Author | Marketer | Speaker

I help companies turn data, ideas and relationships into reach and influence. 

Being three-dimensional in social media

I used to sell mobile apps and custom blogs to real estate agents. Unlike most decision-makers, their livelihood depended on having their direct contact information findable. Even getting in touch with the head broker of a 300-agent firm was easy; their cell numbers were right there on their websites. Lucky me, I thought. But when I called them, they’d give me short shrift. Many would hang up within seconds. I was competing for their attention against a sea of other salespeople, all of us vying for their attention in the same exact way. No matter how incredible my offer was, it wouldn’t be considered because they didn’t know me (or my company) from Adam, and I was one of 5-10 faceless salespeople that had called them that day, already.

Anyone in sales or marketing can relate to this problem. The solution? Use social to make yourself “three-dimensional” and open up a side door of access. People like to do business—at any scale—with people they know, like and trust. Cold calling and email blasts are numbers games with long odds. By creating a compelling social media presence, you’re humanizing yourself, establishing your expertise and engaging in a way that differentiates you from just another strange voice on the end of a phone call—you’re making yourself three-dimensional in the mind of the prospect. In my case, I started joining real estate marketing Twitter chats, building my Facebook and Twitter networks by posting interesting content, and blogging about solutions to some of the industry pain points I was hearing about. When I started calling again, I was no longer the anonymous salesguy. I was the guy that taught them that cool Twitter search trick, or whose blog they had subscribed to. I had earned their attention, and became the obvious choice whenever they needed something I was selling.

Like anyone with any control over vendor selection, I get a lot of phone and email pitches. And like anyone that values their time (and sanity), I screen most of them out. The pitches that I do pay attention to are different. They’re from people that have first taken a look at my social footprint, and that of my company, to equip themselves for a personalized approach and higher-level conversation. Often they’ll interact with me via social first to establish a rapport—they’ll comment on my blog posts, or retweet a few of my updates. They’ll also use social to enrich the standard phone and email exchanges, starting out by telling me their thoughts on our latest blog post, or sending me one-off, non-“salesy” emails sharing something they read that will likely interest me, too. These techniques work because they simultaneously help personalize the approach and build substantive relationships—two things that have always been extremely important to successful sales and marketing efforts, and are easier than ever thanks to social. So why don’t we see them more often?

Rules from another era

The rules and etiquette of access were written by Those Who Cannot Be Accessed, the tiny minority that has no problem getting through the front door. Once in, they’re asked to shut the door behind them, and they do. An open front door is now just a distraction from the important things they’re doing. After all, Those Who Cannot Be Accessed will always be let in. For others the door will never open, but most of them will still line up in case it does. Almost all of us are “others,” or we started out that way. We still play by the rules of access, not because we’re stupid, or because we lack creativity, but because they’re the only rules we know. And because the people we want to engage with have told us that, if the rules are followed, we may just get what we want. We’ll keep working on our cover letters, leaving messages, and smiling-and-dialing until then.

Here’s the secret: the rules haven’t been updated in a long time. They tell us nothing about social media, and social side doors are being created every single day for those that know this.

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© 2016 Ian Greenleigh