Expections of Social Media

Two months ago I stubbed my big toe.  Hard.  It still hurts.  After numerous x-rays, pain pills and doctor visits, the diagnosis is a “toe strain” and to “come back in two weeks.”  The doctors have done a poor job of setting my expectations, as I have no idea how long I will have to limp rather than walk normally, or what actions I should take to get better.

The expectations surrounding the use of social media are similar to what my doctors have told me…poorly articulated.  In today’s environment, businesses know that they have to use the new tools.  What they don’t know is how effective each will be and/or which ones will generate the most revenue.  In other words, no-one has been able to set the proper expectations because, frankly, no-one knows what mix of social media tools works best for each company.

The success stories that are trumpeted, i.e., Dell’s ability to move products, Zappos selling shoes with excellent customer service, Amazon’s growth, etc. can be viewed as being particular to each company.  In short, what works for them, may not work or even be applicable to you.

For example, I have yet to hear about a small hi-tech company with a limited number of customers (<2,000) selling high value (>$500K) products or services with a long sell cycle (>12 months) who can track their use of social media to increased revenue.  Many are blogging to gain thought leadership, and are using twitter as part of their customer service, but when pressed cannot say that these efforts have resulted in increased revenue.  They can point to increases in brand awareness and customer satisfaction, but linking the social media activities directly to leads in the pipeline and resulting sales is difficult.

Most corporate management is driven by expectations.  With established goals and objectives management expects people to work toward them.  In today’s world management’s goals are centered on increasing sales and decreasing expenses.  Activities that do fit into these goals are deemed expendable.  Since many of the social media activities in a B2B environment cannot be tracked directly to sales, and with the increasing pressure to cut expanses, support for the resources required to engage in social media “experimentation” may be diminishing or lacking.

Can you share a B2B example of how social media activity can be directly linked to sales?   Are you being forced to justify the time and resources spent on social media activity?  How are you doing it?  Let me know.


RHM  9/20/2011 

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