B2B Social Media and Social Selling: A Complex Landscape

By Jim Burton
8 Nov 2015

In this Executive Insights podcast, UCStrategies' Jim Burton hosts a conversation with UCStrategies Expert Evan Kirstel about social media in business. Evan consults with organizations on this topic, and discusses how to get started, the resources available, and the kind of ROI to expect. Evan is reachable here: [email protected], or on Twitter @evankirstel.

Jim Burton: Welcome to UCStrategies Executive Insights. This is Jim Burton, and I am joined today by Evan Kirstel, who is one of our UC experts and is somebody who is extremely well known in the world of social. In fact, Robert Half recently announced that Evan is in the top 20. He has also been recognized as being in the top 100 of IntelliCom, people being followed in the social media space. We have been working with Evan for some time.

We have some really good news. We have just now, since Evan has been working with us for the last couple of months, hit over 10,000 followers on Twitter, which is a big score. And were going to be working with Evan to offer his services as part of what we at UCStrategies are doing as we expand our services from just a content site to a lead generation site. And so I want to welcome Evan, and jump in with some questions as to how you got into this business in the first place?

Evan Kirstel: Well, social media has always been somewhat of a personal, professional obsession, right back to the launch of Twitter and the emergence of LinkedIn. I found it an invaluable tool for professional networking, personal development, selling, and I really jumped in with both feet early on. And over the last year, I struck out an independent, essentially helping vendors and service providers and VARs in the enterprise and telecom space leverage social media not just as a marketing tool but really as a sales networking tool as a way to generate visibility, leads, and opportunity in their target markets. And so far it is really proving to be a tremendous media for both lead generation as well as generating thought leadership out in the wider industry.

Jim Burton: So how do you make sure people get noticed, because we have all tried different things over the years and sometimes they work; sometimes they do not. I think people are recognizing one of the values of social media, you can actually monitor that. But what are the kinds of things you do to help people get noticed?

Evan Kirstel: Yeah, that's a really good question. There is a ton of noise out there, and there is a ton of activity. Particularly as a smaller company, it can be hard in general to be seen and heard. But the beauty of social media is that you can really earn your presence, and I help my companies identify and engage the hundred if not thousands of thought leaders out there in the industry. It is a tremendous platform for identifying and engaging analysists and journalists and bloggers and consultants. And there is a whole universe or ecosystem of players in the telecom and enterprise space that can be engaged, followed, and to thetension, can be garnered through social media. And increasingly, end-users and leads can be developed through the social channels whether LinkedIn or Twitter. So it is early days for social media from a B2B standpoint, but there are tremendous opportunities for companies who jump right in and include social as an important component of their overall digital marketing strategy.

Jim Burton: So how would someone engage with you? What process would they go through? First of all, we will of course put your contact information as part of this podcast, but what does the engagement process look like for you to help them take advantage of the services that you have to offer and get them some exposure out there?

Evan Kirstel: So social media requires a really great community manager, someone who on a day-to-day basis can help curate content, identify the relevant folks to follow and engage, keep track of the array of events that are happening real time, and leverage a bunch of different tools and tactics and techniques, if you will, to build an audience. And so I handle all of that as kind of a ghostwriter or a community manager, often independently. Sometimes hand-in-glove with existing resources, but bringing a tremendous experience from a B2B selling and B2B marketing standpoint to my client's efforts. And social media is, again, pretty new for many of my clients, particularly in our space in unified communications and telecom and enterprise. So there is often a question of, gosh, where do I even start? How do I build this and grow this audience? And I really help kick-start that process and manage it over the course of time.

Jim Burton: One of my observations is that a number of companies have hired people that are young and are sociable, and they do a lot of different things on Twitter and use LinkedIn and Facebook. But it seems to me that what you do is far beyond that, because it is more than just your personal interactions where you are throwing up things, you are actually managing a process and working on making sure that there is a return on those investments so that people, meaning your clients, get what they are looking for.

Evan Kirstel: Yeah, it is kind of a trap that most companies put the junior intern or the fresh marketing person on the social account, assuming that is the best approach when really social is your window into the world of thought leaders and interesting new partners and prospects. And it requires a really seasoned hand to manage and engage effectively. And so what I do is not only help manage and direct those efforts but really mentor and teach some of the more junior folks how to engage on social and the different tactics and the different tricks or hacks, growth hacks if you will, to build that audience and get noticed. And I look across the social media landscape and very sadly see many companies, even very big ones, doing a really poor job of social media, not really leveraging it to its full potential. And so I am helping to change that.

Jim Burton: Well, there is no question that we have seen a difference at UCStrategies. Can you give us any insights about maybe some successes you have had with other clients? I am sure that you have got to be very careful about using their names, but just an indication of how you been able to get in and get things moving for them in fairly short order.

Evan Kirstel: That is a great question, and the beauty of this new world of data and analytics-driven marketing is that you can measure all these things very carefully. In fact, a new client of mine, who I engaged about three months ago, through his marketing automation tools, took a look at leads and increased website visits directly as a result of Twitter. And it was a 50% increase in website visits through his Twitter account, which of course was growing in leaps and bounds and then a subsequent 50% increase in leads through the website as a result of that referral traffic. So really what he was already doing - having a great website SEO and a great content marketing and blogging strategy was really accelerated, massively accelerated, through the use of social media. So it was a really great story, and that is the kind of result people can expect by leveraging these social channels.

Jim Burton: Well, I know that we have been very, very pleased. In fact, since a number of the companies that are your clients are also clients of mine and partners of UCStrategies, I know that this has been working. And I know that there is just great opportunity in having someone like you. And I also know that you are reasonably priced. I know that when we looked at it, we were thinking, oh boy, this is really going to be a major, major effort for us. And it has been quite easy. Not only has it been economical, but the amount of effort we have had to put into it is has been somewhat minimal. And I was a little bit, again, surprised by that. Is there anything else that you think would be very important for people to understand as they are looking at getting into this space and even potentially hiring someone like you to help them, things that they need to know and understand?

Evan Kirstel: Well, the key thing is, what is the ROI and how do I leverage social media to get a bottom line impact to the business? And I can say that the way buyers are buying is changing, and social media is a tremendous platform to educate, to inform, to even amuse and entertain potential clients, and to get their attention. And if you are not using it to its full extent, you are really missing out on a platform that has bottom line advantage. And this is really the future of selling, engaging in this way for these channels, in addition to the traditional direct touch sales rep-type approach. And I think my clients find it is very complementary to their existing strategies because it is really a brand-new and accelerating, growing platform at both LinkedIn and Twitter for this new role of social selling.

Jim Burton: Well, I agree with you, and I think one of the things that many of us observed is that in the days past, you throw an advertisement out there, and you had no idea whether it was successful or not. You may have seen an increase in sales, could have been contributed to other things. You never really know. But with digital marketing, things have changed so dramatically and there is an opportunity to monitor everything, to really understand that return on investment. And it seems to me that the social aspect, which a lot of companies do not thoroughly understand, is just a great opportunity to expand your marketing, get good results and at a very reasonable price. Because the cost for some of the social marketing compared what it used to cost for various promotional pieces is pretty economical. And I just think it is a great, great way to go and particularly if someone is trying to pivot from their old marketing organization to something new. This is a required component and something that is an easy way to help get started. So I really encourage people to take a look at what Evan is doing. And people like Evan, quite frankly; there are others, but Evan is our choice. And, Evan, we will put up your contact information, as I said before, so people can reach out to you directly and engage with you. I know that this is a new area for everyone, and so I am sure people are just like I was. What should you expecting and can you expect from an engagement like this, particular over the short term to get a good sense that, yeah, this is really working for me?

Evan Kirstel: I find most of my clients see pretty immediate results and results in terms of 500 to 1,000 new followers in a social media context on Twitter for example. And on a month-to-month basis, it means growing by hundreds if not thousands of followers. Those followers might be prospects, they might potential business partners. They could be analysts. They could be journalists, industry pundits like ourselves. And so you get a tremendous audience for your solutions and services. So when you do have something to say, whether it is a press release or blog post or announcement or you are attending a live event or doing a webinar, you have that ready-made audience that is good to go. And it could be pretty surprising, the scale of that audience. I mean, if you look at my personal Twitter account, it has a pretty big following, about 30,000 followers. But that following generates about 4 million distinct impressions per month, and I am just an individual on Twitter. So you can imagine using some of these tactics the kind of viewership and the kind of audience you can reach through these social channels.

Jim Burton: Well, that sounds like a great return on investment.

Evan Kirstel: Oh, it really is, and it is all earned. Unlike the old days of paying for advertising and paying for visibility, these days it is all about earning that audience.

Jim Burton: Thank you for your time today, Evan. Really appreciate it.

Evan Kirstel: Thank you very much. I will catch you on Twitter.