Is it time for your business to be more SOCIABLE on social media?

If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Social media is more about sociology and psychology than sales and technology. FACT.

Being behind the wheel of many social media platforms and advising clients on their social media strategy means I get to see and experience first-hand what works and what does not. The tough part, however, is to convince the client of this. They appoint me to do marketing for their brands and in return they want to see the bacon being brought home. But, let’s face it – marketing expenses are hard to measure in terms of a direct ROI. And if the sales figures don’t outweigh or justify the expenses, there are bound to be questions and concerns. And I get that.

But what clients often don’t get, regrettably, is that social media is a platform to build relationships – a place where the brand has the opportunity to be sociable. Why was Facebook started in the first place? The idea was a social network, so that people from all over the globe can be connected and stay in contact. Facebook business pages only followed much later, and Facebook ads even later than that.

If we go back to the root and reason of all sales – in its truest and purest form – we need to realise and accept that people do not buy products or services. People buy people. People buy stories. People buy relationships. And people buy how you make them feel.

We now live in an exceptionally dynamic marketing era where relationship marketing is almost more important than the actual quality of your product. Quality is important, of course, but quality means little if there are no people who believe in it enough to buy it. The world’s best winemaker can make the world’s best wine, winning the most sought-after awards, but it all means diddly squat if said winemaker (or his marketer) does not have good relationships with buyers and consumers. Makes sense, right?

So, in a world where we live behind our screens and devices, and in a world where we are faced with a global pandemic in which we are limited in travelling to meet our consumers and buyers, how do we build relationships with them? We build them through storytelling and engaging with our audience via content they want. Read that again – through content that they want.

Have you ever given any thought to what it is that your audience wants? Have you ever asked them what they want? Do you know? Are you sure you know? And if you are sure, do you have facts and figures to back it up? Have you done a survey, or are you taking a guesstimate?

Here’s the truth: Research has shown that social media users engage with businesses on digital platforms because they are, 80% of the time, looking to make a connection, and only 20% of the time looking to buy something. How often do you scroll through social media, almost mindlessly and aimlessly, and then suddenly you stop and scroll back to a photo of a captivating sunrise or a funny video? And then we laugh about it, we give it a blue thumbs up or a red heart, and we share it with our own followers. Why? Because we resonated with it and in that moment, we made a connection with the author of the post.

My own experience paints the same picture. Post something in which you are selling a product, and engagement drops faster than Enola Gay can drop an atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Post a photo of a winemaker covered in red wine skins from head-to-toe stomping grapes during harvest with a dashing smile, and the blue thumbs up and red heart emoticons increase by the dozens.

We are all creatures of habit. And our habits are to be social, to share stories, to laugh and engage with one another. Even if it is through the screen of an electronic device.

Here’s another thought: Remember how irritated you become when you get sales calls from telemarketers wanting to sell you the next cell phone contract or pet insurance that you really do not need? Fact is, we feel the same about brands who constantly want to sell us something popping up in our social media feeds. We don’t like the post. We don’t comment on the post either. We scroll past it instantly and forget in a nanosecond what we have seen. Because a sales pitch is a sales pitch is a sales pitch. And we don’t like anyone or any business who constantly wants to sell us stuff that we do not need, or even want. Just like we reject the telemarketer’s call or tell them we are in a meeting or hastily say we already have product X, we reject those posts just as much, and we reject them by scrolling on by and not engaging with the content.

There is a fine line between telling and selling. Sometimes we forget that a story artfully told is what naturally sells our products and services. We focus so hard on the dollar signs, that we forget about the humans whose dollars they are. And we forget that we need to win the trust of those humans first, enough to make them interested in our offerings before we can expect them to open their wallets.

Social media is such a great way to gain attention for your product and services and great for boosting public relations, but only if you use it properly. You may have 1,000 followers, but if you have no interesting or valuable posts, then you will not get anywhere with those followers.

Sharing your products and/or services is completely acceptable (why else would you bother if you don’t get something out of it?), but when the majority of your posts are just links to products in online shops, then there is a problem. No one wants to browse a Facebook page that is full of sales pitches, demands to ‘sign up now’ and links to a website that doesn’t provide any added value. A widely accepted ratio for selling vs telling posts is roughly 20:80 (in favour of the telling part, obviously).

Don’t be that brand who expects their social media manager to post 3 times a day to Facebook. Posting just for the sake of posting is so yesterday. Don’t be that brand who expects their social media manager to sell, sell, sell in every single post either. Let them tell stories about you, your company culture, the faces behind the brand, the stuff that makes your organisation unique, and let them do so in an engaging way to connect with your prospects.

There is really no art in having 20,000 followers on any social media platform. We can all buy followers. The real art is to have followers who want to be there, who engage with your brand through liking, commenting, and sharing.

My number 1 rule for social media success: Telling always comes first; selling will naturally and spontaneously follow.