So, you’re ready to start social selling.
For ease of example, let’s say you’ve noticed many of your sales prospects interact on LinkedIn (a platform that — conveniently — has a social selling index to gauge your efforts). And, you’ve already done the groundwork and optimized your profile to reflect both work history and your current role, but have kept the sales language to a minimum. You know your profile is in good shape because your sister/ neighbor/ colleague on the editorial team has read it, so it is both grammatically correct and doesn’t include any hard sells. The next step is to research and follow both prospects and leaders in this community and, if appropriate, join the LinkedIn groups where they congregate.
Now, you’re wondering, what type of content should you share on the platform to get the ball rolling?
Before we delve into the where of content, here’s something to keep top of mind. According to researcher Harikesh S. Nair, a professor of marketing at Stanford Graduate School of Business: “When a company says, ‘Hey, here’s a coupon for 20% off,’ it gets very little engagement … when it talks to users in ways that simulate a human being — it gets lots of engagement.”
Get insightful content
With that in mind, here are eight places to grab appropriate content. Or, in some instances, content ideas to create and broadcast original content.
1. Brand content
While we know the marketing and sales teams can sometimes feel oceans apart, some of the easiest content to share on your profile is brand content produced by the marketing team. Modern brand content often includes blog posts, ebooks, webinars, product release announcements, and press releases. Depending on how large your organization is, your marketing and comms teams are likely to create (or ask an agency to create) collateral that is turn-key ready to share. And, the bonus is as you read brand content you’ll gain insight into your company’s market position and brand messages. On LinkedIn, you can either grab the URL of the shareable content or reshare an update from your social team. Either way will work for profile posts, but remember to add additional insights, so you are seen as knowledgeable and thoughtful on the topic. A quick shortcut to these insights is to pull out a particularly meaty stat from the blog post and use that as a teaser.
2. Industry publications
We should all read professional industry news and trends. Keeping current on your industry, and trends that impact the players will help you stay ahead of the competition. It’s also a way to future-proof your career and can be a temperature gauge for how company perception is faring (no matter what the CEO or PR says). That said, understanding the innovations that occur in your vertical and what impact they might have on the players, their customers, and the wider community is invaluable. And the ability to see the connections between competitors’ investments, hires, fundraising, business strategy pivots, marketing, or social campaigns shows you’re, at the least — thoughtful about (and hopefully at some point, a thought leader in) — your industry. Sharing relevant articles and either creating longer form posts or commenting and reposting on your profile makes for exactly the right type of social content.
In 2014 LinkedIn became a platform to publish professional content. Before then, you could reshare content via a URL link. Since then, many influencers in the business community use the in-platform tools to publish long-form articles or videos directly to their profiles. The platform now allows you to read entrepreneurial advice from Richard Branson, healthy living advice from Ariana Huffington, advice on how to live courageously from Brené Brown, and on and on. Sure, those three have an outsize influence on the business community, but you will also find actionable tips and content from Andy Crestodina, known in content marketing circles as an SEO-guru, and social media monitoring and PR tech advice from Mimrah Mahmood, whose title is Meltwater APAC Regional Director. None of the aforementioned influencers use sales-language, but they are all considered trusted advisors in the wider business community and, in the case of Crestodina and Mahmood, their smaller verticals.
Influencers and thought leaders exist in every industry. Sometimes they’re journalists and at other times, they’re CEOs, consultants, trend forecasters, or peers that have opinions to share and a platform to share them on. This particular entry overlaps with the others because you’ll find influencers on every channel that is on this list, but influencers oftentimes own the primary channels they use to broadcast. For instance, MarketingProfs is a well-known resource for marketers and the primary platform for Ann Handley to share her opinions on marketing best practices. So, if you sell martech, you might go to MarketingProfs to read (and reshare) blog posts that debate the ins-and-outs of marketing automation or the place of artificial intelligence (AI) in digital marketing campaigns.
Some of Medium’s posts are arranged in clusters or as a publication, (for instance, I subscribe to Better Humans). So, if you start following specific writers or articles and request Medium’s newsletter, you’ll be sent a weekly list of Medium posts that overlap with your stated interests. Medium articles are easy to share on social channels like LinkedIn, just grab the URL, and repost on your LinkedIn feed with some additional insights.
6. Mainstream media
Sometimes we get so siloed in our respective careers and industry (or geographic region) that we believe what is normal for us (and those in our immediate community) is normal for the rest of America. This can play out in the media outlets we choose to read as well. For instance, if I only read Tech Crunch or Mashable, I might think everyone is watching videos on their mobile phones, but stats say less than a quarter of the world watches video this way. That’s why it’s necessary to mine content that is both national and hyperlocal to the geographic regions where your prospects are based. Doing this is pretty straightforward: The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and all reputable local newspapers all have business sections. A lot of what mainstream media covers is informed by how it will impact Americans as a whole and from that info, along with research from other sources, you can provide prospects and your social channel ecosystem with insights that may affect your industry.
Quora is a great channel to ask questions or see the answer to questions the general public is interested in. While Quora can be a mixed bag, in terms of quality of answers, you’ll find there are a variety of industries and company-specific questions asked, answered, and discussed. If you’re serious about elevating your profile as an industry expert, it would behoove you to answer questions in a casual and thoughtful way about your company, industry, or other related topics on Quora. You can also partially answer questions on Quora and then direct readers to content on other channels. Quora is also a place to mine ideas, and given there is a date stamp, you’ll see what topics have recent questions. It’s also a reliable platform for building casual relationships. If you’re following someone on LinkedIn, it might make sense to also follow and interact with them on Quora. You’ll be able to see their expertise and pain points via which questions they engage with and what answers they volunteer.
You may have heard of Reddit on the news. Reddit consists of forums and some of those forums make the news cycle because a member of the community will make headlines or a content piece will go viral. But, that’s not the type of content we’re talking about here. Reddit is awesome because some of the forums have members that will go into detail about topics. You can find helpful sales tactics and will be able to find a subreddit for most industries. Each forum has its own rules, but if you’re looking for content ideas (again, we will reiterate that you should not plagiarize) or wonder what topics are hot in your industry, Reddit is a great resource.
Now, you’ve got eight solid sources to mine content or ideas, go forth and grab content to spiff up your social profile! For insights on the state of sales, and to uncover the trends sales pros harness to make their quota, be sure to download our report on the topic.