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by Jennifer Lumba | October 07, 2012
Today, many major companies want a slice of the growing market known as social media marketing. The idea behind it is to publish engaging content into the social sphere, all in the hopes that this content goes viral on the Internet.
 
Entrepreneurs have moved to cash in as the practice has become more sophisticated in recent years. In June, online software supplier Salesforce.com spent nearly $700 million to acquire social marketing specialist Buddy Media. More recently, peer Eloqua completed an initial public offering of stock in the U.S. Investors valued the business at roughly $450 million to date.
 
Having software no doubt helps with social marketing. But what if you’re still in the early stages of launching a social media marketing campaign? What if all you want is for more people to start talking about your products? 

Here are 10 tips for using popular and homegrown social networks to make everyone in your company a salesperson.

1. Make Product Pages Shareable 
Every product page should be shareable via social media. Include clickable buttons for every network, email, instant messaging service, and so on. Include training in social sharing as part of new employee orientations.

2. Recognize, Recognize, Recognize
Create a company-wide recognition system. Anyone who engages with a customer in such a way that results in a sale should be recognized for his contribution via the overall company recognition program, whether through points, rewards, or bonuses. Make it easier to track pitches and hits by giving employees tools for creating custom links for sharing products using Bit.ly or Google’s sharing service, goo.gl, for example.

3. Recognize Best Practices 
Introduce a recognition program for creative sharing that results in traceable sales activity. One possibility might be to give away a "pick your project" day of off time for charity work.

4. Test and Report Publicly
Give away products to employees. Encourage them to test even prototypes and post their findings to social media, within reason. Negative experiences, for example, should always be kicked back to designers and management first. Allow them to answer questions from customers and prospects and to be able to engage with those who have seen their posts.

5. Make It Reviewable
Put social media activity, capabilities, etc., on the list of things that you "review" when it comes time to talk about promotions and salary increases. By doing so, you’ll not only make it clear that you value social engagement but you will also compel employees to think of ways to quantify their online efforts.

6. Develop Product "Champions" 
Create rewards for employees who use their free time to answer questions from customers or prospects on major social networks. Score the activity and name those employees who are the most active as social media "champions" for the products they cover, with rewards attendant to the title. Special sweaters or T-shirts, for example, might be an appropriate reward.

7. Create an In-House Affiliate Program
Allow those who blog to post advertisements for your company’s products on their pages in exchange for a small kickback for every sale. E-commerce specialists such as Amazon.com and Netflix have used this very technique —often referred to as an affiliate program — to great success over the years.


8. Engage With Fans and Critics Alike
Use networks to broadcast the social media details of each employee so that anyone at any time can use the web to engage with the company. Also, encourage workers to post the hours that they expect to be online and available to field questions so that no one expects to be on call 24 hours a day.

9. Create Hashtags to Track Progress
Every business activity should be measurable; social media is no exception. Create Twitter-style hashtags for every product that you sell and ask employees to “tag” tweets and posts accordingly. The goal is to create a quickly searchable stream of social activity around your products.

10. Use Social Media as the Company Bullhorn
Customers and prospects will engage on social media networks if they know that it’s the best way to get your attention. What better way to demonstrate your commitment to social media than to use these networks to announce sales, new products, and other major news?

Jennifer Lumba is the chief marketing officer of Rideau Recognition Solutions (www.rideau.com). Built on state-of-the-art technology, Rideau’s employee recognition and customer loyalty programs change the way companies recognize employee service and achievement, reward individual and team performance, strengthen customer relationships, and create brand loyalty. Lumba can be reached at jenniferlumba@rideau.com