Companies of all sizes are looking for ways to leverage the flood of users in online social networking sites for their marketing efforts. So it’s no surprise that in a tough economy sales professionals, especially in a business-to-business sales process, want to leverage the power of their own networks to find as much information as they can about prospective customers in order to increase the productivity of every outbound call. Then, following casual introductions or first meetings, companies are leveraging the new social norms of the online world by adding contacts to their personal network on sites like LinkedIn and Facebook.
Clara Shih of Salesforce.com even built an app called Faceconnector to help sales teams integrate these practices right in to their customer relationship management process. If prospects or potential business partners accept these online relationships it becomes easier to find shared interests and keep relationships progressing. For example, you attend a business networking event and make an introduction to someone that could become a potential business partner. Following the event you send an invitation on LinkedIn or Facebook, and your new contact accepts. Now you may have access to information about where they went to school, shared contacts you may have, and possibly even their birthday. It can make initiating your next meeting or conversation that much more familiar and possibly meaningful to your bottom line.
Think this is all just a fad? Consider this, Clara’s book The Facebook Era is now a required textbook for the Global Entrepreneurial Marketing course at Stanford and social media course at Harvard Business School.