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The Soft Sell: Using social media to get to 4th base

As a freelance Social Media Manager, one of my first questions to my clients is often ’what do you want to achieve from your Social Media output?’ Nine times out of ten, the answer is ‘more sales’.  A relatively simple answer, yet achieving that goal can be a little more complex than tweeting pictures of products or lists of services and special offers.

The World Wide Web is a Vast Territory

Over 3 billion people use the internet (May 2015, and 2 billion of them are using Social Media (August 2014, Yet for many of us, our first ‘tweet’ is sent out to a grand total of ZERO followers, and our first blog post is probably read by exceptionally dedicated family members and friends, but not necessarily money-spending customers.

So How do we Attract that Untapped Target Market?

Take it from me, it’s not by bombarding people with links to the services that you are promoting or to a discounted product on your website. We are engaging, however virtually, with ‘real’ people, so the best way to communicate with consumers is by treating them as real people.

Don’t be the Buffet Table Bore

Imagine being at a party and someone you’ve never met before approaches you. In ‘real-life’, a few niceties would be exchanged, you’d take it in turns to ask each other questions, find out a little bit about each other, share stories that may be relevant to what you’ve learnt from your conversation. Perhaps the stranger has spent the day researching potential city breaks and you’ve recently had a fab time in Barcelona – you’ll offer tips and information on great places to visit and an awesome restaurant that serves the best tapas. It will (hopefully) be a mutually beneficial conversation. If the same person approached you and proceeded to bombard you with information about his/her life – without letting you get a word in edgeways – you’d be looking for your first excuse to make a break for the buffet table. It’s exactly the same etiquette on Social Media.

Inform, Share, Engage & Educate

In order to attract the attention of a consumer (or ‘follower’), try sharing some information. Put something out there that is useful. A café-owner may blog about the best-selling brownie on their menu; by sharing the recipe the owner is engaging with followers and asking for nothing in return. He/she is saying ‘Hey, look here – this one is on us!’ The consumer is getting something for nothing and, let’s face it, we all love that!  And in the majority of cases, that information will be passed on:


Before you know it, everyone is talking about the Café’s amazing brownies.  At some point, those followers will decide to visit the café for real and there you have the conversion from virtual blog post to real-life customer (and money in the till, ca-ching!).

Reward, don’t Repel

I decided to subscribe to the newsletter of a certain fashion brand; I liked the clothes and thought that by following them online I’d be able to make the most of the occasional sale previews or discount codes. But after a month of my email inbox being inundated on an almost daily basis with promotions, I ended up unsubscribing. It was too much of the ‘hard sell’ with nothing for me to take away (that didn’t involve spending money). It would have been much more interesting, as a consumer, to have read articles less frequently but with more take-away information – What’s in this season? Where was the spring/summer campaign shot? Who was the photographer? Rewarding the consumer with this ‘inside-information’ in exchange for their time invested in following the clothing brand would have led to much greater engagement – the consumer will look forward to the email as a welcome distraction to the day, as opposed to being annoyed at the interruption to work.

Slow and Steady Wins The Race

It goes without saying that at some point, we want our ‘followers’ to spend with us. Whether it be converting the online Twitter follower of the museum to getting them through the actual door, or converting the travel blog reader  to customer when they book a holiday through the travel blog’s website; just keep in mind the 4 out of 5 rule; inform, share, engage and educate your followers before promoting a product or service with your 5th post/tweet. We all know you can’t get to 4th base on a first date, right?!  Relationships take time to develop – listen and respond with your output accordingly – the long-term benefits will be worth the effort!