April 30, 2012
3 Types of Social Media Signals – Interview with Robert Pease, CEO of Nearstream
I had the pleasure to speak with Robert Pease, CEO of Nearstream, after his presentation at the Sales 2.0 Conference in San Francisco earlier this month. Nearstream specializes in filtering through the social media chatter to help companies identify customers based on their needs. They do this by demand capturing, or the practice of carefully identifying signals of potential customers. These are people who are using social media channels to make an explicit statement of need on products and services.
Do people really broadcast their needs via social? Sure they do. In an example Robert gives, Nearstream carefully monitored the social media requests people made seeking project management software. “You’d be surprised about the demand for this kind of software, out there,” Robert comments.
With their proprietary software, Nearstream is able to sift through the mass of social media data and extract prime product and service inquiries and comments. These can be turned into extremely valuable leads for companies and service providers if they are handled correctly. But the art of working these leads is two-fold. First, is the ability to catch these with a software solution like Nearstream’s social business software. And next, properly approaching and nurturing them through the sales process.
The social sales process is different than traditional processes. There’s much more personal information being share, and the approach is necessarily different. Because of this, Robert’s company is based on the idea that “No one likes being treated like a lead,” as he explains. Given this, he identifies and highlights three types of social media signals, and how companies should interpret and respond to them. Each of these is an example Twitter exchange.
1. The Need Signal – Example: “I need help with a 401k rollover.”
In this case the user is posting based on a clear need. In this type of signal, your opportunity as a provider is either to engage or analyze. The proper way to engage is to do so in the moment, offering a prompt response. The response should be personal, and not overtly sale prompting, while still offering actionable information. The objective to bring about further and deeper exchange with the question poster.
In analyzing the social signal, the emphasis is on how the user is asking, and what it’s about. This could be used to tune messaging, better inform support process and content, and get to the true “voice of the customer.” Analysis can be done in combination with, or instead of, direct engagement around demand signal.
2. Questions to Influencers – Example: “What are good investments for a first time Roth IRA starter?”
This is a request broadcast to knowledgeable influencers of investment practice. Implicit in the post, is a request for response by those well versed on the subject. In this type of exchange, your opportunity as a provider is either to engage, similar to the need signal, or to “sponsor.”
Sponsoring is using more traditional marketing resources. As a company, if you are responding to this request, it becomes an opportunity to engage them directly to your website, eBook, whitepapers, or other relevant information. You can directly focus your opportunity into cultivating a sale.
3. Questions to Forums – Example: “Do I just do a rollover to use my IRA to buy real estate?”
This example is a forum post that has found its way into the Twitter stream. This happens with Quora, Linkedin, and other online gathering places, as well as forums that are organized around certain topics and needs. These social signals are rich opportunities for businesses. In these cases, it’s entirely appropriate to engage or support as an interested vendor.
But in all these examples, as Robert explains, your role as a company is to ‘be helpful” and “answer questions.” “The cut and past of marketing copy does not answer the question and annoys people,” Robert comments. After all, as consumers, we can “feel” when we’re being sold, and it’s an entirely more relational experience when we’re approached on a more personal and beneficial level. That’s the nature of why social media is used, and therefore, it’s the effective way for companies to engage.
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