Not long ago, I received a thank you message from Twitter congratulating me on my 5-year anniversary on the site. On February 4, 2014 Mark Zuckerberg sent the world a Facebook status update marking his company's 10th anniversary. There are now more than 2 BILLION active social media users worldwide and over 75% of those are active mobile users.
My point is that social media is no longer new or novel. It is ubiquitous, part of the very fabric of our collective, world-wide culture.
One thing it is not, but it will become over the next few years, is a saturated marketplace. Brands, marketers, entrepreneurs and small business owners alike have not "cracked the code" on social selling.
Business to consumer e-commerce sales are expected to be nearly $1.5 TRILLION in 2014 and continue to grow at double digit rates for several more years. However, sales directly attributable to social media are just a small sliver of that overall number now. It is my opinion that social media will serve as an engine to much of that growth in the future.
In fact, I believe it so strongly that I am going "all in" on social selling. I have rebuilt my website, rebranded my social media sites and refined my content marketing plan to focus on social selling and teaching others to sell using social media.
Why? Because I believe in one simple rule of sales.
People buy from people they know, like and trust!
You may be saying, "Duh, everybody knows that! That's so simple, but what does that have to do with social media?"
Let me share a few of my thoughts on why it's connected.
I have spent 5 years building a social media community of over 530,000 people between the major social media sites I am on (Facebook, Twitter, G+, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Instagram). I have poured my heart and soul into my community and been my authentic self every step of the way. Every time I do a speaking engagement or a live event several people come up to me and tell me they feel like they already know me, even though this the first time we have met face-to-face. They tell me I am the same person online as I am in person. To me, that is the best compliment of all!
They feel like they know me, they like me and they can trust me and, because of this, I am very successful selling my products and services online using social media.
Did the light bulb just go on for you?
It did for me. In fact, so much so that I wrote a book on the subject. It's called "Will the Real You Please Stand Up - Show Up, Be Authentic and Prosper in Social Media". It's coming out in January, 2015.
I am not the only one who gets this "I know you" reaction. You are, or you can be too! You can be somebody people know like and trust and therefore somebody they will buy products and services from.
Being yourself is simple, so social selling should be simple, right?
So where do people get lost? Why is everybody making it so hard? I am going to tell you the answer and you are going to scratch your head and need to think about it for a minute.
Are you ready? Because most people are frauds, fakes and a phonies online. They lead with their interests (which usually all involve money) instead of having a give to get attitude. They do not take the time to know what their prospects like, what they care about, what they value and worse yet, they have no interest in being useful to that person. They are inconsistent and all over the place. Their prospects only hear from them when they want something. In other words, it's all about them!
In short, they are not authentic! I cannot know, like and trust someone if I do not know who they really are...can you?
Being authentic is THE difference-maker, THE game-changer, THE missing ingredient when selling online, especially for small businesses.
So, hopefully by now I have convinced you that you want to be authentic online, even if you are just doing it to sell more stuff. I will take it!
Let us talk one more time about selling stuff online. This year 52% of all US retail sales will be influenced by, or occur online.
You say "That is great. My pie is getting bigger". Wrong! Your pie is getting smaller, much smaller. You see, in the old days (like 10 years ago!) you just had to compete against other websites and blogs for Google's affection. Now, 2.5 BILLION people are on social media and millions of them are selling their stuff, or at least trying to. Facebook recently reported that over 1.5 MILLION people now use Facebook ads, mostly to sell stuff!
Another fact, all of the major search engines now give increasing weight to social media. Why? Well for one, they own or have vested interests in the major social media sites. More importantly, social media has become the place where consumers go to tell anybody who will listen, good or bad, how they really feel about a product or a service. The consumer controls the message today. Plus, have you heard the old saying "Good news travels fast. Bad news travels faster."? That saying is true, but on steroids with social media.
Hopefully you are now see how important authenticity, and the ability to consistently deliver it, is online.
Now, let me see if I can help you get started having authentic conversations and begin the process of turning lurkers into community members, community members into engaged advocates and engaged advocates into brand apostles.
I am going to try to oversimplify and give you a "plain English" answer. Start by caring, I mean really caring about the people and the subject matter you are creating content around. Then create jaw-dropping original content that has value to your community on a consistent basis. Once you have that engage, engage, engage and have meaningful conversations, not just short, emoticon-driven bursts. Be creative and make your content as appealing as you can and deliver it in a format that is easiest for your community to consume. Have the solutions for what they need and want and it is definitely okay if those solutions are, from time-to-time, things you also happen to sell.
You see, you are now not selling useless 'stuff' to people who do not know and trust you. You are selling solutions to your people you have formed relationships with through a value driven content plan!
For more on the subject see the full article "The 12 C's of Building Authentic Conversations on Social Media"
So, have I made you a believer in the power of authenticity as it relates to online sales, especially sales fueled by social media? I would love to hear your comments below.