One of our core beliefs at The Social Brand is that social media should really not be used to sell your products or services. Usually, when we tell people this, they look at us like we’re crazy. “You are a social media management company and you don’t believe that brands should be selling their products and services on social media?” Yep, that’s right.
Now before you decide we’re crazy too, let me explain.
Why Selling On Social is Bad
Social media is simply a platform to connect to people. Real people, with families, friends, hobbies and passions. They are using these platforms to talk about those things. So let’s think of our posts as conversations, rather than posts. I want you to imagine the scroll of your own Facebook or Instagram feed as you read this… John Smith who you went to high school with is posting a picture of his daughter who just won an award at school. Your old boss shared a meme (otherwise known as a funny picture) that makes you chuckle to yourself a bit. Aunt Sally posted a picture of the meal she made for her family the night before… and boy, does it look good! Your sister posted a picture of herself, her husband and your nieces on vacation… Aruba is looking good this time of year… Now, let’s picture your hard sales pitch in this conversation. “Hey, give me your money!” Does it fit?
If this were a conversation of people, standing in a circle talking, would this be socially appropriate? Standing in a circle at a social event (because that’s kind of what social media is like, right?) and everyone is making small talk and then that one guy in the corner starts trying to sell you on this product he invented. That’s when you start pulling away and looking around for someone – anyone! – to rescue you.
Brands who don’t learn how to fit into the conversation occurring in their customers’ newsfeeds never quite tap into using social media to grow their sales. These brands will see growth on their pages from an ad they run and then a couple months later, they’ll look at their numbers and see that they’ve lost followers. Or these are the brands that come to us and say, “We’ve been stuck at a certain number of followers and just can’t seem to get over that number. How do we grow?”
The problem with being “that guy” is that your audience doesn’t have to look around for someone to rescue them. They just unfollow you… or unlike your page… or mute your posts… or even ban you. However they rescue themselves, I promise you, the likelihood of them purchasing from your brand in the future just became much, much lower.
What You Should Do Instead
So, using social media to sell is bad. We’ve got that, right? What should we be doing instead? We’ve got to make money… we’re running a business here, after all!
We’ve got to find a way to fit into that conversation your customers are already having on their newsfeeds. We have to find a way to add something of value that doesn’t feel like…well…a sale. This is where we get one of the very core values of The Social Brand – “Value First Marketing.” So how do we start?
Who Are You Talking to?
The first step in joining the conversation is knowing who you’re talking to and what they’re talking about. Start by looking at who is buying from your company. Are there obvious categories of customers who you work with? Maybe you sell to a lot of single moms with kids between the ages of 8-12 or maybe it’s a lot of married men in their forties who like to golf and have two kids. Each category you identify is what we call a customer profile.
We actually have a free customer profile template you can download to get started!
What is Value First Marketing?
Now that you know who you’re talking to and what they’re interested in, value first marketing becomes much more feasible!
Find something of value to add to the conversation that they’re already having.
So maybe you sell golf balls and a lot of your customers are married men in their forties who have two kids…and are interested in golf. Perfect! Rather than trying to sell them golf balls, just give them content they would already be interested in. Tips for improving your golf swing, a funny golf joke, or even a class to teach their kids about golf. You’re giving something to them, adding to the conversations they’re already having and building your authority in your field – without ever asking them to buy a golf ball. But when they need golf balls, who are they going to buy from? Are they going to buy from the company who makes them laugh, who helps them improve their game and has taught their kiddos how to play? Or are they going to buy from the company that has been pushing out sales-y posts without giving them anything first?
Value first marketing isn’t something we think should just be applied to social media (although it’s a game changer when it is) – it’s something we apply to everything we do. Before you ask them to buy, give them something. Give them something that shows them that you care about them. A great example of this would be the free download we provided for you earlier in this post! We gave you something for zero dollars in the hopes that you’ll appreciate our knowledge, and that when you’re ready to practice what you’ve learned, we’ll be the service you turn to.
Victory Harbin is one of the owners of The Social Brand and is a content strategist. She helps people be smart about using content to get the best results to grow their business.