The short answer to this question is yes with qualifications.
When an individual or company markets their product or service on the internet, they connect with the customer in a straightforward relationship. The seller presents information to the buyer, enough so that they do one of two things: 1) they can decide to make a purchase or not to make a purchase or 2) they can decide that they would like to receive additional promotional communication (such as email) or decide against it. While there are cases where there are alternatives in between, these are the basic choices that are presented that the buyer can choose.
That’s where traditional sales then intersects with internet marketing. Presenting a buyer with information and then gauging their response is the key to being able to assess whether or not a sales process is working or it isn’t. Marketing and sales people can tweak the message (much as they might do a sales script) until it resonates with the maximum number of buyers and results in a favorable action.
The direct messages from sellers take place on websites, blogs and in email communication. That is why a considerable number of sales people and advertisers make the transition from traditional promotion to internet marketing seamlessly. The sales processes are basically parallel to each other. These parallel processes indicate that new customers can still be won by presenting them with extraordinary value and targeted benefits to get them to say yes.
However, social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and Pinterest have a different underlying foundation. These sites primarily exist for socializing and interaction. They don’t always lend themselves to presenting a direct message that leads to new leads. In fact, these mediums are probably considered most helpful for relationships already established between seller and buyer. However, that does not mean that marketers can’t win new business using them. Businesses that want to attain new business using social media must use a different basis for approaching new clients: engagement.
When companies engage social media account holders, their goal is typically not to drive them toward a sale with their initial contact. The goal in social media engagement is to get members to pay attention and to find the company’s content worth sharing with their online social network. Companies that are unsuccessful in social media, are those that do not create opportunities to engage in conversations that users find worth sharing.
Companies who can approach people in the context of the issues, thoughts and ideas that they are talking about with their friends online are successful using social media. These are companies who have a considerable number of “likes” on their account and have been successful in getting the attention of these users.
When a potential customer becomes a follower, or “like” connection, the company has won the right to share things with them as they are happening. This is where companies need to seek to get these contacts into a more direct medium of communication for a sales message. Perhaps it is getting them to volunteer themselves to be on the company’s email marketing list, or to attend a webinar that they are conducting. In some cases, buyers are willing to trade their contact information to be involved in a contest or to secure a discount. Any of these methods or methods like them can be used.
Regardless of the individual method chosen, the important factor is that the company proactively uses social media as a way of engaging people in a social context. Engagement events such as polls, contests, coupons, discounts and humorous multimedia (videos, images, audio) get people’s attention and entice them to “follow” or “like” a company. When that happens, companies can then be more direct in requesting that prospects take the action of becoming a participant in a contact database such as email or SMS. This then puts the prospect in a position to be marketed to by the company in a measurable way.
Marketers and salespeople can become frustrated in the amount of work it takes to move someone form prospect to direct contact. However, social media is a channel that cannot be ignored with almost 900 million accounts on Facebook alone (not counting the other networks). If salespeople are patient and skillful in guiding customer to direct contact, they can win a steady flow of new customers on social media platforms like Facebook.