There’s no denying that social media has had a tough time from company bosses across the country. Typical responses from managers include that it’s distracting or disruptive. Recent research claimed that social media use at work could cost the UK economy as much as £25 billion a year. But is social media really the productivity black hole people claim it is? The answer might be surprising.
We recently looked at the behaviours of more than 1,000 UK sales and business development professionals to establish how they were using social media at work, and the impact it had on their performance. We found that top-performing salespeople were actually more likely to use social media, with some spending up to two hours a day online. Far from spending time watching cat videos, they were using social platforms to find and build relationships with prospective clients. This ‘social selling’ activity was considered critical to closing deals by 98% of the top sellers.
The younger generations of professionals entering the workforce haven’t known a life without social media. Looking to the internet and their networks for information and insight is as much an instinctive part of their lives as swapping business cards was ten or fifteen years ago. Companies that have overly restrictive policies in place and don’t trust their employees risk seeing their best talent walk out the door.
Used the right way, social media has real potential to boost a company’s bottom line. So how can you make sure time spent on social media is a productive part of you or your employees’ day?
Establish a strong professional brand
Your social media profile will likely be the first impression a new prospect gets of your business, so think carefully about what it says about you. Complete your LinkedIn profile with the customer in mind, and add rich, meaningful content which addresses challenges they’re likely to be facing.
Find the right contacts
You never know who could come in handy when it comes to building relationships with customers and prospects. That elusive prospective you’ve been chasing a meeting with could be an old contact of the IT guy, or a family friend of the office intern. Social media is a great way of finding out about those coincidental connections.
Pick your moment
Good relationships take time. Just like you wouldn’t ask someone to marry you on a first date, don’t jump in cold with a big ask in business without learning more about your prospect first. Social media has made it much easier to keep track of relevant decision makers within companies, so take note of the articles and updates they share in a professional context, and look for opportunities to respond or check in with them. It doesn’t always have to be about business either – for example, how did their beloved team do at the weekend?
The evidence suggests that business leaders still wary of social media should reconsider. They could be holding back their top performers and missing out on potential revenue by not embracing the latest tools. By applying these few simple rules every business – large and small – can leverage the power of social selling to drive growth.
By Frank Hattann, director, LinkedIn Sales Solutions