Using Social Networking to Boost Sales & Marketing

There’s a lot of upheaval going on in the social media realm. Google Reader is about to be retired (anyone got any recommendations on good “listening” tools?). Google is giving a little search ranking boost to those who use Google+ — maybe that will make G+ a relevant social network. LinkedIn has dropped LinkedIn answers because sites like Quora are doing a great job handling Q&A. In fact, Quora has quietly grown to 1.5 million visitors per month.

It’s hard to keep track of which end is up. So each year, my good friend Michael Holbrook, Senior Business Advisor at the MSBDC Network Center at Clark University, invites me in to give a talk to business owners about digital marketing. This year, the focus was “Using Social Networking to Boost Sales & Marketing.” You can find the full presentation on SlideShare. Here’s a quick recap.

In many ways, social media marketing is like public relations. It’s all about reaching out to prospects and influencers to build your brand recognition and generate leads (and, hopefully, sales). Social networks give us the added value of more interaction with the people we’re reaching. But, like PR, social media marketing requires a fundamental focus on building trust and credibility. To make that happen, we need to consistently and persistently deliver relevant, meaningful, and interesting stories.

For those who haven’t heard me say it already, today’s marketing is all about STORIES and KEYWORDS. But back to today’s story… ๐Ÿ™‚

When people ask me about social media, they almost always start with “Which networks should I use?” and “When do I post?” WRONG WAY TO START!
To succeed in social media marketing, you must first and foremost know your target market. Then ask, who are you trying to reach, what do you want to accomplish, and what do you have to say.

Define your target market and create a Content Marketing Plan. Latest data from eMarketer shows that articles, videos, and white papers provide the best ROI.

The Content Marketing Plan is based on one of the little secrets to successful marketing — Write Once, Use Many. For instance, if I create an article on social media marketing, I can first try to place it in a publication, like my local business newspaper or an industry journal. Once it’s run there, I can turn it into a blog post, then link to it from short blurbs on my LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. That’s a Write Once, Use Five. I like those numbers. But don’t overdo it or it will get repetitious and undermine your cred.

Now that we have the base in place, let’s look at my list of the 10 Steps to Social Media Marketing Success:

1. LISTEN. Start with one social network that is likely to have target customers and/or relevant influencers. Gather data. Look at how people talk on that network. What’s posted? What’s not posted? Most social networks frown on crass commercialism, so tread lightly.

Here’s a look at some of the recent posts for the Twitter hashtag/keyword #pauto (short for process automation).

2. AVOID THE HARD SELL. Be very careful with outright pitches. That can turn a lot of people off. Follow the 80:20 rule — 80% talking about the industry and technology and tutorials and news, 20% talking about your company and its products and services. For your 20%, think about what you can promote without being “spammy.” That’s a technical term. Lol.

One of the best examples is my favorite viral video, Corning’s “A Day Made of Glass.” It was created for their key investors, but ended up going viral because it tells an incredibly good story about how technology is about to change our lives…again. Along the way, Corning subtly talks about the different products they make.

3. HELP OTHERS. This goes back to building trust and credibility. Your prospects are out in the digital ether looking for help to fill a need or solve a problem. Your job is to educate them while being authentic and credible. Here are some interesting infographics from Dell’s pinterest page.

4. HUMANIZE YOUR BRAND. Tell stories. Converse, don’t spout corporate speak. Let your company culture show. Then, empower your employees to spread the word.

5. MAKE YOUR BRAND MEMORABLE. It’s all about being relevant, creative, and engaging. Yeah, I know, easier said than done. Here’s a great example: Gucci’s Cut and Craft contest that had Facebook users create their own custom purse out of paper.

6. BE MORE VISUAL. Social media is words and pictures. People’s patience continues to diminish each year. Visuals are a great way to get to the point quickly. Here’s a great infographic on just how visual social media has become.

7. DON’T ENCOURAGE SPAMMY BEHAVIOR. That means be careful with contests and sweepstakes. Encouraging people to post thousands of pictures of your products on their pinterest page is just going to turn off visitors to that profile.

8. FIND YOUR SWEET SPOT. Start with one social network and experiment. Get it right, then expand to another network. If things didn’t go well, pivot and spend your time on a different network (or your enewsletter or your blog…etc.) HubSpot, which regularly recommends your company start with a blog, discovered they can’t be everything to everyone. They launched a manufacturing blog some years ago. But they didn’t get the engagement they wanted because they didn’t know that manufacturing isn’t a single niche market…it’s a series of niche markets that adds up to a whole heck of a lot of topics to cover. No one blog can be broadly of interest to manufacturers.

9. BE CONSISTENT & PERSISTENT. Create a presence for your brand. This takes time. Nuff said.

10. BE QUICK & POSITIVE. Respond to customer comments quickly. And don’t let negative situations spin out of control. Learn from Nestle and their disastrous performance when Greenpeace made a video about their use of a non eco-friendly supplier. Nestle censored the video. Bad, bad choice. Censorship and social media don’t operate in the same universe. Instead, deal with the situation and fix it, like Domino’s did when two idiot employees created a video of themselves violating health codes. They were quickly fired and Domino’s apologized.

One last tidbit. Many small businesses ask me if they need a web site and a blog. I tell them, put their money where it will get the biggest bang for the buck — DO A BLOG FIRST. If you have a complex product line and need hundreds more pages, you can add a web site later on. But get your content marketing plan in place first. A blog is the best repository for that information. You’ll get better search results from it and you can reuse the content in multiple places…like the company enewsletter and social networks.


  1. Alex Dunn says:

    Great Post. The point (4) of “humanizing your brand” is probably my favorite. Telling stories is the ultimate way to connect and engage with your site visitors and customers. Using real people in those stories is essential. I believe that people connect with people, not words.

    It kills me to see the wash of text driven animated videos on company websites. Consumers and even other business love to see the inner workings of a company, the products being made, and the real people that work there.

    Anyway, great information dense article, with really solid points. Keep these in mind and prosper in the junk filled space that is the social network galaxy.

  2. sharilee says:

    Text driven animated videos? Isn’t that just an auto-advancing PowerPoint presentation? ๐Ÿ™‚

    You’re right, Alex. It’s all about engaging stories. And one of the best is to open your doors and show people the cool stuff that goes on inside your business. Use real people (everyone can spot the actors) doing real stuff.

  3. Joel Don (@joeldon) says:

    Simple, direct and on the mark. Thanks for reminding us that people want to hear stories, keywords are the currency of the day and strong visuals rule. The demise of Google Reader, despite the outcry and the petition (that more than likely will fail), is actually the best news ever. It’s the wake up call that sobers the marketplace to the fact that no entity can succeed at creating a single, totally integrated social/digital platform. Long live competition. Google Reader alternatives? Leo Widrich of (commercial) BufferApp just posted a list, and it includes options for Mac users. I’m guessing Leo is a Mac user, eh Shari!

  4. sharilee says:

    Awesome, Joel. I need an iOS reader. Thanks for the list.

    I take it you used Google Reader a lot. You’ve been on a tear these last few days. I have an account but only look at it every few months. You’re gonna give me grief for this, but most of my “listening” is via search…ok, rant away!

  5. Joel Don says:

    I don’t try or use every tool on the planet. Google Reader was very effective, clean and organizationally efficient. That’s why 100K+ people are signing the petition (I don’t plan to sign). Plus GR had search built-in. I used GR once to research blog posts going back 5+ years looking for patterns and trends. Regular search would have been impossible. The only other solution might have been a 5- or 6-figure service such as SalesForce/Radian6, but I don’t get enough weekly allowance for that. As I have stated elsewhere, I am mostly surprised by this turn of events. I thought the market was headed toward umbrella solutions to cloud computing. I am perfectly happy to go back to the prior “era” — before Google said Gmail would be the key to all doors: a la carte apps and utilities.

  6. Jim Cahill says:

    I echo the comments on a great post. I’ve been weaning myself off of Google Reader by using Feedly. Reading-wise, it uses a more pleasant font and spacing, but it’s less efficient at powering through a number of posts that’s in the queue. iOS mobile versions good too. They’ll automatically transfer your RSS feeds over once Google Reader is no more.

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