Harnessing the Benefits of Social Media

Posted by Rich McElaney

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about the seven key benefits of social media. My intent in writing that post was to provide an overview of the benefits a business can derive from engaging in social media. I attended a local business networking meeting yesterday and as I listened to the various pitches from business owners about what they offer, it dawned on me that there was a critical gap in their pitches – a gap that I know extends to their social media engagement (for those who use social media – and not surprisingly, quite a few don't).  What’s the gap? It’s engagement without intent.

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Let me use an example from yesterday’s meeting and link it to getting benefit from social media. One of the members in the group sells insurance – the full spectrum: life, health, home, auto and beyond.  Right out of the gate, he’s got an uphill battle because most people already have coverage and insurance is one of those categories that cause eyes to glaze over and minds to wander (advance apologies to insurance professionals everywhere but you know what I’m referring to!) He spoke about his specialty areas and he provided some insight on a few requirements the business owners in the room may not have been aware of. He passed out business cards and asked that we refer to him anyone in our networks in need of insurance. I also want to note that he had ten minutes of our undivided attention in which to deliver his pitch.

So, what are the odds that this engagement will produce a good result for the insurance agent? Pretty low. What was missing? The short list: trust in the agent’s capabilities, understanding of the unique differentiators of the agent, the WIIFM (what’s in it for me?)factor and probably the most important one – the lack of a distinctive call to action.

Let’s look at each one:

  • Trust. How do I know that this agent is experienced, diligent and responsive and also has the client’s best interests at heart? I would have to know what his current clients have experienced in their dealings with him. How would I know that? Testimonials, blog posts, articles and case studies on his website, engagement on his Facebook business page, his presence on LinkedIn and industry affiliations.
  • Unique differentiators. Again, I’m looking for proof of success, proof of satisfied client engagement. The whitepaper on how he saves small businesses an average of 20% on their annual insurance expenditures based on his review of their current policies. The blog post on how he handled a weather-related catastrophic loss for a client and got them back to business in record time.
  • WIIFM. Prospective clients are busy. Time is precious. Distill the benefits of working with you down to bite sized nuggets and tailor them to my situation. Ten minutes in person translates to seconds online – you have to deliver impact quickly.
  • Call to action. In the meeting yesterday, would the agent’s offer of a 20% discount for group members (and their friends, family and connections) have changed the interest level? A website link to a quick and painless assessment form that might provide a glimpse of expected savings? Promise of a brand new iPad for the person providing a certain number of referrals which result in sales?

The bottom line: when you engage – whether offline or online – it has to be with specific intent or your results will suffer. In order to fully harness the benefits of your social media efforts, you need to engage with full, conscious and planned intent – anything less will fall short.

Tags: social media engagement, social media success, benefits of social media, social media, social media results