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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Nesh Thompson on Bridging New & Old - Social Media Series

Nesh ThompsonThis week's guest for Flooring The Consumer's Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old is Nesh Thompson.

Nesh Thompson truly captures the spirit of Bridging New & Old media tools. He writes about sales on the Sales Bloggers Union and Don't Survive... Thrive, his company's B2B blog about sales performance management systems. At the same time, he is sales system developer and webmaster for SymVolli, a U.K. based B2B sales performance management system, built around a company’s unique sales process and focused on helping managers and individuals find out how effective their current sales process is and how to improve it. [In this post, TSSI, a new client describes how SymVolli has added value to the business.]

Nesh, then, develops sales systems - which requires intense listening and understanding of clients' needs as well as what technology can deliver - without losing sight of what the sales role involves: connecting with people and developing relationships.

I first 'met' Nesh in May 2007 when he commented on my Disney STORY post. He was obviously engaged in social media on a personal basis. We've since reconnected via Twitter, and I now have the opportunity to appreciate his professional involvement with social media tools. [Note that SymVolli has a Twitter as well as a Facebook presence.]

I'm delighted to share with you Nesh Thompson's perspectives on Bridging New & Old.

C.B.: Nesh, how/why did you get involved in social media?

Nesh: In our business, we rely on long term relationships that are mutually beneficial to both parties. Many companies operate in the same way so why then is a company’s online presence, one of the most likely places where prospective customers will encounter your company, not an ideal place to build relationships? Yet, to build a relationship one has to communicate.

It was with that in mind that I started to explore blogging as a way of communicating the personality of the company, so that people who did pass by could understand the people behind the company and could start to form those relationships. Social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter were adopted some years after but basically the same principles were applied – to communicate the personality of the company and to start discussions; the foundation of all social relationships.

I have often thought that the soul of a company consists of the people that run it; social media is a means to communicate that soul.

C.B.: What do you like most about social media?

Nesh: What I love about social media is the absence of certain barriers. Connecting with people from different walks of life, backgrounds, upbringing, social circles etc. is so much easier, and by being able to mingle freely with people you wouldn’t normally do so, due mainly to geography, you can learn different things, different points of view and new ways of approaching situations. I think that people who embrace the idea of sharing ideas truly get the most from using social media tools. Those that do aren’t afraid of offering their expertise to whoever asks for it. As such, I think that social media (for now) can be a little bit more utopian than we are normally accustomed to.

Social media lowers other barriers as well. Real world networking and business communication is dominated by big personalities. For the milder mannered business person, social media is an opportunity to flourish where the bold hold less sway. There is also an argument to say that those careful thinkers in the business world have more advantage in social media circles as their ideas come to the forefront more so than the personality of how it is communicated.

C.B.: What do you like least about social media?


Nesh: Though this isn’t exclusive to just social media the one thing that I most dislike is the few who approach it as a short cut. Social media may be a quick delivery system for information, but it isn’t a necessarily a fast business tool and it takes dedication. Relationships aren’t quick things. For those who are serious in using social media as a tool, I advocate patience and endurance as a quality over any short term scheme.

Part of this short-cut mentality has to be attributed to people’s obsession with the numbers game, which incidentally isn’t as important as it is made out. Who cares if you have 20,000 followers on twitter, or 200 unique visits a day to your blog? If those people aren’t connected with you in some way or another they are just strangers. So why worry about the numbers? If you connect with one person and you learn and connect with that one person, then social media is a success.

At a networking event, which strategy would be considered the most likely to form a really good relationship? Spending a minute each with dozens of people and obtaining their business cards or spending half an hour connecting with a few people who you really share an understanding with? The same question is applicable to social media.

C.B.: How has social media changed how you interact with the marketplace as a consumer or customer?

Nesh: This depends a lot on the type of consumable. For instance, as a high street shopper, I don’t think that social media has changed how I operate. However, as an online consumer, I am always following recommendations and checking out reviews and opinions. If I see an interesting story, I am always likely to follow and check out the source to form my own opinions. In that respect, as a consumer of information I am avidly hooked on what social media offers and, in some cases, it supersedes traditional news channels as stories are more likely to break through social networking sites and blogs than before I visit a news site.

C.B.: What 5 suggestions do you have for companies to implement so they can more effectively bridge old media with new media and connect with end users?

Nesh:
1. Stay focused – The internet is full of bright lights and great applications, not all of which are relevant to your business. Getting distracted is by far the most likely drain on social media activity. The same can be said of people too. Stay focused on the people who really matter to your business. Not everyone is going to be ideal business contacts. I recommend being careful about automatically reciprocating advances from other people. Do a little research first. Visit their website. Check the quality of their posts or tweets. Do they appear to be people you want to get to know better?

2. Provide the right mix of content – By all means broadcast interesting things about yourself and your company. Promote your products and services, but balance it with a liberal sprinkling of other material. Link to other people, ask questions, promote other people and above all have conversations. I found that after a lot of social media activity, I was reading more than I was writing because so much more information was opened up to me. That content that is opened up is a valuable source of new material to talk about and start new conversations.

3. Be yourself – Unbelievably, even in such a medium as twitter where you have 140 written characters to use, personality can be seen. It can also be seen through if you are trying to be someone you aren’t. Your greatest asset is yourself, so let it out. Don’t be afraid to share. Laugh, joke, be serious.. but remember to always be respectful.

4. Have an open mind – At some point I too was a cynic in the use of certain tools. For ages I resisted the urge to jump on the Twitter bandwagon because I didn’t want to be following the masses in another social fad. I also didn’t get twitter at all. How can you communicate in 140 characters, and me a self-confessed text-language phobic? Only after a few weeks of trying twitter did the penny drop and suddenly I saw the potential that it could be as a communication tool. Only after trying over a consistent period of time, will you see if social media has any benefit for you.

5. Be happy to do it – There are some people who seem to think that just because social media exists they have to use it, even though they are unhappy doing so and are uncomfortable with using it. They have been preached to about the wonders of being online and suppose that they should keep up with the common consensus. Those that do so with such a mentality are easily spotted and don’t last long. An open mind is necessary to explore what social media can offer you but if you aren’t happy doing it, then don’t. If you find that social media isn’t for you, find someone in your company who does and give them all the support they need.

C.B.: Any other thoughts to share about the effectiveness of social media in forging stronger relations with customers and how best to do so.

Nesh: A question often asked (usually about Twitter) is whether social media can directly affect sales. Has participation in social media ever resulted in business? This is often a leading question aimed at negatively showing social media as a waste of time. The question I think is incongruous.

In the same way that you wouldn’t expect to close a sale after a first introduction to a prospect, social media isn’t a standalone sales activity. As an aid to the sales process it is valuable in researching prospects, engaging conversation with business partners and keeping in touch with current clients, but it isn’t a replacement for any other part of the sales process. Face to face meetings, emails, phone discussions, events, seminars, websites etc. are all interlocking parts of an overall process and social media has an important part to play in it.

Thank you, Nesh!

Comments? Questions? Reactions?

Consider what Nesh says about relationships: "Social media may be a quick delivery system for information, but it isn’t a necessarily a fast business tool and it takes dedication. Relationships aren’t quick things."

I love the idea that "social media is a means to communicate the soul of a company."

And, "An open mind is necessary to explore what social media can offer you but if you aren’t happy doing it, then don’t." After all, you can't express and share your passion if you are unhappy.

For additional insights from participants in the Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old, please visit The Entire Bridging New & Old Series.

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Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

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