Many moons ago I worked as a cold-calling sales agent in the US. It was great life experience and equipped me well for the challenges of setting out as an entrepreneur. One of the things that really stuck with me is the mantra that people buy from other people they know, like and trust.
This advice is gold-dust when it comes to social media.
As a business or a professional, you are probably active on social media for commercial gain in some shape or form. Maybe you want to attract new client leads for your business, maybe you're looking to drive online sales, maybe you're eager to attract talent to apply for your vacancies... or to grow your own influence in your market. But before you can achieve any of these end goals on social media, you need to have transformed strangers into people who know, like and trust you and your business.
Let's explore that idea a little further, because the implication may well be that what you're currently sharing on social media is completely unsuited to the end goal you're striving to achieve! Could it be that your current social media stream is one great big turn off?!
So firstly, how do we get people to know us or our business? What we're striving for here is to consistently appear in the social media streams of our target prospects, preferably without having had a massive advertising outlay to achieve this.
Two things need to happen here - and there's a common theme when it comes to ensuring that both things happen.
Firstly, we want our social profiles to be compelling for our target audience to want to follow. If we succeed in "signing up" (as followers) 40 out of every 100 people who look at one of our profiles, then we are well placed to build our social media presence really quickly. If, however, we only "sign up" 1 out of every 100 people who look at one of our profiles, it's going to be extremely hard work to build even a small following on social media.
Secondly, we want people who start receiving our updates to choose to reshare or retweet them to their networks or to start regularly commenting on them. This is how explosive growth in your business reach can be achieved - and therefore how you can achieve the first stage goal of having your target demographics know your business.
The common theme with both of these success factors is that your social media updates need to be noteworthy and share-worthy. When people look at your social pages for the first time, are they going to look at your last few updates and think these are insights or entertainment that they'd like to see more of? Or are they going to look at them and think they're too promotional and commercially driven? The answer here impacts both whether people will sign up to get more of your updates - and whether they'll start regularly resharing your posts and commenting on them once they do start regularly seeing them.
Now let's be clear here. Unless your company is selling $10 bills for $5 each, your promotional messages are unlikely to be so compelling that people will be queuing up to follow you and to receive a stream of these from you each day. They're also unlikely to be offers that people instinctively want to reshare with their networks. So do away with the constant promotions in your social media stream (run these as paid promotions instead if you need them in your business).
So we've figured out some key ingredients for ensuring our profiles stand a chance of becoming well known. But how do we also become liked? This part should be simple - although many businesses struggle with it!
As humans, we like people who show an interest in us. We like it when strangers call us by our name. We like being treated with respect. We like it when someone wishes us well or asks how our day is going. We like our contributions being noticed. We don't like being sold to.
Instinctively you know this, right? If you went to a conference today and were networking with people from your industry, you wouldn't launch straight in with a complete stranger and try to sell your product or service would you? No, you'd introduce yourself, show an interest in what they do, enquire how business is going for them, be appreciative of insights they share with you. Any attempt to sell would come further down the line wouldn't it?
So it always amazes me when I see people's first interactions on social media being a sales pitch. You've all been on the receiving end of a LinkedIn message that is a sales pitch from an individual you've only just connected with (or worse still, have never interacted with!). You've no doubt received an automated direct message from someone on twitter, where within minutes of being connected they're asking you to like their facebook page or check out their brochure. This is the social media equivalent of behaving like that dreadful bore of a salesperson at the conference. Make me like you first - and then you've earned the right to pitch me on what you can do for my business!
This really isn't hard to enact on social media, but it requires willpower and a change in mindset to play the long game rather than always going for the quick win.
Thank people for insights they've shared; ask them if they're having a successful month; reshare their updates with your own compliment or insights added; interact with them by first name. Try this for just a few weeks and you'll be absolutely staggered by the transformation in your results.
Becoming trusted can be achieved in a variety of ways. But ultimately they all come down to being helpful, interacting with people individually and de-emphasising selling.
One way you'll become trusted is through social proof. If other people are regularly interacting with you, recommending you, resharing your updates... then that has a positive impact on everyone connected to you. I may already trust your business enough to buy from you, but the chances of that are multiplied considerably if I see someone else I know who's raving about your expertise or sharing with their network something your business has published.
Familiarity also breeds trust. If I've seen your company active in the market for some time, I have more confidence in recommending you and using your services. As a business, you can accelerate this process by regularly interacting with your prospects or by paying to promote some of your updates to be seen in your prospects' streams. Of course the longer you've been investing in your social media presence, the more prospects you'll have who think you're a familiar name. Just one of many good reasons to invest in social media today rather than delaying.
My favourite tip though for becoming trusted is to give selflessly. If people are struggling with a challenge, wade in with the solution. Provide people with free resources rather than immediately pushing to make the sale. Be objective in the advice you give, rather than self-serving. Then when you eventually recommend that your goods or services are what they need, your input has far more credibility. Recommending that people do not buy some of the products or services you offer is one of the surest ways to have them trust the advice you give them - and so increases the likelihood of them actually buying from you when you are finally putting to them the solution that really is best for their own business needs.
Make your social profiles a fountain of insights and helpful resources for your target prospects and you'll build up goodwill that in time becomes trust. Interacting in ways that are helpful rather than self-serving shows that you have their best interests in mind. Get this right and you'll have completed the cycle of becoming known, liked and trusted in your niche market. Good luck and I hope this advice helps you accelerate your results on social media.
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