I have been using social media to connect and engage with people for a number of years. While I was not one of the first 100,000 members on LinkedIn who received an email from Reid Hoffman, I was one of the first 200,000 and have actively used the platform to find and connect with people for the last nine+ years.
I was just describing to someone the other day how profound an effect Twitter has had on my personal network over the last five+ years I have been using it. I have made so many connections online that eventually carried over to my offline world—not including the relative strangers who have been willing to help with questions and share information.
In the process, I have learned a great deal just from listening and paying attention to those sharing content of interest. As I have actively used social media to make connections and grow revenue, I have learned a number of things that I would like to share. I hope you find them useful as well.
Following are eight of these key things I have learned; some of them are small, but others are larger and perhaps more profound.
1. Just Ask. The Worst They Can Say is No.
A number of years ago I reached out to someone I did not know in the UK and asked if he would be willing to speak with me about the work that he and his organization were doing in a mutual area of interest. He graciously said yes and we ended up speaking by phone for about an hour. While it was never my intention to sell him something or somehow extract revenue from him, that initial conversation led to ongoing collaboration and a social media research project that proved instrumental to my business.
Simply reaching out to someone to have a conversation and establishing rapport with them can lead to surprising outcomes. You just have to be willing to ask.
2. There is Value in Weak Ties.
Mark Gravonetter has written about the strength of weak ties and I continue to be amazed by the willingness of people loosely connected or indirectly connected to me who are willing to help me connect with someone or at least help gather some intelligence about a person, company or industry sector that ultimately helps me succeed.
3. Why Not Go For A Twofer?
LinkedIn enables users to make introductions between members of our network, but it also enables users to make introductions from their first-level connections to second-level ones. For example, you are connected to me, which means we are first level connections, and I ask you to connect me to someone with whom you are connected but I am not. However, my objective goes beyond connecting with them. My goal is to connect with someone in their network, which makes this a two-introduction scenario, or “twofer.” Basically, I want someone to introduce me to someone who can subsequently introduce me to my target and it works. It is not often used, but it is powerful when it is.
4. Make Deposits Today for Withdrawals in the Future.
Regular engagement and sharing of content keeps you on the radar of your network and your prospects. Helping others with information, referrals and introductions is like putting money in the bank. When it is time, you can draw on those accumulated favours and garner help and support for your own efforts. Essentially, I am talking about mixing karma with social selling.
Lead with value and helpfulness and the rest will fall into place.
5. Surprising Access with Twitter.
Sometimes you will find it hard to reach or connect with target prospects on LinkedIn because the network gives them the option to accept or decline your InMails or requests to connect. However, assuming they have an open profile on their Twitter account, I have found it easier to connect and engage with target prospects on Twitter because it is as if they have raised their hand and said,
I am willing to be more open, accessible and sociable here.
The inherent culture and nature of Twitter is more conducive to open engagement, which can only help your social selling efforts.
6. If You Are Not Data Mining, Assume Your Competitors Are.
Increasingly, monitoring and analytics tools are appearing, making it easier to search, monitor and analyze online conversations as well as build richer profiles of prospects. Now you can search Twitter since it began via Topsy and data mine all of the conversations, hashtags, links and more. Solutions like SalesLoft can help you stay abreast of what is happening with your prospects on LinkedIn: their job changes, company news, updates, past jobs, education and other potential conversation triggers.
Furthermore, you can extract profile data and start building profiles of your prospects. Add the content they share, like and comment on, and you have the makings a very rich profile.
7. Be Sure to Check a LinkedIn Prospect’s Other Social Accounts.
On numerous occasions prior to a meeting or phone conversation, I will check a prospect’s LinkedIn profile to see if they have a Twitter account. In addition to what I learn about them from their LinkedIn profile, what they say, share and who they follow on Twitter can provide valuable insights about them and provides context into their likes, dislikes, frustrations and maybe even purchase intent.
The same thing applies for any other social account or platform they use. They can reveal a great deal about an individual. This is free, readily available data.
8. It’s a Daily Routine
Social selling is not something you do once in a while. You need to make it a daily habit.
It might require a bit of heavy lifting in the beginning to get everything organized and set up, but then you should be able to manage everything in just a few minutes each day. With access from your computer, smartphone, or tablet, it is only getting easier. Make it a habit or ritual. Track your progress over time and adjust as necessary.
To some, social selling are buzzwords, but to others they convey the new way of thinking and the new approach to selling. Prospects and customers are stating their interests, intentions, frustrations and levels of satisfaction in public channels. With a new mindset, new tools and applying social selling methods, salespeople can leverage what customers and prospects are sharing to meet or exceed sales targets. Are you ready to get started?
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A recognized senior social strategist, speaker, and blogger. He has held senior strategy roles with wireless, e-business, financial, and social CRM service providers, helping clients remain competitive by embracing social media and digital technologies.