A Popular (yet Ineffective) LinkedIn Tactic

Considering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations. Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise. This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

LinkedIn logoConsidering investing in LinkedIn automation software? Already using automated tactics? Beware: Automation is not helping social sellers start conversations.

Don’t let your hopes or a LinkedIn “expert” (charlatan) tell you otherwise.

This isn’t my opinion. I speak from experience — and that of my customers.

I don’t like to speak in absolutes. Nothing is certain in our world. But automating the gathering of lead data and sending messages to prospects wastes time, damages reputation and what’s worst is buyers see through it — instantly.

It’s spammy.

Also, LinkedIn is cracking down and suing service providers. It took a while but Microsoft has had enough.

Short-cuts rarely work in life. Buckle-down and do the work. And yes, I know you need to scale. Me too. Tech tools like LinkedIn help us scale time. But LinkedIn automation is ineffective.

Lately, it can also hurt you.

Automating Outreach and Scraping Contact Data

We need targets to call on: Companies, decision-makers and contact data. LinkedIn is a database. But gathering contact data is time-consuming. Plus, getting these contacts to connect with us (open the door to communication) takes time and effort.

Wouldn’t it be great to automate the data collection, connections and messaging? We could mass email messages to prospects — without much effort. We’ll reply to the responses, manage the leads.

Enter LinkedIn automation tools.

But beware of reality:

  1. Automated profile viewers and contact data scrapers are being sued by LinkedIn/Microsoft;
  2. Non-personalized (spammy) or “personalized” (fake personalization) messages aren’t helping sellers start conversations with buyers;
  3. Decision-makers are actually hiding from overzealous sellers and accepting fewer connection requests.

How Automation Software Works

You look up a group of contacts using a LinkedIn search. Boom. Software automatically:

  • Grabs those search results
  • Views each contact’s profile
  • Scrapes the screen (cuts-and-pastes name, company, title, etc. into a spreadsheet)

Software will also:

  • View profiles
  • Invite people with keywords or titles to connect
  • Automatically send them welcome messages when they accept
  • Automatically endorse them
  • Automatically send them congratulatory messages when they have a birthday, work anniversary or change jobs
  • Automatically send sales messages to large swaths of your connections

Sounds great. But let’s pretend you are Microsoft (LinkedIn’s new owner).

You just paid $26 billion for this data. How do you feel about people scraping it? How do you feel about automating all of these non-personalized functions (which are all trying to look personalized and social)?

That’s why LinkedIn is suing these service providers.

Automation tools are popular. But these are often “companies” that have no public contact data themselves! Companies that, in fact, aren’t companies … and have (for years now) operated in clear violation of LinkedIn’s Terms & Conditions.

LinkedIn prospecting expert, Bruce Johnston, is blunt:

“It is instructive that I went through my list and less than half of the companies I added 12 to 15 months ago still exist.”

6 Ways to Leverage Social Media for SEO

Social media is the new frontier of search engine optimization. People interact with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social platforms in far different ways than they do with search engines, yet in many ways the results are the same.

Social vs. SearchSocial media is the new frontier of search engine optimization. People interact with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and other social platforms in far different ways than they do with search engines, yet in many ways the results are the same — links are shared, content is filtered and the most trusted websites often get the most play. And although Google won’t come right out and say it, many SEO experts agree that social media signals are affecting today’s search engine rankings.

How can you harness the power of social media to bolster your SEO strategy? Here, we’ll review the top six ways to leverage social media to improve your website’s search rankings.

1. Develop Social Content

Building an expansive network of inbound links has long been the bedrock of SEO. The more people link to your site, the more trusted it is in the eyes of Google and other search engines. And social media is unprecedented in its ability to build links in a hurry.

Always think of ways to go beyond articles when developing content for your social media channels. Think in terms of instructional videos, off-the-wall infographics and humorous (but helpful) GIFs. You can even create e-books that people can download for free. Be smart about updating social media channels — you’re more likely to get views and clicks in the early or late afternoon — and rest assured that your overall SEO will benefit from this content long after its social media shelf life expires.

2. Optimize Meta Tags

Meta tags help establish how webpages are unique, which is why they’ve always played important roles in SEO. But have you realized how social media platforms put meta tags to work? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms display meta titles and descriptions when websites are posted or shared. In some cases, your website’s meta tags might be your first interaction with new potential customers.

For that reason, it’s more important than ever to give meta titles and descriptions the attention they deserve. Meta titles should be 65 characters or less, and meta descriptions should be up to 150 characters in length — more than enough room to concisely explain the purpose of a webpage. Professionally written meta tags can easily be the difference in whether people perceive your website as click worthy.

3. Get Into Google+

Google’s foray into social media didn’t go exactly as planned. But even if you don’t know anyone who uses Google+ for social reasons, don’t underestimate the platform’s importance for businesses of all sizes. Creating a Google+ page for your business is one of the simplest ways to capitalize on social media in a way that benefits your SEO.

Why does Google+ matter? First, the information, images and other elements on your Google+ profile can directly improve your rankings in several relevant searches. Second, your contact and location information — when synced with free profiles on Yelp, Angie’s List and other directory websites — can heighten your visibility for people searching for a local, nearby business. A Google+ profile also makes for a high-quality link to your website, and trustworthy links are always helpful.

4. Start a Blog

Leverage the conversational nature of social media by starting a blog on your business Website. Update your blog regularly with unique, compelling content, and then share that content across your social media channels. Do a good job, and your followers will reward you with likes, shares and links.

Why You Must Stop Believing Social Selling Exists

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!” Revolution they cry! Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet. There is no revolution, only evolution.

Who Moved the Sales? Why marketing attribution is so crucial to track, yet so hard to doSocial selling does not exist. Believing it does trains you and your sales force to fail.

Sure, LinkedIn and countless self-appointed “social selling experts” say social selling is a wave — catch it.

But have you noticed their tone lately? Many of these folks talk down to you.

“You are not doing it right, you are not taking it seriously enough.”

Or perhaps more accurately:

“You need this revolutionary new social selling now or you’ll be left behind. What? You don’t know how to use [insert new technology] to zoom sales? Buy my book, attend my keynote. I’ll show you the way forward!”

Revolution they cry!

Problem is, the sales revolution they’re selling is marketing — broadcasting on an interactive platform, the Internet.

There is no revolution, only evolution. Believing there is a new selling paradigm risks your team’s ability to adapt.

Are you willing to risk it? Are you risking it right now?

We Should not Name This a “New” Strategy

There is nothing new about sales — other than customers having better access to information, more quickly and easily. There is no need to invent a fancy new name for sales as it evolves.

“But Jeff, you’re wrong: Giving this new strategy a name could help explain this new skill set in sales operations internally, to management. Especially if the company is still a bit behind in evolution when it comes to sales approach.”

But are you behind? Behind in what? Knowledge of how to work the tool?

Working a new tool like LinkedIn or Twitter is not making anyone successful — despite the marketing claims of companies and expert gurus who have a stake in the game.

Using the term “social selling” is, so far, most helpful to those selling tool-focused education or rah-rah cheerleading fodder themselves. These are the instant experts whose qualifications rest on “I use LinkedIn a lot.”

Literally anyone can be a part of this club.

Here’s my beef with this situation: In the end, I’m witnessing less emphasis on sales techniques that work for sellers, and more emphasis on how to use tools.

I suspect this is because the people involved don’t have (or practice) good, traditional sales skills!

The result: A lot of sales people practicing marketing on LinkedIn. Farming with it. And failing to start conversations. They’re pushing posts, updates, comments, etc.

Social Media Is Not for Every Business

One of the most popular questions I get from businesses (both big and small) is, “How can I optimize social media?” The answer, unfortunately, is that social media is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Social Conversations stock artOne of the most popular questions I get from businesses (both big and small) is, “How can I optimize social media?”

The answer, unfortunately, is that social media is not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Forget the new social media channels that are cropping up every time you turn around. There are plenty of the most popular social media sites that are not worth the investment. So here’s a quick checklist that might help you decide whether or not these social media options are right for your business:

LinkedIn
If you’re in the business-to-business space, it’s critical that you and your senior team (at a minimum), have polished LinkedIn profiles. Crisp, high quality photos, succinct descriptions of your business and links to your website will help support your company’s brand image.

Having a LinkedIn company page means it’s easier to link to articles that your staff has posted and to post job openings. Plus, since many organizations are now using LinkedIn to search for a business supplier, your company page will show up in search results. Plus you can sponsor posts for a wider distribution.

If, however, you run a local dry cleaning business, you probably won’t benefit from a LinkedIn company page. Since LinkedIn a broad-reaching business networking site, your biggest determinant might be how broad an audience you’re trying to reach. If it’s geographically tiny, I’d take a pass on a company page — but still maintain a personal profile.

Facebook
With more and more advertising cropping up on Facebook newsfeeds, users are starting to become numb to advertising messages — unless, of course, you’re selling retail products that can be targeted to a specific audience. If you’re trying to build community and spread updates about your products/services, then a Facebook page is a great way to keep your enthusiasts engaged with your brand.

You must, of course, first build a base of followers — which comes by posting relevant and timely content, and encouraging shares. Own a bike shop? Post tune-up tips, updates on gear, answer Q&A’s for beginners and experienced riders alike. Encourage your followers to share tips about secret trails, pictures of their travels, etc. And, from time to time, run contests to win a free bike or accessory. But, above all, keep it current and relevant.

A Hard Call for a Softer Side to Advertising

Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy. In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission.

Build an emotional connection to your brand.

Change the world, one pair of shoes at a time.

Every individual has an opportunity through education.

We are not data, we are human beings.

One primary take-away from &Then 2015, a DMA event, last week in Boston is that effective advertising today is most certainly about strategy, creativity and results – all over this year’s International ECHO Awards. But let’s add another key ingredient: Social sustainability can be a key differentiator and motivator in our sharing economy.

I’m not talking about some modicum of a social responsibility tie-in … “Buy our product and we’ll plant a tree.”

But rather that, in an economy filled with attention deficit, good advertising, effective advertising, must make us pause and consider. The table stakes for engagement happen when we trust and connect to emotions in ourselves.

In consumer markets, TOMS built its message upon redefining “Buy One-Get One” as “Buy One-Give One” – and 35 million children around the world (and counting) – and by giving its customers a mission. While TOMS has moved its social responsibility mission beyond shoes to eyewear, water and other projects, I choose TOMS precisely because of its giving back along with its very comfortable shoes.

Singer John Legend has his handlers, most certainly, but when you heard his call to action for education reform, justice reform and minority business leadership – therein lays substance and authenticity behind his own storytelling in music. He may not sing about those subjects, but his celebrity is leveraged strictly for those causes that motivate him to act, that have defined his life, in how he was raised and how he sees the world as it is and what it can be through positive change.

Even look at this year’s winning crop of ECHOs. Many campaigns used emotion to tell compelling stories — with breath-taking results. Skoda’s Guardians of Winter, Uniforms for the Dedicated’s Rag Bag, Huggies and Volkswagen’s Eyes on the Road are just a few examples of campaigns that took individuals on an emotional journey of one sort or another – and made you think twice. You literally spend a moment walking life in someone else’s shoes, and realize it could be your own.

Suffice to say, these motivators are hardly new to advertising, it’s just great to see them in employed in data-driven campaigns and breaking through cacophony. What is new is that, as brands seek to connect with target audiences, truly making the world a better place to be is more meaningful today than ever.

Trending: Consumer Review Sites Leverage Content, Social, Search Marketing

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click. Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic). Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

If you’re an Internet marketer, you know there are several online channels you can leverage without paying upfront for advertising, such as some banner ads or pay per click.

Three online channels that are super-hot and showing no signs of slowing down include content marketing, social marketing and search marketing (organic).

Each of these online channels have one thing in common: They all maximize content.

Recent articles in Forbes hailed that “content is the new SEO …” and that “content is king.”

My view has always been that with relevant, useful, valuable and actionable original content, you can’t go wrong. It will always work with the search engines, despite constant algorithm updates.

This is the core philosophy of my “SONAR Content Distribution Model,” but also has become more commercial- and consumer-driven with the use of product review websites.

A recent study shows 47 percent of consumers indicate the Internet is their favorite place to shop, and U.S. e-tails are anticipated to hit around $370 billion by 2017.

With all this Web surfing and shopping, it’s no wonder consumers are becoming more savvy.

An emerging trend in digital marketing is consumer review sites. These sites are populated with pages and pages of unique, relevant content that’s beneficial to the consumer. It’s unbiased. And has the main focus of harnessing the power of its content with the search engines, as well as social marketing outlets.

The website’s pages are crafted with targeted keywords based on the products or services being reviewed—many well-known brands—and honest feedback. Then it’s good ‘ole inbound marketing tactics, such as online press releases, article marketing, content syndication, search marketing and social marketing that drive consumers to the product review website.

The pioneer of this ingenious online marketing tactic was Cnet.com, which was founded in 1994. They have been reviewing electronic and tech products for years.

Other well-known consumer review sites that have popped up recently include Epinions.com and ConsumerSearch.com, which reviews products. CitySearch.com and Yelp.com review hotels, restaurants, entertainment and more. And of course, AngiesList.com, which is a membership site that reviews local service providers.

But recently, there have been some new players in niche and specialty industries that are creating a buzz. One such new kid on the block is BuyerReview.com.

BuyerReview.com focuses on the health and beauty sectors. This includes cosmetics and cosmeceuticals, such as skincare products, vitamins and supplements—a most robust marketplace, to say the least …

… The U.S. cosmeceutical industry alone represents $6.5 billion with a growth forecast of 5.8 percent annually through 2015. And nutritional supplements generated $32 billion in 2012 and are projected to hit $60 billion by 2021.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of BuyerReview.com’s editors, Peter Stockwell.

I asked him how he would describe the site, what makes it unique and to describe the overall business model.

According to Stockwell, “Buyerreview.com is more targeted than many of the behemoth product review sites on the Web today. Sometimes when you’re too big and review too many things, consumers get lost on your website. Our team of editors reviews specific products in the vertical of health and beauty. We give honest reviews, as well as health and beauty advice.”

Stockwell continues, “Content is the cornerstone of the website. It helps the consumers. And it works with the search engines. With social marketing, it increases our reach and visibility. It’s really a blueprint for online marketing success.”

Stockwell adds, “There are several things that make us stand out: One is our BuyerReview Seal of Approval, which means our experts have reviewed a product personally and found it acceptable. Two, our editors (which, in addition to reviews) provide expert advice on health and beauty, which is an added bonus to consumers. Three, our Top 10 lists, which takes the best of the best we review and rolls it up into an easy-to-read product grid. Four, we offer consumers the option of getting product reviews delivered directly to them wherever they are, via email. And lastly, we offer free, weekly giveaways of the products we review. We like to think of our website as a one-stop shop for consumer health and beauty product interest.”

Stockwell concludes, “Once you have traffic coming to your site based on superior content, the opportunities are endless. Similar product or service review websites have went the advertising model and sell banner ads on their site for revenue potential. Others charge monthly membership fees. There’s many ways to monetize the traffic.”

Bottom line: There’s a way smart online marketers have turned leveraging quality content into a win-win situation that benefits its target audience, as well as generating revenue.

And the vast space on the Web is wide-open for more to jump on the bandwagon and carve out their own slice.

Marketers in most any industry can take something away from this online strategy and see how the fundamental principle can be incorporated it into their online marketing mix … because content will always be king, and consumers will always be curious.

The 10 Rules of Social Media Marketing Engagement

As the social media landscape grows with both mainstream and specialized sites, so will the creative ways to communicate to friends, followers and fans. Although the current social network behemoths are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, other venues like Pinterest and Google+ are also carving out a niche for themselves. And MySpace still has a strong foothold amongst the younger demographic. But don’t forget that social marketing isn’t just for networks. Forums, chat rooms, message boards and blogs are the granddaddies of Web 2.0. These venues are where socializing and interacting in communities originated. Some call it old school, others an untapped resource when used correctly in your online marketing mix. However, before you starting posting away, it’s a good idea to know the “best practices” that help make up a successful social marketing program.

As the social media landscape grows with both mainstream and specialized sites, so will the creative ways to communicate to friends, followers and fans.

Although the current social network behemoths are Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, other venues like Pinterest and Google+ are also carving out a niche for themselves. And MySpace still has a strong foothold amongst the younger demographic.

But don’t forget that social marketing isn’t just for networks. Forums, chat rooms, message boards and blogs are the granddaddies of Web 2.0. These venues are where socializing and interacting in communities originated. Some call it old school, others an untapped resource when used correctly in your online marketing mix.

However, before you starting posting away, it’s a good idea to know the “best practices” that help make up a successful social marketing program:

1. Be Aware. Get to know each community’s rules. Each site (network, forum, blog, chat room and bulletin board) has its own set of rules—many you have to agree to, if you read the fine print, when you sign up for membership. If a site has a specific area for promotional or marketing messages, keep posts of this nature restricted to those areas. If rules dictate what type of messages are allowed (such as no overtly self-serving, defamatory, illegal, elicit or pornographic material), follow the rules. Any deviation will prompt a warning by the site’s moderator or immediate ban from the site.

2. Be Active. Don’t be a “hit and run” marketer. In other words, don’t just go in a few times and hit members with your marketing message then forget the site for weeks or months at a time. Get involved. Participate in discussions. Interact with members. Read and respond to engaging posts with no hidden agenda. Involvement encourages interactivity and interactivity solicits followers and reinforces credibility within the community.

3. Be Relevant. Some “rules” are not imposed, but is common sense if you’re a seasoned marketer. Targeting your message to the right, relevant audience will prompt better results. Make sure the community and site itself are synergistic with your goal, target audience and message. Also, ensure you’re posting in sub areas of the site that are relevant to the topic you’re discussing. Many forums have segmented subfolders by category and interest level. This granular dissection to your target audience helps the members easily find the topics they’re interested in and keeps you from muddying the waters in unrelated areas of the site.

4. Be Genuine. Posts that are contrived, unrelated and have a hidden agenda can be seen a mile away. Let the conversations flow organically. Contribute real, thought-provoking comments that members will find interesting. Talk to your audience, not at them. Not every post has to be a marketing message.

5. Be Useful. As a social community member, your goal is to participate in intelligent, useful discussions. Make sure you’re adding value to the site in some way. Your comments should also be valuable to the readers and not random posts. Nothing gets under members’ skin more than messages that are blatant spam.

6. Be Subtle. Many marketers embed their entire message with URLs to whatever page they’re trying to drive traffic to. If a community allows links in your post, use them sparingly. Less is more here. Some sites even have rules about not allowing links in the body copy of a post, but keeping them only in the auto signature field where your username is. Links should be relevant to the post (such as a great article that you want to share with members—then enclose the link so they can read for themselves).

7. Be Balanced. Mix up your messages. Not all your posts have to be promotional (and they shouldn’t be). Hang out in the community. Read other posts. Get to know the members and the site. See which areas have topics and discussions that vibe with you. Mix up your posts. Find balance with the editorial and marketing messages. The idea is to provide value and engage.

8. Be Informative. Be aware of what’s happening in your area of interest. Be able to have intelligent discussions about different news, events and publications under your subject matter. If you see other related articles that you think members would find interesting, even material from other publishers, share the knowledge. After all, that’s ultimately what social media is about.

9. Be Personable. Develop relationships with the community on both a “friend” and an “expert” level (for your area of specialty). Let your personality and credentials shine through with the information you share. Offer free expert advice. Share funny stories. Have witty discussions. Start to truly develop a memorable presence and bond with the community members. This helps your posts stand out in a whirlwind of background noise that passes readers each day in their news feeds.

10. Be Respectful. Don’t spam your fellow members. Some social communities allow users to post their email addresses on their Profile pages. This could lead to a flurry of unsolicited emails from social marketing barracudas who use this personal information for their own self-serving purposes. Remember, just because an email is posted on a user’s profile page doesn’t mean that person opted in to receive solicitations, promotions or similar email communications. Sending unwanted and unsolicited email is spam, plain and simple. Don’t exploit community members’ personal information.

6 Insider Secrets to a Winning Affiliate Marketing Program

Affiliate marketing has been a viable way to help build ancillary revenues by having someone else market your products. It’s generally cost effective and could involve little work. You can go about this through affiliate networks, such as Commission Junction or LinkShare, or simply start an affiliate program on your website and track sales and commissions with affiliate software, such as DirectTrack. Software costs could range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars … depending on how robust you’d like your features.

Affiliate marketing has been a viable way to help build ancillary revenues by having someone else market your products. It’s generally cost effective and could involve little work.

You can go about this through affiliate networks, such as Commission Junction or LinkShare, or simply start an affiliate program on your website and track sales and commissions with affiliate software, such as DirectTrack. Software costs could range anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars … depending on how robust you’d like your features.

But before you start, make sure you know the critical elements to help grow your affiliate program:

1. Promotion. This is where you’re promoting your actual program on targeted locations, as well as recruiting affiliates to market your program. You’ll want to make sure you list your program on all the top affiliate directories, networks, forums, associations, bulletin boards, websites, listings and blogs (and, by the way, many of these sites are free!). You’ll also want to leverage free classified sites such as Craig’s List, as well as social marketing sites like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. And, of course, don’t forget to create powerful online press releases (free or paid) promoting the program’s launch and any other noteworthy milestones. Some of my favorite paid and free distribution services are free-press-release.com, PRlog.org, PRWeb.com and PRBuzz.com. You can also distribute these press releases through social marketing and bookmarking sites, including the aforementioned as well as Digg and StumbleUpon. There are many more cost effective ways to promote your program. Just be a strategically creative thinker and the sky’s the limit!

2. Site Awareness. It will be hard to promote your program to a site that doesn’t have a decent Web traffic rank or Web traffic (visits). If your site has poor traffic, a professional affiliate marketer will look at it as a lost opportunity. It will only make his job harder. So make sure to deploy SEO/SEM tactics to improve your site’s presence and traffic before you launch your affiliate program.

3. Online Store. Make sure you know which are your best-selling and most universally appealing products. Those are the ones you’d want to have in your affiliate program. You should also have varied price points. You don’t want to pick prices too low as, after the affiliate split, there won’t be anything left for your own profit. And you don’t want to pick prices too high, as most of these leads are cold, it will be a harder sell. A good range is generally $69 to $300, depending on the product and benefits.

4. Affiliate Rewards. Decide if you’re going to pay out per lead (CPL) or per sale. Decide if you’re going to have a flat commission rate or a tiered system. Do your competitive research and see what other, similar affiliate programs are paying out. You want to be competitive, as that, besides brand recognition, will be your two strongest areas of appeal to a potential affiliate. Some of the best performing programs on the Web are offering a commission of 25 percent of the product price. So do your due diligence for commission rates.

5. Analytics. Make sure you have a robust reporting system. You’ll want the ability to track underperformers and super affiliates, and reward OR incent accordingly. You’ll also want to know which creatives are performing the best and worst and, of course, how many sales and leads are coming in, as well as how long the lead is staying on the file and their lifetime value (sales).

6. Keeping In Touch. Top affiliate programs often have a newsletter or ongoing communication to keep their affiliates engaged … up-to-date on latest products being offered, special sales incentives, updates to program terms, and other newsworthy notes.

Affiliate marketing can help with most all of your online marketing objectives … lead gen, sales conversions, Web traffic, branding and buzz. Not having one could be detrimental to your business.

3 Ways Most B-to-B Marketers Get Off Track With Social Marketing

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”  There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing.

[For more of Jeff Molander’s insights on B-to-B marketing and social media, be sure to catch him on Thursday’s Multichannel Marketing for Business roundtable webinar.]

I get asked all the time, “Jeff, where do most B-to-B marketers go wrong with social media?” My response these days is becoming more focused and sharp: “They market on it rather than sell with it.”

There are three mistakes that most B-to-B marketers are making with social media marketing. They:

1. Have a very weak expectation of social media to begin with … they don’t expect it to produce leads nor sales.

2. Focus energy on finding effective ways to measure social’s effectiveness rather than finding ways to sell with it.

3. Make mistakes 1 and 2 because they’re looking to relatively inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media.

Expect Social Marketing to Sell
Your thoughts manifest reality. It’s a metaphysical fact whether you turn to new age gurus, the Bible or other philosophical belief system aimed at creating emotional, spiritual and financial wealth. What you think becomes reality and if you’re thinking about marketing outcomes (engagement, clicks, visitors, customer sentiment, etc.) that’s what you’ll get—by law!

Selling requires not only a change in expectation but a process mentality that generates tangible outcomes. Marketing usually involves a creative process with fungible, intangible outcomes like “good branding” that somehow results in sales. Marketing is faith-based.

If marketers could have anything they want when it comes to social media they want “better engagement” and better ways to measure it. The result is a world where B-to-B marketers continue to put today’s interactive version of branding before revenue.

Get Off of Social Media and on to a List
What if we cast aside such marketing aspirations and replaced them with dreams of creating leads? For instance, changing the goal from engagement to leads means changing what we do all day long—and how we do it. What if the goal was to get prospects OFF of social media?!

I’m noticing how B-to-B marketers who create revenue (and think about it all day long) think this way. They don’t care to spend five years wondering, “What’s the value of a Facebook fan?” only to find out that the question is as pointless as the half-baked answers self-appointed experts cook up.

Successful social sellers ask different questions like, “Can we use what we already know works to start generating leads sales with social marketing techniques?”

For these companies, the answer is, “yes, sometimes” but only when the social platform can be used in a way that moves sales prospects off of it and onto a lead nurturing program. In the end they rely more on traditional, process—driven database marketing—telemarketing, direct mail, email—and not johnny-come-lately metrics like “return on engagement.”

Believe in Yourself, Ignore the Experts
In many cases the reason why marketers are making mistakes 1 and 2 is because they fall victim to the uncertainty created by self-appointed experts.

In a moment of remarkable candor, former Apple brand evangelist, Guy Kawasaki announced his secret to social media success: Do not have any plan whatsoever for it. Because you can’t understand these oh-so-new technologies, he says the smartest way to approach them is to just do it.

You can understand Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs, etc., if your context remains founded in business principles that are not revolutionizing—no matter what the experts say.

Resist the urge to hire who you know are ambitious, bright yet inexperienced, unqualified people to decide what it is they should be doing with social media (and how to do it). The truth is most social media experts have one main qualification: “I use it more than you do” and (my favorite) “I ‘get it’ because I study other companies that ‘get it'” (when “it” is largely hot air).

So if you want to avoid the three most common mistakes, expect social media to sell start learning a systematic way to make social platforms serve your business, stop trying to measure social’s effectiveness in intangible terms and trust your business instincts more than young social media experts.