Social Selling continues to gain popularity as a term and an action within the social media marketing space. Social selling has many definitions, but I like the one by @JulioVisko in a Social Media Today article from 2012 that says “staying connected with your prospects and build a relationship with them that goes beyond a vendor toward a trusted advisor.” The key word here is relationship, not selling, something often misunderstand by online marketers and brands alike.
Correct me if I am wrong, but we are all experiencing an increase in what I consider to be the opposite of social selling, under the guise of the often misunderstood phrase. Many newer social media applications are gaining popularity that purport to “find prospects that need your product/service and automate or suggest responses” that supposedly increase “engagement” and sales. Sounds really good, doesn’t it? Not so fast.
All, if not most of these applications are developed by gear-heads that have incredible programming skills, but little to no social media marketing experience or understanding. What results is the numerous @ mentions we are all experiencing when we tweet a specific word or phrase from brands, marketers and twitter accounts we have had ZERO engagement with. It’s simply a search for and respond with function that fills the social graph with noise, frustration and inappropriate sales messaging that has nothing to do with social.
Recently I had a Skype call with the CEO of one such technology company. The demo and call didn’t go very well as you can imagine, and actually degraded into an argument over what social media marketing actually is. This brilliant programmer’s company has tons of logo’s of major brand customers and news sites “validating” how awesome his technology is, which magnifies the problem even further. The individual argued that it is perfectly fine for brands and marketers to use technology to find “prospects” and @ mention them with a specific offer of their products, even if they have never followed, engaged or connected with the twitter account previously.
Well, I vehemently and respectfully disagree. Where I come from, we call that spam. You know, the unwanted and unrequested direct contact by a person or brand you don’t know, soliciting a product or service you did not want information about. Easily recognized in our email inbox, yet regrettably it is overlooked as acceptable by the inexperienced in social media.
What is social selling and how do you do it properly?
In a word, social selling is relationships. It is derived from connections and conversations within social networks with prospects for your products and services that start and end around building a long-term relationship. It is providing selfless value to your prospect community and earning the opportunity to “pitch” what you do.
Can you target prospects in social selling?
Absolutely you can and SHOULD! Use tools, searches and hashtags to find your target audience or prospects that need what you do, then connect and communicate with them about anything other than what you do. Show interest in them and what they do and most importantly ensure that the content you are sharing is interesting and relevant to THEM, not exclusively pitching what you do.
Social selling and spam are at opposite ends of the spectrum of effective social media marketing.
One is targeted, sustainable and long-term, one is not.