Social media has evolved into a more recent concept known as social selling, meaning companies now treat social media as both a way to engage with consumers and, by extension, ultimately sell to them. But it’s not the same as other sales methods. There’s an art to selling socially, and we’re going to share some tips for doing it right (and what not to do in the process).
We can all agree by now that social media is not a fad or “the latest buzzword” or any other such throwaway notion experts like to throw at something they don’t understand. And we’ve all gotten the point that businesses need to have a social presence to truly engage with today’s consumer. Right, so now it’s on to the third phase of adoption: social selling.
A lot of companies hit phase two and said, “OK, we’re on Twitter. We’ve done what we need to do to be ‘social’.” They give an intern or low-level marketing coordinator the password and think that’s it. But that’s absolutely the wrong way to think about it.
A company’s social media presence is just as much a sales tool as its website, advertising, and marketing materials. It’s a live entity interacting with other live entities in real time, representing the brand to thousands of potential customers.
Think about it this way. Would you send an intern to a conference and ask them to present in front of a huge audience of influencers? Of course not. Yet treating your social media as an afterthought is tantamount to the same thing.
Don’t put your company’s Twitter presence in the hands of an intern or other unqualified person, and don’t make it part of someone’s many duties. Social selling takes a lot of planning and a commitment to constantly monitoring, posting and responding to. Not responding or posting in a timely manner can be just as detrimental to a brand as a bad joke.
The person who manages your Twitter account needs to have a special blend of skills; they must be tactful, resourceful, responsive, polite, occasionally funny, up-to-date on popular culture and world events, and always on-brand. It’s a delicate balance you shouldn’t trust to just anyone. There’s a reason the title “Social Media Specialist” exists.
Your current and future followers have a limited amount of time to spend on social media and millions of accounts they could follow. To become one of their top choices, you must offer high-value content.
Relevant content is key, but your followers also want to feel connected to you. It’s not just about what you share, it’s how you share it.
That means switching out of one-way marketing models and opening up real dialogues that build trust. You’ll infuse your social presence with a warmer and more personal feeling, especially if you share intimate “behind the scenes” looks into your company.
In short, don’t treat your followers like strangers – treat them like friends. And just like you would with real friends, be consistent and dependable so they know your brand is one they can count on.
Don’t Just Wing It
What is success for you? You have to know how you want to use Twitter to sell before you just jump in and start posting.
You can’t just say, “buy our stuff.” You need the right mix of product and service education and a representation of your company culture and brand.
Sometimes we want shares, sometimes we want click-throughs. There’s a bit of a science to figuring out the best kinds of messages to post and the best times of day for this or that, but some of it also comes down to good old-fashioned testing.
The important thing is to come up with a strategy and a plan, just like you would any other marketing endeavor. This will inform the number and types of posts you do. Also, make sure your brand standards (tone, voice, personality) are clear to the person or persons handling your social.
Test, Test, Test
Here’s one area where Twitter can really help you out when it comes to social selling.
You see, your tweet has a shelf life about 30 minutes. This means you can do multiple posts throughout the day about the same thing, using different messages or hashtags to see which one(s) is most effective. You can use this insight moving forward as you create more posts in the future.
Maybe your audience responds better to humor. Maybe they like clever wordplay or silly puns. Or maybe they just plain like special offers.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of Perception
The notion of social selling can be a bit tricky, because it implies a direct impact on sales and revenue. But, that’s not its full purpose.
A good social sales presence can have a huge intangible impact on your business, namely in brand perception. Think back to some great social media examples from the past couple of years, like Oreo’s response to the 2013 Super Bowl blackout, or Arby’s clever Tweet about Pharrell’s 2014 Grammy hat.
Did those tweets boost noticeably boost sales? Not that we know of. But, they certainly boosted those companies’ profiles in the minds of consumers, and the shares alone extended their social reach without spending a dime on advertising.
Bottom line: how a consumer thinks about your brand can be just as important as how much they buy from you.
Be Authentic, Real, And Tactful
Yes, everyone likes funny and clever tweets. But if that’s not your brand, don’t force it.
Make sure your brand standards (tone, voice, personality) are clear to the person or persons handling your social. At the same time, realize that this medium is more about holding a never-ending conversation about your product and company than it is an outline to do nothing but promote, promote, promote.
The best brands know their audience and what appeals to them, and find ways to express that without resorting to pushy promos or tactless attempts to be clever.
With social selling, there are certainly a lot of tips and tricks to being successful, but a lot of it comes from finding the right cadence to how you interact with people online. It’s a lot like a conversation, really:
- Be personable.
- Be honest.
- Be funny if the occasion calls for it.
- Don’t be mean to people or other brands.
- Don’t try to insert yourself into a conversation where you don’t really belong.
Build a consistent and inviting foundation and you’ll find that social selling soon becomes a natural advantage for your brand.