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Social Selling in Your Network Pond—The Role of Content in the Ecosystem

By Sander Biehn | May 16, 2018

Ecosystems require that foundational elements be present before anything else can thrive. At the base of any ecosystem, there is usually one abundant element and with social selling that is no different. That one basic element is content.  Then why is the creation and sharing of content so often ignored in social selling? The answer lies in how we are wired.  I remember a Sesame Street short cartoon from when I was a kid. A fisherman is trying to catch fish in a small pond. His line keeps getting snagged in the abundant lily pads. The fisherman decides to pull up the plants and clear the pond. But these lily pads are the source of food for the fish and the fish decide to leave and find a better pond.

This story is exactly analogous to the role of content in attracting customers. It is why salespeople tend to ignore content when engaging in social selling.  The content, in this case, is the lily pads and the customers are those fish. The pond itself is the social media network. Buyers and sellers are attracted to the pond for very different reasons. For buyers, it’s about the content. For sellers, it’s about the buyers. But when salespeople try to clear the pond and get after their quarry faster, the environment becomes less attractive to the buyers and they decide to leave. This is exactly analogous to what has happened in LinkedIn Groups over the years. As aggressive sales types have pulled the meaningful content and replaced it with sales pitches, buyers leave and dialog ceases. This has been the sad fate of many LinkedIn Groups I’ve belonged to.

Why do buyers see content as such an impediment? Because it is hard to create and find and doesn’t seem especially necessary. They don’t see the connection to the buyers because they are too bedazzled by the fact that they have found a pool where there is so much opportunity. Like so many endeavors of mankind, we tend to miss the basics and mess up our environment in an attempt to make our daily lives easier.

There is no question that creating and finding content can be hard. Marketing departments toil over creating perfect value propositions and sales people face writer’s block staring at the ‘post now’ button on LinkedIn.  The irony of the world we live in is that even though we have the technology to create, publish and even produce quality video, it is still hard to do the creative aspects of it. We worry about whether it is good enough and whether it sends the right message.

I wish I had a magic wand that would make content easy, but the fact is it requires consistency and hard work. This is another reason why so many choose to ignore it altogether. No one wants to end up like that Sesame Street fisherman, though. Standing in an empty pool as the fish swim away doesn’t have to be your fate so long as you tend to those lily pads.

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