Don't Be Anti-Social

Social media is the new way to do business

Stop. Take a moment. Now breathe. It's easy for anyone to become overwhelmed with social media. From LinkedIn to Facebook(c) to Twitter and more, whether you're ready for it or not, it's staring right down at you. For the systems integrator, not only do they have to learn new technologies in hardware and product, but also how to embrace the new way of doing business-through social media.

The social networking trend has hit the security industry like a tsunami and dealers and integrators are using Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Twitter, YouTube and more to educate and discuss topics relevant to security, for brand awareness and to network virtually with their peers. And a number of them who are ahead of the 'social' curve (i.e. built their brand through social Web sites when they first became hot a year or so ago) are taking the next step in finding efficient ways to track direct revenue and sales leads garnered through these media.

Using and tracking social networking for sales isn't easy. It's a process of trial and error whether using software and analysis platforms that are able to track such information automatically or manually recording the number of leads on a consistent basis in a spreadsheet after each customer interaction. Different methods are being tested and although there is no one specific approach across the board that works most effectively, integrators are gaining traction with this approach by discussing methods internally, increasing their activity in general on social sites, by "friending" or "following" others and their companies and by actively thinking about how to do it best. And a gentle reminder: it has to be done carefully and with proper etiquette in mind.

Avoid 'spamming' people for sales

"The biggest mistake is when a company is overzealous in their marketing efforts on social media," explained Julian Brachfeld, director of Marketing, NAS Security Systems, Middletown, N.Y. "If it appears that the only reason someone 'friended' you is to bombard you with nothing but advertisements, that's going to turn a lot of people off. There are too many companies out there that absolutely cross the line between this type of abusive marketing and being informative."

Brachfeld explained that the only effective way to track productivity of any marketing efforts, including social media, is by simply asking the potential customer: 'how did you hear about us?' "That is the only true way you will find out where it's paying off," said Brachfeld. NAS Security Systems maintains a database through which, aside from current customers, they are able to track and document whether a customer found them through a blurb on Facebook, word of mouth or through a Web search. "We do this on an ongoing basis," he continued. "I can't say that Facebook has driven any of our business yet, but I can see that our 'friend' database grows every day and when we do send out a message or an update, more people see it."

For integrator Dakota Security Systems, Sioux Falls, S.D., no matter the social media interface, it comes down to the importance of relationships. "LinkedIn is just one more tool for us and our salespeople working on those relationships," explained Eric Yunag, president and chief executive officer. And while tracking the profit or number of customers that come from those relationships is difficult, one of the things they have done is to start quantifying the number of Web site referrals coming in from LinkedIn. "So from that perspective, we are trying to quantify the tangible result that is being achieved by our LinkedIn presence," Yunag continued. "From that, we are seeing an increase in traffic over the last six months from LinkedIn to our Web site."

Linking up with LinkedIn for sales

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