Social selling doesn't fall neatly into the standard buy/sell model. Even though you're the seller in a social selling relationship, you're the one who needs to raise capital – not the buyer. You need to raise your social capital. According to today's master of social selling, Eric Majchrzak, "Social capital is the currency of the social web."
Eric is the Chief Marketing Officer for BeachFleischman, an Arizona-based CPA firm with over $20 million in annual revenue. BeachFleischman serves an international client base and it's made social media and social selling an integral part of its marketing strategy. For Eric, the key to raising social capital is to "build relationships through social channels for the purpose of providing value. Don't merely sell for the sake of sales but really have a purpose behind your activity."
In order to provide something valuable to your target market, you need to know what they're thinking about and talking about. If you want to know that, you need to listen (my wife taught me that). Eric uses social media tools like Twitter and LinkedIn to listen to what people in search of a CPA firm are saying or what accounting questions they're asking. This approach not only helps them identify people during their "point of need," but influences the content the firm puts out. The firm regularly posts original content on its blog answering common accounting questions or providing tax tips.
Social Capital Funding Sources
While providing value is the "what" of social capital, Eric identifies a multitude of sources as the "where" of finding it. In fact, there are so many social capital funding sources that Eric insists that everyone can contribute:
- Bringing offline activities online: All the ways CPAs are already active in the community, from sitting on boards to being active in professional or nonprofit organizations – these remain valuable methods for raising social capital. Eric recommends these offline activities be augmented with online communications. For example, BeachFleischman recently participated in the viral ALS ice bucket challenge.
- Introverts and Extroverts: The extroverts may still dominate the in-person relationship building, but Eric doesn't want anyone to overlook the introverts on their team. "They really have a lot to say. It's all locked up in their brain, which makes them great candidates for content marketing," Eric explains. They're the sources for your white papers, seminars, and blog content. Eric also suggests the introverts are great resources for monitoring forums and communities, to do the social listening described above.
- Staff and Institutional social profiles: Eric and his team manage the firm's institutional social media presence through mediums like the blog and its social media profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. However, they also get staff on some of these platforms. They'll ask individual people at the firm to reach out and create social connections through social media that may be valuable for the firm. Other social activities firm personnel perform include following key folks on social media and sharing relevant content through their own profiles. The content doesn't need to be their own; it can be the firm's or other sources that are providing quality content that's relevant to the firm's community and prospects.
- Tech savvy and Newbies: Eric explains one of the reasons BeachFleischman is on so many social media channels is because "we want the opportunity to engage people in the space where they're comfortable. In the space they're used to going into every day." He takes this same approach for getting people at the firm online regardless of their social media experience. Eric recommends ramping up the newbies slowly, perhaps just 5-10 minutes a day. Typically, the newbies' first task is to share content from the firm via their personal LinkedIn profiles. Additional responsibilities and platforms are added into the mix later; these can include tasks such as following organizations important to the firm and sharing their content. Having newbies monitor group discussions is encouraged not only to keep an ear on what issues people are talking about, but also as a good way to get them more comfortable in eventually participating in the conversation.
Making the Investment
Raising social capital doesn't happen overnight. There's no angel to tap your shoulder. Listening to Eric, I think I can boil down his fundamentals of the "how" of raising social capital:
- Listening to your prospects, clients, and community. What are they talking about; what's concerning them? You build social capital by focusing on them, not you.
- Sharing content filled with good value that's relevant to what you're hearing from your community.
- Participating in the communities, online and offline. Listening and sharing are part of participating, but also actively network, ask for and accept connections; follow people and organizations that are providing good content.
Now you have Eric's what, where and how of raising social capital. The rest is up to you. Well, not entirely... we've got more interviews with masters of CPA social selling coming up to give you more tips and guidance. So check back here often; you can also follow us on Twitter at @BTerrellGroup to get notified when a new post comes out.