Screen Shot 2014-03-19 at 9.18.18 PM.pngI’m a big believer in using social media for sales, and I’m always encouraging people to ramp up their social presence.  I get a lot of push back, and it usually has to do with one or more of these: time, what to say, and skepticism. These are the three biggest hurdles people seem to struggle with. Here’s how to overcome them.

Save time with technology

Technology is your friend when it comes to doing social media efficiently. I’m constantly trying out new tools, and a few have really proven their value. I’m a big fan of Buffer, a scheduling tool that allows me to maintain a steady social presence even when I’m on a plane or in a different time zone.

I sat down with one of our marketing people recently and he asked me, “How do you do this?  You’re sitting with me right now and you just tweeted 3 minutes ago.”  That’s Buffer at work.

I use Buffer to share content. I find content to share mostly through Pulse and Google alerts. I now use Pulse for most of my reading.  It aggregates feeds from all the magazines, newspapers and blogs that I subscribe to so I have just one place to go to get an update on all of the topics that interest me. I use Google alerts to notify me about new content related to specific search terms about products and companies I’m interested in.

Here’s my system. I usually do my reading before six in the morning and after nine or ten o’clock at night. Depending where I am in the world, these are not always the best times to post.  So, when I read an article that I like, I email it to myself, using an email filter that moves it into a folder called “Stuff To Post”.

When I have time, I go into that folder and I schedule my posts in Buffer, which is really easy.  You can connect it to all of your social accounts and you can post different things to different channels, or the same thing to different channels but maybe with different messaging, and Buffer spreads them out on the schedule you set.

The hardest thing for me about this whole process is how to get my thoughts into 140 characters on Twitter – there needs to be an app for that!  Pulse, Google alerts and Buffer make the rest easy.  They may not work for you, but there are dozens of tools out there to help make social easier. Do some research, ask around and try them out until you find a system that works for you.

Finding your voice

The second hurdle is that people don’t know what to say.  That’s okay.  Start anyway. It takes time to find your voice.  I think part of the problem is cultural, or maybe hierarchical.  People believe they have to be at certain level of the organization, or have a certain level expertise for their voice to have value, and that’s not the case.

My first blogs were all about my personal experiences. No one is more expert about that than me, so that was a perfect place to start. I’ve blogged about my first trip to Indonesia and the Philippines. I’ve shared my thoughts on SAP TechEd and my wish list for LinkedIn.

Hitting the “publish” button on the first post is a little scary, and you just have to do it. Eventually you’ll start to feel more comfortable with it.

When I started with Twitter, I started mostly by re-tweeting.  Gradually I got more and more comfortable and creative with it and started adding my own commentary about links I was tweeting.

The same holds true for LinkedIn. I had been using LinkedIn for many years before I started sharing content there. At first I didn’t share much. Then I started to get positive feedback from people in my network who said, I like it, keep ‘em coming. In my enthusiasm I may have over-posted for a while, and it wasn’t really sustainable for me, and maybe for my audience, because I did have someone ask me how he could stop getting my updates. Part of finding my voice has been about striking the right balance between sharing and overwhelming my network with information. The only way to do it is by trial and error.

Suspend disbelief

The third hurdle is that there is still, surprisingly, a lot of skepticism about the value of social.

The most common sentiment I hear expressed is that while social may be popular, people with certain titles or in certain industries aren’t going to read your posts because they’re not active on social media channels.

There is a lot of research out now on how social influences the buying cycle, so it should be clear that whether or not the exact person you are hoping to reach is on social media or not, chances are very good that other people involved in the buying decision are.

I sell to the C-Suite, and what’s interesting is, if I go to LinkedIn and I look at the influencers, a lot of the people writing there are CEOs and CFOs, or senior leaders.  But when I tell that to other salespeople who sell to the C-Suite, they will dismiss them and say, “Well, they are the exception, not the rule.”

Some recent statistics could help dispel myths about who is, or isn’t, on social media:

Recently, LinkedIn added more influencers and opened its publishing platform to more members (myself included), noting in its announcement that “every professional has valuable experience to share.”  See?  You don’t have to be a celebrity.  You just have to be willing make the effort to share.

When you get right down to it, I think all three of these hurdles are more imagined than real. They all stem from, “we’re afraid.”  It’s new technology.  It’s a new way of doing business and most of us don’t respond well to change.

Yes, it can be really overwhelming, and I was overwhelmed at first too. It’s a journey, so suspend disbelief, get yourself some good tools, pick a place to jump in and join in the conversation.

This article previously appeared on LinkedIn and kurtbilafer.com.

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