Met with a client today who understood the basics of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. and I wanted to provide them some feedback on beginning to utilize social media effectively. The client was a sales professional and wanted to begin taking advantage of the medium but wasn't quite sure how he was going to balance his job requirements while ramping up a social media strategy.
That's a common problem. Social networking online isn't unlike networking offline. You meet people, identify connectors, and find and build relationships with influencers and prospects. You can't simply step into the first Rainmakers event and do this (Rainmakers is a regional networking group that has explosive growth). It takes time, requires some digging, and ultimately momentum to begin profiting from your network. This is as true online as it is offline.
5 Steps to Successfully Utilize Social Networking to Drive Sales
- Get online: Build your LinkedIn profile, open a Twitter account, and if you want to speed up the process (and invest more time), begin writing a blog on your industry. If you don't have a blog, then find other blogs you can contribute to.
- Identify Connectors: One quick way to find the connectors in your group is to join an online network such as LinkedIn. On Twitter, you can do this by researching hashtags and finding the people behind those industry tweets. Advanced tools such as Radian6 can also help here!
For Blogs, the latest changes to Technorati can really help you narrow down your targets. Doing a blog search for a term like CRM can provide you with a list of blogs, in order of popularity! Add these feeds to your favorite feed reader!
- Build Relationships: Once you identify connectors, begin adding value to their content by adding relevant contributions to via comments and tweets. Don't self-promote… these aren't the folks buying your products, they're the ones who will talk about your products and services.
- Attract a Following: By contributing to the conversation and building authority in your industry – connectors will talk about you and influencers will begin following you. The key here is to give, give, give… you can't give enough. If you're worried about people simply stealing your information and using it without paying you… don't! Those folks were never going to pay you, anyways. The ones who would pay are the ones who still will.
- Provide a Path to Engagement: This is where a blog really comes in handy! Now that you've got folks' attention, you need to bring them back somewhere to do business with you. For a blog, it can be a call-to-action in your sidebar or a contact form. Provide some registration pages for downloads or webinars. If nothing else, offer your LinkedIn profile to connect with them. Whatever you decide, just be sure it's very easy to find… the easier it is to connect with you, the more people will.
Social networking for producing sales isn't difficult but it may take a long time. Just as putting sales goals down for the number of calls you're making, number of meetings you're attending and number of closes you're making… begin putting down some goals on the number of industry folks you're finding, the number you're following, connecting with, and contributing to. Once you get your game on, volunteer for a guest post or have those connectors or influencers guest post on your blog. Trading audiences is a great way to expand your network.
As you continue to work your network and build relationships with connectors and influencers, you'll gain their respect and open yourself to opportunities you never knew existed. I'm consulting daily now, speaking regularly, writing a book and have a growing business – all built from an effective social networking strategy. It took years to get here – but it was well worth it! Hang in there!