There’s a lot of focus on having tons of followers on social media, as well as consistent activity but how many of us really spend time leveraging our networks specifically to grow our businesses? I mean, come on: if you’ve got 10,000 social media followers (or even if you have fewer), surely they can help you increase sales!
So, let’s work on this together, shall we? Let’s find ways to use our network to its full extent to boost sales and foster long-term relationships with customers.
Know Who You’re Connected With
The more people you are connected with on social media, the harder it is to know who’s who. Many people may just be following you to boost their own numbers, but many follow you because they like what you’re doing. These are the people you want to build relationships with.
Twitter has a Lists feature, which can be handy for organizing the people you follow into groups. And Google+ has Circles. It’s worth the effort to put each new contact into a particular group so you can, at a glance, see everyone that fits a certain label.
You could also organize your contacts in your customer relationship management (CRM) platform. This will help you better understand who you’re connected with, and you can easily sort your contacts by a given tag, like “attended sales Twitterchat 7/25/16.”
Give to Get
Networking 101 says that you’re not there to get. You’re there to give, to provide value. If you’re a good social networking citizen, you’ll get plenty in return.
So how can you give to get? Start by sharing content and tagging the author. Not only does this provide your network with interesting articles and resources, but it also alerts that author that you’re paying attention. Chances are, she’ll pay attention back, and maybe even share some of your articles.
If you see someone ask a question you can answer, help them out. Become a resource in your industry so people know that you are available to help them. This goes over much better than constantly trying to push your own agenda and sell products.
Know How to Warm Up a Contact
Whether you’re looking to pitch a journalist you want to write about you or nudge a contact into buying from you, it’s essential that you first warm them up. That means that rather than just following them on social media one day and saying “Hey! Buy from me!” you first need to spend time gaining their trust.
Sharing their content, as I mentioned in the last section, is one strategy. You can also respond to their questions or retweet or share what they’re talking about. On their site or blog, comment on their articles.
Find a way to be useful. Maybe you noticed a contact posted on Facebook that she’s moving. If you know a good moving service, send her a message with the referral. Remember: you can often build trust by providing useful assistance outside of the business realm, and people will remember you for it.
Go Beyond Online Networking
Just a few years ago, our focus was on in-person networking, and now the reverse is true. While social networking is fabulous, don’t get so far away from real life networking that you forget how to do it. The same principles apply: be of value and build relationships.
The nice thing about in-person networking is that you can nurture your contacts even faster if you combine it with online networking. So when you meet someone at a mixer, connect with them on LinkedIn, Google+, and any other social site they frequent. You can continue the conversation and learn more about them there. And don’t forget to add them to your CRM!
Consider social networking the grout between the tiles of your in-person networking. It fills the time between when you see someone, and can help them get to know you and your business so that, should they need services or products like what you sell, they’ll be ready with questions at that next networking event.
Respect Professional Boundaries
There’s an invisible line between what is appropriate to do or ask for when networking online and what will turn people off. Unfortunately, that line tends to be positioned differently for everyone.
Pay attention to cues so you don’t cross that boundary. Never ask anything that might make a contact uncomfortable, like for a professional recommendation when they barely know you. If you’re unsure whether something is appropriate, ask yourself: have I put in enough time nurturing this contact to make him feel comfortable with this request? Would I feel comfortable if he asked the same of me?
Ask for the Sale … Sparingly
If you do the work nurturing your network, you absolutely should ask your contacts to support you. Just do so occasionally and don’t be overbearing about it. For example, if you’ve recently published a book, you could share a link to the book, tell why you wrote it, and ask your network to buy it or share it with their contacts.
You can even make a special offer just for your social network, such as an autographed copy of the book.
Any promotional social updates should be limited to about 20% of your overall updates so you don’t bombard your audience with them. And pay attention to metrics: if, for example, you see a sharp drop after your fifth mention of a product or promotion, it’s too many. You’ll need to spend some time finding the right balance of updates, including those promotional ones, with your particular audience.
Your network, online and off, is connected to you because they support what you do. More than likely they’ll be happy to invest in your products or spread the word about them, but only if you prove yourself a worthy social contact by reciprocating support and offering value on your social channels.
It’s easy to get into a rut of just posting content and following people mindlessly; it takes effort, however, to continually keep that goal of growing your business at the forefront of everything you do on social media.
Image: Network Background