Social media is not for selling as much as a lawnmower isn’t for painting a house

I was recently talking to my mom about social media and how brands are, and should be, using these platforms to their advantage with all of the new capabilities, uses and connection opportunities they offer today.

After a long pause, she said: “Holly, I love you. But I still don’t get why a brand would bother with keeping up all these accounts on social media, and how that work translates into a business making more sales…” I hear that a lot from people in this industry, outside this industry, friends, and really anyone who’s willing to listen to me talk — that second sentence at least!

What followed was what I considered a successful social media conversion from the dark side. Since you’re reading this, you most likely already are on the right side of that conversation, but I wanted to share this story so you, too, can help others see the light in social media for brands.

Social media is your brands curb appeal

I told my mom first you have to reframe your assumptions of what social media is meant to do. Those of you who know me well, know I love making analogies. So here it comes: Most people think the lawnmower is a useful invention. But if for some reason people in a parallel universe thought a lawnmower would paint their houses, they would be extremely disappointed each time they used it.

“The paint job is terrible,” they’d say! “It’s not doing anything! I can do it myself and get better results!”

But if you could talk to them, you might say, “Hey, your lawnmower is not painting your house because that’s not what it does. Not sure how you got the idea that it would, but it simply won’t. It will however cut your grass. And you need that, too, if you want to sell your house. Painting your house is something different—a different task. But you need both. No one will come to even consider buying your house if your grass is two feet tall outside your front door. I’ll show you how to use your lawnmower to mow your overgrown grass…” How nice of you.

Social media is not a sales tool

Somehow, somewhere, people got it in their head that social media, when used by a business, is a sales tool. I can’t stress this enough: social media is not for selling as much as a lawnmower isnt for painting a house. Social media is not a replacement of your sales staff. It’s not your advertising plan. It’s not a roadside billboard or a radio or TV ad. It’s not a full page color ad in the New York Times, no matter how amazing your social media strategy is or how huge your social team is. No, social isn’t for selling.

But it helps people want to buy from you. That’s an important, if subtle, distinction. Social isn’t for selling—its for making people want to buy from you. Ultimately, making people like you.

Brands just want to be loved, too

Next, I asked my mom to describe why she personally uses social media, to be specific, why she first got on Facebook. She said at first it was to see what her kids were doing (thanks for Facebook stalking me, mom), to know what’s going on with them more often.

“Great, now imagine you’re a brand and instead of your kids, it’s your customers. Do you see why a business would get value out of being there where their customers are, to see what they are doing, talking about, need, want, like,” I asked.

She said, “Yes—if they understand what their customers are up to maybe they can be there for the right people, to be better at providing exactly the goods and services they need!”

So then we talked about how not only does she watch what others are up to on social, but she also posts content often. Why? She said she wanted others to know what she’s about, how she thinks and feels—her values—and to get validation and support from others by way of their comments and likes. To truly feel connection with those in her network; that they see her, are thinking of her, and like her. Exactly.

Then I said, “It’s all the same reason and benefit for a brand to use social media. There’s so much more you can do with it if you want to invest the time, from placing advertising on the sites, to running contests and campaigns, to using it as a driver to engagement on your own website, but at the core of it, it’s about knowing others, letting others know you, and showing people why they should like you. Really like you—not click-a-button like you.” Now my mom gets it. Win!

So when you change your view, and see that the purpose of a brand on social is to be able to say who you are and what your values are—to be supported and loved and sought out by those that support and share those values—its the kind of empowered epiphany had by the person who just realized their lawnmower is meant to mow their grass…

I’ll say it once more. Social media is not for selling. But it is your curb appeal to lead to someone buying your house. And it needs to be done…because the people selling for you can’t really do their jobs well without it.

So get out and mow your grass! And remember, the better your lawnmower, the sooner you can get to painting and all the other things it takes to sell a house.

Holly Fearing

Holly Fearing

Holly lives and breathes social media; if you can’t find her IRL, try reaching out on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook or Instagram, and you’ll likely get her right away. ... Web: Details