Dog Years in Social Media: How Things Have Changed!
I started Thought Horizon 4 years ago this November. Social Selling has changed in some major ways during that time. I wanted to examine those changes and what they tell us about where social selling is going in the next 4 years.
4 years ago, it was easy to surround your customer on social. It used to be by joining the same LinkedIn Groups as a prospect you could stay in touch with important prospects you weren’t already connected with on LinkedIn. Since then Groups have become marginalized by spammers and others who are brazenly using LinkedIn InMails to find new leads. The net effect is that buyers are warier than ever of others reaching out on LinkedIn or trying to spread influence on LinkedIn Groups
However, there is an upside. Despite the increase in social messaging (and spam), buyers have not abandoned social channels. Social media is way too important in keeping them up to date on the latest technology and thinking. Instead of leaving social media, buyers have shifted to a currency of content rather than slick introductions and sales pitches. If the social seller of today understands this, there is an even greater ability to gain respect and create a relationship today versus 4 years ago. If the seller is willing to do the work of finding engaging content to share, they can command attention. Sellers who know how to ask intelligent questions and write well-defined social posts have the power to influence their prospects.
4 years ago, Twitter was a rising star but was not widely adopted by buyers. It seemed like Twitter would eventually go mainstream as a communication tool, but something strange happened. Instead, of becoming like Facebook or LinkedIn, the following and followers on Twitter has lost relevance. Instead, buyers are using Twitter as a powerful search engine to see who is doing what at a tradeshow or to check out a new technology that was recently introduced. Most buyers are not talking anymore on Twitter today than they were 4 years ago.
How does this help or hurt social sellers? Again, it just changes the game. Connecting and sending impersonal greetings via Direct Messages will get you nowhere even if your customers are on Twitter. The new currency of Twitter is hashtags. Hashtags connect sellers with buyers around specific topics, especially when content is shared. Hashtags also create ‘ecosystems’ of partners, buyers, and sellers who work together to find solutions to problems. Not just ways to move more product.
Amazingly, there is one thing that has stayed the same in social media since the inception of Thought Horizon. And that is that content continues to drive engagement. This principle has grown exponentially in past 48 months. If we are trying to stay ahead of the game, this is not a time to invest in tools that aggregate users in order to drive leads. Just the opposite, it is time to invest in content that will altruistically help buyers in order to bring them into your network.