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Much of the social media conversations we have at BIA/Kelsey deal with progress in the monetization of social, building social media solutions for small-business advertisers, or how social is being infused throughout local media. We are beginning yet another conversation around how local media organizations can use social platforms as a tool for selling more effectively.

Certain local media organizations (ReachLocal comes immediately to mind) have made using social a key element of the selling process. Most local media organizations have yet to make it a key priority. This is bound to change as SMB advertisers increasingly use social media as a key tool for engaging with their customers. The media organizations trying to sell solutions to SMBs need to swim in the same pool, and speak the same language, as their customers. Outside of local media, technology organizations (think Cisco) tend to lead the way in innovative use of social media as a sales tool.

Recently I spoke with Erika Kerekes, a content marketing/social media consultant who has previously worked at (later Dex One) and Deluxe, among other places. She is a strong believer in sales organizations promoting social media as a lead generation and CRM tool for local sales people.

“Most sales reps don’t understand how to use social media at all,” Kerekes says, adding that most sales leaders are too busy worrying about hitting their targets to make social media strategy a priority.

Kerekes sees two different standard selling models, with two different approaches to social media adoption.

The “corporate” model involves much tighter control over the sales process, branding, messaging and so on. It can be more difficult for reps in this model to leverage their social presence for sales, at least without clear organizational support and guidelines. The “insurance agent” model is more conducive to using social presence for sales. In this model, reps are far more independent and often in charge of generating their own leads, etc. They can be much more free to use their personal social presence in their sales efforts.

Kerekes has trained sales groups on how to use social platforms (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+) in sales. She says the main utility is to use these platforms to engage customers and prospects on subjects that they care about. Kerekes believes sales content is less effective in a social media context than creating “we’re smart” content, which can be anything from thoughtful comments on posts by customers and prospects to posts that demonstrates subject matter expertise in digital marketing or a specific vertical, for example.

For sales reps dealing with SMBs, Kerekes believes Facebook is a more effective platform than LinkedIn. And Google+ should be part of the mix because it helps your “I’m smart” content get found by SMBs searching for “digital marketing expertise” on Google.

“It is all additive,” Kerekes says.

BIA/Kelsey will continue to gather ideas and best practices in the use of social media in the sales process as part of its growing Sales Transformation coverage area, both on the Local Media Watch blog and for clients of BIA/Kelsey custom advisory services.

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