The Right Way to Use Social Media for Business
Social media, to some, is an enormous time waster. These people see it as nothing more than a good way to derail productivity by obsessively refreshing and scrolling. But for others, it's a great way to stay in touch with old friends and maintain relationships that otherwise might have fallen by the wayside.
When it comes to business, there are managers who think that employees cruising Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn are goofing off. In reality, because our lives are so connected, and social media is integrated into our daily routines, there are a host of benefits in using the medium professionally. That is, of course, as long as you're doing it right.
That's the key.
Print+Promo spoke with Jeff Molander, managing partner for Communications Edge Inc., Fairfax, Va.; and Jay Busselle, #promochat founder and director of marketing for Equipment Zone, Franklin Lakes, N.J., about how to maximize your time on social media, and use it to build business success, rather than just to look at funny pictures of cats.
Pick the Right Platform
Social media platforms have their own identity. While some have borrowed (read: stolen) functions from others over time, the ones with staying power and popularity have something that sets them apart from the competition. For this reason, you should view social media platforms as tools; however, you wouldn't use a single tool for every task, would you?
"They're all useful," Molander said. "If I hand you a hammer, everything looks like a nail. As a result, 'social selling' looks a lot like marketing. [Take] LinkedIn, for example. The most important decision one can make is considering, 'How will I effectively achieve sales outcomes (e.g., conversations that lead to closed deals) on LinkedIn?' Answering this question makes choosing the right tools easier and strategies more effective."
Pick the Right People
There are endless opportunities to connect to the masses, but you want to be sure that you're reaching people who can actually benefit you. Someone might like what you have to say, but unless you can turn it into business, it's just yelling into the void. Busselle gave good advice on narrowing your reach.
"I will make a short target list of 10 to 12 key prospects I really want to connect with and use a combination of Twitter and LinkedIn to engage with them," he said. "Within minutes of research, I can see if I still have a list of 10 to 12, or maybe my list is down to five or six. My goal is to increase my name recognition and start to build a relationship. I'm not interested in everybody as a lead."
From there, Busselle uses LinkedIn to see if these prospects are connected to what he calls "key contacts" and looks for opportunities to start organic conversation.
"I also look to see if any of the remaining prospects have written any articles or interesting posts recently," he added. "If they have, I can respond with a comment or ask questions. I also check Twitter to see if they have an account, how active they are, what other types of interest they have, if they attend industry conferences and if I have any connections they follow. I'm still surprised how many key decision-makers have active Twitter accounts that will engage with me. This process allows me to connect in a genuine way. P.S. Do not start with a sales pitch via [direct message] on Twitter."
Molander said his introduction to social media was using it "like a bullhorn" to create awareness for his business.
"But once I started blogging and using LinkedIn to answer my customers' questions, everything changed," he said. "I started generating leads. Once I began provoking curiosity, more and better conversations started happening with potential customers. Once I began focusing less on the tools (like drip email sequences) and more on ways to effectively communicate, at scale, my business began to grow. Is social a must-have for every business? Not always. The must-use strategy is better-than-average copywriting."
Be Better Than Average
Think of things like Facebook posts or tweets as tiny advertisements, because that's pretty much what they are. If you were writing ad copy, you would want something that stands out, conveys your message succinctly and leaves a lasting impression. Use this belief as a guiding force when creating your social media presence.
Incorporating tasteful humor and sculpting an individual identity can set you aside from your competition, and make your social media pages ones that prospective customers want to read, rather than just see on their timeline (and forget about).
"Anyone can learn how to use LinkedIn," Molander said. "The game-changer is communications technique—a means to provoke conversations across social, cold calling, etc."
Advertisements have found a home on social media pages, so readers have to sift through a lot. That means that you have to get their attention right away, and give them a reason to keep looking.
"Are your customers tuned in or tuning out to LinkedIn?" Molander said. "Many are tuning out due to the onslaught of 'social sellers' who end up being nothing more than pushers of marketing messages. This forces you to avoid promoting your business and personal brand. Instead, position [yourself] as a problem-solver."
That's a common theme in the promotional space: Be a problem-solver, not just a seller.
"Think of it this way: In print services, nearly everyone is pushing, pushing, pushing the same message 'better, faster, cheaper,'" Molander added. "In this market space, it's critical to stand out by not going anywhere near those subjects [and] claims. Ninety percent of success is being different—not using messaging that blends in. Frankly, much of what works includes two- to three-word subject lines and one- to two-sentence messages. Less is more. And [use] messaging that does not mention anything about you, nor a meeting request."
If you're not comfortable being the primary voice on social media, it's worthwhile to consider hiring someone whose sole job is to create social media posts. Many businesses have dedicated social media managers, and for good reason.
"Behind the scenes, sales and marketing teams seeing the most results from social, or any new advance in technology, are investing time in better copy," Molander said. "Superior communication skills. Thriving organizations are quietly winning more business. I say 'quietly' because there is so much effort by tech/tool providers and hype around the tool we cannot hear much else. Most of us would never suspect success is as easy as better communications skills, but it's the key. Our customers are living proof."
Think of yourself in a crowded room. Let's say it's at a trade show, where you're surrounded by prospects. Everyone is talking amongst themselves and it's loud. How do you get someone's attention and leave an impression in this situation? This is basically what it's like to advertise yourself and your business on social media.
"You're forced to ask yourself: Am I sparking conversations with buyers, or being ignored? Molander asked. "If you're being ignored, there's a reason. Nine times out of 10, it's because you're not selling, you're marketing. Pushing. Effective selling using digital requires pulling. Attracting. Because customers value more what they ask you for less what you offer (i.e., push at) them. Starting [business-to-business] conversations demands a technique to help your prospects feel an urge to ask, especially in a commoditized market like print."