How “Brands” relate to “Sales” in Social Media

by Susanna Gebauer (@dreckbaerfrau)

I am sure, some of my readers will already have the response on their tongue: “Social Media is not about selling” – but that is less than half the truth.

Most of us marketers (and not only us) would not even be in social media (or maybe only to chat with friends) without the possibility to “sell” something as a result of the hard work we put into it. And  – don’t be shocked – most marketers and other social media users as well are actually “selling” something: A book, a webinar, a whitepaper, a blog post, or a service.

Often the product we are selling is ourselves, our status, our expertise. Very often we give something away for free – to build awareness of ourselves and finally sell something.


Selling in social media does not necessarily smell and taste like selling, and most of the time it does not work, if it is not combined with something else: Branding, reputation, personality – and trust.

What is true, is that the results are usually going to be disappointing, if you ONLY shout promotions or sales pitches. What will happen? No one will listen! Nothing is easier than hiding or ignoring the unwanted sales messages in the ever-flowing stream of more interesting information coming to us in social media.

So what do the people do, to make their sales message at least accepted and often even welcomed?

They give valuable information, tons of interesting posts and advice. It takes a while even for this kind of content and posts to gather a following and audience in social media. And then after you have got the attention and the trust, you can start selling.

Even then you will want to shy away from a simple sales pitch most of the time. Just like a GOOD salesperson, you will want to go the route of showing the value of your product.

Brand + Personality in relation to Social Media

We had a discussion yesterday if brand or branding is really the right word here. And the truth is, there is more to success than a brand name. People like to connect with people, and they rather trust people than something impersonal like a brand. It is the people that provide a brand with personality. In today’s world this is truer than ever before, because, with social media as a marketing tool, your future customers will interact directly with your people in social media.

We might crave for updates from a strong brand, but the personality of the person behind a social media account, the spokespeople for a company or even the employees can achieve much more than an anonymous brand.

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Building trust first

In social media, the “giving something” often comes to getting something out of it. Giving information, expertise and help is what builds your personality, your reputation, and trust with your audience and in a way your brand.

Once you have a loyal audience that trusts you, you will realize that they also follow and listen to you if you promote something once in a while. Just keep in mind, that trust is faster lost than built.

A lot of people have made a living on this sort of selling – and it comes in various forms. Some brands use “ambassadors” or “evangelists” in social media, high profile social media influencers for instance who promote a brand simply by giving the audience that trusts them the feeling they would not work for the brand or recommend it if it wasn’t great.

Examples of these are Robert Scoble, arguably the world’s most influential tech blogger (working for the hosting service RackSpace) and Guy Kawasaki (promoting the design tool/service Canva).

A different form of “Selling.”

The way we sell is changing, advertisements and sales pitches are no longer the one and only way to sell a product. With all the content on the web, blogs and online media, “selling” really has turned into “giving information”. Sales pitches hide in reviews, recommendations, and tips, and these are in most cases much more successful than boring slogans.

Quote Susanna Gebauer(It also does not mean that the information you are reading in that product review or How-To article cannot be trusted anymore: The review will still be an honest review of a trusted reviewer. Otherwise, the reviewer will not have an audience for long.)

And again this can only work if your audience trusts you after you build a reputation as a person who is constantly providing valuable and honest advice.

Instead of repeating a sales pitch over and over again, tips on how to use a product and what you can achieve with it are what is going to sell in social media – but only if there is a real and trusted person behind it. Often the personal story of a person even gets more important than the specifications of the product the person sells.

(For a completely social media unrelated example of ambassador marketing: Just think how fast a dress is sold out, just because Paris Hilton or Duchess Kate has been wearing it. And yes: The celebrities used for this type of marketing are often paid by the brands.)

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Social Media is not about selling - really? Most of us marketers would not even be in social media without the possibility to sell something.