Every area of our lives is rife with paradox. Social Selling has engendered many of its own but I've yet to see anyone take on the subject as the topic is so new. I began to write a post on business paradoxes. That opened my mind to some mind-boggling ones like this. The overarching takeaway that I can share is the best practices most commonly held and shared are often the ones hurting your strategy the most. Social Selling is about 'word of mouse.' Good is the enemy of great. When your writing transcends symbols on the page to becoming a Youtility that engenders rapid actionable results, you've matriculated into the realm of viral. When you're applying the exact same tactics as everyone else, you add to the white noise. The below will help you stand way out and be the signal. I learned these lessons over 125+ posts on LinkedIn Publisher in the last 90 days:
- The more you try to sell in social, the less likely you are to close.There is a ladder of engagement that can honestly take dozens and dozens of touch points. Building connectivity from a simmer to a boil over months closes deals. You can't go after the immediate and anything you close that way is on shifty ground. Is it possible to show up in the middle of a decision and take the deal right out of the jaws of a competitor? Because of social? Yes. You can literally create demand before the customer even knows what she is looking for or goes to the search engine. With consistent awareness building, story telling and a focus on remarkable ways that you solve common pain points, you can move from servicing demand to generating it upstream. This is pre-trigger, pre-Challenger and taps into the 3% of people actively looking but more importantly that 40% who would be open to looking, according toVorsight.
- The more social networks you utilize, the less powerful the amplification. Seth Godin only does short, pithy blog posts. He manages to be one of the most shared [if not the top blog] on the entire internet. His fan base handles the amplification and yours should too. In business to business, you need to think of LinkedIn as the hub for publishing because it's where the largest engaged audience lives. I literally received concerned emails when I shut my blog off on my RSVPselling site and started to solely blog in here. Several of my posts have received hundreds of retweets and my followers tripled within months. What is more exciting, is that I started to get a steady flow of friend requests so my network on Twitter and LinkedIn began to grow purely organically.
- Consistent B+ content frequently performs better than sporadic A+ content but outrageously good content - off the richter scale - could perform better than anything, even posted just once. Ideation is the massive hurdle as a writer. How do you bring brand new content to the space that no one has heard of? Einstein said it best, 'Imagination is more important than knowledge.' Consistent strong content will start to rank in Google and you'll be seen as a trusted publisher source. If you push yourself to newsjack, share something from the heart that is a personal story or push the envelope with ideas no one has ever seen before: it flares up. Spend hours obsessing on the content and topic lists: push your ideation 10X. Unique ideas cause word of mouse and will be 'sneazed' [Godin] more than anything else. I loved Seth's book Unleashing the Ideavirus which addresses these themes. He was ahead of his time to freely release it rendering it the most downloaded eBook ever then. Coin new terms, invent ideas, leverage hybrid synergy, mash-up the old and the new and tell unusual stories. Creativity and imagination stick out like a sore thumb; they help people remember the underlying lessons and read between the lines.
- You will be hated before you're loved no matter what you post. First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and thenyou win. Gandhi got this right. When you put yourself out there and express your truth, it's simply the nature of the human condition to walk through these flaming hoops to the promise land. When I first started to blog at high volume in here I was an early adopter [3 months ago]. LinkedIn had only opened up their Publisher capability to a limited group for long form posts, perhaps I got in because I'm an author. I received multiple letters of concern about the volume of my posts. Now I receive daily praise about the consistent quality. The majority of authors I'm connected to, even global sales thought leaders like Donal Daly are frequently blogging now, many even daily. It's my mandate to always dive in to new social mediums in order to bring those findings back to my reader base, fitting in how they could be useful in a strategic social selling context.
- If you get big enough on LinkedIn, LinkedIn breaks. Luckily you can email them to get your profile turned back on. They literally can't handle the capacity of over 200 interactions per day. Some algorithmic gate shuts you off. This may not always be the case but the amount of clicks it requires to keep the pace of interactivity once you have thousands of friends in your stream at a 10 to 1 ratio [10 things about them, only 1 about you] causes capacity issues to rise. Apparently, there is a finite limit on the amount of clicks that you can make in a 24 hour period on here. So if you go on a writing tear or liking tear, watch out! Has anyone else experienced this? This is different than LinkedIn Jail for those that mass add. I'm talking about authentically managing your stream, liking, commenting and engaging and suddenly poof! down the profile goes and out comes the Customer Support Ticket...I will give the powers that be at LinkedIn a great deal of credit for policing the community so it doesn't become the endless commercial free for all that is Facebook. [Note I barely use FB, less then 10% of my followers see my updates there unless I'd like to pay for them to.]
- The best connections and opportunities are still busier then you are so often what seeks you out first, is not trustworthy. When you break through the rainforest canopy of social prowess and start to soar with the eagles above, you become beautiful. Be careful, because the flood gates of people you'll never want to meet or talk to will immediately swarm you. Protect your calendar and be very selective of who you link in with. There are many spam profiles but there are also a million speakers, authors, strange publishing entities, spurious business dealers and just bizarre things occurring in social networks looking to take their pound of flesh.
- If you take the 10X moonshot it's just as easy as mediocrity. The fishing is best where the fewest go and the collective insecurity of the world makes it easy for people to hit home runs while everyone is aiming for base hits. Tim Ferriss believes this and has lived by it. Just look at the outrageous global success of the 4-Hour book series... I took my 3 year plan for social media and compressed it into 3 months. The result has been meeting all of you. I'm very grateful and humbled by the response. It forced me to encapsulate my thoughts, actions and push beyond creative boundaries. I have an entirely new idea for the most advanced strategic social selling [3.0] book ever written that I'll be releasing soon. Social media is the epitome of Parkinson's law which is best summed up by the adage that 'work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.' Set goals that scare you; big, bold, wild, hairy and audacious. Then take that time and compress it. You'll break the fourth wall and find new goals, summiting Everest only to find K2 laughing in your face. That's been my experience on power-using LinkedIn. The main thing to remember, is that social networks are quite useless in and of themselves. It's all about HOW you use them, that makes them powerful. Seek innovation in utilization.
- Blogging only in LinkedIn is more effective within months than years of traditional blogging. Personally, I sold more books and had more (and higher quality) response in 3 months of blogging on here than 3 years of hosting a traditional web blog. Becoming a bestselling author in Australia happened by word of mouth but online, the front of my funnel is consistent interactivity with a brand new reader-base and as a byproduct, my eBooks and Audio books began to break loose.
- Longer posts of 1,900 words outrank everything else (that's about a 9 minute read). Paradoxically, the world is starving for useful, meaty content; a little less sizzle and a lot more steak! I talk about executive ADD but that's because they're shining a bright light looking for one decent piece of useful content to immediately apply to their business for outstanding growth results. This is why Copyblogger crushes it, they build out in depth useful concept. I've realized that I must become a Jay Baer 'youtility' with my Michael Hyatt 'platform.' In essence, once the title is useful, each bullet is an action a sales person can take TODAY. The 1,900 word article is the full picture of this utility: every aspect of how sales people can apply that success principle. My longer articles on LinkedIn often get massively shared but sometimes they don't get much engagement online. Ironically, if the quality is A+ on youtility, I do get folks writing in who print them out and apply them in the field. If what you write in social media helps your base get tangible, real-world results, remarkable outcomes are possible. In sales blogging, if those results equate to concrete revenue: it's the holy grail of service-based thought leadership.
- Pictures are not only worth a thousand words, they make or break posts. The human face; even in studies of indigenous people in the rainforests who have little to no exposure to the outside world, holds the same countenance. The human face can make over 10,000 expressions which unites everyone on the planet. Faces make an amazing impact so preference them over all other pictures. David Meerman Scott talked about having real and raw photographs leading your social posts in lieu of stock photography. I think that's true. I also like super vibrant, remarkable looking pictures that are just very well photographed. A/B test like crazy. I've found that non sequitur completely oblique or bizarre mixes of pictures and copy rank very well. The ultimate hilarious mash-ups in my mind are a 'a row of well dressed people walking intently,' anything involving 'babies or puppies' and 'executives looking perplexed.' Business writing can be fun if you see the humor in the mundane. I certainly do.
- How To and List Titles outperform even the most outrageous shocking title as they give readers subconscious permission to "snack" some key takeaways in your content. Titles should still feature hyperbole. Take your content and turn it on 11. But the snacking factor is a real thing. Use bold headings and make it easy to skim. Be open to the fact that 80% of the people who like your posts on LinkedIn won't read the whole way through. 20% will read all of it and very few will comment. Likes are a strong leading indicator for success. Youtility content is huge. Imagine, someone can click a button, read a bullet and go make a sale. This is the magic of social selling 3.0 in the web of context.
- The harder you try to convince major publishers and editors in the system to promote your content, the more you're repelled but it's relatively easy to attract them to you if you have the platform built.
- You're better off with 1,000 of the right connections than 10,000 who seldom engage. Read and practice the axiom of the Thousand True Fan. There are needles in this haystack called social selling. There are million dollar dream customers looking for you, frantically. They're doing anything they can to find a trustworthy seller and truly cutting edge solution for their problem that actually works. There are so many empty promises, it's an uncontrollable ecosystem of hype and fluff. There are people on LinkedIn right now out of hundreds of millions that can mentor you, change your life and bring you that one key connection or insight that literally alters the future of your entire career. Seek out that Thousandth Man or Woman [Rudyard Kipling]
- There is strength in weak ties. Your net worth is the size of your network. You're also most likely to advance your career via the weaker ties you don't know. That being said, I've made the case for an annual pruning of your friend list [Deleting Party!]. There are probably hundreds of completely superfluous connections that you have that are "feed clogging" your stream. Don't be afraid to press delete. The biggest thing I noticed in spending more time on LinkedIn than I'd like to admit [I stopped watching TV all together, could you imagine!!] is that the same constraints that govern analog human networks like the Dunbar Number as well as cliques and exclusivity are prevalent and govern LinkedIn. Here's an earth-shattering idea: reach out and touch someone right now. Go to your profile, pick a dream customer you're already connected to and write them an InMail. Find someone who is interesting you are connected to on LinkedIn that you've never interacted with and send them a message. Become interested! The basic coolest thing about LinkedIn has stopped happening. If I hear from a stranger, it's typically a spam blast form template selling me something useless or group they want me to join. It's serving their interests not mine. Be fully there, pick an intriguing person that is likable where you share something in common and ping them simply to admire them. Who does that anymore? Has LinkedIn become one of the least social, most transactional environs on the planet now? Yes. We can change that. If you want to blow someone's mind? Send an authentic DM on Twitter. When's the last time you actually received a message on there that wasn't an auto-responder?
- Twitter will explode with retweets of your greatest content whether you participate in it at all. If you post a big, bold, controversial or brilliant enough idea anywhere on the internet, Twitter will erupt. It's just how it is. I posted about a courageous pilot that saved over four hundred lives with the leadership lessons translatable to business and it went on to garner 200,000 views. The harder you work in social selling, the luckier you will get. Within a few months, I was ranked 87 on Onalytica's report of top social sellers and in the top 5 of my network of over 2,000 professionals. I showed up every day and sought to inspire someone and make sure I was inspired, too. I sought to understand what was in my stream: like, comment, share and give authentic feedback prior to building the platform and looking for you to understand me. And I'm just getting started...
- Play it safe with your content and risk being forgotten. Outrageous mashups get remembered where hard hitting insight driven 'dry' white paper content is often appreciated but forgotten. Dry content that is brochure-like is skimmed and low value.
- The power of a brand is inversely proportionate to its scope. [Al Ries] Hyper-specialization is a content laser. Keep a very tight focus on subject matter expertise. For me, it's the evolution and adaptation of leadership and B2B strategic selling applied to social memes. What do you know the most about? In what areas do you have a bizarre amount of tribal knowledge? What are you most passionate about? What could you write a book about? Blog there, post there... go deeper there. Create there. Innovate there. Mash that up in new ways. Make that new by blending it, deconstructing it to first principles and rebuilding it. That's the rub!
Now it's your turn: What bizarre, quixotic or paradoxical phenomena have you witnessed in social selling? What seems to be a prevailing belief that actually doesn't work? Is there misinformation or conflicting information out there? What techniques work like magic for you that fly in the teeth of commonly held beliefs and best practices? Are you truly getting value out of social selling? Where are you stuck?
Tony Hughes is ranked as the #1 influencer on professional selling in Asia-Pacific and is a keynote speaker and best selling author. This article was originally published in LinkedIn where you can also follow Tony's award winning blog. Also visit Tony's keynote speaker website at www.TonyHughes.com.au or his sales methodology website at http://www.rsvpselling.com/.
Main image photo by Flickr: Omarukai
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