Posted October 25, 2011 9:45 am by with 1 comment

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There are a lot of studies out there about social media. One that recently came out comes from Covario and it’s about Facebook and how well brands are doing with regard to how people like them. I’ll spoil that part for you by saying that Coca-Cola wins the great Facebook brand like shootout.

While that’s nice and makes for interesting fluff to pass around the Internet as if it’s going to help people do business. What I saw ,however, was something a little more practical in the findings that seems to need more investigation. The chart below shows what the goals are of social media programs and leading the pack is increasing sales.

That makes sense. Everyone wants to increase sales. In fact, the people that are most interested in increasing sales are sales people. Why? One very powerful and important word in the economic engine that is capitalism: commission. Better defined that means cash, cha-ching, dinero, simoleans etc.If social media is being used to increase sales then the sales division of any company should be thrilled with its use.

But there appears to be a bit of a disconnect and it speaks to the trouble that social media has in getting traction in organizations despite its increasingly obvious ability to help move the revenue needle. The very next chart in the report talked about which budgets the money for social media programs comes from. Take a look and see what isn’t quite matching up with program goals.

If sales is the top goal of social media wouldn’t it make sense that a sales budget should have the lion’s share of the responsibility to pay for social media programs? Logically one would have to say yes but maybe it’s not that simple.

In most business environments if you are paying for something then you have some measure of control of it. If a particular business function is financed from a department’s budget they are going to want to have the chance to ensure that the program works so their departments performance doesn’t look bad based on someone else’s efforts from out side of their domain.

Here’s one of the major hurdles with social media and the corporate infrastructure though. The messaging is critical in that it has to be crafted and often has to be done without having too much emphasis on what the end goal actually is. In other words, you can’t be too salesy in social media because you risk alienating your prospect. People don’t like to be sold to in social media, at least not directly. They apparently don’t seem to mind being passively led toward a sales. It’s the illusion of control that the consumer or purchaser actually craves because, in the end, the only reason for social media to ever be used for a business is to ultimately sell something.

I’m sure many will disagree and talk about brand awareness blah, blah, blah but even that rather fuzzy and undefinable activity is ultimately about sales.

So back to who pays for these programs. Why doesn’t it appear that social media is a budget line item for the sales department:

1. Trust – No one in their right mind trusts sales departments with messaging. If you do your company will be viewed as a used car sales shop that is all about the ABC’s (always be closing). That doesn’t fly in today’s world.

2. Trust – Hey didn’t we already talk about this one? Well, not from the social media side of the coin. It is becoming more and more common to see that social media experts have a inferiority complex that gets manifested in a superiority complex. All that means is that social media folks don’t feel like they get respect in the corporate hierarchy and in most cases they don’t. If you can’t measure it properly it is seen through the eyes of a skeptic. As a result, social media folks get insular and want to control more of social media than they really need to. Hey, everyone wants some power and this is one way to get it.

3. Training – Ever tried to train a sales person to do something other than sales? You are wasting your time. Sales people aren’t the most flexible bunch. They can sit in a week long conference on the best way to do something, pass a test then go right back to to what they have always done it. Why? Because it is comfortable and they want sales not skills. I can say all of this because I have spent a fair amount in sales and I can be that way myself.

4. Control – All of this comes down to control. Who controls the message. Who controls the money. Who controls the direction. As a result, control is often given to social media managers who have very little overall business experience and/or acumen then are tasked with making social media work for the business. That is simply a recipe for disaster and one that companies will have to inflict on themselves repeatedly for a long time to come before they realize that social media isn’t about tools but rather it is about business. As a result the smart ones will pay correctly for people who understand how social media is APPLIED in business and not just the tools and activities involved.

5. Comfort – Social media is so new and disruptive that it throws people off their usual game. As a result people rail against what is new to preserve what they are comfortable with whether it’s best for the organization or not. After all , at the end of the day why would any employee who has no ownership in a company truly care about the results? Be honest, if they are just working a J-O-B rather than on a career or something bigger then their engagement will be limited. That’s just human nature.

So what are your thoughts on this? Should sales have to pitch in money to get social media programs running but then not allowed to be part of the process? If you handed over some measure of control or input for social media programs to sales what are you inviting? Is social media being held back by corporate structures that need definition to work but can’t find the right place for social media to live or better yet, be funded?

Let’s hear it pilgrims. After all, you’re the smart ones here.

  • Social Media is a part of any smart PR Department and/or PR agency thus funding should come from there. No sales should not have to pitch in. It goes without saying that “sales” or more accurately PROFITS are the foundation of every decision a company makes in EVERY department. Even Human Resources has a sales/profit underpinning. Would any company hire anyone who would lose money for the company even in the mail room??

    If you handed over some of the Social Media to sales, you would be shooting yourself in the foot. Social media campaigns are best left to those of us that have creative ilks. I currently consult and create social media campaigns for major companies and the reason I am successful is that I am not hindered by the label of a specific department within a company. I look at what would be best for the brand and most interesting and engaging for the consumer.

    And I disagree that we, as social media engineers, don’t know about business and I have never heard of a social media manager running solo. While we need an overall idea of what turns a profit for the companies we work with, our campaign ideas are always run through the PR departments. Leave us to be creative.