Businesses are often cautioned against social selling tactics. Indeed, people who follow a business on social media aren’t looking for gimmicky and traditional marketing messages; they follow businesses with the expectation they’ll receive engaging, informative content that educates and entertains them.

But it’s possible to sell using social media and, in fact, it’s crucial that you develop a social media selling strategy that indirectly drives sales. The truth is, people are influenced by what they read on social media and, in particular, what others are saying about your business. The key is to get ahead of this chatter by helping steer and shape the social media conversation in ways that will align with your strategic business interests (i.e., sales). Here are my top tips for how to sell using social media:

  1. Cultivate thought leadership: When you encourage development of thought leadership among your employees, you’re empowering them to write authoritatively about subjects directly related to your business – and that inform and entertain your audience, rather than directly market and sell. Effective thought leadership ensures a loyal, long-term relationship between you and your followers by consistently giving your audience what it wants. There’s no better way to drive sales growth than to start with a loyal, satisfied group of potential customers. EveryoneSocial’s social media management platform provides the perfect way to cultivate thought leadership within your organization while controlling your employees’ posts at the same time. This enables even the most introverted of your employees to feel confident sharing industry and company news via their social media accounts.
  2. Be genuine and personable: Social media gives you tremendous leeway to bring a strong personality and voice to your brand, and you should take full advantage of it. Your followers already are saturated with traditional marketing messages delivered to them via TV and Internet ads, so let social media be your invaluable, unique opportunity to connect with your audience on a much more endearing, heartfelt level. No one these days seems impressed by a slick, carefully crafted marketing message, but you have the opportunity to meaningfully drive sales if you’ve got an audience that perceives you as genuine and personable.
  3. Track the social media chatter surrounding your brand: When you listen daily to what people are saying about your brand and your industry on social media, you’re able to not only tailor your own posts to give them more of what they want, but you also can adapt your marketing strategy to keep up with trending sensibilities. For example, if everyone is talking about rising prices for a product you sell, then you want to respond to that chatter by considering a discount or promotion, or by releasing a thoughtful piece that helps your audience understand the value of what they’re getting with your product.
  4. Generate detailed demographics on your audience: When people use social media, they offer up a treasure trove of data about themselves. You must mine all of this information to gain key demographic insights about your audience: What is the gender breakdown? What is the age range? What are the occupations and estimated income range of your audience? What are their interests and likes (other than your business)? From this data, you can figure out how to adapt your content in ways that will most effectively resonate with this audience and maximize your chances of sales.
  5. Monitor your competition: Social media offers tremendously transparent insights into the business strategies of your competitors, from small things like a decision to temporarily discount products and services to a wholesale shift in how they’re marketing themselves. You must take advantage of this by keeping tabs on your competition. Another advantage of monitoring the competition on social media is that many businesses test new strategies and initiatives with their social media audience before rolling them out on a more widespread scale. You can either follow your competition openly on social media, or monitor their social media feeds surreptitiously. Either way, you want to position yourself to react immediately and decisively to what the competition posts on social media.

Social media can be a tough place to effectively sell. Your followers will be turned off by slick marketing messages, but that doesn’t mean you can’t devise a strategy to use social media to your selling advantage. The key steps to follow are to cultivate thought leadership, develop a genuine and personable voice, track social media chatter, study your audience’s demographics, and monitor your competition.