If you don’t know it already, social media is changing the buyer’s journey in a big way, especially in the B2B (business-to-business) market.  Buyers now are more savvy, perform more research online, want sales less involved in the early stages of the buying process, and desire more customized experiences.  Social media is essential to this process and studies only emphasize the importance of a strong social media presence in sales activities.

For example:

  • 65% of sales people who use social media fill their pipeline.1
  • 81% of B2Bs said LinkedIn was very important or somewhat important during the research phase of the buying process.2
  • Buyers who use social media have 84% larger budgets.3
  • 40% of sales professionals have recently closed a deal thanks to social media.4
  • 84% of CEOs and VPs use social media to make buying decisions.5

With so much at stake why are more sales professionals using social media to make more meaningful connections?  The answer is simple: social media is difficult to navigate.  It’s tricky to uncover the relationships to nurture (and why).

Below are 4 strategies to help use social media groups for better networking opportunities:

    1. Find the Right Groups in Which to Participate
      Sure, being in groups whether on LinkedIn or Twitter can be important to learn and engage with peers. But what about networking?  In joining groups consider what groups your target audience may be in and why.  For example: If your target audience is neuroscientists you may want to investigate what groups are geared for the exchanging of ideas, thoughts, research, etc. within social media.PRO TIP – Don’t limit yourself to just the biggest social platforms and channels.  LinkedIn and Facebook may be good places to start, however, searching in Google can also reveal forums, chat groups, etc. that can be sources of social media.  Remember, not every industry is right for the biggest social media platforms.  Instead look to see where else online these people may mingle, interact, etc. and be THERE.
    1. Read the Group Rules
      Every group has its own set of rules. Read them before you join, after you join and periodically when you are in the group.  Then don’t break them, try to stretch them or bend them, ever.  (This can, in the best case scenario damage your reputation and label you as a rule breaker among the people who own, moderate and lead the group. In the worst case, rule breaking can get your removed.)PRO TIP – Avoid spam.  Avoid self-promotion.  Avoid asking people to contact you/message you, etc. Avoid being a troll (e.g. cruel, naysayer, negative, looking to start or belabor arguments, etc.) Instead, of these risky behaviors that no one enjoys, focus on being kind, helpful and sharing your expertise as authentically as possible.
  1. Lurk in the Group for a Week or So
    Depending on how active the group is (or isn’t) you should be able to assess some general information about the group within a week or two. Specifically, look at the top of the group and see if this is something that matches your own values, philosophy, methodology, etc. in general.  Some things to evaluate during your lurking period:

    1. Read questions as well as the answers. Are these well-thought questions, and are there many people who respond when an inquiry is made?  Or are there may basic (and often redundant) questions that go unanswered for weeks at a time? (You are looking for an active group that engages with each other.)
    2. Gauge the overall tone and feel of the group. Is this a group you feel comfortable in?  Does it feel to touchy-feely for you?  Does it feel to harsh or abrasive?  Are the posts long and rambling but fringe on self-promotion?  Are there many links to articles in trade publications that people already know about in the industry?  These are all factors you need to assess and determine your comfort level.
    3. Evaluate the quality of the group as a whole. As you’ve been observing the group do you find that this group would provide value for you?  Could you provide value for it?  (e.g. Are there questions that you could answer?  Are there people you feel you’d like to connect with?)PRO TIP – Look to see what kinds of information is being shared by the group.  Are they merely answering questions that could be found with a simple Google search?  Or are they digging into subject matter that is interesting, compelling, etc.  Really great groups generally do more than answer questions.  They share documents through a portal or document repository.  Take a peek and see if one exists in the group.
  2. Join In
    Once you’ve identified the groups you feel add mutual value, you’re now ready to start the networking process of social media through social groups. One of the simplest methods is as follows:

    1. Keep a list of the FAQs that keep popping up in the group and that relate to your business. If possible, have your marketing department create blog articles, videos, etc. that answer these questions.  (Your marketing department will also love the insights!)
    2. When a topic or question comes up that you can get involved in, feel free to chime in. Keep it simple, make it kind and positive (especially if everyone else is negative),  and make it authentic.  If your answer can be tied to content you have created, you can link to it as long as this isn’t against the group’s rules.For example:  “Angie, you pose an interesting question to a dilemma we often see at my company.  It’s common enough that we have an article on our blog that I believe will answer the question for you.  If or when the person responds to you, you can also respond back, (again as it isn’t against group rules) with something such as:  “I’m glad it was helpful, Angie.  Feel free to message me if you’d like to chat about this in more detail.  I also just sent you my phone number via message.”PRO TIP – When providing answers, always answer with just enough information that showcases your expertise, but without giving away everything for free.  Respond as if you were being paid to consult.  This will help attract the best quality people in your direction.

Using social media groups can be a great networking tool.  However, don’t just use groups merely for the connections.  Consider groups as a way to build a reputation as a trusted advisor to strengthen your network for referrals as well as direct leads to fill your pipeline!

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SOURCES

1http://my.salesforlife.com/social-selling-2017-trends-report/

2https://www.themarketingblender.com/statistics-every-b2b-company-know-boost-sales/

3IDC, 2014

4https://www.forbes.com/sites/markfidelman/2013/05/19/study-78-of-salespeople-using-social-media-outsell-their-peers/#305cffc3a39e

5https://www.themarketingblender.com/statistics-every-b2b-company-kno

Eloisa Mendez