On a recent podcast recording about his new book, “Shareology,” Pure Matter CEO Bryan Kramer used a term I’d never heard before, but it really struck a nerve. The term was “social onramp,” and he used it in the context of “social helping,” a practice Bryan believes has been incorrectly labeled as “social selling.”
Social selling is a misnomer, because unless your business thrives on quick transactions that don’t require much consideration, you can’t really sell on social media. Nor should you try.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t land new clients on social media, it just means that you have to focus on the process rather than the result. That process is one of sharing helpful content in order to build relationships. If there is a sale at some point in time, so much the better, but that sale will be a byproduct of the main goal: helpful sharing and relationship building.
To start building relationships on social media, you first have to find and access the social onramp. Here is one approach.
Smart brands, big and small, know who their ideal customers are. They’ve taken pains to create personas that stand for the individual decision makers they need to reach. Hopefully, those personas reveal where those decision makers spend time on social media. If not, you will have to do some digging.
Once you’ve found the right space (or two), lurk for a little while before you start sharing. Pay attention to the type of content that is shared there and how your ideal customers react to it. What content is shared by the individuals with whom you want to build relationships? Are there certain subjects or types of content to which they respond most?
Quietly pay attention and catalog what you learn. It may seem like you spend an interminable amount of time preparing, but it’s only as much as you need to understand their world and what interests them. This understanding is the social onramp.
For starters, access the social onramp by commenting on content shared by others. As you become more comfortable engaging with that content, start sharing content that you have created or curated. This should be content you know will have a good chance of attracting and engaging your intended audience. If it doesn’t, don’t give up. You’re a newbie on the platform at this point, after all.
Once you have become informally acquainted with someone in your intended audience through content that has engaged both of you, connect with them using the vehicle supplied by the social media platform. Then, correspond with them and offer links to content you think they will find helpful.
In a true relationship, the content sharing should be a two way street. Invite them to share something with you that tells you more about their business.
When the relationship has become comfortable, invite your connection to move the conversation off of social media to email, telephone or Skype. By this time, suggesting an exploration to discover how you might be able to help each other should come naturally.
You may or may not land a new client, but you certainly will have started building a business relationship which, in the long run, could end up being far more valuable than a sale today.
While this scenario is a good plan, there is no precise formula. Circumstances are different for everyone, and things take more or less time to develop.
That said, by putting this plan into practice you will start to activate a social mindset of helping and sharing. It is only through that mindset that you will attract and engage the people who will value your relationship the most. If your ideal customers have been properly identified, they are the people who will most likely become your new clients because of social helping.
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