Social Media Fundamentals: Part 1 of 2

Social Media Fundamentals

Social Media Fundamentals

Back when I was a top-performing financial services agent, some of the most effective ways of reaching prospective customers included cold-calling, consumer shows, and print advertising. For small business owners and sales professionals today, communication with prospective customers is becoming increasingly difficult, as customers become increasingly unreachable.

With more and more people, spending more and more time online, social media is becoming a brand’s best advertising medium. Only 18% of traditional TV campaigns generate a positive return-on-investment (ROI). While 25% of social network users have gone directly to an online retailer after learning about a new product or brand. Conversations about your brand
(good and bad) are happening online… whether you like it or not. You must be part of that conversation.

The question of social media ROI is like questioning the ROI of your computer. Could you measure the ROI of your computer? Probably not. Could you do business without it? Probably not. The social media tidal wave is here. Are you swimming with the current or against it? Learning and applying these social media fundamentals will help you get started launching social media campaigns to reach the unreachable customer.


Facebook is a social networking site that opened in September 2006 to everyone of ages 13 and older with an email address. The website currently has more than 400 million active users worldwide. It allows users to add friends and send them messages, and update their personal (and business) profiles to notify friends (and fans) about themselves. I signed up for my Facebook account in June 2007 and use it to share sales-related information and upcoming events with fans.

Small business owners and sales professionals can grow their businesses by creating a Facebook page. Schedule a few minutes every day to post a short update with information on trends or tips that your audience will find valuable. This will help them get to know you and your business better. Avoid the temptation of aggressively selling your products and services.

When I’m facilitating sales workshops for small office and home office (SOHO) entrepreneurs, I encourage them to invite their target customers to become fans their Facebook pages to join discussions of issues within their industry, get the inside scoop on upcoming related events, and check out photos of past events. This helps position SOHO entrepreneurs as valuable and trusted resources.


Twitter is a social networking and micro-blogging service that enables users to send and read messages (up to 140 characters) known as tweets. Since it’s creation in 2006, the number of users has grown to more than 100 million worldwide. One of the founders, Evan Williams, describes Twitter not as a social network but as an information network. He says “It tells people what they care about as it is happening in the world”. My first tweet on 22 Jun 2009, was a sales tip on detecting your niche and creating qualifying questions.

Twitter has been encouraging its use as a business tool through ‘Twitter 101’, a web-based tutorial aimed at business users. Dell said that $9M of its 2009 sales came directly through Facebook and Twitter combined. SOHOs and SMEs can also benefit from using Twitter, since they can compete on equal terms with MNCs within the Twitter platform.

When I’m delivering in-house sales training for SMEs and MNCs, I suggest each of their sales professionals create a Twitter account and tweet about time-sensitive offers or events that would genuinely interest their followers. An analysis of 2,000 tweets over a 2-week period in August 2009 separated them into the following six categories: pointless babble (41%),
conversational (38%), pass-along value (9%), self-promotion (6%), spam (4%), and news (4%). I “unfollow” people whose tweets don’t add value or are exactly the same as their Facebook updates. Be sure to give people a special reason to follow you on Twitter.


LinkedIn is a business-oriented social networking site launched in May 2003 and is mainly used for professional networking. It has more than 65 million registered users in more than 200 countries worldwide. The purpose of the site is to allow users to maintain a list of people they know and trust in business. The people in the list are called Connections. A contact network is then built up consisting of direct connections, second-degree connections,
and third-degree connections. This can be useful in gaining an introduction to someone a person wishes to know through a mutual, trusted contact. Linkedin Profile for Sales ProfessionalsThe LinkedIn Groups feature also allows users to establish new business relationships by joining alumni, industry, or professional and other relevant groups. I’ve been a user since 27 October 2006 and here’s how I create a Linkedin Profile for Sales Professionals. I have noticed that several of my clients prefer LinkedIn over other social media platforms.

When I’m coaching SOHO entrepreneurs one-on-one, I encourage them to invite their customers and vendors to become connections on LinkedIn. It’s also useful for them to schedule some time during the week to reach out to their existing connections, learn about their challenges, and see how they could offer assistance.

Social media alone cannot help you increase sales but is an essential part of your marketing communications strategy. Developing quality relationships and building trust will make it easier for your audience to connect with you offline at an event or your store. Social media is a new tool that works best when applying the time-tested fundamentals of personal selling. People will always do business with people they know, like, and trust.

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