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Why business Twittering deservesa second look, a strategy

buzzTime to read: 4.5 minutes.

Social media:  It’s so important that “it will change everything…” so broad that it includes just about everything and so profound that nothing can measure it.  To infinity and beyond!  Sound familiar?  When it comes to Twitter, there’s no shortage of nonsensical justification for Twittering.  Just do it!  But should your business Twitter?  Should your intern experiment with it?  How much ‘engagement’ is needed to realize an actual sale or lead?  I’ll shine a light on finding the answer for your company.

I urge marketers to consider thinking more critically and analytically about Twitter and other ‘social media’ when it comes to expectation or results — and measurement of effectiveness.  Resist people who talk about value in terms of “engagement” (rather than sales).

Unfortunately, most digital marketers believe Twitter to be tremendously valuable although they cannot tell you, concretely, why.  Sound familiar?  It gets more crazy.  Twitter is the #1 most important Web marketing initiative this year — bar none.  Why?  Psshaw… do we need an answer really?  I’m afraid we do.  Here’s why I’m continuing to call bull on Twittermainia:

Twitter’s value perception is kept high by marketer’s disconnection with (denial of?) the way people actually use it.

No surprise — just like how most brands have no idea, really, how people consume traditional / mass communications media.  The true value of Twitter, for most brands, is endlessly unknown… and it’s best kept that way so far as many marketing departments are concerned.  This supports the perception of high Twitter value.

But this doesn’t earn marketers respect in the C-Suite.  So, marketers, please listen up.

With every additional person you follow on Twitter the average ‘attention value per followed person’ decreases.

The number of Twitter followers is not a score — it’s a quantitative statistic.   It’s like ‘minutes used on your phone plan’ or ‘number of claimed dependents.’  Why would anyone treat it as a qualitative score — a measure of social media success?  (many do!)

Perhaps because doing so is based on a decades-old system of valuing what we think is real… think is actually happening with customers.   The world of “brand advertising.”   Under the “branding” values system we get excited by how many followers we’ve managed to corral with such little effort.  We literally stop believing there is value in sales and leads.  ‘Follower count’ matters more.

We tend to believe, “not only are these followers essentially voting for us they’re LISTENING to brand messages.  By golly this is great!  They’re not tuning out, they’re tuning in!”  But here’s the problem.

Most people that follow Tweeters MISS what they’re saying — they’re not listening!

True.  Why?  Due to the volume of tweets and no real time monitoring device or quality filter.

Your Twitter followers are nearly worthless because they’re not following, nor loyal.

I’ll prove it.  Think about how your company’s followers actually use Twitter.  How you use it.  How your CEO and CFO use it!

  • The average follower does not use any real-time tweet monitoring device (they’re not HEARING tweets)
  • It’s easy to follow — yet SERIOUS work to un-follow (they look interested but they’re not)

Can you, personally, relate to the above as a Twitter follower?  I can… and I only follow a couple dozen people and use multiple real-time monitoring tools.

Most people that follow brands don’t have serious interest in what they are saying.

Brands often translate follower “votes” into “attentive listeners”.    In fact brands love using that that word “followers” — loyalists!  Right?  Not really.  Many were one-time curious onlookers — most of whom find your tweets rather useless.

Most business Tweeters are extremely self-centered — handing out coupons, talking about their latest blog posts.   Brand marketers will claim these loyalists like that kinda stuff — kinda like when you go to your best friend’s party and he/she won’t shut up about themselves.  ????

Followers will rarely if ever “un-vote” by un-following.  Have you ever un-followed?  Of course not.  Although I’m sure you’d like to.

Rarely will Twitter users EVER un-follow ANYONE no matter how annoying.  Why?  They’re just like you — too busy living life to pour through the dozens if not hundreds of people not worth following — like your brand.  They’ll just take the easy way out: abandon Twitter.  This, too, is well documented yet somehow marketers igonore the facts.  What do you think?

About the Author Jeff Molander

Jeff Molander is the authority on starting sales conversations online. He teaches a proven, effective and repeatable communications process to spark buyers curiosity about what you're selling. He's a sought-after sales prospecting trainer to individual reps, teams of sellers and small businesses owners across the globe. He's an accomplished entrepreneur, having co-founded the Google Affiliate Network and what is today the Performics division of Publicis Groupe.

Jeff also serves as adjunct digital marketing faculty at Loyola University’s school of business. His book, Off The Hook Marketing: How to Make Social Media Sell for You, is first to offer businesses a clear, practical way to create leads and sales with platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and blogs.

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Leave a Comment:

Todd Farmer says

I’d urge you to learn more about twitter. No – Not the “get rich with twitter” BS, of course. Rather — I’d urge you to just try marketing via twitter for an experiment at least. Then, and only then, will you have a more insightful understanding of what you’re writing about. Clearly, you don’t understand twitter, nor social marketing as a whole. Time to get out of 2004, Mr. Molander. Good morning. 😉

Reply
    Jeff Molander says

    Hi, Todd. With all due respect — you’re a pretty smart cookie to call me unqualified neophyte… rather than consider arguing any one of my points or even my thesis. I’m fairly disappointed in your blanket “you don’t get it” statement and assumption. That stated, I’m banking $10,000 this week from marketing myself on Twitter. Hence, *most* marketers are failing to extract value when it comes to using Twitter… certainly not all. Maybe I’ll blog more about my successes some day… but that’s my choice and not what I’m doing at my blog. Here I’m criticizing and asking people to challenge accepted practices/thoughts.

    Experimentation with Twitter is wise but only when you can quantify and measure it — track it back to goals/business outcomes. This is essential when using social media to market in a down economy.

    If you want to argue my fatwa great… but apparently you don’t. Maybe you can share a story of your Twitter experience or a marketer that you’ve worked with — where Twitter resulted in a sale, lead, wherein Twitter was part of a marketing process?

    That’s the kind of story/analysis that I’m interested in and why I’m arguing that marketers stop investing in social strategies this way (and earning the disrespect of company Officers) and start investing in them with some common sense and logic. The choice is theirs but all the research indicates they’re continuing down the foolish path. Anyway, thanks for chiming in and good morning to you 🙂

    Reply
Jeremy Palmer says

You’ve made some good points (from a direct marketer’s point of view) but I think you’ve misunderstood the real value of Twitter.

First, Twitter can generate real world ROI. I’ve made dozens of product sales and affiliate commissions via Twitter, however, I think the real value is in building relationships and trust for your brand.

It’s hard to quantify trust and relationship building, but does that mean it has no value?

/Jeremy

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    Jeff Molander says

    Hi, Jeremy… thanks for your thoughts.
    That said, we agree. I’m not suggesting at all (although I can see how you might think it based on my position) that Twitter doesn’t put money in people’s pocket. Mainly because it just paid me this week. I use Twitter search to monitor for people looking to find, qualify and PAY people like me.

    So — please (everyone!) be reminded that I am questioning the way we value… our system (or lack thereof!)… Twitter. I’m not saying that Twitter is not valuable. Twitter just put money in my bank account this week.

    To your last point, Jeremy, I agree that there’s value in building relationships but it’s not much different than building relationships via email or instant messaging or any other kind of Web tool… right? Also, building “brand trust” is not measurable and in this economy I just don’t see value in “building trust” in ways that are intangible. In other words trust is not built using tweets. It’s built using tweets that result in actual EXPERIENCES that built trust. Experiences can be quantified, measured — planned, in fact, and executed by marketers. Measured. Hence, Twitter is only valuable in building trust when something happens to create it — beyond “tweeting.” (ie. something that a tweet PROMPTS or responds to in a way that there’s a tangible outcome — a purchase, a customer being more satisfied, etc.)

    Thanks for the opportunity to make myself more clear, Jeremy… and for your excellent thoughts.

    Reply
JeffMolander.com - ecommerce strategy on Facebook 1800Flowers says

[…] often we hear marketers define success in terms that are un-acceptable to the C-Suite (CFO’s in particular).  Here are a few popular ones:  Twitter followers, Facebook friend […]

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David Lewis says

There is an interesting discussion about Twitter at http://www.revenews.com/davidlewis/my-twitter-experiment-or-i-am-not-jeff-molander/

The only thing missing at this point is the real Jeff Molander!

-David

P.S. Jeff, can you write a piece comparing the immeasurableness of building brand trust in social media and traditional media? I’m curious about your point that it is measured accurately for traditional media and not at all for social media.

Reply
    Jeff Molander says

    Netiquette netiquette. Thou shalt not comment with selfish intent to drive traffic toward one’s own blog. David, “your affiliate is showing” 😉

    building “brand trust” is not measurable

    That’s what I said — which I don’t think is what you said I said. To be clear “building trust” is typically measured using “funny math” in the traditional media realm. Math that is attitudinal when, in fact, that’s pretty damn impossible to measure when you’re “broadcasting” (delivering messages in multiple one-way channels).

    Trust can only be measured accurately via customer BEHAVIOR. Not even customers’ words can be viewed as accurate (people often knowingly and un-knowingly lie!).

    Hey now — isn’t “social media” on the Web and isn’t the Web interactive? Can’t we TRACK BEHAVIOR on the Web? That makes ALL Web media social — and measurable against trust!

    Reply
David Lewis says

Jeff, I posted a link to a post (yes, written by me) that is about the same conversation and is about you as well. That seemed like fair game. I am not trying to steal your readers.

You deny that Follows are important even though they show interaction with a brand. Does traditional media do that? Consumers can @brand on Twitter, comment on Facebook and interact with a brand in many other ways in social media AND the brand can respond! I haven’t seen that on TV, radio, print, billboards, etc.

In our dynamic, media-rich world, it is hard to measure the effect of any one program on a brand. It turns out that social media has some direct way to measure while traditional media has none. Neither is ROI but it’s not a perfect world. We’re just working to make it a little more perfect.

Reply
    Jeff Molander says

    I have no readers to steal, bud!

    I don’t deny Followers are important. I lay out reasons why marketers believe them to be important to the extent that they’re tangibly valuable — using illogical reasoning. Yes, traditional media does provide — in many cases — more meaningful, valuable interaction. Example: A direct TV ad. There’s no vote of “fandom” there’s a vote with a wallet.

    David, I get your point re: mass communications. Thing is your point isn’t relating to my discussion or my point… which is that Twitter gets credit for being valuable based on illogical rationalizations which can be dismantled by simply noticing how people actually use Twitter — many times the same people that claim value in them can prove it themselves w/o my help! They’re looking past it because they’re MASS MEDIA driven (that’s how they pay the bills today).

    I disagree — it’s not difficult to measure the effect of any one program on a brand’s success. You do it every day with your own brand. Yes, social media does have a direct way to measure (we agree) but it’s not being used enough.

    Reply
David Lewis says

I was trying to be kind and refrained from mentioning your readership.

I hope you don’t mind that I am going to quote your last sentence at Revenews. I hope that you will join the conversation that you inspired.

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Jeff Molander says

Ok but please put quotes around ‘social media’ 🙂 and I look forward to carving out the time to jump in. I’ve been meaning to and your prod will be great.

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Sam Harrelson says

Can we please please do another episode of Paying For Performance about this? I’ll do all the legwork. You can use a pseudonym so none of your luddite friends will know it’s you. But come on… how fun would that be? Seriously.

And Twitter is paying its bills by VC cash, the majority raised before it went mainstream. Not sure what you mean by the ‘mass media’ thing there. Go read the Twitter docs on TechCrunch about how they want to be the pulse of the web (ie another standard like IMAP or POP) as their business model… that’s pretty much anti-mass media.

Reply
    Jeff Molander says

    Hey, Sam…
    So how many times can a man leave and come back to affiliate marketing — or marketing in general? 🙂

    I’d love to but have a lot on my plate lately. If the venue was large enough I might be able to consider it.

    I think it’s lovely that Twitter is talking about such lofty goals — about what they want to be some day. Because if they weren’t talking like that they’d be worthless in “real world”, real value, “real dollar” terms.

    Reply
Sam Harrelson says

ha! Just an “affiliate marketing journalist” these days since I’ve retired from the actual marketing part. In my mind, that helps with the objectivity. We’ll see.

Don’t tell Dell, Etsy, Fatwallet or Zappos that Twitter is worthless!

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Jeff Molander says

Oh, I won’t… but only if you stop changing the subject of the value discussion from Twitter itself to Twitter users 🙂

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Sam Harrelson says

Twitter is a tool. A hammer doesn’t have much value until you know how to use it. It could be worth a million dollars in a master carpetner’s hand or worth a few bucks in my hands.

The same with Twitter.

Arguing about the perceived or real ROI or value of Twitter must take the user into account or its faulty.

Reply
Jeff Molander says

Sam…
We were talking about valuing the company in real world terms — real dollars. The comment I made had nothing to do w/ user value… which is obvious and I plan on blogging about when I can get to it. I’ve already stated Twitter pays me.

Warren Buffet’s valuation on Twitter isn’t yours. I like to align w/ Warren’s value system — realizing fully that I’m an old fuddy duddy that “doesn’t get” the Web and likely never will. Money today. In this economy I’d think you’d be coming around to considering such an approach.

Thanks for chiming in!

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Sam Harrelson says

And unlike myself, Warren Buffet is sometimes wrong http://bit.ly/iQHY0 🙂

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Nicolas Wittenmyer says

Very detailed post can i have your permision to translate into Dutch for our sites subscribers? Thanks

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