Have you ever gotten a Twitter direct message or LinkedIn connection request from someone you don’t know, or had a stranger comment on your status update or reply to a tweet? There are always three thoughts that come to mind right away:
- Who is this person?
- How did they find me?
- Why are they talking to me?
Hopefully by now in 2015 you’ve gotten somewhat used to it happening, but there’s still a fine line between making a friendly connection and being overly invasive and creepy on social media. Despite knowingly creating public profiles on public social networks, we all still expect a certain level of privacy and etiquette when interacting with other random users. After all, we were all taught as children not to talk to strangers, so you can’t help but feel a little creeped out any time a stranger engages with you online.
That being said, as more and more of the selling process is being conducted online these days, salespeople are using social networks as a resource to connect with potential prospects. On LinkedIn, for example, a salesperson can see what industry I work in, where I work, my position in that company, and many other valuable tidbits that they can use to close a sale. How social sellers use that information, however, is what plays a major role in determining whether they’ll win me over or completely weird me out.
To help make sure you don’t come off as that overly-invasive, creepy salesperson online, here are 5 social selling tips for not sounding creepy:
Stick to LinkedIn, Avoid Facebook at All Costs
Because LinkedIn is easily the most business-related social media channel of the Big 3 social networks, it only makes sense that it should be the most-used network for social selling. People use LinkedIn to find industry insights, helpful resources, and recent industry news, so it’s the perfect network to start fostering a business relationship. That doesn’t mean you should just message users out of the blue (I’ll get to that later), but it’s certainly the least creepy network for B2B social selling. In fact, only 34% of users think it’s creepy when salespeople look at their LinkedIn profile before making a cold call or sending a cold email, and 64% actually want salespeople to do their social research before reaching out them.
Facebook, on the other hand, is a completely different story. Because it’s built around the concept of having a network of friends rather than just followers or connections, many users view Facebook as a strictly personal social network – with the majority of interactions happening between people who know each other in real life. According to the HubSpot survey “Is Social Selling Creepy?” 78% of respondents said it would be creepy to receive a friend request from a salesperson on Facebook, and 81% said it would be creepy to receive a message from a salesperson on Facebook. When it comes to using Facebook for social selling, just avoid it at all costs. It’s almost always creepy.
When it comes to Twitter, respondents of HubSpot’s survey shared mixed opinions of whether or not most interactions were creepy. 62% of respondents said they don’t think it’s creepy when salespeople favorite or retweet their tweets, but 52% do think it’s creepy when they receive a direct tweet from a salesperson. However, salespeople can help mitigate the creepiness of a direct tweet if it references an earlier article or question a user tweeted about. If you use Twitter for social selling, stick to favorites and retweets, unless your direct tweets are related to something that user was tweeting about earlier.
Find a Common Connection
If you want your social selling interactions to have less of the creep factor, a great place to start is by finding a common connection between you and the prospect. As was just mentioned with Twitter, 62% of users don’t think it’s creepy when a salesperson’s tweet references something they tweeted about earlier, because it gives the salesperson an authentic reason to talk to them. Similarly, on LinkedIn, having common connections (or lack thereof) can be a major factor in determining how your message or connection request is seen to a user. According to HubSpot’s survey, 73% of users think it is creepy to receive a LinkedIn message from a salesperson with no common connections, but 65% say it isn’t creepy when they do have common connections. When you can make that common connection with someone, you become less of a stranger and more of an acquaintance – which helps decrease the creep factor.
Don’t Be Generic
Though you might think it’d be less creepy to use a non-personalized message when introducing yourself online, one of the most off-putting things social sellers do is use generic introductions when talking to prospects for the first time. Looking at HubSpot’s survey results, 64% of respondents say they find generic LinkedIn requests to be creepy, but only 40% think they’re creepy when they include a personalized message. This is likely due to the fact that people crave that authentic, common connection, and a little personalization can go a long way when it comes to creating that feeling. In fact, here’s a great template you can use to make things easy for you: The Anatomy of a Great Sales LinkedIn Request [Template].
Keep Business the Main Focus
There’s a lot you can learn about a prospect on social media that extends far beyond their professional career, but it’s all about using the right judgment when it comes to social selling. I can’t even begin to tell you how many Twitter users I’ve seen with professional-looking profile pictures and business-related bios that also share selfies of their family or pictures of their dog, but that doesn’t mean I would ever bring those up in my social selling conversations with them. Here’s what I’m talking about:
“Hey Rachel, I noticed you’re a St. Norbert alum who also works in the content marketing industry, and thought you might be interested in connecting on LinkedIn. P.S. Your puppy looks adorable in all of your Instagram pictures!”
Doesn’t that just sound creepy?! Just like you would in any face-to-face business setting, it’s important that you keep the business talk strictly business, and leave the personal information out of there – unless you truly have a personal relationship with that individual.
Try “Light” Social Selling First
Before you start directly engaging with a prospect or ask them to connect with you, try to use some of the light social selling tactics like retweeting, favoriting, or liking a prospect’s post as an ice breaker. According to HubSpot, 48% of LinkedIn users think it’s creepy when a stranger comments on their update, but only 28% think it’s creepy when they just like their update. The majority of prospects don’t find these types of “light” Twitter and LinkedIn interactions creepy at all, and they can help you form a common connection with that prospect. Just make sure you don’t go overboard and like everything they post, because that is creepy.
With 65% of users saying they want cold sales pitches to be customized as much as possible, and 64% saying they actually prefer that a salesperson does internet and social media research about them before reaching out, it’s safe to say you shouldn’t feel creepy about social selling. That is, of course, unless you use creepy tactics. By following the pointers above and using your best judgment, you can make more natural, authentic connections with prospects, and avoid earning a reputation as a creeper.