Critical Review: A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process
The landscape of business and sales has changed quickly and dramatically in recent years. In the article A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process, authors James Andzulis, Nikolaos Panagopoulos, and Adam Rapp examined the ways in which companies can use social media platforms. They also dissected the reasons that using these platforms in addition to (or even in lieu of) traditional advertising has been so successful for businesses, and considered some of the different methodologies incorporated by different companies.
A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process is focused on social media and the effect that social media has on sales for a business. The article begins by pontificating on the birth of social media and early social media giants, such as MySpace; it then goes on to form a functional definition of “social media” for the purposes of discussion within the article. Andzulis, Panagopoulos and Rapp define social media as: “the technological component of the communication, transaction and relationship building functions of a business which leverages the network of customers and prospects to promote value co-creation.”
One of the key ideas presented by the authors is that customers now, more than ever before, need to be “wooed” by companies. Customers are seeking a customer experience, not merely a product; social media, the authors argue, can provide that customer experience much more readily than traditional marketing and sales can. Social media, according to the authors, allows customers to be heard by companies, and for companies to respond to the concerns of their customers in real time. This is certainly one of the strengths of social media marketing; humanizing customers and providing them with the most memorable, pleasant experience possible is one of the fundamental tenets of sales (Kaplan, 2012).
However, the authors under-emphasize the dangers of being too aggressive with social media marketing. Customers of today are more savvy in certain ways, and quite attuned to advertising and marketing; a company’s attempt to communicate and attune themselves with their customer’s needs must be genuine, or it is unlikely to be successful (Kaplan, 2012). Spamming potential customers’ social media feeds is an excellent way to turn them against the brand entirely (Evans, 2010).
The traditional purchase cycle, sometimes known as a social feedback cycle, still applies to social media. Andzulis et al clearly lay out the sales process as it applies to social media, from promoting business-to-business brand awareness via social media to gaining attention and eliciting feedback from consumers on their purchase. However, the authors fail to elaborate on the biggest asset and weakness of social media marketing and sales: the speed with which information travels.
Good information travels quickly on the Internet, which is good news for brands hoping to utilize social media marketing to boost their sales. But bad information--poor customer service, inappropriate social media postings, and so on-- travel much faster, and can have a long-lasting impact on a company’s image and, by extension, their sales (Evangelista, 2011).
“Understanding the customer,” then, should not only be about the customer’s needs in regards to the brand, as Andzulis et al suggest, but also understanding what the customer wants to see from the brand in terms of corporate image and responsibility. This image should be reflected in the company’s use of social media, particularly on sites like Twitter, where the smallest mistake can go viral in minutes. Andzulis et al seem to be focusing on the interaction between the individual customer and the individual salesperson, but social media changes the dynamic of sales: the interaction is between the customer and the brand, not a specific salesperson (Kang, 2011).
One of the biggest oversights of the article is the lack of distinction between business-to-business social media sites (LinkedIn, for example) and business-to-customer social media platforms (Instagram or Facebook) (Kang, 2011). A brief distinction is made, but the content created for each of these types of sites must be completely different, because the outcome the business is looking for in each case is different. It is illogical to attempt to cultivate business relationships on a social media platform that is better-suited to reaching out to customers, and vice versa (Assaad and Gomez, 2012).
A Review of Social Media and Implications for the Sales Process has a solid premise, and some excellent information regarding the sales process as it applies to social media networking sites. The article concludes that companies will succeed more readily in the Internet age if they use social media to listen to and communicate with their customers, and this conclusion seems to be backed by a wealth of other studies.
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