The survey also looked at how social media is changing the originator-customer relationship and generating new forms of company branding opportunities. Advocates of social media predict that it will transform nearly every customer relationship and there’s a belief that it could have an immense impact on how originators reach out to prospects.
The question is whether top producers in the field are feeling that impact now and in what ways.
Overall, top originators are adept users of established and emerging technology products, but the survey revealed some surprising results about what they are doing and the value they perceive from the effort.
Most employers provide Web pages or Web sites for their originators (79 percent), and most originators also operate a personal Web site for business development (63 percent). These are likely to be tied directly to the firm’s branding efforts.
Facebook is used by half of the super-producers in customer-acquisition efforts, while just under 60 percent use LinkedIn. Just over 25 percent utilize Twitter or blogs.
Social Media Usage
Seen from a positive perspective, those are formidable numbers for technologies that have emerged only in the last few years and for which consumers’ expectations are still evolving. Top producers appear to be early adopters of social media and they are using it to reach their prospects and customers.
But the full picture is more complicated. In fact, it’s fair to say that a big split exists in the industry today. The top producers who have adopted social media are fairly heavy users, but a significant share of their peers have not yet felt the need to reach out online. The paradox can be captured in this piece of data from the survey: one-third of top producers say that they do not use social media to reach out to prospects and customers, but of those producers who do use them, they use at least two types of social media, on average.
There’s even one more layer to the emerging picture on social media. In the survey, even the most consistent users of social media say that they are not yet convinced it’s an effective branding mechanism or a way to build customer loyalty.
More than a third of respondents (37 percent) say that social media “is not very effective” and that they “seem to be wasting time” engaging in the effort. Only half of the respondents consider social media to be even “somewhat effective.”
Effectiveness of Social Media for Producing Business Opportunities
When it comes to emerging forms of communication through social media, so far top producers are staying on the sidelines. For example, only 14 percent of respondents have tried creating and posting videos, and only 6 percent have posted videos created by others. However, 43 percent said they are considering online video technology for the future.
The bottom line is that, overall, top producers still rate traditional business-development activities as yielding better results than social media.
But it’s clear that a transition is taking place, especially as business development through telemarketing and purchasing prospect lists are on their way out.
The message to employers is to support the activities with the greatest returns, but, with an eye to the future, find ways to facilitate use of social media for originators who are committed to its use.
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