How to sell on social networks

The last thing you want to do in social networks is to come across as a pushy salesperson.

Social selling has emerged as the new buzzword to describe the art of selling in social networks. The objective of effective social selling is to attract an audience of prospects that are so drawn to you that they will consider buying your products and/or recommending you within their own social networks. 

Let’s start with two key questions you need to answer to be a effective social seller: Who are you and who are you trying to reach?

Define your personal brand 

Social networks are made up of people connecting to people: friends and family on Facebook, clients and peers on LinkedIn, and people you just find interesting on Twitter.  

Effective personal branding works in social networks because of the social part: people do business with people they know, like and trust. Ultimately, some part of every decision to do business with you has a personal component.

The key to developing a personal brand in social networks is to know who you are and to embody it authentically online. Nilofer Merchant calls it your “onlyness” – that unique combination of strengths, weaknesses and insights that makes you so you.

Once you have a handle on your personal brand, the next question is: who are you trying to reach?

Define your target market 

Knowing who is a qualified candidate for your product and what matters to them is essential to succeeding as a social seller.

People don’t want to be told a thousand different ways why they need your product or all about its features and benefits — unless, of course, they ask. 

What people want is information that is useful, practical and helpful to them. If you sell products to dentists, then offer practical tips about running a professional practice. If you sell products to small businesses, then share information about how they can leverage new technologies to address pain points in their businesses. 

Social networks, it turns out, are a great source of knowledge about what people like and dislike, what they don’t understand and what they’re interested in. All you have to do is listen to:

  • What people like and dislike;
  • The questions they ask; and
  • What they respond to and share with others.

Once you know what people want, then help them find it.

Great content drives engagement 

Sharing content and opinions about content is what we do when we gather socially in offline settings, over coffee with a friend, at a bar or a dinner party. Did you see that movie? Have you read that book? That restaurant had terrible service.

So it’s no surprise that sharing content drives interactions, conversations and engagement within your online social networks too. 

This is even more prevalent on the Internet because there is so much information. Want to know if you should go to that restaurant? It’s easy to find 150 reviews on Yelp, Urbanspoon and TripAdvisor. But it’s much harder to know which reviews you should actually consider.

Increasingly, we are turning to social networks to help cut through the noise and find answers to our questions. 

Find great content or create your own 

There are basically two ways to find content you can share: Create your own or share something someone else has produced and shared. (Or you do both.)

If you write, you can set up a blog and write an article each week. If you’re more of a talker, you can do a regular video blog or podcast. Or if you’re creative, you can create other forms of content like slide decks and infographics that express your perspective.

The other way to use content to build your personal brand and drive engagement is to find and share other people’s articles, videos and infographics. This approach is often referred to as curation because you are filtering the best content and adding context and meaning for your audience.

When pursuing a content creation strategy, I would suggest focusing on answering the questions that your clients and prospects consistently ask you. This will be helpful both in addressing your clients’ needs and will likely attract other prospects who have the same questions.

There are many benefits to finding and sharing great content, such as:

  • You add value when you filter out the noise and focus attention on the most meaningful content on a particular topic;
  • You establish yourself as a source of knowledge about the topics you curate;
  • Pointing people to information that helps them is a generous act that triggers reciprocal generosity (eg., referrals).
  • Paying attention to who is writing and who is sharing the smartest content brings you into contact with thought leaders who can attract attention to your business.

Sharing is an inherently social act that creates opportunities for meaningful interaction and engagement with people who could be your next client or a referral that leads to your next client.

The key to social selling is to avoid pushing anything and instead pull your audience and prospects to you through personal branding, strategic content sharing and engagement.

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