You really can't sell to the Federal government unless you're already selling to Corporate America. Sure, there are exceptions but that's very rare. Over the last several years I've been managing a social media team for a National Coalition in Washington DC that supports our military service members and their families. While RSM Federal utilizes LinkedIn for the majority of our social media leverage, I wanted to share some general business observations and experiences on the use of social media.
1. There are very few social media experts who have comprehensive expertise, past performance, and proven success to be labeled an expert. You will find that social media experts are experts in specific markets or industries and primarily have experience in either small, medium, or large business. There are some excellent social media professionals who understand product but not service; understand Fortune 500 but not small business; and whose techniques and strategies for user engagement require a level of funding that is only viable with a larger business. I personally believe that 95% of self-proclaimed social media experts, based on their background and client-base, understand how to use social media tools but often lack an integrated approach to the strategy that drives these tools.
2. Social Media = Revenue. In February 2013, an article published on LeanardSipes states that "We know that social media is probably better at brand awareness than driving revenue." While I agree that the statement is valid - in a vacuum, the purpose of brand awareness, from a business perspective, at the end of the day, if you're using social media for a business purpose, the end state is increased revenue. You're using social media to increase distribution, to maintain and improve your brand, to gain referrals, and a myriad of other business functions. But social media used for business purposes has one core objective - to increase revenue. You can buy a product, pay for a service, refer a colleague, receive a discount, participate in a promotion - but every call to action is designed to directly or indirectly increase revenue. Yes social media can be fun, but if you're using it for business, the focus always comes back to revenue.
3. Daisy Chain Calls To Action. One of the most important lessons I've learned is that social media requires a daisy chain of call-to-actions (CTA). In working with one of our clients, we spoke with the team that manages President Obama's social media platform. They developed a workflow and a software solution that creates a daisy chain. They identify the call to action and when a user enters their information, the user is redirected to another landing page with a second call to action. There are many different examples of how you can daisy chain. For example, when you use Hootsuite for promotions, the software allows users to gain extra points for each user that registers as a result of a referral or share. When using social media for business, keep your daisy chain simple and every CTA should be based on an emotional, financial, social, or educational values.
4. There are some core differences between using social media for products and service. If you sell products, a social media plan is easier to develop. You have tangible goods which are much easier to market with discounts and coupons. On the other hand, if you're a service based organization, it's a bit more difficult. Using social media for business services is viable, but the time it takes to manage the social media platform(s) requires an incredibly strong emotional value with the users. For this reason, RSM Federal utilizes LinkedIn as the primary social media platform and nothing else. I simply don't have time to manage another platform where the expended time costs more than the revenue it would generate. The excuse, "Everyone else is using social media" or "Your competition is using social media" doesn't change my mind. Social media is either viable or it's not for your business. Based on what RSM Federal provides, LinkedIn is the only viable platform that makes sense.
5. Integrating Video and Social Media. If you haven't heard of Cinsay, you probably will. Cinsay is a video player capable of taking transactions, gathering leads, and collecting detailed analytics all within a video player. Doesn't sound all that exciting, does it? Let me explain. Today, almost all marketing on social media includes a graphic and a link. If you want to collect names and emails for your affinity group or newsletter, you can redirect the user to a 3rd party application in Facebook or redirect them to a landing page on your website that has a database back-end to collect the data, or a myriad of other redirects. If you are offering a 10% discount on one of your products, the user clicks the graphic or link and is directed to a landing page on your website or to PayPal, or another myriad of redirects. Regardless of the call-to-action, they are being redirected somewhere. More times than not, the user is redirected to your website. That's the current paradigm - get them to a specific landing page on your website, sell them, educate them, cross-sell, but keep them on your website.
But now, Cinsay's Smart Store Video Player changes this business paradigm. With Cinsay's player, you can load it into every major social media platform that accepts video. It can be shared and commented on just like any post. But here's why it's a game changer and why you should know about it. Your eCommerce is built directly into the video. Your products, your pricing, your credit card authorization and payment system - everything is inside the video. This means that as you are watching the video, you can select one or more products, see product specs and pricing, make a purchase - all while the video about your company is playing in the background. Users can watch your video, learn about your solutions and make a purchase - all without a redirect. Think about that for a moment. One of your prospects is on Facebook, plays the video on their wall, reviews one of your products inside the video and then makes a purchase. When they're done, they're still on your Facebook page! No redirect to 3rd party Facebook applications. No redirect to your website where extra clicks may lose the sale. However, once the purchase is made, you can then recommend or create a link to your website. I would recommend a landing page specific to the video that provides educational or other value to improve your relationship with your new client. It works in a similar fashion on all the major social media sites. Almost forgot, it works via email as well!
We know that the conversion percentage for video over pictures is much higher. Now you can send an email with the video and your prospect can buy your products directly within your email since the product and payment systems are inside the video. For the most part, we see an industry leading and market changing technology every ten years or so. Examples are MySpace, YouTube, eBay, Google, Facebook, etc. Personally, I believe Cinsay's Smart Store Video Player is one of these game changers. Stay tuned!
Summary. If you decide to use social media for your business, it would primarily be for commercial sales. You are very unlikely to use social media as a successful tool for government sales. But above all else, your success with social media is based on the strategy, not the tools that you use, which includes Cinsay. The Cinsay player is an incredible tool but it's still a tool. Without a solid strategy behind its use - it's just one more system you have spend time maintaining, wondering if the ROI is viable.
For more information on Cinsay, visit www.cinsay.com
Joshua P. Frank is Principal and owner of RSM Federal, a federal consulting and business-acceleration strategy firm that represents small and large businesses in accelerating the education and processes necessary to win government contracts. For more information and videos about RSM Federal, please visit www.rsmfederal.com