The correlation between sales and social media has grown over the past decade, with many small-to-medium sized businesses taking to several online platforms to boost their income. The social networking world has boomed in recent times, presenting more opportunity than ever before to spread your message in a clear, concise and often costless manner.
But there are plenty of pitfalls on social media and a number of tools that marketers fail to implement when they're looking to boost sales in the online arena. It's not a perfect science, but social media can be a great way to improve business performance if it is utilised correctly.
That's why we've drawn up our top ten ways to use social media to improve your company's sales performance, with a number of basic points that many online users fail to obey – and to their peril.
1. Sell yourself before you sell your product
If you're working face-to-face within sales, you know that your demeanour and your attitude can often be the makeweight between you closing a deal or having to hope for better luck with the next client.
That's no different online. You need to make sure that you're selling yourself as a person before you even think about trying to sell your product or service. When you're dealing with people, clients will always want to interact with a more personable character rather than a brick wall that is purely money-driven.
Create an interesting bio, enter your full educational and working history and add a nice picture of yourself showing off your biggest and best smile. It's like an online CV, so make sure that people take to you and feel that they can get to know the person that they're buying from. Of course, this isn't always as easy on a business account – users always respond better to a face than a corporate logo.
2. Give the reader something to see
Many users online will respond to engaging content, and what better way to engage with your potential customers than to give them something interesting to read that is based around what you're selling.
For example, if you're selling books, why not find an interesting infographic on the number of people still reading books in the digital age? Or, how many of these books are now available online if you're a company that is exporting books onto tablet devices or audiobooks?
Give the reader something to see that they may not have seen before, and watch them share it with their followers and spread your message for you.
3. Be conversational
A large number of companies will go online, join as many social networking sites as possible, put up their bio and their information regarding their product and then make the biggest mistake. They fail to engage with their potential clients. This is a big issue if you're looking to boost your sales, because it gives off the wrong message to the greater public.
Taking an interest in others is an excellent way to engage and work yourself into a situation where not only will people want to seal a deal with you but, because it's online, others can see the time and effort that you have put in to making your followers feel warm towards your business.
Being a corporate entity is great in a professional environment but online media is a completely different matter. You have to be conversational, relaxed and helpful and with that, your sales will rise as a consequence.
4. Create lists
A great – and often forgotten - tool online is the ability to make lists of people you follow, which you can make public or private depending on the contents of your list. This is an excellent way to keep a track on who you're following and a great way to engage.
For example, a good public list could be called ‘excellent sales agents' or ‘sales thought leaders'. Adding people to that list will give the impression that you rate their skills and deem them an exceptional follow. However, you may also have private lists containing users who are prospects (potential clients), previous clients or even your competitors.
This is a good way to keep tabs on how your competitors are using social media and whether they're using it in a way that you hadn't thought of. It could also highlight any gaps where you could be innovative online.
5. Build relationships
The online platform isn't just an arena where you can pick up extra sales leads, but it's a place to build an excellent, long-term relationship with clients. Social media is a long game and if you are looking for quick successes, you're missing one of the biggest bonuses to networking and engaging on social platforms.
These aren't just one-time sales. Depending on the product or service that you're marketing, you could be looking at regular, repeat sales if you're willing to put in a real effort with your networking. It might start off with building relationships with local businesses but over time, you'll pick up plenty of customers who will note that you're looking for more than making a quick buck.
Users will soon get used to your style, your humour and the content that you're putting up and vice versa. It won't be long until you make great friends on each platform and with that, you're extending the reach of your business' target market, and you might find yourselves with increased sales as a result.
6. Solve problems
Have you found a user who has posed a question that you have an answer to? Well, give them the information which they crave. Being a helpful resource online can often give the impression that you know your stuff, so when it comes to closing the deal, you've earned the trust of not just that user, but others who may also be asking similar questions.
Social media is more than just a tool to get to know others - you'll find that it's an excellent resource, especially for smaller or medium-sized businesses, to learn tips from more established companies. Make sure you're the first to answer the question and you'll see your following grow.
You never know, you could find yourself asking a question of your own and have another user answer it, and from there, you've also shown that you're not a know-it-all company, and you're willing to learn from others too. That's a good trait to portray.
7. Host a Q&A session
A great way to show that you're willing to interact with your following is to host a question and answer session. It will attract users who want to know more about your company, about the industry and, most importantly for your business, the product or service that you're looking to promote.
Be helpful, be resourceful and be personable. Try to get a few of your colleagues involved if you can so there's more of a dynamic to the session. Many companies start off Q&A sessions by getting an industry expert on board to add some gravitas to the discussion and direct more users to their profile.
Over time, your following will grow and the contributions towards the session will be more prominent with boosting your sales leads. You may find some potential clients in the pond who need more clarification of your business and your product before they purchase. You've just closed the net and won yourself a few more sales.
8. Relax - this is social, not a job interview
If you think of social media as a playground to state: "This is what my business can do. Here's my website and here's how you can buy my product", then you're on to a losing start. You're not auditioning for the next series of The Apprentice, so it's time to get out of the sales mindset and realise that the social arena doesn't respond to sales pitches.
It's a relaxed form of sales where people don't want to feel flooded by your sales attempts and would rather look at your content as a way of gauging on whether you're what they're after or not. Ramming your company down their throats will close any sales opportunities and could actually lose you followers.
That's not to say that you can't promote the business – far from it. But use your initiative and promote when it's relevant and when it's necessary. If you've got a special offer on, sure, go ahead – but don't overdo it. Would you respond to such a tactic if you were a potential client?
9. Create a community spirit
Some of the most successful online accounts centre around the theme that there's a real community to be involved within while using online networking, and with that, you get nests of users who clump together and share great content together, while engaging.
Do your best to join or set up your own community and get people talking with, not just you, but each other. Providing users with other resources won't detract from the quality of your sales and, in fact, it will show that you're willing to spread a good message. You're not stuck listening to your own beat but you're happy to hum along to others too.
From here, users will see that you're willing to listen as much as you are speaking and you'll gain a few friends, and ultimately, a few sales along the way. You'll become a respected pillar of your community and your business will benefit.
10. Have fun with it
It's the most important things and it's one that many hardened businesspeople falter with. You've got to have fun with it. Social media was originally set up as a way to communicate with our friends, so treat other users (whether that's a customer or fellow company) as a friend rather than a target for your sales department.
There's plenty to be done with online media. Videos, pictures, discussions - the list is endless. Embrace it and enjoy it, or you'll be left in the wake at the thousands of people who are using it a lot more effectively.
All of these skills are an excellent way to boost your sales - but make no mistake, the power of social media is limitless. If you're open to change and you're willing to invest the time in your online followers, your sales will benefit and your company's reputation will grow.
Do you agree? Are there better ways to use social media for your sales leads or do you think that we've hit the nail on the head? As always, let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Get a solid foundation in Project software to create solid, resilient project plans.
You don't need prior experience with Project: just be able to use a PC with Microsoft Windows.
Microsoft Project Advanced
The Advanced course takes you to a level that will put you in complete control of your projects.
You should, of course, be fully conversant with the skills and concepts taught in the Introduction course.
Become a Visio master with our two intensive but very easy-to-follow CPD certified Microsoft Visio courses.