social-media-cloudThere is no doubt these days that businesses are successfully using social media to engage with their target audience. Whether you are a branded household name or a small business making and selling sheds, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+ and a variety of other social media sites are proving an effective marketing activity that improves communications and relationships with new and existing customers. But how do you use it correctly and engage your followers?

Do not sell
The focus should be on building relationships and communicating with your followers, not selling to them. Selling on social networks is going to have a negative effect unless it is cleverly executed (see the Heinz link below). Like PR, social media should inform, share, discuss, invite feedback and generate interest. Constantly pushing products and services at your audience will only result in turning them off your business.

An effective way to generate interest is to find clever ways to encourage participation by offering something for free; for example, a free sample or a competition to win one of your products or services. A highly successful campaign was run by Heinz that massively improved likes and interactions; read how they achieved this:

Does it work for B2B?
There is still speculation within the industry as to whether social media is effective in a B2B environment. This is probably because business products and services are more complex and it takes a longer time to build trust and develop relationships.

If you can establish yourself as an expert in what you do or what you produce and regularly communicate information that your target audience will find interesting, it is possible to gradually build those relationships.

Social media should be part of a strategic marketing plan that links your online and offline activities to increase overall brand awareness.

LinkedIn is the predominant social media website for B2B engagement. I know many businesses that are getting enquiries and winning new business through actively using it to make new contacts and keep in touch with existing customers.

Here are three top tips from an expert on using social media, Michael de Groot.

Stop talking about yourself and start listening!

You have two ears, two eyes and JUST one mouth. A common mistake I see all the time is over-promotion. STOP! When you engage with someone either face to face or online, listen, watch and learn. It’s in the stories they tell you, they share the secrets of what they need. SHUT UP! Do not be tempted to jump in and solution sell at the first opportunity of hearing their need. It could well be a false direction they are trying to send you in and after all nobody will truly say what they are struggling with. That would be too obvious, too revealing, too embarrassing and definitely not English. Don’t get drawn into politics, for example, “If the government just got their act together, we would be OK.” Focus on the job in hand and ask the most important question, which is; 'What Else?'

How can you assist in ways that are not profitable for you but profitable for your prospect?

Business is built on trust and the fastest way to build trust is to do something for someone without expecting anything back in return. When doing your listening whether face to face or online, listen out for clues as to who they wish to meet and who their ideal prospect is. In fact if they don't give you those clues, which actually most people don't, then you MUST ask the question. It is highly probable that you know someone, who knows someone and before you know you could make an introduction. With the power of LinkedIn this is now very easy to do. It’s YOUR job to deliver the potential prospect to your contact. Trust is built on what you DO for people, not what you COULD do for them.

It’s a numbers game, but they don't add up until you get personal!

Yes indeed, you have to kiss a few frogs before you find the ideal prospect, however you also need to get to know your network better than you actually do. In my experience, you have an intimate network of only 150 people. I call these the 'Power 150'. These are the ones you need to leverage more than you are actually doing. Can you tell me what these 150 people do, who they want to get in front of and what their personal aspirations are? Whether you meet them face to face or via a video call, it doesn't matter, but get intimate, get to know who they are and what their business is about. They are the ones who will help you find the business that you need. As humans we will remember those that make the most noise. I'm not saying be noisy, but definitely be there alongside them, so they notice you. So now go and make a list of your 'Power 150'!

Contact Michael at:

Mark Langston