'We are actually making a double Social Shift with De Persgroep. On the one hand we have deployed social media for ourselves more strategically, on the other hand we help our customers - so advertisers - with their Shift to social media. On both fronts we see the same: a lead via social media is worth gold. It may be a bit of a scan now, but sales and social are really made for each other.'
Dirk Renders doesn’t beat about the bush: who thinks that sales can continue for a long time without a well-considered use of social media, is wrong. The sales director at De Persgroep has a right to speak. As a manager at newspaper company Wegener (merged with De Persgroep) and offers website Sweetdeal (former Mecom startup), he has been pioneering for almost ten years with social media. He achieved successes with it, but also paid for his learning fees.
'My journey of discovery started with the advent of web 2.0,' Renders recalls. 'I was sales manager at Wegener. The internet became more interactive, social media came up. And suddenly our customers had the opportunity to communicate with the outside world themselves. That must be at the expense of their advertising budgets with our newspapers. At a publisher's conference I visited those days in New York, there was even a somewhat fatalistic atmosphere. Almost everyone was convinced that newspapers would still have a maximum of ten years.'
We are ten years on, 'the newspaper' is still there. But the newspaper world has indeed changed: the print runs have shrunk in those ten years, there has been a lot of fusion and the newspaper companies have developed into much broader media companies. Renders saw it from the first rank. 'At Wegener I experienced the necessary mergers and acquisitions. That was not out of luxury, of course. But thanks to this "redeployment" and the vision of De Persgroep, we now have the position to make the Social Shift with our advertisers. After all, we do not sell advertising space anymore, but advise our customers on the best ways to achieve a large and relevant range. Social media are not yet dominant in this, but have now become a full part of the media mix.'
And that is going well, according to Renders' colleague Maaike Daleman, sales manager digital at De Persgroep. 'Expressing the return on investment in hard figures is difficult, because only customers can measure it themselves. But we do notice that campaigns with social media score a lot better. Not surprising, of course, because a like or sharing a message can be compared to word of mouth: more reliable is almost impossible. "The added value for De Persgroep lies in satisfied customers. In addition, the adult offer in the social media field gives De Persgroep an edge to other publishers, according to Daleman. 'Customers who still have doubts about the added value of social media are also choosing us. They notice that we speak the language of social. So if they have to try it somewhere, it's with De Persgroep.'
'A lead via social media is worth gold'
The battle of selling millimeters in the paper newspaper to a complete package of offline and online resources has now been made. The online consultants were trained in the possibilities of social media and are now taking them as full options in their advice. Usually these are combinations, according to Daleman. 'Certainly the combination of branded content (paid editorial stories, ed.) and advertisements and posts on social media is very strong. Every time, social turns out to be a great driver of visitor traffic.'
That is great for the customers, but also for the team itself. Renders: 'A whole new dynamic has started. That is also very interesting for our own people. Initially we had to overcome the necessary knowledge and experience differences, which required patience and flexibility. But in the meantime I am delighted to see how they inspire each other in the special WhatsApp group with cases, figures and feedback. "The social oil spill is slowly but surely growing within the organization. The online consultants 'infect' their other colleagues after all, and customers are also explicitly involved in the developments. Daleman: 'When we see that a message is attracting a lot of traffic, we immediately let it know so that the customer can respond to it. That is also the Social Shift: you go through a change process internally and externally. In which case I can wholeheartedly recommend the use of WhatsApp: nice and quick and direct, that keeps the heat burning.'
Where else can it be improved? With the own use of social media. Renders would like to see the whole sales device make better use of LinkedIn, for example to share cases. 250 colleagues with an average organic range of 500 to 1000. 'Calculate your profits! Recently I shared a nice front page of the newspaper on Twitter. Then 800 people respond."
As said before: Renders has also paid a learning fee. As managing director of offers website Sweetdeal for example. 'I spent a lot of time on social media, especially on Twitter. Initially, I thought that I could initiate that movement towards social self. But it is a profession apart. A bit of hobbies and muddling around soon turned out not to work. That is why I have acquired an external party. It has provided structure for us. "Even then, not everything went well. "It was the time of pioneering," said Renders. 'Sweetdeal was a promotional platform with offers in more than twenty cities throughout the Netherlands. We wanted our own Facebook and Twitter account for every city. I know afterwards too much; we have swallowed ourselves in that. Your project must be scalable: start small and expand step by step. And that's the same with the Social Shift itself."
'Good, reliable content: that's what it's all about'
That Renders is sales director at De Persgroep, he thanks in part to pioneering and the Social Shift that he personally went through. Because he was in social media at an early stage, he had a large organization in the spotlight. 'It is hopefully not the only reason I am here,' he laughs, 'but I say with certainty that it is a positive contribution to extending my career. From the beginning I have fulfilled a kind of example role. As a sales professional I really thought that was a great adventure. Otherwise, something like that doesn’t work either.'
If there is someone who sees social media opportunities for De Persgroep, it is also Renders. He expects that the Persgroep will invest in more. Laughing: 'If it is up to me, in five years' time we will have our own platform that is larger than Facebook in the Netherlands. Because make no mistake: thanks to all our media, we have a huge amount of good, relevant, reliable content. That is what it is all about: in publishing countries, but also on social media. I'm not saying that the paper newspaper still exists in a hundred years, but the distribution of valuable content is. We are sure to be there. And I can advise everyone to be a part of it too. That dynamic is so very nice!
The most important learning points of De Persgroep
-'Personal branding has become crucial, internally and externally. So make your employees aware that participating in the Social Shift can be an impetus for their career.'
- "It is tempting to think that social media is easy. But they are not. Enabling professional expertise at an early stage prevents costly loss of time.'
- 'It can not be said often enough: provide trust from the management. Nothing as crippling as an organization that is afraid that certain things may not be placed.'