Mike Hanbery January 5, 2012

Social Media Marketing and Sales: Your Strategy Defines Your Brand

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You’re not the only person who receives Facebook “friend” and LinkedIn connection requests from people you’ve never met.  Many have found your name among someone else’s list of Facebook friends or LinkedIn connections and seek to ply their wares upon you and your entire online network. You, and everyone online, are a prospect. In 2012, social media is a critical component of business marketing and sales strategy, this tactic is detrimental to the medium and the people and companies who use it.

This action is coached by sales trainers who don’t understand social media, who bury their heads in the proverbial sand rather than embrace the shift in the marketing and sales paradigm that social media and the new, interactive nature of the Internet has generated over the past few years and who are void of new ideas. It is used by a particularly transactional financial outfit—I won’t mention any names but they are neither south nor east.

In a traditional, offline business network of any size, you’ll find both extremes: Those who show up frequently, volunteer time and information, put their emphasis on assimilating themselves into the culture and seek first to add value to the group; and those who are only seen when they need a quick buck, jamming tri-fold brochures into breast pockets, collecting business cards from everyone with a pulse and breathlessly delivering their elevator pitch, insisting that, “You need me,” their confidence not swayed at all by the fact they haven’t bothered to ask what you do for a living.

As you know, the latter person may pick up a couple of bucks from people who are intimidated, too polite for their own good or who just don’t know any better at the expense of getting ostracized from the larger group. It takes longer for the former to get their message out there, but it finds a welcome audience—this is the essence of “pull” marketing—and a lifetime of referrals.

So it is with online networks, with notable exceptions: Misusing a “reference” is easier, as it is to devalue or end a relationship. “Unfriending” or “hiding” people is infinitely easier than avoiding them at cocktail parties.

How to Use This Information
The barrel of a gun can be used to stir one’s tea, but that isn’t the purpose for which it is designed. Social media can be used for aggressive transactional prospecting tactics–just so long as you understand that the hard sell defines your company in a medium that punishes the hard sell.

When defining how your sales agents use social media, know that the days of “push” marketing are over. You cannot invade a person’s online address book, put the hard sell on their contacts and then present yourself as an entity who respects relationships and privacy.

“On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog,” went the adage. With the advent of social media, that is no longer true. In 2012, there are no secrets; we know exactly who you are. Ensure your social media marketing and sales strategy is consistent with the nature of the medium, the culture of the network and the experience of your brand. Just as your employees are expected to do at events, have them represent your company in a way that generates long term business. Be present, be positive, be respectful. Do things that make people glad you’re there.

Or be ostracized and fail.

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