The growth of social media has increased or shifted the time many small companies spend marketing to potential customers. The good news is that social media increases the tools in a salesperson’s toolbox. Prospective customers can not only be discovered on social media, they can be brought into the salesperson’s circle of influence organically. By providing advice and solutions to a future customer’s problems, that person can more easily become a current customer. Plus, this type of social media selling doesn’t need to take a big bite out of the budget. Social media selling makes it easier than ever to interact with people who need your products and services. Tweet This You just have to be creative and dedicate some time to the effort.

Personal branding

Even if the company is on social media, it behooves you as a salesperson to develop your own brand and engage as well. That can be as part of a consolidated effort with the company, or on your own, as long as you’re not violating any company rules. By showcasing yourself as a helpful expert, potential customers can immediately think of you as a when they’re ready to make a purchase, or to refer someone. You’ve already gained their trust or at least made a positive impression, which is a huge hurdle.

As part of your personal brand online, use a professional-looking headshot as your profile picture. It can be snapped by someone on their cell phone, as long as it’s good quality. Avoid using a photo with your significant other, your pet or a photo where it’s obvious that you cropped yourself out of picture with other people. That’s fine for your personal Facebook page, but not if you want someone to take you seriously at work.

Choosing a channel

There are a lot of social media channels out there, and the good news is that you don’t have to be active on all of them. Choose one or two that your potential customers are using, and dive in. LinkedIn offers a few good options, as a social media site for businesses and professionals. The “share an update” section allows individuals and companies to post links and articles, and you can post your own articles to establish yourself as a thought leader. This makes it easier for customers to find you via search engines, and to get a better understanding of your background. Consider joining various LinkedIn groups that potential customers are in, and actively following discussions and contributing to them.

On Facebook, you can share articles and tips. It’s a good site for having conversations with prospective customers who engage with your page. As a visually driven site, you can also post photos from conferences, for example, to show your involvement in the field and help others understand more about what you do.

Tips for using social media in business

With social media, you don’t want to just push information out. Interacting with your customers and prospects should be more like a conversation. Listen to their needs and see if there’s a way you or your company can meet them. That might mean creating new products or services, or doing things a different way.

Figure out a posting strategy and follow it. Customers should know what to expect from your posts, even if you use several types of content. For example, you might share articles of interest from the mainstream or trade press. You can share your own writing as well. Without getting too personal, you can still post about a charitable activity you’re doing, to give a more human insight into things of interest to you.

People like to buy from people they know, and social media gives you another way to connect to customers and create that relationship.

Photo Credit: aleksandrkorbotun, Twenty20