Are You Social?

Statistically, about 65% of you reading this have a Facebook account that you access on a weekly basis three to four times. Nearly 25% of you have a Twitter account that you check at least twice a week and 55% of you have a LinkedIn account that you access at least once a week for the purpose of… – well, in case your employer is reading this, we’ll leave it at that.

The rest of you are either too old to see the value in social media or are, well, clueless.

You see, social media in the business to business (B2B) world is, literally, the fastest growing technological communication tool, ever. And, that’s saying a lot when you include e-mail, fax, voicemail, mobile phones and website traffic into those stats. Social media is adoption in the B2B space has a faster growth curve than all of those – and, can you imagine doing business without e-mail or your cell phone now?

Point is, if you’ve not jumped on the social media band-wagen, you’re missing the biggest evolution in communication in your business lives. It’s adoption curve is faster than any other business communication tool in the past 50-years.

Why?

Well, it’s simple, actually.

Social media is the relationship sales model of the 21st century.

I’ve been in the AV market for over 20-years now. And, when I entered this market, I was fortunate enough to have one of the best relationship sales mentors in the industry: Andrew Edwards (the founder of Extron). On my first day, he gave me a relationship marketing book and told me it would be weeks before I talked to a single customer. Bummer.

But, over those first three weeks on the job at Extron back in 1987, I learned more about marketing than I probably did during my 4-year stint in college. Andrew explained to me the value of establishing a relationship with the customer first rather than opening with a product value proposition, a price advantage or even a product performance advantage.

Now, I realize that many of you learned this way too. Maybe not exactly the same way, but all successful sales account reps know and understand that relationship sales is the best way to sell to clients long-term. We take our customers for golf, we send them birthday cards, we send Christmas gifts, we take them to lunch and we keep in touch as much as possible. We want them to feel important to us. Right?

That’s the art of relationship marketing: you’re relationship trumps everything else. Sure, price is always AN issue, but in the world of relationships sales and marketing, price is never THE issue.

Fast forward to the mid-2000’s. Everyone by now knows the high-profile beginnings of Facebook and it’s rise to communications dominance among college and high school youth. However, what you may not know is that about half of the entire US population is on Facebook – and considering the minimum age fro a Facebook account is 13-years old, that means a lot of older people must be on Facebook. In fact, the fastest growing segment of Facebook users is 50-60-year olds, I’d have to say that it’s safe to assume that it’s entered the late majority phase of product adoption.

Twitter, on the other hand, started with 30-something users right out of the gate. Then, 40-somethings started using it by the end of 2009 and in 2010, 50-somethings and 20-somethings rapidly adopted the 140-character micro-blogging service. RIght now as I write this, the number of Twitter users in the US is growing by 1-3% a week so who knows what the total number of users will be by the time you read this, but it’s likely to be close 75-million US users – nearly half of the working public.

So, who cares?

Well, you should. You see, Twitter and Facebook (and, soon, LinkedIn) are already the primary communications tool of Generation-Y but Generation-X (the MTV generation) and even Baby Boomers are seeing the value of social media as a communications tool. For example, since 2007, Facebook has been used to find more lost loves, high school friends, birth parents of adopted kids and even long lost relatives than ANY other means available to anyone. It’s become the people search engine.

Again, who cares?

Truth is, in the very near future, if you’ve not been invited to be a Facebook “friend” of someone you believe to have a relationship with professionally, you can kiss that relationship goodbye.

Oh, and when Facebook adds SEARCH watch out! You see, when looking for a product on Google, the great thing about that amazingly powerful search engine is that it will return your search inquiry with everything from statistics to the actual product literature or users manual.

But, when searching for that same product on Facebook, you’ll see what your “friends” think of that product – or service – or person…