One of my predictions for 2012 is that more people will come to understand that you can indeed do business using social networks and, frankly, I’m already seeing it.
There are a couple reasons for this.
First off, people are getting more comfortable with social media and social behavior and the “social media is a pure engagement temple mentality” of some early adopters has faded.
More importantly, however, is that smart marketers are testing, tweaking and trying lots of things and figuring out how to build know, like and trust – the path to selling anything, anywhere – on social networks.
In my own experimenting I can tell you that generating and converting leads using social media takes a more patient approach, but once you find the right path, it’s actually a better way to sell in any environment.
The reason I see many people’s social media marketing efforts fail is that they are still simply broadcasting sales messages. This approach still works to some degree in an advertising setting because people often stumble upon your ads with a buying intent. It still works to some degree in email marketing efforts because people have asked to get your messages and you can easily earn the right to sell in that relationship.
However, most people don’t participate in social networks to shop so any sales message can feel sort of harsh and in the snack sized, feverish world of tweets, shares and likes any and all messages are very easy to ignore.
If you want to sell using social media, here’s one path:
Test your message
Using 140 characters or less to basically write an ad that makes people want to retweet and click isn’t something most people can muster in real time – and yet, that’s what most try to do.
I’ve had tremendous success using Google AdWords to test very compact messages. Once I find a message that draws clicks there, I know I’ve got a winner that will get action in the form of a tweet or share.
This somewhat scientific approach is one of the most overlooked aspects of marketing in social media and it’s the primary reason people that contend you can’t sell there say so.
Target your message
Here’s another proven technique that seems lost on many marketers. Just because there are 800 million people on Facebook doesn’t mean you need to appeal to all of them.
The quickest way to get the right kind of attention is to announce “hey you 437 people that need to get better at X” I’m talking to you.
If you want to learn more about the impact of using data to form your social media messages look no further than the work Dan Zarrella is doing.
Prove your worth
It’s nearly impossible to get someone ready to buy simply by crafting a mouth-watering tweet. There’s just not enough information to develop trust.
You must make your initial relationship building all about valuable content. Give something away that you know your targeted prospect wants and needs. Move the free line to the point where your free stuff is better than most other people’s paid stuff and watch how enamored people get.
Here again, there’s nothing new about this. For years, smart marketers made tiny little inexpensive classified ads in the back of magazines like Popular Mechanics pay off nicely using this exact approach.
Now, here’s a step that just might be unique to social media and online marketing in general and it’s a very powerful one.
In the process of giving away all that great information ask your prospects to tell you things, share things, rate things and help you make the world a better place for all who inhabit it.
Seriously, create feedback forms and make that part of the deal for why you are giving away such great stuff. Socialize your content and make it easy to email, tweet and like. Send a series of emails during your content sharing phase that reinforces the important takeaways from the content and offers more engagement like email support or live Q and A sessions.
Ask for the order
Once you’ve done all this work and logically and authentically led a prospect to the place where they do indeed have some level of trust, it’s time to tell them where this journey is ultimately headed.
Paint the picture you know exists in their “current reality”, remind them of the incredible glimpse you’ve shared and then illustrate what the picture could look like.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming they will connect the dots – show them how to get the value you know you have to offer and be extremely clear about it. One of the benefits of this approach is that, if you do it right and they still don’t buy, you’ll earn the right to ask why and they’ll gladly help you understand how to get it right.
There’s nothing that magical about this approach really. Marketers have been using some form of these elements for years, but it’s the total package, including patience and hard work, that makes it pay off in the world of social media.