After working with sales people, social media marketers, community managers, entrepreneurs, charities and many other professionals on five continents I have had the opportunity to see the Rules of Engagement implemented (and ignored) in almost every environment.
Stephen Jagger and I sat down and penned these rules in 2008 when we were writing Sociable! – the tools have since evolved but the rules are even more relevant today then they were back then. We started with 7 rules and recently I added two more which I will share with you today. Before reading the rules I’d like to bring a couple things to your attention:
Firstly these rules aren’t negotiable. I have had all kinds of people that either claim to be too busy or too smart to follow the rules; they of course then complain about lack of results or lack of ROI from social media. I liken this to wanting to be in the Olympics but training and eating like you’re going to play in a beer league baseball tournament. These are simple rules but it takes work to implement them – you can attempt to outsource, automate or ignore these rules – in most cases this will end in failure.
Secondly – I don’t make the rules I just observe them. In short… don’t shoot the messenger.
Lastly – I do break the rules from time-to-time, in fact that’s how I discovered them. You can roll the dice and break the rules, just be prepared for the downside.
So if you want to rise above the crowd in social selling and social communications here are the 9 Rules of Engagement you will want to follow:
The 9 Immutable Rules of Engagement in Social Selling
#1 Stop pitching and start connecting
This one act can elevate you above the masses and establish life long relationships. Ignoring this can immediately get you forever categorized along with the used car sales people/get rich quick in MLM crowd. When someone connects with you on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook they’re often hoping to improve the quality of their network and expand their relationships in the marketplace.
Your first few interactions can build trust and lay the foundation for a win/win relationship. Too often it immediately becomes obvious that the sales person or entrepreneur connecting with you actually doesn’t care about you at all. They just want to sell something NOW. Resist the temptation to send a well-crafted marketing message via LinkedIn after connecting in fact just don’t do it at all. If you can’t take the time to truly customize your message to the person you’re addressing you’re most likely going to repel them permanently and destroy your credibility. Instead ask how you can help and show genuine interest in the other person’s business and life goals. Take your time getting to know someone, comment on their updates, ask them questions and add value regularly – do this well and people will look for reasons to do business with you.
#2 Doers win in the game of social media
Social media is more like a telephone than a billboard or a banner ad. It’s also about creating and curating great content. Great content in social media often comes in the form of conversations and sequences of updates that collectively tell a story. You can’t just lurk or put your big toe in the water and “test it out.” In order to win and gain mind share with your market you need to get in the game and create great content, tell amazing stories and have positive engaging conversations constantly.
#3 It’s not about you
Jay Levinson the father of Guerrilla Marketing used to like to label bad marketing content as “Me marketing.” Hop onto Twitter and you will notice that even most social media gurus and large enterprises are guilty of this social media sin. Most of their updates are about “my products, my press release, my customer praise, my opinion, etc.” No one cares. When I figured this out and I changed my focus my engagement, followers and opportunities doubled over night. Stop talking about your products or tweeting up your latest success, start sharing your customers content and ideas and stories that will help your target market succeed. This will make you worth following and your content worth sharing.
#4 Be fearless in your contribution to community
When you don’t feel like you have enough you tend to give very little to other people. This attitude feeds a downward spiral in sales and business. In order to get, you must first genuinely give value.
Very simply, give more than your competitors think is necessary and connect deeper and more often than your competitors are comfortably with. On giving more: if your competitors share a sound byte daily then share a full blog post or report. If they require an email address, phone number and an opt-in to get business information then ideally you should make your information or insights available with one click.
If your competitors generically send thank-you’s via Twitter then you should take the time to read about the person and customize a response. “Thanks for the share, how are things in Austin Texas?” is a lot more powerful than “Thanks for the share!”
If you’re content is truly great and your intent is good you won’t need to trick or manipulate people into giving up their contact information – they will come find you.
#5 Don’t be a social spammer, engage
The Internet especially the social networking part, is very, very noisy. It’s full of people yelling at their customers, mass emailing and messaging thousands of people in hopes of converting 1% of the people while they alienate the other 99%.
I recently received a really nice LinkedIn message from a LinkedIn expert asking how they could help me out. It was a nice gesture. Then the let down… their coworker sent me the exact same message – verbatim. When you send generic messages to your entire list it makes them feel like a number, not a valued connection. Avoid this type of messaging.
This also applies to your Twitter stream or Facebook page. When someone follows you ideally your content should be 90% value added updates, customer focused content and value added interactions. The other 10% can be well-timed marketing and sales content. When 90% of our updates are generic, broad pitches people feel spammed – and in many cases they disconnect from us or mute our updates.
#6 Be authentic
Information and truth always seems to eventually find a way to get on the internet. Even with iron clad legal agreements, aliases, and basic common sense, everything eventually is shared. There is no such thing as a private message. Once you send it, it is recorded and stored somewhere.
If you don’t want a picture of you drinking a beer posted on the internet; stop drinking beer. Everyone is afraid of “Big Brother” but the biggest risk to your privacy is a random stranger with a cell phone camera.
The same goes for business. If you make promises, promote your values and strong character on the internet and then don’t deliver or even worse – make false claims – don’t be surprised when it ends up on the internet.
This doesn’t mean you can’t make mistakes or have to have a perfect product or service. What it does mean is: only make promises and claims you can back-up, and if you make a mistake own up to it fast.
#7 Be consistent
Consistent presence on social networks will do more for your credibility and trust than a brilliant marketing promotion or groundbreaking report. You don’t have to tweet 30 times per day or write 6 blog posts a week, but you need to commit to a reasonable amount of meaningful daily activity and stick to it.
Imagine if your favorite TV show only played once in a while and constantly varied their format, length and time of day they aired. It wouldn’t be your favorite show too long. Imagine if you favorite coffee shop randomly closed for days without notice or indication when they would open again. Be dependable and be present consistently, this one habit will make gaining momentum and growth in social selling a lot easier.
#8 Amplify through community
One of my favorite leadership quotes comes from John C. Maxwell where he shared that “One is too few a number to achieve greatness.” This is a foundational social communications and social selling truth. In order to build a powerful presence and reputation you need a community that trusts you. You may never have 10,000 Twitter followers, but you can build strong relationships with 10 people that each have 10,000. You may never have the credibility of the CEO of a major tech start-up BUT you can build alliances with those CEOs.
Genuine relationships with people will give you leverage for your message and your mission. Invest in building relationships with the communities and influencers that can help amplify your personal brand and give you access to networks beyond your personal circle of influence.
#9 Get Sociable!
Social media is not a video game or a popularity contest, especially for sales people who are responsible for generating revenues. Getting Sociable! is about using the internet to get off of the internet and connect in person. Very few things drive more ROI from social selling activities than old-fashioned face-to-face meetings. When I connect with someone on Twitter or LinkedIn my intent is to eventually meet them face-to-face, and if that’s not possible than via Skype Video or Google Hangout.
When you meet in person you quickly learn the truth about a person and an opportunity. Once someone has met you in person they will most likely trust you more and pay more attention to your online activities as well. Make it a goal to connect weekly with at least one online connection and take them offline. This one activity will accelerate sales cycles and build trust fast.
So there you have it. The 9 Immutable Rules of Engagement in Social Selling. These aren’t short cuts or a magic bullet BUT if applied effectively and wholeheartedly they will bring you long-term success in social selling. Here’s the condensed INFOGRAPHIC on the rules of engagement: