On a site like LinkedIn, where you have more real estate to expand upon in your summary section, tell a story about who you are, why you do what you do and how you can help. Remember, LinkedIn is different from a resume. Use your headline not just for your title but for a short phrase explaining how you help your client.
2. Build Your Credibility
Your company might have a solid reputation, but do you? Social networks can help you build your personal brand. With every Tweet, LinkedIn comment or Facebook post you can grow your reputation and establish a solid foundation.
It’s a great record of your authenticity and a great place to demonstrate your understanding of your industry and potential clients. This can be achieved by sharing relevant articles about your industry, adding thoughtful insights to conversations and solving problems your prospects may have. It’s all in the name of establishing trust. When you share interesting thoughts, others will re-share them, tag you or start a conversation with you.
LinkedIn is the best social network for gaining social proof and expanding your reach. Ask for recommendations. Endorse others in hopes that they’ll endorse you back. Write an original article with LinkedIn’s publishing tool and share it frequently. Encourage your network to share and comment. Get the conversation started around you.
3. Find Your Prospects
Social networks are a great place to learn more about your potential clients. Pay attention: where do your potential clients turn to seek more information about problems they may have? Is it a LinkedIn group? A weekly Twitter chat like the ones mentioned on this Google spreadsheet? A private Facebook Group? Plant yourself there, listen to their conversations and get involved.
While LinkedIn is the place to turn for business connections, Twitter has a much better search function and has a lower barrier to entry. You can follow anyone you want, from a CEO to a celebrity, and they don’t have to accept your request as they do on LinkedIn or Facebook. They might even follow you back.
— Ray Sidney-Smith (@rsidneysmith) July 20, 2015
On Twitter, search certain industry-specific hashtags to see what your potential clients are talking about and what’s important to them. Once you’ve found some prospects, they may be able to lead you to others. For example, see who they are following and start following those people as well. On LinkedIn, some of the best conversations happen in industry-specific groups. Check the profiles of your prospects and see which groups they are a part of, and then join them.
Once you’ve found your prospects, stay organized. Twitter’s List functionality allows you to create personalized public or private feeds, which maximize your time. Create a private Twitter List with your top 25 prospects, or create additional lists for competitors, influencers and current customers. Each time you visit the network, visit the list and you’ll get a quick snapshot into the minds of those who matter most, and you can more easily start conversations.
4. Consistently Provide Value
Don’t be like actor Christian Bale. Social networks are a time commitment and this is exactly why. Once you’ve started following the right people, you must continuously provide valuable contributions. So choose your network wisely and don’t spread yourself too thin. Every Tweet, comment and post matters and you don’t want to disappear for weeks at a time. An abandoned network looks careless.
Share your expertise. Offer up solutions. Always stay focused on the potential buyer. Use relevant hashtags on Twitter to target your content more appropriately. Follow industry influencers so you stay relevant and up to date. If you don’t offer consistent value, there are repercussions. People will unfollow you, block you or hide your notifications. You don’t want to be ignored.
5. Nurture Your Prospects
You don’t necessarily have to create your own content or fill your feed with generalized tips that appeal to everyone. A crucial aspect to any social etiquette—and especially that of social selling—is to pay attention to and respond to what others are sharing and saying.
When starting a conversation or participating in a pre-existing one on a social network (like a Twitter chat) remember that it’s just that, a conversation. Be sure to listen. Every day you should be leaving comments or ‘Liking’ posts from others. It’s an easy way to show that you’re listening or to offer up your expertise or insight. It’s also an easy way to find what you have in common.
— Expedia (@Expedia) July 15, 2015
You can also repost something from someone else. When sharing content from another user, be sure to tag them or thank them for finding this great article. Lastly, try setting up a Google Alert for a certain potential client or topic that will make finding relevant content more interesting, and then directly post that content to the person of interest.
— Foodseum (@Foodseum) July 21, 2015
6. Get Offline
If you can convert your social network followers to email list subscribers, that’s a great first step. But what you really want to do is convert these digital friends into real life connections. Social networking is a great way to establish that warm connection.
Twitter is the perfect place to initiate a low-commitment conversation based on an interesting article that was shared or something you both have in common. Share their content consistently—or create content of your own that references their work—and they might even be the one who initiates the conversation first.
Once you’ve established a back-and-forth conversation with someone, it’s easier to suggest a phone call or coffee date via a Tweet or email. Think about it: an email with a subject line referencing your Twitter conversation may be more likely to get opened. Now it’s up to you to make sure your real-life persona is just as great as your digital one.
Aubre Andrus: Aubre Andrus is a Chicago-based tech journalist and content strategist who loves working with startups. By night she moonlights as a children's book author.