Social Media and Sales: What I Learned When I Stopped Following “Expert” Advice

I realized this week that I've fallen into a trap that so many salespeople often do. I hope my mea culpa can be your lesson too...

It hit me this week that I've been doing some things completely wrong, particularly as they relate to social media and my business. I think I have LinkedIn figured out. That's pretty much a business-only platform, so it seems like the "rules" are more straightforward.

Twitter still eludes me, and I try to avoid Facebook at all costs. I goof around a little bit on Instagram, but since I'm not someone who takes a lot of pictures, most of those posts end up being metrics from my Orangetheory workoutsfood I'm cooking, and the occasional video of me on a famous golf course, it's mostly boring. Ok, the golf stuff can be pretty cool, but I don't think anybody cares what I'm eating for dinner, and the world doesn't need another person posting motivational quotes over the top of inspiring photographs with their logo on it.

For the past ten years or so, much of the rhetoric in the selling profession has been pushing toward using social media channels for building an audience, getting your message out there, and providing value for prospects and customers in a more comprehensive manner. It makes a lot of sense. Except there were KPI's everywhere!

How many Twitter followers do you have?
Do you have 500+ connections on LinkedIn?
How many likes do you have on your Facebook business page?
How often do you get shared or retweeted?
"You know you have to engage or people will think you're a bot..."

Of course, as the use of the channels evolved, people realized that a lot of these vanity metrics were pointless (and there are plenty that still are). As the algorithms change, so do the methodologies, and all of the tactics used to "leverage social media channels effectively."

That's where I've been getting tripped up. All of the social media "experts" are telling you why you need to do it, and even how to do it. So, given this sudden perceived need to do something that you don't feel you have the time or attention span for, I tried to take some advice.

I posted things. I'd @ people. I played around with hashtags. I replied to everyone who liked or retweeted or shared.

It failed miserably.

Worse, I was spending a lot of time on apps, and not nearly enough time doing the things that mattered to my business, like planning and prospecting.

Finally, I all but gave up on Twitter. I decided to post a few random thoughts organically on LinkedIn. I don't take Instagram seriously, and I also don't really promote my business there. I decided that I was going to treat social media a little differently. It proved I existed and was a record of my thoughts and opinions, but I was no longer going to try to be everywhere all the time. Some people can do that, but I really don't want to. It's just not me.

Something strange happened... My engagement went through the roof. My #jbthoughts posts get a lot of comments, and also a lot of people thinking. My connection requests related to those posts have gone through the roof. As for Instagram, I can't stop posting silly Orangetheory metrics, because at least three times a week, someone will tell me they've noticed my posts and ask me what I think of it. I'll stop bragging about splat points when it stops driving real engagement.

Is a random thought during the work week more valuable than a blog post or a video? Does anybody really care that I worked out earlier today? I would have answered "no" to both of those questions just a week or so ago, but the data speaks for itself.

I was trying to "do" social media the way the "experts" were saying that it needed to be done, rather than me just being myself in a semi-public forum and letting the chips fall where they may. This reminds me of my time as a pitcher when I was growing up on the ball field. Whenever I got into trouble, it was because I was trying to aim the ball rather than just throwing strikes.

It’s funny sometimes how much more effective you’d be with a lot of things if you stopped thinking about how you "should” do them, and instead just sat down and thought about a natural way to go about it. Other people have valuable expertise to contribute but copying and pasting their plans and tactics will not yield the same benefits for you. Don't forget what it takes to become an expert. They've learned from trial, error, and experience, and in many ways have internalized the principles of success that they've learned along the way. That nuance is the biggest reason their techniques work for them, but without it, you won't see the same success. When they say you should walk a mile in someone else's shoes, this is not what they mean. My friend Mike Simmons says, "We're all n's of 1."

You've heard me say this before, but it is worth saying again: stop looking for a shortcut. Take responsibility for your outcomes, and just take one step (even a small one) forward at a time. Remember that the process is as much about what you learn along the way as it is arriving at your destination. Keep breaking things until they work for you.