Stop Wasting Your Time On Social Selling!


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Recently, someone wrote me saying:   “I have absolutely no idea how you have time to spend so long on Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn, plus write articles for every site imaginable – and respond to all the comments…”  This individual thought I was possibly wasting my time.

I think it’s a fair question, many people wonder whether they should be investing in social channels, how much time to invest, whether there is a payoff.  Social selling, social business, and the technologies underlying them are evolving so quickly that it’s very confusing.  The  amount of time and channels will vary for everyone, so there is no “right” answer.  Some sectors and industries are more “social” than others, so the value of these channels will vary depending on your target customers and geographies.  But let me try to sort through some of the issues, and how we evaluate the use of these technologies ourselves.

The first thing everyone is concerned about is time.  “How do you find the time to participate and develop a presence in social networks?”  In truth, it doesn’t take a lot of time–this is where leveraging technology and tools really helps.  I spend roughly an hour a day with social media.  I spend a little more time than others in our company because I’m the “voice” of the company and do a lot of the marketing.  But it’s only an hour a day  (OK, I may cheat, when I have a few minutes idle time, I may jump on Twitter or LinkedIn.  It makes standing in line waiting to board a plane much more enjoyable.)

We’ve become very efficient in the way we leverage social tools.  The cornerstone to our strategy is the blog.  I try to write a blog every business day.  Fortunately, I can write very quickly.  I may mull an idea over for a few days, but when I sit down to write, it seldom takes more than 20 minutes to write a post.  (I’m sure you can tell by the grammar and spelling errors).  I also spend about 20-25 minutes on Twitter, my Twitter secret is that I schedule my Tweets to appear through the day.  It may look like I’m constantly on Twitter, but it’s only in the morning.  I then spend a few minutes on LinkedIn, usually responding to messages or comments.

We’re able to leverage technology to magnify our social presence tremendously.  Scheduling Tweets is just one way.  I have a marketing assistant that posts my blogs to LinkedIn and to a few other sites.  Ashley does a wonderful job in helping magnify our presence and expand our reach.  My blog posts are featured in a number of other locations.  We’ve given permission to a number of people to use our “feed” to put some of our content on their sites.  We like it because it exposes us to audiences we might not normally reach.  But we aren’t require to lift a finger to do this.

So the time investment is relatively small.  Even if it were a little more, it’s an important investment to us.  Our social presence is the cornerstone to much of our marketing.  We generate business through a variety of methods.

  1. We are blessed to have a very loyal customer base, we tend to create customers for life–both organizations and individuals.  When one of our clients moves to a new company, very often, we get a call, “Can you come help us out.”
  2. We get a lot of word of mouth and referral business, largely through our loyal customers.
  3. Each of us has a “prospecting number” we have to reach each week.  That’s a conversation with a key executive, we’ve never met before.  These take some preparation, they are key–but I’ll cover that in another post.
  4. This bring us to social selling.  60-70% of our new clients originally engage us through one of our social platforms–the blog, LinkedIn, Twitter, other sites.  Social selling is very powerful in generating new business, so we invest in it.  Now let me be very careful here.  We’ve never gotten a PO through Twitter or any other channel.  Our business isn’t one where I would expect this or even want it.  I said a large number of our new clients originally engage us through a social platform.  We may have “conversations” across a number of social platforms and other more traditional channels.  Over time, those become focused phone, email, and even face to face discussions.  But we wouldn’t have found them –or they find us without the social selling engagement.

There’s also the “long game” in our business development activities through social selling.   We have learned that it may take time to generate business.  We may be having “social” conversations with people for 1-2 years.  They may not have an immediate problem or opportunity to engage us, but building and nurturing that relationship over time produces results.  Right now, in fact, we are closing a deal where the engagement began about 3 years ago.  Crassly, people want to buy, we just have to be there when they have the compelling need to buy.

There’s another important reason we think social channels are important to us.  In addition to being key in expanding our visibility and helping generate new business, these are key learning channels for us.  Part of the joy in participating in these channels is we learn so much.  We learn from reading other blogs, participating in discussions and so forth.  We can keep our eyes on what’s going on with customers, in the industry, and so forth.  If we aren’t constantly learning, we cannot continue to create the value our clients believe we create.

There’s another thing in that quote in the first paragraph, “…and respond to all the comments…”  This is critical to us.  We participate in a lot of discussions and respond to as many comments as we possibly can.  Se we think social selling and business is about engagement—not advertising or broadcasting.  Advertising and broadcasting is one way.  Unfortunately, too many view these channels as advertising/broadcasting channels focusing on volumes and volume, not engagement.  Engagement, implicitly, is two ways, it involves a conversation.

We haven’t really engaged someone if they read a blog post.  We’ve only engaged that individual if they take the time to comment, or if they share it with colleagues, or post a note on their internal web sites.  This engagement is a precious gift, it’s people initiating conversations or some kind of invovlement.  That’s what we want to have happen!  We want to engage in a lot of conversations.  We want to learn from others, we want to share our views and start building a relationship.    If we didn’t respond to every comment, if we didn’t read other blogs and comment on them, we would be cheating the people that want to engage in conversations–and we would be cheating ourselves of the opportunity to develop a relationship.

Some of our blog posts generate some controversy and disagreement.  We publish every comment (other than SPAM), whether the commenter agrees with us or not.  The ensuing conversations cause both of us to learn, I’ve often shifted my positions based on the views of astute commenters—I have to swallow my pride every once in a while, admitting I’m wrong on something.  It would be wrong to filter comments, publishing only those that agreed with us!  Again, we would be cheating ourselves and the community that follows us.

So we view the time we spend with our own blogs, reading and commenting on other blogs, in LinkedIn, Twitter, and other social channels as a critical investment.  It builds our business, it helps us engage prospects and clients–many we would not have had the chance to otherwise meet.  These channels are very effective and efficient–at least for us.

I started this talking about our the time we invest, roughly an hour a day.  I’m lying a little.  I do spend time in the evenings, mainly because I enjoy it.  I read lots of blogs, online papers, and other things to learn.  As you know by know, I’m kind of opinionated, so I tend to comment on a lot of them.  But I do this for me, not for any marketing or other reason.

Many have the same idea the individual who posed the question originally had, that spending time with social selling is a huge waste of time.  In response to everyone wondering about that issue,  I can’t imagine our business growing as it has without leveraging these tools.  I can’t imagine, we as professionals, growing without leveraging these tools.

We manage our time carefully, using technology to help us.  We are very purposeful in what we do–it’s critical to our marketing strategies.  These channels enable us to engage more people, around the world, starting conversations, building relationships.  And these channels are so critical to our own learning and development.

This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I’ve been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.


Republished with author's permission from original post.

Dave Brock
Dave has spent his career developing high performance organizations. He worked in sales, marketing, and executive management capacities with IBM, Tektronix and Keithley Instruments. His consulting clients include companies in the semiconductor, aerospace, electronics, consumer products, computer, telecommunications, retailing, internet, software, professional and financial services industries.


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