Selling or not selling on social media - Cendrine Marrouat Photography
... That is truly the question. ;-)

A question I often had to debate with participants in my classes.

Years ago, I received a calendar in my mailbox. Aside from the usual display of days, weeks, and months, there were a picture of two smiling men and a "Happy new year" message. The back featured the contact information of a company that I did not know.

The calendar is still on my freezer. It's nicely designed and serves as a good reminder that I can contact the team if need be. Had I received it in an email, though, I would have deleted it right away.

Offline, brands still have the upper hand. People expect coupons and ads to be delivered to their doorsteps, so that they can visit stores and try products. They will then pursue or break up the relationship depending on the level of service they have received or the quality of those products.

Things are different online. Audiences will not purchase anything if the companies have not proven their worth beforehand. Audiences have the power. And they will not hesitate to make their voices heard whether they are happy or not.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with selling your stuff online. What's the point of having a business otherwise? However, if you want to be successful in that area, you have to understand that things start with "trust" and "care".

So, how do you achieve that? By focusing on delivering a great experience, while being minimally self-promotional.

That's when the Pareto Principle comes into play. Also known as the 80-20 rule, this principle states that "20% of invested input is responsible for 80% of the results obtained. Put another way, 80% of consequences stem from 20% of the causes." (Source: Investopedia)

When it comes to social media content, here is how the principle applies: 8 out of 10 of your shares should be valuable and relevant to your audience -- while the rest can be self-promotional.

"Does it mean that I can only share my articles occasionally?" Not at all. You can promote them as much as you like. All you have to remember is that the purpose of your blog is to provide customer service. It is not about you, it is about your audience!

Below are a few ways to help you get started in the right direction:
  • Curate interesting content from other sources in your industry (videos, infographics, articles, slides...).
  • Interview your favorite entrepreneurs and companies (if they are relevant to your audience's needs).
  • Create tutorials and how-tos.
  • Review and recommend products in your niche.
  • Write case studies.
  • Share the lessons you have learnt from some challenging situations.
  • Most importantly, ask your audience what they want.

  • The Pareto Principle also applies to what happens after sharing on social media:

  • Respond to comments and questions under your articles and on social networks.
  • Thank those who spread the word about your articles and your work.
  • Visit other people's blogs, leave comments there, and share their posts. Don't forget to mention authors when you do!
  • Offer unsolicited (free) help. 
  • Show genuine interest in others, whether they are part of your audience or not.

  • The more you care about others, the more they will care about you in return. And for a business, it means a community of advocates and sales that happen naturally.

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