Will Facebook Ever Replace me

April 4, 2011

A disturbing though crossed my mind the other day. With so many people using social media applications for business, will we ever be obsolete as sales people?

You may laugh, but over 500 million people-one-thirteenth of the worlds’s population- use Facebook, just one of the many social networking services out there. Every day, Facebook and its cousin, LinkedIn, announce new applications designed for business communication. So, why not?

Consider the following:

  • The average person worldwide spends over five-and-a-half hours per day logged into social media; the average American, over six hours.
  • OgilvyOne conducted a study of 1,000 salespeople and found that 49 percent rank social media as important to their success.
  • One of the most successful seller, over two-thirds believe social media are integral to their success.

Yet, the same study indicates that most companies have yet to actively incorporate social media into their day-to-day operations. Only 9 percent of salespeople say that their companies train them on the use f social media, while 68 percent say that the selling process is changing faster than their own organizations are adapting to it.

Why the disconnect?

In most cases, I suspect that we believe that social media are just places for endless, non-productive chatter. Or, perhaps more to the point, we doubt that any social medial relationship can be more powerful than a well-timed call or a personal visit on a client.

I’ll give you an example, I recently received a call from the president of an important customer of ours. We were having some very frustrating missteps on some of their deliveries and he was concerned. As a long-time customer, he was actually calling to assure me that even though he may need to go elsewhere for the short-term, we were still their long-term supplier.

Would such a relationship, built and maintained only through electronic communication, have withstood the stress? I don’t know, but I suspect that years of personal visits, phone calls and good service helped to give us the benefit of the doubt to withstand the heat of the moment.

So, with this in mind, I compiled a short list of what I see as appropriate uses of social media and those that I see as counter-productive.

  • Marketing – Social media applications are powerful when it comes to increasing awareness of your products or services, and for searching out prospects based on their mutual interests.
  • Research – Facebook has now surpassed Google as the number one source for sharing news articles. It’s an astonishing feat that none would have thought possible a year ago.
  • Connecting with current and past associates – Facebook and LinkedIn are especially useful for finding contacts or instantly researching the interests of someone you are planning to meet.
  • Understanding and maintaining the customer experience – Customers often share their experiences with others through social media. Keeping track of how that use social media is an essential way to find what your customers feel and to find out the best way to address their needs now.