What you are doing right now with Facebook, blogging, Twitter, YouTube and the like is probably working against your best interests.

How can this be? There is no money in your knowing the truth: the Social Media Revolution is a lie.

Need proof? Look around. Where’s the revolution in your business? People actually acquiring customers and selling using social media know the truth; they know something most of us don’t.

The difference between wasting time on social media and selling with it relies on the use of proven, time-tested, old practices – not shiny new tools and techniques. If your goal is to make social media marketing sell, you’ll need to start getting back to basics and developing three habits. Based on my own year-long research project, these fundamental ideas are responsible for selling products and selling services using social platforms.

Donde Esta El Revolution?

The jury is out. Most businesses dipping toes in social media waters are not netting customers with it. Most of us are enthusiastic about advances like Facebook but we’re rarely seeing them in a useful, practical way. Certainly, social media gives us the ability to instantly observe and react to customers like never before. But for most of us, the social media revolution has yet to reveal a clear path forward beyond running out and “just doing it.”

A year ago, my own frustration finally piqued. I needed to create sales with social media and I could not find a practical resource explaining how it could be applied in ways that generate sales. There were scads of books expounding on the importance of platforms like Twitter-and how to use them-but none clearly explained how to sell goods and services with social media.

The Truth About Social Media’s ‘Revolution’

So how were the people who are quietly selling using social media doing it? I realized these businesses knew something that we didn’t. Something was powering their success. I also examined a personal hunch: that the so-called social media revolution might be a lie. Was it a make believe “paradigm shift” foisted upon business folks by charlatans looking to make a fast buck?

A year’s worth of research confirmed my suspicions. Indeed, there is a chance for more of us to generate tangible business leads and sales using social media platforms.

It took me a while but I found people like Amanda Kinsella. She is selling dozens of heating and air conditioning systems and service contracts each month on Facebook. Then I met entrepreneur, Marcus Sheridan. Marcus is keeping busy selling big-ticket luxury items at record pace, in a struggling economy. His company, River Pools & Spas, is selling more in-ground, fiberglass swimming pools than any business in North America using a fiberglass pool resource blog. Marcus is even increasing his profit margin, shortening his sales-cycle and creating a new revenue stream using that same blog.

First, Change Your Perspective

So how are Amanda and Marcus doing it and how can you do the same? In a word: Perspective. They don’t hope re-tweets on Twitter will get their brand noticed more often. They don’t strive to be Liked nor “engaged with” more than their competitors. They don’t believe good content marketing is “all about the customer” as so many of us do. Amanda and Marcus know these popular beliefs are not the answers. Their entire perspective expects more of social media: leads and sales not friends and followers.

Throughout history, the breathless hype-and-spin surrounding the arrival of new technologies has been problematic. Unbridled exuberance about something new always produces a rush to adopt it. This behavior is mostly driven by fear (of being left behind, missing out on opportunity). At the same time, we experience inflated expectation about this new techno-thingy. This is always followed by regret and disillusionment. “Hooey it’s not such a game-changer after all!” This process is pervasive and can stifle your business’s evolutionary process. It is also a constant. It happens each time a new technology is born, without fail.

Marcus Sheridan and Amanda Kinsella, and others like them, not only possess this perspective on how technologies are born. They also live and breathe it and allow it to guide their business decisions. They reject common wisdom put forward by gurus and the ideas that so many of us (myself included) have been quick to adopt.

Next, Do 3 Things

People like Marcus and Amanda routinely apply key concepts. Simple ideas power their ability to make social media sell. Surprisingly, their success principles are rooted in a return to basic practices. Successful social sellers understand the difference between wasting time on social media and selling with it relies on developing these three habits:

  1. Solving customers’ problems 
  2. Designing to sell (planning social experiences to provoke customer responses that connect to the sales funnel)
  3. Translating (discovering customer need as it evolves and using this knowledge to improve response rate)

The truth is compelling. Making things like blogs, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and the like actually sell challenges us to trust traditional instincts. We need to evolve, not reinvent. The social aspects of attracting, nurturing and earning a purchase are already known. That’s powerful.

Guide: Go Beyond Engaging

Successful social sellers are designing interactions (“conversations”) in ways that solve customers’ problems. In fact, they always have and so have most of us (before social media arrived). This approach makes it easy to help customers guide themselves toward products and services they really, truly need. How do we know this? It’s been this way since the beginning.

“Social behavior in humans is as old as our species, so the emergence of an Internet based on social behavior is simply our rudimentary technology catching up with offline life,” says Paul Adams, Facebook’s Global Brand Experience Manager.

Solving customers problems has always been a successful way to produce awareness, interest, desire, and purchase behavior. Providing answers to customers’ questions remains the best way to effectively coax or nurture customers toward making a purchase. Social media is inherently interactive, making this process even easier to accomplish. The key is using this familiar process, not figuring out what time of the week earns more Twitter re-tweets (or other nonsensical yet popular recommendations we often hear).

Become an Answer Center

The idea of being an answer center for prospective and current customers isn’t new to Amanda or Logan Services. It’s what they’ve been doing for many years offline to create leads and sales. What works in social media is rooted in an old idea: trading answers to serious problems with customers for insight on their “state of need” as a way to nurture leads (not just relationships) to fruition. “Then we can be there when prospects need our products and services,” says Kinsella.

Think about it in terms of your business. Might you already be helping customers solve problems in ways that capture information on the prospect’s “state of need” in return? Are you publishing white papers in this fashion, for instance?

This simple, practical idea is what Logan Services has been doing at home improvement shows all along. In essence, they already have a social strategy to implement on blogs and Facebook. Their specialists participate in shopping malls and dispense tremendous amounts of useful tips and information to “warm up” prospects. It’s how they’ve always earned trust and nurtured it toward purchase of a product or service. It’s how they form relationships that reveal urgent or latent needs from potential customers. It was simply a matter of “porting over” this successful practice to the digital realm. Sure, you can call it content marketing if you’d like.

Action item: Make your social media marketing sell. What are you doing to solve customers’ problems as the output of your content marketing and blogging? Are you finding it difficult to break away from traditional success metrics, like counting tweets and blog or Facebook status updates? Or maybe you’re practicing this problem solving technique yourself?