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5 GREAT Ways to Use Social Media for Business (Without Being Salesy)

Wondering how to use social media for business?

Well, we’ve all seen those posts…

You’re in a Facebook or Linkedin group, or browsing your newsfeed when someone shares one of those purely promotional updates. The kind that says, “Hey, I’m so excited to share my XYZ!”

Usually these posts have no likes or comments, with good reason.

People are happy to buy when they know something will meet their need, but they hate being sold to. Our defenses naturally go up when someone approaches us with a traditional salesman-like approach.

Image name: Quote - How to make sales on social media

This principle also applies to using social media for business and as a sales tool. Especially depending on what people’s reasons are for being on social media in the first place (more on that later).

Being one-sided and promotional is the wrong way to make sales on social media.

One of the most common questions I get is, “How can I promote on Facebook (or LinkedIn or [your platform of choice]) without being salesy?”

Social media is one of the most powerful ways to market and grow your business by connecting with potential clients, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Here are 5 detailed tips on how to do it right.

5 Tips To Help You Use Social Media for Your Business (Without Being Salesy):

Tip #1: Give people what they want when they go on social media

Think about why people are logging on in the first place. For the most part, they’re online to connect with other people, or to be entertained.

One thing is for sure. No one goes on social media because they can’t wait to be sold to. If we want to buy something, we go to Amazon or Nordstrom, not Tumbler.

So what are we actually hoping for when we log onto our social media accounts? In a study conducted by university professors Anita Whiting and David Williams, Whiting and Williams found that there are 10 distinct reasons people use social media:

1. Social Interaction – To meet new people and keep in touch with friends, acquaintances, and family.

It’s no surprise that socializing is a top reason for social media usage, but it’s easy to forget.

Social media is often our main way of staying in touch with friends and family, even through busy lives and over long distances. It’s also great for making friends locally or online by searching for groups and meetups.

Screenshot of post in Entrepreneur LeadersConnecting with people online through geography, and looking to take it into the real world.

How you can use it: Connect with people through shared interests, pets, geography, and passions. Like in the real world, you don’t walk up to someone at a party and start telling them about your services over the hors d’oeuvres table. You ask about them, take an interest, and have a two-way conversation first.

2. Information Seeking – Self education or learning about a sale, event, or business.

This is when people need information on something specific. Rather than ask around at in-person events or borrow books from the library, our first impulse now is to ask our online network.

Here’s an example of someone searching for something very specific. When you need to dig deeper than a Google search, putting your question out on social media is a great way to get almost immediate answers.

Screenshot of Facebook post in Entrepreneurial Leaders Here’s someone looking for a highly specific kind of writer

How you can use it: A great way to take advantage of this tendency is to ask a specific question yourself. Specific questions yield specific answers. Engage people with something tangible that they can share their knowledge on.

Also, be on the lookout for specific questions like this that you can answer. This will help naturally jumpstart conversations with potential clients and position you as go-to resource.

3. Passing Time – To have something to do when they’re bored at home, school, or work.

It’s become a habit for most of us: when we have a spare minute, we grab our phones and scroll through Instagram, or see what’s trending on Twitter.

We do it on the couch at home, during a dull morning elevator ride, at our desk when we hit a slump in the workday, or while eating lunch in front of our computer. It’s a mini escape and a way to pass time when we “have nothing better to do.”

Screenshot of Facebook postDoing online quizzes or personality tests and sharing the results is a fun diversion.

How you can use it: Share interactive content like the personality test above. Creating content that interests and engages your audience – even if it’s as simple as a fun question – will train them to pay special attention to and to look out for your posts.

4. Entertainment – To play games, music, and/or videos, and to get comic relief.

We all need mental breaks. When we take a break to listen to the new Taylor Swift single, play a game or watch a 3-minute stand up comedy video, we’re giving ourselves a little dose of endorphins.

Endorphins are the chemicals that give you the “second wind” feeling. We can trigger the release of endorphins with funny posts or videos, or by interacting with someone in a game, like in the two truths and a lie example below.

Screenshot of Facebook postWhether it’s a farming game, or playing 2 truths and a lie, it’s fun to escape.

How you can use it: Create posts like the one above, or get people involved by playing classic word games like Mad Libs with your friends and followers.

Photo shared on social mediaGreat example of a company using social media to both engage and sell.

5. Relaxation – To alleviate stress and escape from reality.

This can be anything from a funny cat video to an inspirational quote.

Though this is similar to entertainment, there is a difference: “Relaxation provides relief from stress while entertainment focuses on enjoyment.”

So, you might be looking at the same types of things, like cute videos or a song that pumps you up, but your motivation is different.

Screenshot of Facebook postHelp people relax through compassion and lightheartedness online.

How you can use it: Acknowledge that people in your online network might be stressed or “having a bad day” and give them something to smile about. Post a quote that made you smile, a song that helps you relax, or even a picture of an adorable puppy, like this one.

6. Expression of Opinions – To talk about things, share opinions, and blow off steam.

Here’s where it can get juicy. Of course, don’t incite ugly battles, but giving people a place to safely air out what they’re thinking is a great way to get people talking.

Screenshot of Facebook post

This is a really popular debate topic. People tend to have strong opinions.

How you can use it: Pose a question to get feedback from your audience and to drive engagement and conversation.

7. Collecting Conversation Topics – To have something to talk about with others offline.

Screenshot of Facebook postSocial media gives us access to lots of minds and ideas in one shot.

Having access to so many people on social media means we can get great new conversation topics to carry over into real life.

How you can use it: Ask easy-to-answer questions like the one above to get people responding. This helps build your relationship with your audience, and can potentially give you ideas for future posts too.

8. Sharing Information – People can use social media to broadcast things about themselves. By publishing updates, videos, and pictures, people market their own personal brand or business.

Screenshot of Facebook post

                          By updating LinkedIn connections on an upcoming internship, she’s both recruiting and letting people know how her business is doing.


Screenshot of Facebook post

This CEO shared her wedding pictures and a “Monday morning thought” to both update people on an exciting event in her personal life, and a new business insight.

How you can use it: Both of these examples show how you can let people know about something exciting in your life or business, while also adding value for them – a possible internship or an inspiring thought to mull over.

9. Convenience – Social media is readily accessible, even more so as mobile devices become ubiquitous. Furthermore, people can talk to several people at the same time.

Screenshot of Facebook post

Social media has become a go-to for getting answers to all sorts of questions.

Rather than make a bunch of phone calls, send emails, or ask people in person when we run into them in the work kitchen, social media makes asking a question or getting help so much easier.  

How you can use it: Since so many people turn to social media because of the convenience, if you can position yourself as a useful resource there, you’ll stay in their awareness. Offer helpful tips and provide thoughtful answers. The more interaction you have with people, the more top-of-mind you’ll be when they’re looking for what you offer.

10. Knowing About Others – Social media allows a window into the lives of others. By checking out other profiles, they can be nosey or ‘keep up with the Jones.’’

Screenshot of Facebook postSharing a window into your life helps people connect.

We all like to know what’s going on in other people’s lives. This goes back to our basic love of social interaction. It’s an insight into what other people care about and do with their time, and compare that to our own lives.

How you can use it: Post little updates like the one above to give people a look into what you’re up to. It also lets them in on who you are day-to-day and makes you seem more like a real person. Always find a way to turn a post into a question, so people will share their world with you too.

People respond when you give them what they’re looking for.

Action Step: Think about what might be motivating someone to log into Facebook, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Twitter or Instagram.

What brought them there? What are they responding to?

Your Takeaway: Make a connection by being a real person. Essentially this comes down to empathy and thinking about what other people want, rather than what you want to sell.

Engage with your potential customers by giving them what they’re looking for when they go on social media.

Tip #2: Build relationships

AKA, be like Taylor Swift.

Taylor isn’t just a musical icon, she’s also a social media genius. The good news is, her genius can be broken down into one simple element: care about your followers and their problems.

Taylor has done everything from host live Q&A sessions on Twitter and Skype, to randomly commenting on her fans’ posts, to asking her followers for help figuring out Tumblr when she first signed up.

Screenshot of social media livestream

Source: @steffyswiftie / Via Twitter: @steffyswiftie
Taylor isn’t too busy or aloof to comment on her fan’s live video!

By making herself available, building relationships, engaging with people, and showing them that they matter to her, she comes across as relatable and likeable.

While you may not have millions (or even hundreds yet) of followers ready to pounce on every post, you can still build powerful relationships with your audience and grow your reach with the same attitude.

The bottom line is to serve — focus on them, not just on you or your product.

How you can do this:

Host a Q&A thread

It’s a great way to build relationships with your audience, get insight into the questions that your audience cares about, and initiate a conversation with potential clients.

Screenshot of Facebook postQ&As make you as accessible as a best friend, but also set you apart as an expert.

Be a real person

The people in my Facebook group know me by name. I’m not a distant figure, I’m a real person interacting with them in the same way their friends do.
Don’t just drop off a promotion and disappear. Engage, respond and connect with the people in your audience.

Screenshot of Facebook commentsSomeone created a thread offering to help with elevator pitches. They’re engaging in conversation with everyone who responds and building a connection.

Action Step: Go back over your last 5 social media posts and respond to anyone who has commented on them.

Tip #3: Offer Value (Especially Through Livestreams)

One way that you can stand out is to teach or offer value. You can do this in any way, but one of the easiest is through livestreams.

In my own free Facebook group, Entrepreneurial Leaders, I run a weekly livestream where I address topics I typically get a lot of questions on.

That’s 20 minutes of pure value for the people in my group. 20 minutes where they have direct access to me and get their questions answered.

Screenshot of Facebook postA recent livestream I did talking about pricing — one of the top questions I get.

Livestreams are a win-win because you address people’s needs and concerns, you solidify yourself as an expert whom they like and trust, and you can connect with your audience in real-time.

The majority of my private clients have found me after watching a livestream, saying, “I had to work with you.”

There is no such thing as giving too much.

One thing I hear from people a lot is that they’re afraid that if they give too much away for free, no one will buy.

Let’s banish that fear right now. First of all, there’s no way you can give away everything you know in 20 minutes. What’s more, the more you give, the more ideas and valuable content you can generate.

Gretchen Rubin talks about this with her concept of “Spending Out.”

She defines the idea of “spending out”  like this — …by spending, I create more gain.”

To spend out is to offer freely without keeping score. This applies to relationships, possessions, and to creativity. While we sometimes feel we need to “save” our good ideas or advice, the reality is that the more we share our ideas, the more freely ideas flow.

A great example of this is repurposing your advice and tips in different forms. A blog post can be repurposed as several social media posts, a checklist, a cheat sheet, a podcast episode, and more.

Even if some of the same information is simply being shared in a different format or at a different time, that’s OK. Different people might find different formats or times more helpful than others. Plus…

People forget what they learned

Here’s another thing. Even if you feel like you’re repeating yourself from time to time, that’s actually a good thing.

That’s because people tend to forget 50% of what they learn within just days or weeks, and up to 90% after only a month!

Action Steps:

  • List out the top three questions you get.
  • Brainstorm three 20-minute trainings you can do on those areas.
  • Outline them and schedule them in your calendar.

Tip #4: Be Targeted

Action Step: Join a group (Facebook, LinkedIn, or forum) where your ideal customers are. Reach out and answer questions.

That’s the number one thing you can do to show people that you can help them solve their problem.

Here’s an example:

Gordon Miller is an entrepreneur and investor who is frequently on Quora answering questions for people who need information on things he knows inside and out. He’s built an incredible following in a relatively short amount of time using this one strategy.

Screenshot of Quora postThis example sums up both his huge success, and his method for it.

Screenshot of Quora post

This one is playful, but it’s a good example of his signature concise answers.

Once you become known as a go-to person who knows your stuff, you’ll have people recommending you. You won’t even have to go searching for them as much:

Screenshot of Quora post

Here’s an example of how Gordon has become well known and a go-to for business advice.

Action Step: Identify keywords that your potential are talking and asking about

Make a list of those keywords and plug them into the search bar in your online groups.

It’s a focused way to find potential customers who are looking for the same thing.   

Action Step: Leave thoughtful comments on other people’s posts

Look for one or two posts you like, and leave a thoughtful comment or response to what they said.

Screenshot of Facebook post with comments

This person actually thought about the post and commented with something that will make her stand out.

Starting a conversation this way opens the gates to a relationship

Here’s another example: I saw someone asking about digital advertising back when I was consulting on that. I responded on their post, let them know I was sending them a message with more info, and we had this conversation –

Screenshot of Facebook messages

By offering help without obligation, I opened the door without being pushy.

Because of the value I gave this person — no strings attached — she actually ended up becoming my first client in that business.

Like in any relationship, you just have to be genuine and pay attention to what feels appropriate.

Tip #5: Be patient

Some people buy immediately, but some people have to be nurtured for longer before they’re ready. Sales can happen both ways.

For example, while during my launches many people who buy have “known” me for just a few weeks, 25% of the people who buy have been on my list for over 6 months.

It’s the same for my clients. Some get their first clients relatively quickly…

Screenshot of Facebook post

It can happen as fast as this.

While some take a little longer…

Screenshot of Facebook post

Or it might take a longer time to nurture people, like this, but as you can see, the results are so worth it.

Six degrees of profitable connection

Finally, let’s not forget those connections of connections who end up being a great fit.

For example, I once helped someone who didn’t buy from me, but they ended up referring someone who became a private client, and one of my biggest success stories!

If you stay focused on helping people, you increase your odds of connecting with someone who is ready to buy from you, or knows someone else who is.

Don’t sacrifice the long term for the short term.

It’s important to balance your perspective between immediate sales and long-term vision. You’re not in business until you make money, but money can’t be your only focus.

Especially when it comes to social media. Social media isn’t about sales, it’s about connecting with other humans. It is a great tool for sales, but only when used correctly.

Keep the broader picture, and adding value, in mind.

Your turn:

Here are the action steps we covered. Pick two or three that you think will work best for you and commit to doing them consistently for at least the next month. That how you make social media for business work for you.

Connect with people in the way they want to connect:

  • Look at a few posts to see what people are thinking about and what might  be motivating them to log into social media in the first place.
  • Write down what you think is motivating them and frame your thinking around this so that your posts will be in line with people’s reasons for being there.

Build relationships:

  • Go look over your last 5 social media posts. Has anyone commented?
  • Respond in a personal way.

Provide value:

  • List out the top three questions you get.
  • Brainstorm three 20-minute trainings you can do on those areas.
  • Outline them and schedule them in your calendar.
  • Join a group (Facebook, LinkedIn or forum) where your ideal customers are.
  • Reach out and answer questions.

Be targeted:

  • Make a list of keywords you see people using a lot in your targeted groups.
  • Plug those keywords into the search bar in other similar groups.
  • Schedule time every day or at least a few times a week to go into those groups and respond to comments.

Your Main Takeaway:

When you use social media for business, make a connection by being a real person. Put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes and think about what they want, rather than what you want to sell.

When you do this, you open the door for a relationship that could lead to a sale without being pushy. Not only does it really work, it’s also a much more pleasant and authentic way to run your business.

How about you?

What strategies have you tried? What worked well and what didn’t? Which action steps are you excited to try first? Let me know in the comments below.

Social media for business pin

About Luisa Zhou

Luisa Zhou has helped thousands of students build and scale their own profitable online Freedom Business. Fun Fact: She used to work as an engineer for the Space Station and holds a B.S.E. from Princeton. Click here to learn more about Luisa.

Hope you enjoy this blog post.

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One Response

  1. thanks heaps Luisa 🙂
    Totally loved all this value… Keep doing what you’re doing because its helping me in creating my business…and this kind of stuff is what I need 🙂


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