Branding, Influencing

The secret to social selling isn’t a secret

I know it sounds redundant to say this, but I feel I have to.

Social selling is really just networking.

All of the strategies that work best in traditional, offline networking also work best in contemporary online social selling.

I feel I need to say this because lots of people seem to think they should be marketing, promoting, prospecting and selling in social networks. My approach is different. I think if you approach social networks first and foremost as a NETWORKER, then all the other marketing, promotion, prospecting and selling stuff will work out in your favour.

Social networks are best approached as networking opportunities

There are three things you need to focus on in order to be successful in your networking, whether it’s online or offline:

  • Show up – You need to participate and you need to engage.
  • Show interest – Pay attention to people. Find out what they do and be interested in them. Don’t focus on yourself.
  • Be helpful – Be a super connector, refer business when appropriate and generally be helpful.

Coincidentally (or not), online social networks are perfectly suited to these activities. It’s easy to show up because there’s no travel involved. It’s easy to show interest because people in your network are sharing things every day. And it’s easy to help because of the abundance of opportunities.

So, here’s how I recommend you translate all three of these activities into effective online social networking:

1. Spend time in online networks every day.

You have to show up and participate every day on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter or where ever your social networks hang out online. Of course, you can skip days if you are extremely busy or travelling or out of range with a connection, but most people can and should find a few minutes each day to stay in touch with their networks.

2. Pay attention to others in order to get them to pay attention to you.

This is the simplest and most effective, yet too often overlooked, networking strategy. Consistently show interest in others and they will reciprocate. If you want people to pay attention to your content, then share their content and mention them. Read and ‘like’ what people share and add your own thoughtful comments and you will be noticed. Focus more energy on promoting others online than you do yourself. As counterintuitive as that might sound, what you’ll discover is that promoting others whose views you value is the best way to “promote” yourself in a networking setting.

3. Help people.

This is not complicated. Think of all the ways you can help people. In fact, go ahead and ask people: “How can I help you?” This may be the most powerful question you can ask. Then, try to help by connecting them with others, sharing their content, focusing the attention of your network connections on them. Helping is the new selling.

That’s basically it. The foundation of good social networking is built on these three activities.

Social networking works for anyone, but it’s not for everyone

This strategy is universal in that it can be used by anyone in any business. But it’s not for everyone.

Some people are just not comfortable with this approach. They don’t want to be out there, engaging with people in their network. They don’t want to leverage their personal brand – they don’t even want to think of themselves as a brand. They will often say they’re too busy, but I know many very busy people that make time for social networking because they feel it’s important.

Some people, I’ve discovered, are natural social networkers. They love sharing and engaging with others. They recognize they have a valuable personal brand identity to leverage and that this identity is, in part, eternally validated by their networks. I don’t mean this in a negative way, as if to suggest that social networkers are not independent, self-defined people. I mean it in the sense that a leader is externally validated as a leader by his or her followers. An influencer needs to actually influence people.

Social networks offer us a powerful set of tools for building and strengthening relationships between people. When you show up, pay attention and help people in your network, good things happen.

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