Your next best networking and prospecting event is very likely right at your fingertips – social media networking.
Yeah, we hear a lot about social selling, but for most sales professionals it is really about social media networking, which is a great way to do prospecting.
Networking using social media could be more powerful than any approach you’ve taken so far.
Consider this: More than 90% of executives admit they won’t even respond to cold calls, according to research from HubSpot. On the flip side, 75% of them use social media to help make buying decisions.
You want to be where trigger-ready prospects are. That’s social media.
“Mastering social selling simply means adding another tool to your sales and marketing toolkit,” says Shannon Belew, author of The Art of Social Selling. “Both the value of information you provide to the prospect and the quality of the relationship you build are critical to getting and keeping customers (online).”
You’re likely already using social media – from Facebook and Snapchat to keep up with friends, family, and clients to LinkedIn and Instagram to build and maintain a professional image. You can optimize all of them to network better and increase sales.
Here are 12 key factors:
1) Find your audience
Social media networking is a lot like traditional networking. You aren’t going to find quality prospects by showing up anywhere and everywhere.
Before you focus on one or two social platforms, determine where your target audience is active.
Search for relevant conversations – about your products, industry or customers’ common interest – in social media. LinkedIn tends to have a stronger pull for B2B industries. However, that doesn’t mean leaders at corporations aren’t on Twitter and Instagram.
Good content attracts people, and if you follow industry experts, you will likely find that likeminded people who will respond to your social networking follow, too.
2) Listen more than you share (at least at first)
When you identify the bigger social sites for your audience, listen and use what you hear – recurring concerns, needs, and questions – as leverage for real conversations.
Listen for a while, then ease into networking by commenting on blogs and websites, and joining live chats. Get involved in relevant conversations where you can offer helpful answers and advice, not product or service solutions.
3) Create a fitting persona
Yes, you want to be yourself when you build a social media networking presence. Most importantly, you want to be your best self.
Build accounts on platforms your customers and prospects use. Join communities where you have something valuable to contribute (that’s not a pitch). Get to know the norms and expectations for the communities before you share. To find the right groups in LinkedIn, search for topics that are your expertise, not just your industry.
To build a trustworthy persona, share information from reputable sources before you spout off your advice. Answer direct questions, and ask for permission to give unsolicited advice in your communities to build deeper credibility.
4) Follow the right users
The adage You’re only as good as the company you keep is true for social media, too. Use a tool such as Followerwonk or Tweeple to search Twitter profiles or keywords to get a list of top rated users in your or your customers’ industry. Hashtagify can do similar things for Instagram.
5) Follow the right people and companies
Dream big. Pull together a list of everything from the mom-and-pops to mega-brands that you’d like as clients and find them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (those three are still the most used in business).
Then stay up to date on what they’re doing. At the very least, you can say congrats when they announce good things. Like, retweet and otherwise engage with them as much as possible to create your presence. Even better: Offer demos when they mention a need you can fulfill.
6) Yes, follow your competition
Another important adage for social media networking: Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Follow your competition to see what they’re up to and the kind of content that gets people engaged. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel: You can borrow their good ideas that will help you network in social media.
7) Know when prospects join you
In LinkedIn, you can learn when an ideal prospect joins your network. The Saved Search feature lets you enter criteria for your ideal customers such as job title, industry or experience. It’ll immediately show you the matches based on whom you’re linked to. You can remove them if you’d like – or find new ways to connect – and start collecting newer connections.
8) Become a leader
After you’ve become engaged in online communities, groups, and chats, and before you pitch a product or service, create your own groups related to your products and services. It’s like qualifying leads: Prospects who are already showing interest.
In your group, give them valuable information – links to studies, white papers, tip sheets, even funny, appropriate content – and then create targeted messages for active members.
9) Build stories
You can improve your social media networking presence and engagement with stories that intrigue followers and add value to their online time. Introduce them to a success, initiative or solution that involves real people and situations.
For instance, GE built its Balance the Equation campaign around a real person: Millie Dresselhaus, National Medal of Science Engineering winner. The campaign was about getting more women in STEM jobs, but its emphasis on a real successful female scientist won it a much bigger audience.
10) Use visuals to help draw attention
Don’t overlook the power of visuals in everything you post and share. There’s a lot of competition in their feeds for attention. Eye-catching visuals – perhaps original art, personal videos and targeted memes – can help you get their attention and increase engagement before they scroll to the next item.
11) Make them move into your world
Social media networking is a powerful tool for building your business network, brand awareness and helping customers. It’s not the best tool for making an actual sale.
So as much time as you spend on social media, the ultimate goal should be to get people off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like and onto your website.
The best way: Write a great blog post and share it on all the social media channels where you’ve built goodwill. Create a headline, image and first sentence that will compel readers to click through and get the whole story.
12) Measure your efforts
It used to be difficult to measure the success of social media networking efforts. Not anymore. Most platforms offer tracking tools. Couple those with external tools such as Google Analytics to gain insight on what prospects really do with the information you put out there – and what most likely leads to sales.