Using social media marketing without selling

Practical actions to reach your audience and generate leads from social media

Have you heard of “social media fatigue”? It refers to a growing backlash against social media. As Facebook and Twitter users get inundated with incessant sales messages, increasing numbers are either un-following and un-fanning business pages, or worse, they are quitting social media altogether.

But don’t let this scare you off from running your social media activities. What works in your favour is the fact that many businesses don’t understand how social media works. Follow the following simple rules, and you’ll stand out from all the spam and sales messages:

  1. Remember what social media was originally intended for. Its purpose was to create online communities where people with common interests could share ideas, information and chat to each other. It was never meant to be an advertising billboard. People simply don’t like being sold to.
  2. With this in mind, target the right online communities and join in their conversation. So for example, if you’re a personal injury lawyer, talk to the support groups for people with injuries. Ask sufferers about their situation, provide some tips, and offer to answer their questions.
  3. Your audience need to know, like and trust you. When you engage with an online community, they initially know nothing about you. It takes time for people to become familiar with you. This not only means talking to your audience, but informing and educating them about your expert subject so that they have confidence in you. This doesn’t happen overnight.
  4. Take the conversation offline. If you’re regularly engaging with your followers, the conversation should get to a point where you can suggest emailing or calling each other. E.g. Someone asks detailed questions about your products. Treat social media is a means to end, not an end in itself.

So how can you apply this in practice?

Let’s say for example, you run a Twitter page promoting ski equipment. You first need to make sure you’re talking to the right audience. This means following the travel businesses that serve your customers. E.g. hotels, travel agents, travel insurance companies, ski slopes etc…Some of them will follow you back.

You then need to monitor discussions that these people are having with their audience. For example, your audience may be discussing which are the best ski slopes to visit. So the way to attract the audience’s attention is to:

(a) inform your followers of the latest weather forecasts for the slopes.

(b) educate them on best equipment (which [i] demonstrates your credibility and [ii] enables you to refer to your products without doing a sales pitch).

(c) invite them to discuss their skiing experiences so you can answer any questions they have.  This means giving free advice, but it’s a vital step towards enabling potential customers to test the water, and see if you know what you’re talking about. If they like what you have to say, they will start mentioning you to their friends, or better still, they will forward your message to them (otherwise known as re-tweeting).

Although social media is a relatively new technology, you need to remember that the dynamics behind it have always existed. We’re not trying to re-invent the wheel here. There have always been communities with common interests. And there have always been opportunities to influence those communities. E.g. Think about the local church, or friends who meet regularly at the pub. The only difference is that social media is online rather than offline.

Rather than thinking of social media in technical terms, try to imagine it as an online networking meeting. Networking meetings are events where entrepreneurs can regularly meet each other and share information about their business. With each meeting, you will have continuing discussions with other members and gradually get to know more about the benefits they deliver.

Most networking groups offer each of their members a 1 minute speaking slot to promote their business. This is not a sales pitch but an opportunity to educate other members on a topic that they’re an expert on. E.g. An accountant can talk about how to save tax. An employment solicitor may talk about how to avoid employment tribunals. Members have an opportunity to swap business cards and meet separately after the main meeting, After a few months, members will be sufficiently knowledgeable and confident to introduce each other to new clients.

Like networking, social media is a slow burn. It’s not a relationship that can be built up overnight, but if you’re prepared to invest the time and patience to listen to your audience and then offer solutions to their problems, the rewards can be immense.

Your competitors may well be on Twitter and Facebook already, but if you can use social media the way it’s supposed to be used, you’ll already have a huge competitive advantage over them, particularly if they believe the backlash myth.

Image credit: Inundation

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All comments

  1. Yes, I do agree – Social Media should be used to drive
    traffic to a dedicated sales page or website – As there are already so many
    paid advertisements on social media networks that people need something unique and
    appealing to get them interested in the post and having them recommend or share
    it socially online. And engage with
    people – that is after all what social media is all about, being social and engaging
    with relevant people on relevant niches, topics and products and services alike.

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