While few observers seriously question the potential value Twitter holds as a channel for social selling, there are many questions surrounding exactly how organizations can unlock that value. A new e-book from the Social Selling University (a program of sales intelligence vendor InsideView) attempts to answer those questions and help companies turn Twitter into a bona fide application for driving and executing sales.

Twitter from the Ground Up

The short 52-page book, “The Ultimate Guide -- How to Use Twitter for Social Selling,” takes a very comprehensive approach to Twitter, starting with a basic primer defining terms such as “tweet” for those who have never used Twitter before. Things start to get interesting with Section III: “Building Your Community.” Readers are advised that buyers on Twitter do not want a sales rep but a “trusted advisor.”

To assume this role, companies must build a relevant following rather than engage “everyone under the sun,” which means building a community. Social Selling University advises there are three key steps to building a community of relevant followers: Become an expert on one particular topic of interest to your industry and use your Twitter account to take a firm stance on it, tweet content that will interest your target audience and genuinely engage your audience rather than simply send out automated tweets. “Ten engaged followers are better than 100 uninterested followers,” the book reminds readers. 

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Digital marketers and salespeople are also advised to participate in activities such as setting up trigger alerts to be notified of online news stories on specific companies, topics or events relevant to their social selling efforts, engaging with relevant Twitter content of other industry “tweeters” (without making a direct sales pitch) and subscribing to the Twitter lists of other relevant users.

Please Don’t Feed the Trolls

“How to Use Twitter for Social Selling” also offers some don’ts for prospective Twitter salespeople. Chief among them is not feeding “trolls,” or “controversial, inflammatory, irrelevant, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

Replying to trolls rewards their poor behavior and also can damage your company’s reputation. Basically the advice on trolls boils down to the advice most of us probably got from our moms about playground bullies -- ignore them and they’ll go away. For those who settled their childhood disputes more directly, there is also another timeless piece of advice about certain types of contests you should never enter with a skunk.

In addition, readers are warned that Twitter spamming is no more successful or cost-effective than email spamming and to not be “stupid” about tweets. “Stupid” tweets are offensive or assume that somehow only the intended audience who is “in on the joke” will see them (a real-life example from the book is displayed below).


Targeting and Engaging Prospects

To better target and engage the right sales prospects, readers are encouraged to use broad keywords associated with their industry or product and see who is tweeting about them. Readers are instructed how to create Twitter lists that arrange prospects according to professional attributes such as title, industry and work locations.

The Five-Week Plan

Before offering a few case studies, the book concludes with a five-week game plan for social selling with Twitter, only spending 10-20 minutes each day actively managing Twitter-related sales activities. Week one is dedicated to the basic set-up of a Twitter account, research on Twitter activity and users relevant to your industry and obtaining your first 10-20 followers, while week two is as about identifying and engaging with influencers, customers and partners. Week three is dedicated to increasing activity around finding and engaging with partner companies and tweeting regularly.

Week four is more about identifying and engaging with individual prospects and week five involves selecting and deploying a third-party Twitter management application. Users should also be actively building their follower list throughout the process so they wind up with more than 100 people and companies following them by Friday of week five.

Final Thoughts

InsideView does engage in some promotion of its own Twitter sales applications throughout the book, but also recommends tools from SproutSocial, TweetDeck, Seesmic, Twitterrific and HootSuite, which helps preserve some neutrality. The book is written entertainingly and concisely, fitting for its subject matter, and packs a lot of valuable information into a quick read that can also be used as a future reference guide.

However, “How to Use Twitter for Social Selling” is ultimately aimed at novice Twitter users. Organizations with some experience in using Twitter as a sales channel, or even individuals who have created private Twitter followings, will already know most or all of what is offered in this book.