As a Social Media Strategist, I spend more time than most setting-up and managing social media accounts; both for myself and for my clients. As more and more “brick and mortar” businesses have flocked to the popular social sites over the past couple of years, I have seen an increasing discrepancy between the typical business owner’s use of these sites (for marketing purposes), and their understanding of how those sites work.
Despite the almost constant barrage, offered up by gurus of all stripes, of the “latest and greatest, whiz-bang secrets” that promise to unleash the proverbial “flood of hungry customers to your web site via social media sites”, few, if any, of the promises come true, and the expected flood of sales leads coming from the typical marketing campaign usually turns out to be a mere trickle.
The problem isn’t the social media channels; it is true that there are untold millions of potential buyers out there. The problem lies in how the media is being used – or misused – when trying to attract those potential buyers.
This is where the business owners are being misled, and where they make their fatal mistakes in the social media circles. These mistakes are almost always a result of a faulty, linear mindset. Business owners are used to viewing marketing activities as a linear, cause and effect relationship; i.e. place an ad, pull in some leads, distribute some flyers, see more walk-in traffic, that sort of thing.
Social media marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t operate in such a linear fashion; it is far more dynamic than that. Social media marketing is about developing relationships. It is about engaging the prospect, helping to solve problems, offering useful and timely information, and allowing the prospect to develop trust with the business and their products and services.
In short, social media is not about selling the prospect; it is not about taking the customary direct approach that so many business owners and marketing managers are used to in other forms of marketing.
Rather, to be effective, these campaigns needs to take an indirect approach; and it is this indirect approach to marketing that is so misunderstood by, and so frustrating to, many business owners. In my opinion, this is why many business owners eventually throw up their hands and claim that marketing through social channels is a waste of time.
OK, if the direct route in social media doesn’t work well, are there any specific ways in which you can use this media to increase sales leads for your company? Yes! Here are a few specific steps to take:
- Develop a personal style – Your posting style can be funny, serious, professional, or any of a number of other styles. Just pick one that is natural for you. Don’t try to be something – or someone – that you are not. People really can spot the disingenuous speaker (or writer) and that will turn your prospects off.
- Speak like you are speaking to a friend – Imagine you are at a cocktail party. Most people wouldn’t walk up to a complete stranger and start selling them something; at least if they didn’t want the other person to get up and walk away. Instead, speak to the other person like you were speaking to friend. Get to know them – what they like and dislike, what they want and need. Offer solutions. Point them in the right direction. Be helpful. That is how you develop a relationship.
- Build out your network – Many businesses set up a page on, say, Facebook, and then sit back waiting for the multitudes to stop by and “like” their page. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Social media marketing is a lot like dating: you have to get out there and introduce yourself. Start with people you already know, and that are already on-line. Invite them over to your new page and ask them to like, follow, or link-up. Then, branch out and search for others who match your core demographic and find out where they are hanging out (hint: search on-line for blogs, forums, groups, etc.). Listen to their conversations. Comment where appropriate. Seek out the problems they are having and offer solutions. Build credibility and trust and they will start to show up on your page.
- Think beyond the obvious – If you can’t figure out where your prospects are hanging out, then start liking, following, and linking-up with groups and organizations that are likely filled with your best prospects. For most off-line businesses, a natural starting point would be pages sponsored by local Chambers of Commerce, business organizations, and community service organizations (like Kiwanis and Rotary Clubs) and other non-profits. Depending on your particular type of business, city government pages might be a good resource as well. The point is that all of these organizations, and thousands like them, are probably already in the social media circles with their own pages. Your job is to connect with them, join the conversations and offer value through your postings (again, DO NOT jump in and start selling here – that activity should be reserved for your home web site).
Remember that social media is about building relationships first; sales leads will come later. Complete the four steps above and you will start to see your social media sales leads increase.
About the Author
Scott Spooner is an Internet Marketing Consultant in the Los Angeles area who specializes in the areas of Strategic Internet Marketing, Niche Market Research, Traffic Building Strategies, and Sales Conversion. Scott publishes The Niche Marketing Blog where he discusses the topics, resources, and tools available for niche marketing, market segmentation, and market research. To learn more, visit The Niche Marketing Blog
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