In an age where the act of being “social” actually does happen in the comfort of your own home, office or car, the opportunity for business growth is increasingly more obtainable. Today, more than ever, the sales and marketing field has a real opportunity to take public relations to the next level, the individual level. The days of group categorization by way of one brand are long gone. In our current economy, we, as sales professionals, represent our company’s brand along side our own.
For those of you currently utilizing social media, do a quick search for your name in Google, and make sure that you’re sitting down. Are you surprised at the interest that the world’s largest company has taken in you? You, as a social media participant, are contributing to the news, promotion, debate and other forms of content that circle the globe by way of the Internet today. Social media gives us as users, the ability to contribute to nearly everything happening in the world.
For those of you who are not currently utilizing social Web sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, it’s about time you considered it. Some people may recall the “dial and smile” days. It was a time in the careers of nearly all sales professionals when they spent all of their day on the phone calling countless numbers of random people in an effort to establish a pipeline. Back then, “Google” wasn’t a verb, in fact, it was nothing more than a misspelled mathematical term. In this technology-driven environment, the dreaded gate-keeps of yesterday should be the least of your worries. For sales professionals today, not having your own online professional brand is like never picking up the phone. You can not expect to build your pipeline if you are not engaging with your prospects.
It is all well and good to say that you need to be participating in social media, but it is not enough to leave it at that. Each social media outlet has its own influence in the marketplace, and in order to start developing your own success story, you have to know which ones will work for you and your personal brand, and which ones will leave you spinning your wheels.
When I travel throughout the Northeast helping audiences of people find their success story online, it never ceases to amaze me how many professionals are afraid of social media.
There are always excuses:
►“I don’t have time for all that Tweeting.”
►“I’m not looking for a job, so I don’t need LinkedIn.”
►“Facebook is a place for college kids to make fools of themselves.”
Comments like this typically come from people who have not invested the time into growing their own personal brand. They are comfortable with things just the way they are and they are afraid of the consequences change can bring. But what they neglect to realize is that sometimes not changing can have more harsh consequences than the latter. To help guide you down the right path, I suggest taking some time to build on two of the most popular social media sites currently out there, LinkedIn and Twitter.
For nearly every professional out there, my first recommendation is to build out a LinkedIn profile. It is not just a place for job hunters, LinkedIn is a credibility statement for you and your company.
Those of us who are in the business world today, understand that credibility is one of the most crucial elements in the sales process. A product or service can be a perfect match for your consumer, but if the company name is one that no one has heard of, you are going to have to work much harder on building confidence in it than you are the product or service you are trying to sell. Because so many decision-makers are doing research online now before meetings, LinkedIn is a great way to build that credibility before you even step in the door.
Here are some tips to get you started with LinkedIn:
►Remember that LinkedIn is a professional place. Use a professional headshot, not one that your colleague took at the last happy hour.
►Take the time to fill-in all of the blanks. Every bit of information is important.
►Recommendations are required, not optional if you want to do this right. You’re good at what you do and let other people vouch for that. Ask colleagues and clients alike for their recommendations, and be sure to return the favor.
►When building your connections, do a double take on each person. Make sure that you do actually know them and that you are okay with your reputation being associated with theirs.
►Join groups and participate in discussions. This will help you build your confidence in the social media world and help you become a “thought leader” in your industry.
►Make use of the apps. If you write for a blog for instance, install one of the blog apps. It’s another free way to push out your content and build your following.
Founded on the principles of text messaging and blogging, Twitter has quickly become a 140 character powerhouse of Web content. Its messages are not localized, contained or personal. They have become legitimate sources of information that are broadcast internationally through other news sources, mobile phones, and of course, search engines. Why then are some people so reluctant to “Tweet?”
Twitter, from a business standpoint, should never be 100 percent self-promotion. People don’t care about your trip to the dentist unless you are recommending a good one. Think of Twitter as a way for you to get personal with the leaders of your industry, and in exchange, become a leader yourself. In the mortgage business nowadays, there are all kinds of bits and pieces of information floating around out there, and much of it is being discussed on Twitter. Find a way to get in on the conversation.
Here are some tips to get started with Twitter:
►First things first, observe the conversation. Visit www.wefollow.com and do a search for the term “mortgage.” Are you surprised at how many users are listed under that term? Now go through that list and start “following” people who are active participants in the mortgage conversations. Think of it like job shadowing.
►Go to Google and do a search for “mortgage blogs.” Find a few blogs that you like and subscribe to their RSS feed. Use this as a way to start a conversation.
►Build out your Twitter page the same way you did your LinkedIn profile, making sure all the blanks are filled in.
►Start Tweeting and re-Tweeting! People like when other people push out their message. If you read a blog that is relevant, Tweet about it. If you read a Tweet that is relevant, re-Tweet it. But make sure you are Tweeting in your own voice, not theirs.
►Make use of the tools that are out there. Third-party tools, like Hootsuite for instance, allow you to stay current on multiple conversations at once through the use of search columns, allow you to shorten links and schedule Tweets all from one dashboard.
The gist of it
The moral of the story is not to get so caught up in everything that’s happening in the social media world all at once. Instead, do your research and find out which elements of social media are relevant to you and your industry and move in that direction. LinkedIn and Twitter are two musts in the mortgage industry, maybe use this as a starting point.
At my company, our sales team has seen great results out of these two Web sites, both from a lead-generating standpoint and from a purchasing standpoint. Many of our vendors, partners and clients were discovered through conversation on Twitter, and many of our testimonials reside on the LinkedIn profiles of our employees. We have found a way to make social media our own, and so will you.
Social media is nothing to fear. It can be overwhelming in the beginning, but all you need to do is focus on one thing at a time. Don’t try and jump in with both feet. There is a lot out there and even more coming with each passing day so it is important to pick a path and stay the course.
Brian Bluff is president and co-founder of New Hartford, N.Y.-based Site-Seeker Inc., an Internet marketing firm that has been recognized as being one of Central New York’s fastest growing small businesses. Site-Seeker specializes in SEO, SEM, social media and Web development, with a strong focus on the B2B and manufacturing arena. For more information, call (315) 732-9281 or e-mail [email protected]