It all comes down to whether you see the glass as half empty or half full. True, it’s becoming more difficult to find a market niche and create offerings that surprise the consumer.

But we live in a time when social networks, if they’re used well, can tell you exactly what people are looking for. You just need to find out how to maximise the potential of social media, and build it into your sales process.

Social media platforms have, in a short space of time, revolutionised the brand-user relationship. In spite of the economic context and the saturation of existing offerings, it’s clear that social media is continuously opening doors, helping us connect with our target market and generate loyalty.

We’re now designing products and services based on what we listen to on social networks. In the words of Janet Fouts, social media coach and director of Tatu Digital Media, “Social media allows salespeople to see what prospects are saying about their brand and competitors.” It’s all about generating a dialogue with clients and prospects in the right networks, getting to know their expectations based on their requests, complaints, recommendations and congratulations.

OK, so should you be present in just any social network? The answer is no. You need to find out where your target audience congregates online, based on your business profile, and focus your communication strategy on those media. If you want to network and opt for a direct, formal introduction, LinkedIn is the best option.

If, however, you prefer to showcase your extensive product catalogue, opt for visual social media such as Instagram or Pinterest. According to a recent study by Business Insider, 63% of users claim to consult online catalogues before buying, and 35% say they use Pinterest to plan their purchases. Specialty Retail Report says that 90% of US retailers have an account in both social networks.

Whatever network you use, it’s essential that you share valuable content, created by your company to show your experience in the sector, and activate your community. The latest change to Facebook’s algorithm significantly lowers the organic reach of posts in all pages. If you don’t share the information your target customer is looking for or provide a solution for their needs, you won’t appear in their news feed. You need engagement to generate recommendations and increase the leads following your activity. As Max Fackeldey put it at the Social Media World Congress, “Social media is gasoline and content is the fire!”

Audiences are well informed and have learned to dodge the multitude of sales impacts that come their way on a daily basis. Interaction in the 2.0 community builds more confidence, even though it takes time and dedication. Work on social media should be combined with other actions such as phone calls, emails and public relations campaigns to support buying opportunities throughout the sales funnel – and to make conversions. Sales take place outside the social networks, but work carried out within them is priceless.

If you’re thinking about which promotion to launch, want to avoid a brand reputation crisis or know how your competition works to generate fan/follower loyalty, you need to have a presence in social media. If you already have a corporate page, check out exactly what’s being said about your brand using tools such as Google Alerts or Muck Rack. Sales take place outside the social networks, but work carried out within them is priceless.

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