This is episode 4 – I am Hans Peter Bech, and the title of the post cast is Social Selling Is Like Partying With Robots.
Since I published the whitepaper titled “Social Selling without Situational and Contextual Content is like Partying with Robots” I have received many questions from readers, and in this podcast, I will answer six of these questions including sharing my views on social selling, content marketing and the use of especially LinkedIn for revenue generation purposes.
Here comes the first question: There are many social media and social selling experts who are discussing how social media is a volume game - so they're making it a numbers game. There are social media consultants who are even giving their followers templates to use. Do you agree that social media is a volume game?
This question reminds me of another question that sounds like this: “How many frogs must you kiss to find a prince.”
From a certain perspective, I do agree that social media is a numbers game. When you share a piece of information on social media only a very tiny fraction of your network will see it. I also only see a very tiny fraction of what the people in my network decide to share at any point in time. In this respect, social media is no different from any other media. If you want your message to reach a broader audience, you need many connections and you need to post very frequently.
Also, when we look at social media for sales purposes a certain volume of followers, connections or contacts is required. Not everyone we connect with today will buy tomorrow. We need to make a lot of contacts, build a lot of relationships before any of those will mature into business.
We must remember that any type of content that you share will only be seen by a very small fraction of your connections, will only be fully consumed by an even smaller fraction of your connections and will only be liked, shared and commented by an even smaller fraction of your connections.
So yes, I do agree that social media is a volume game.
And now to question number 2: You mention that sales and marketing leaders need to socially sell with situational and contextual content - what do you mean?
While I agreed that social media is a volume game I now must emphasize that what you communicate is crucial to the impact that your efforts will have.
I distinguish between three types of content that you can share on social media:
The type of content that most people share is what I call propaganda. Propaganda is information about your company and your products that you have created yourselves. Such information is generally of microscopic value to anybody. It’s noisy self-promotion that is irrelevant to 99% of even your target audience. So, stop sharing propaganda.
Contextual content is focused on the jobs, the pains and the gains that your target audience struggles with daily. While such content is relevant to a vast portion of your target audience, it also demonstrates that you have insight. And most people prefer to engage professionally with other people that work with the same challenges as they do.
The third type of content - situational content - is related to an individual situation. It is content addressing a very particular issue that a person or a company may have. Case stories is an example of situational content that is of interest to a broader audience.
My point is that broadcasting propaganda, which is the preferred approach by the clear majority of people in social media is directly contra-productive. It is noisy, with no value and you are pushing your target audience away from you.
You must produce contextual and situational content if you want to engage and build lasting professional relationships on social media.
And now question number 3:. In your ebook, you write that if we don't socially sell with situational and contextual content, we are acting like robots. What do you mean by that?
There are several problems with how most people use social media for business or professional purposes.
The first problem is that they do not have a clear strategy for who they want on their network. They lack a clear definition of what I call the ideal connection or follower profile.
The second problem is that they have no objective with their presence. They don’t know what they want to achieve.
And when you don’t know who to connect with and don’t know what you want to achieve then your communication becomes completely random.
I receive a fair number of messages through social media where people have had the opportunity to check who I am before they reach out, but they don’t. Instead, they send me propaganda that has no value to me at all. It is like being called by a robot that spews out the programmed message no matter who it calls.
I have more than 17.000 connections on LinkedIn, and the vast majority of their posts are professionally irrelevant. Not only to me but to anybody. I am not here to police LinkedIn, but I just don’t understand why people don’t use it to help themselves. It takes time posting and commenting, so why not follow a strategy that can benefit yourself rather that spewing out content that is of value to no one.
Here comes question number 4. Do you have any examples of organizations that are socially selling with situational and contextual content?
Hubspot must be the number 1 company in this discipline. They do a fantastic job and I republish a lot of their content.
Microsoft is also doing a great job. Just take a look at the best business practice content for their channel partners. It’s very impressive. And that’s not only because I have produced some of it.
I also believe that my company TBK Consult does a fairly good job. We are very happy with the amount of business that we create through our social media activities.
Question number 5. How do we get started in creating situational and contextual content for sales and marketing to use on LinkedIn and other social media outlets?
That appears to be a huge challenge for most companies, but the recipe is quite simple.
You need to engage people that can write, produce videos, podcasts, infographics etc. These are your content producers. They will typically belong in your marketing team.
Then you need to put these people together with your most experienced sales and marketing people and you most likely also need to take them to your customers. The content creation people must get insight into the jobs, pains, and gains of the customers in your market. What are their challenges, what are their opportunities, what could they do to make their life easier? This is what they should produce content about.
You publish this content on you own web site and on social media. Your marketing, sales development, and sales people also post this material on their social media channels and send it directly to people to whom it may be relevant. When the content finds an audience, then you follow up on the discussions.
You should also identify and share other sources of intelligence and engage in the discussions on social media on the issues that your target audience is engaged in. Don’t just distribute your own content – join the conversations created by others in your market and industry also.
The next step is to share the successes that you achieve with your social media activates and help your staff understand the plumbing and poetry of using social media. In the beginning, there will be a few early adaptors and then over time the rest will follow. It will take time, but as the repository of content grows and people see the results then I am sure everyone will use the time required to show a professional behavior on social media.
Question number 6: How can marketing enable sales to use situational and contextual content in their social selling efforts?
First marketing must take they lead.
Marketing must help the organization from the top down accept that social media is serious stuff.
No one can hide their heads in the sand and hope for the best. Social media has an impact on your professional life whether you like it or not.
Then marketing must help convey that this is a long-term project with little probability for quick wins. It may be easy to open a Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest account – just to mention a few - but getting business value from having these accounts is a completely different story.
Don’t fall for the “15-minutes a day” snake oil. Getting value out of social media is a serious business that takes time and effort and only provides a return on investment if we keep going steady for a long time.
I strongly recommend marketing to start with professionalizing their employees’ social media profiles and activities. I am not saying that companies should dictate how their employees’ use social media, but I believe that helping your people understand what social media is and how you can use it to your own and the company’s benefit is a leadership obligation.
I don’t teach people how to use social media, but when I introduce somebody to the main guiding principles of social media, then I can see they get an epiphany. So simply sitting down with your staff and take them through the good old marketing principles of target audience – messages – wanted r and the AIDA model, then you can come a long way.
The next step is to build the repository of quality contextual and situational content and start engaging with your target audience.