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The internet and social media have together created huge challenges for businesses over the past decade – and it’s not just marketing departments that have been affected: companies have had to adapt every area in their organisation, including sales, customer service and recruitment.
Customers no longer rely on traditional advertising such as billboards or TV adverts to learn about new products.
Social media has changed the rules and empowered customers by giving them new tools to find, share, collaborate and buy with.
Social media has had a profound impact on the process sales. From a customer perspective, the rapid expansion (and near-universal popularity) of social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube has dramatically shifted the power balance towards those looking to buy a product or service.
Today’s customers are more connected, more social and more aware than ever. Obvious traditional sales techniques are becoming less effective as consumers become savvier and more informed as a result of social networking with friends and peers. As a result, sales representatives need more than just good pitching skills; they need to be to understand their customers inside and out and offer solutions, not promotions, to attract business.
The biggest impact social media has had on the sales process is that marketing no longer has complete control over what is said about a brand. Connected customers are going beyond the company website to read blogs, follow Twitter handles, and join in LinkedIn conversations to gain outside perspectives to inform purchasing decisions.
Sales-related information is now so prevalent that a recent Forrester report estimates between 50-70% of the buying process happens before a sales rep even gets involved.
Although social media has altered the way salespeople must approach their jobs, it has also provided them with the ability to learn more about their customers and prospects than ever before. Today’s sales reps can use social media platforms alongside customer relationship management (CRM) tools to enhance their customer interactions, and truly understand and effectively service customer needs.
Marketing & customer service
The walls between customer service and marketing are breaking down as the popularity of social channels rises. Marketers are now finding new and innovative ways of engaging with consumers to build up a brand’s image, gain positive word of mouth and enhance their online PR.
Organisations’ relationships with their customers is no longer a one-way street, with brands shouting at consumers through an advertising megaphone.
It’s a new cooperative environment involving two-way conversations and dialogue rather than monologue.
In this atmosphere, the line blurs between what constitutes marketing and what constitutes customer service. Marketing becomes a process of delivering solutions to current and potential customer’s pain points, while customer service success returns positive sentiment across social media channels, and the subsequent proliferation of word-of-mouth marketing.
When it comes to social customer service, the key is to know your audience, understand that there are fast response expectations on social media channels, and to keep in mind the inherent public nature of these platforms, which can directly impact your brand.
Customers who have received good customer service through social media channels are bound to be more likely to buy from that brand again, all of which points to the simple fact that brands who ignore social media do so at their peril.
HR and recruitment
When it comes to recruitment, some businesses are using social media very effectively, particularly when it comes to the research and identification of potential candidates, which can be performed relatively cheaply and quickly.
The most popular professional social network, LinkedIn, has a massive 175 million members. Employers are taking note of the importance of social media in the recruiting process, and the majority of businesses are turning to social media to find and evaluate job candidates.
According to Career Enlightenment, on average 20% of employers now use social networking sites to research job candidates – and of that percentage, a third said they’ve rejected candidates based on something they found about them online.
The explosion of social media has been felt throughout the business world, with many companies now recognising the benefits that this phenomenon can reap for them. To this end, organisations need to evolve or be left behind by more forward thinking and adaptable socially-optimised competitors
Will Vicary is a digital marketing specialist whose interests include CRM solutions and online customer experience, as well as online lead generation. He is specifically interested in CRM insurance and cloud technology.