BEFORE the social media tidal wave hit and when I was working in global brand integration for the Canadian Tourism Commission, some of the traditional ways of reaching an international audience included print advertising, exhibiting in travel shows and visiting overseas offices.

Fast-forward to 2010. As a sales coach, I am helping small office and home office (Soho) entrepreneurs, as well as sales professionals, include social media as part of their sales and marketing strategies.

As people spend more time online, customers have become increasingly unreachable through traditional advertising. Social media networking enables you to communicate directly with your audience online.

Mr James Farley, chief marketing officer of motor company Ford, said: “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.”

Twenty-five per cent of Ford’s marketing spend is on digital/social media.

YouTube

YouTube is a video-sharing website on which users can upload, share and view videos. On the third anniversary of the acquisition of YouTube by Google, the company announced that the site was garnering “well over a billion views a day” worldwide.

YouTube has made it possible for anyone with a video camera and an Internet connection to post a video to a worldwide audience within minutes.

At my sales workshops for Soho entrepreneurs, I encourage them to create videos for YouTube that will appeal to their target audience. Each video should be within five minutes’ duration and offer five tips. This will help position Soho entrepreneurs as experts in their fields and increase their exposure.

Meetup.com

This is an online social networking portal that makes it easy for groups to meet offline. Since its founding in 2001, members have been able to find and join groups unified by a common interest like hobbies, careers or business.

One of the founders, Scot Heiferman, said during an interview in June last year: “The inspiration for Meetup was how to use the Internet to get people off the Internet and form a real local community.”

At that time, Meetup.com had about six million members and 180,000 monthly Meetups in 11,000 cities throughout 100 countries.

When I’m coaching Soho entrepreneurs one-on-one, I suggest they join Meetup groups where they can consistently reach a large number of their ideal target customers. They can use the online platform to connect with prospective customers offline and spend more time in face-to-face prospecting situations.

Skype

Skype is a multimedia livecasting software application that allows users to make voice and video calls over the Internet. Calls to other users within the Skype service are free, while calls to landlines and mobile phones can be made for a fee.

Skype is also popular for its additional features such as instant messaging, file transfer and video-conferencing. Since its release in August 2003, the number of users has grown to over 500 million worldwide.

I’ve been using Skype to connect with clients overseas since December 2008 because it’s so convenient and affordable. Even local clients now prefer meeting over Skype in order to eliminate the travel time and costs associated with meeting in person.

This has changed the way Soho entrepreneurs do business. All they need is an Internet connection, a headset and a webcam (optional). Skype has removed all geographical barriers from business.

Speaking face-to-face on video helps people feel as though they are right in front of each other without incurring travel costs. Skype may never replace a handshake, but it can help you maintain relationships by spending more time in face-to-face selling situations.

Social Media ROI

The success of social media campaigns should not be measured simply by the number of fans, friends, followers, connections and views within your campaigns.

As Soho entrepreneurs and sales professionals, these interactions must contribute to increasing sales. How many qualified leads and referrals are you getting from social media? How many people are purchasing your products as a result of these interactions?

What conversations is your audience having about your business? How many interactions have you had with your audience this week? What was the quality of those interactions?

Social media is a new tool that works best when applying the time-tested fundamentals of personal selling. Use it to enhance and complement your offline marketing communication activities.

Remember, people will always do business with people they know, like and trust. Instead of measuring social media ROI only in terms of return-on-investment, consider your return-on-interaction.