Please don’t Sell – Share Value

I want to share some great things I’ve learnt about social media with my very small business community – the geosynthetics industry. For the uneducated, geosynthetics are engineered products (usually made from plastics) that are used in civil engineering and infrastructure projects. The interesting thing is the market dynamic of such products – it tends to be a technically / specification driven model. Most in this sector are quite new to the whole social media world, and as we can see, our community remains small but is growing very rapidly – everyone is aware of the need to get social now. Social media provides all of us with a fantastic opportunity, however, let’s do it well so we all win. I suggest we set the industry standard for social media marketing, by defining the “dos” and “don’ts” right now.

I am taking a first stab at it here and would appreciate your thoughts and feedback on this blog post. I’m in a unique position in that I straddle both the geosynthetics and social media fields, as I help technically driven companies with effective use of social media. So I hope this blog offers you a valuable insight into one area for being successful in this arena.

The first thing I’ve noticed is a small number of people selling their company/services – especially on LinkedIn. I have to say that LinkedIn is probably the most active community for our business sector at the moment. I expect Twitter to take off more rapidly this year and maybe Facebook will follow – especially with more Gen Ys coming through the ranks – but for now, LinkedIn will probably remain the key platform for sharing and dialogue.

Please take this advice with respect – if you sell to our communities on LinkedIn, however blatant or subtle, over time, people you want to influence will not pay attention to what you are saying – it is a complete turn off. Just think of the boy who cried wolf once too often, after a while no one listened. Our community is not online to be sold to, and if you carefully analyse the group, you’ll see that practically no one is a customer…. yet. BUT even when the customers come, they do not want to be sold too, they want education, guidance and advice. So please keep this in mind, as it is the difference between being successful or failing dramatically in social media – and I don’t want that to happen to anyone.

I seriously recommend that if you want to build your profile using any social media platform then you MUST share value. Find some interesting news that will impact all of us and share your thoughts/start a discussion. Write a blog or post on a relevant product / project experience you’ve had, the benefits of such systems, practical challenges and what you learnt. It’s important to give a lot in these exchanges, because if you give, people will appreciate the knowledge shared and they will come back to you again and again. That is what professional social media is – establishing a platform for yourself as someone of value and credibility in your industry.

Remember, social media started as a “social” platform. Now businesses are seeking to influence on that platform. That means you’ve got to follow the social rules and be social. What does social mean? Discussions. Sharing information of value to our community. Raising issues or concerns. Sharing lessons and global trends. Demonstrating success. Sharing high value information. It is NOT selling.

Also remember LinkedIn is a professional networking community NOT a sales community, so use it wisely and it will be your greatest friend, an invaluable source of information and contacts, bringing you accolades and business success down the track. If you are great in social media, over time, your audience will begin to understand that you are someone they can trust, as well as someone who knows what you are talking about, and that is where your success will come from as they will consider you someone they MUST work with.

Good luck, be smart, be engaging, be social and I look forward to lots more great discussions and sharing of information within my groups.

Steve Johnson

Managing Director

Geosynthetics Asia

(a SAJE company)

12 Comments

Filed under Content and Context

12 responses to “Please don’t Sell – Share Value

  1. JennyMcDonald

    Hear, hear! We don’t want LinkedIn to become like those horrid networking functions where people almost throw their cards at you in their haste to ‘sell, sell, sell’. Giving (and Receiving which is the inevitable, other side to Giving ) is one of the seven spiritual laws of success. It’s a great way to approach life as well as social media!

    • steve

      Thanks for your comment Jen. That’s exactly what we want to avoid. Otherwise the whole ethos (and potential) behind such platforms become diluted and demoted to “just another pitch” type scenario that people will avoid at all costs.

  2. Michael Mullaney

    Really well written Steve – and right on the money regarding the approach that people/companies should use for successful social media marketing. Look forward to seeing many more of your blogs :-)

    • steve

      Hi Michael – thanks for your support. Glad you agree, the truth of it is, these platforms represent great potential for business if handled correctly. Cheers

  3. Adrian

    Excellent job on your first blog Steve. I have to say, that a lot of this should be obvious to people, but unfortunately it isn’t, just as in normal every day life. Many of the groups I associate with on LinkedIn are self administering. We remove those who try and sell their products and services almost immediately, or when someone complains. I would however make the distinction that we do have people asking for sales advice, and this works because of those things you suggested. People in these communities have built up the credibility to be able to make recommendations on products and services in their experience are providing value etc. Maybe the key message in this should be patience?

    • steve

      Adrian, as always you’re right on the money! Patience is, afterall, a virtue right? Maybe people suddenly get blind with the potential they see and rush at this like a bull at a gate. Self-admin of such groups can be a sticky subject with people sometimes complaining of unfair treatment – moderators have to be firm but most of all consistant in their approach. As you say, with a little patience people can build a solid reputation as an individual of great knowledge and experience, which can only benefit them in business. Thanks for taking the time to comment – keep it coming please!

  4. Right on the money Steve.

    It is just like attending a conference. Some speakers will give you insights from their experience and research. You learn something valuable and remember that speaker.

    Others try to shove product down your throat. By slide 2 you want to slit your throat.

    Guess who participants will want to ‘network’ with after?

    • steve

      True true Keith – I have walked out of too many presentations to remember for exactly that reason.
      Give and you’ll receive – over time, every time.
      Thanks for the feedback

  5. A valuable insight into the role that social networking will undoubtedly play in the future. Agree totally with the concept of developing the trust of our industry partners to have them want to work with us in providing solutions.

    • steve

      Hi John – thanks for your thoughts, and good to hear from a potential benefactor of such technology so involved in the day to day geosynthetic business. I think this can benefit everyone from manufacturers, to consultants / designers, project owners and the all important distribution networks.
      Thanks again for taking the time to comment

  6. Steve,

    I have to agree with you whole-heartedly.
    I joined LinkedIn on invitation from a friend of mine and since then I have used it to build my network of friends from around the world, all of whom I worked with or went to college with. It’s an excellent tool to separate Private Networking (Facebook) from Business Networking (LinkedIn) and I really value it.
    I have joined groups to learn more about the fields that I am interested in, including my own, and also to impart what limited knowledge I have. I enjoy commenting on discussions and occasionally, where merited, I will refer to the product group I represent but not specifically my employer or the company’s products, preferring the receiver to discover that one for themselves.
    I have noticed, very recently only (last 2-months), very definite sales pitches being made in one of my groups and I find it very discouraging. It starts off with “we have a product which may help on this problem/discussion” and directs to the web-site. OK, so you can choose to check it out and then move on, or try it. But on one particular discussion, a pitch was done, a competitor jumped in and then a wholesale, retaliation orientated, sales discussion opened up and put me right off the group.
    I hope others will check out this blog and learn from it, however, having this discussion here, rather than in public on the site by “comments” will probably have the very people you are trying to reach, miss this.
    May I suggest that you re-print this on the Comment section?

    • steve

      Hi Donal
      At last – a comment from our geosynthetic community! Thanks for airing you views – you raise some very interesting points.

      The root of the problem tends to be this (in my opinion) – companies have suddenly realised social media is:
      a) here to stay
      b) represents good value for a company’s marketing dollar
      c) being embraced accross the whole industry sector
      d) is the only platform that allows genuine real-time engagement with customers / influencers

      As such, it seems a panic call has gone out in some companies, “quick – someone get active and start bringing in business!” So hence, the bull-at-a-gate type approach. Having worked with a number of companies to get them active effectively in this arena, the best advice I reckon I give is “don’t do this – unless you’re ready to do it well.” By that, I mean you’re better off keeping clear until you have established at least a few basic rules within your company to ensure people represent the company as you want and have a few loose strategies in place to ensure your message is consistant, relevent and current. A post along the lines of ” hey guys – has anyone used brand xxx to solve this problem…..?” is at best a clumsy product plug, at worst damaging to the company. The next cardinal sin is to set up links to platforms such as a Facebook fan page / LinkedIn Company page – and not populate it. Your success will be gauged by the quality and context of your content. Without good, engaging educational content – why bother???

      As for your suggestion to publish this on the comments section – I did think about it, and despite getting approval from the group manager decided it wasn’t relevant enough to the group to share – the last thing I wanted to appear as was a hypocrite!

      Thanks again and keep publishing those videos on YouTube – they are very powerful and effective

      Cheers

      Steve

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