Sorrell, said that corporate social media use is not social at all because it is all about sales. As a real-world example, the author describes the dinner-party dynamic where “people will avoid that person that is selling something. Friends that invite their friends to Tupperware parties, or multi-level marketing, are tolerated for a while, but not for long. Similarly, companies that use social media as sales media must understand there is a time and place for it, or they risk harming their brand.”
Separating sales from social media is a good idea. But in the b-to-b sector, the line in the sand isn’t always clear because all media, including direct b-to-b selling, is social. B-to-b sales have always been social. Making authentic connections is hard work. Getting on the phone and talking to people every day is social. But, the funny thing is, I’ve never heard a single sales guy refer to himself as a ‘social-selling guru.’
In Sir Martin’s big media/big brand world, “sales” is something you do to a person…no matter how much it hurts. In big media, social-media gurus script and sculpt social media into sales media. The problems happen when hypercritical consumers with highly developed BS filters quickly cry foul on the thinly disguised sales media.
In the b-to-b world, audiences are a bit different. Sales are social, the fruit of a relationship cultivated by people being useful (and being at least mildly social) to other people. Successful sales people know that demonstrating character, integrity and trust is the only way to find new customers. A sales person is judged and rewarded with new business based on his or her product knowledge, honesty, integrity and whether or not he or she acts in the best interest of her customers. Trust is built and established by individuals with individuals through repeat interaction.
Sir Martin’s concern about the intrusive role of sales media lies in the fact that you can’t script unscripted social interaction. Really being useful requires that the entire organization be present for more unscripted moments of usefulness – moments when customers could use some guidance, information or focused attention. The best sales people and the best companies have known this for years.
So that’s my rant. I’m sick of scripted sales media disguised as social media and I’m sick of the social media gurus doing the scripting.
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