SOCIAL SELLING78% of salespeople on social media outperform their not social counterparts, according to Forbes. It’s no doubt that social selling is important, but you need to do it right.

While social media does help supplement the selling process, you have to be weary of overstepping and being too salesy in your approach. Here are the social selling steps to make sure you’re smart at social selling, and not a dirty salesperson on social media.

1. Avoid being self-promotional

These are self-promotional messages: “Check out our product!” and “Here are five reasons our product is great!” If you don’t put yourself in the shoes of your prospect or customer, then you neglect their point of view and how they’d be receptive to your messages. Your customer doesn’t want to know 10 reasons why your product is better than everyone else’s.  They’d rather have an ebook on ten ways they can do their own job better.

2. Share third party content

50 to 80% of the content that you provide through your social networks should not be about your company at all. Find relevant, credible websites and blogs and share their content more frequently than your own. This demonstrates that you’re helpful, builds relationships and proves that you’re doing more than trying to sell.

Social selling is about building relationships, offering good content, engaging, and providing yourself as the resource. In doing so, when someone is ready to purchase, you’ll be the first person they turn to.

3. Create fresh content

You want to put your content out there, not necessarily promotional content, but content that you create that helps your audience boost their own job performance. This approach promotes you and your company as thought leaders in your industry.

Anytime you write a blog post, it shows Google that you have authority on a certain topic. It also adds keywords to your website, and gives you more material to share through your social channels.

4. Create product groups on LinkedIn

In addition to your LinkedIn company page, create a group around your product or products as well.  If you have something to sell, you want customers to have a place to talk about it. Product groups enable your product users to engage with each other and share best practices. As long as you have the resources to manage it, consider creating a LinkedIn group for each product so you can be more focused.

5. Launch targeted ads

LinkedIn is great for B2B companies because it’s a common space for business buyers and influencers to congregate. It’s often easier to reach this audience on LinkedIn versus Facebook or Twitter.

LinkedIn is also one of the better platforms for targeting your audience with paid ads because you can segment by direct contacts, locations, job titles, company name, etc. There are many options from a B2B perspective that enable you to hone in and get really targeted.

6. Create and share real-time content on Twitter

Today, you can’t be at a conference and not be on Twitter because there are conversations happening all around you. Twitter is like background buzz where you can talk about your products, share best practices, or put content out there. Whether you’re at a conference or not, it’s a place to always find a conversation around any products and topics.

7. Get visual

Graphics and visuals stand out on social media, and custom design is a great way to drive engagement around your social posts. On certain social platforms, such as Twitter, visuals automatically expand and will show your audience a lot more about your content versus just sharing text or a link.

8. Engage at the point of need

My good friend, Mike O’Connor, used to call it, “Engaging at the point of need.” If there is an opportunity on social media, such as a request for a product or service similar to yours, you can jump in and help them. This is an opportunity to guide the user toward purchasing your product or service. Do this carefully and slowly. You don’t want to scare them away.

9. Create events on Facebook

With Facebook focusing more on company pages vs individual pages when it comes to selling, event pages are a great way to stand out. Create an event to bridge the gap between personal and professional lines by inviting friends to your event. They can do so without liking your company page, if they choose.

With Facebook pushing their paid solutions and reducing the exposure of organic content, work with your fellow team members to share your Facebook posts for those extra organic views. Do this by clicking on the timestamp on any Facebook post and get a permanent link addressed to that particular post. You can then direct people to Facebook posts with exciting company news or behind the scenes photos or an awesome thought leadership piece. Ask your friends to share this with their friends. By providing the direct link, all they have to do is click on it and share it.

11. Explore other social channels

Depending on the culture of your organization, consider the power of other social networks. For instance, if your product is highly visual, you might benefit from a Pinterest board or Instagram feed.  IBM has a Tumblr account showcasing their innovative culture. Google+ is highly visual with a technical, geeky display. Even some old school Yahoo Groups still exist. Some musicians are still on MySpace. It all depends on where you best fit and where your customers and employees engage with your information.

12. Hone in and focus

With all the social channels out there, be mindful of your time and resources. It’s hard to keep up with ten different social networks at a same time. Therefore, it’s important to focus where it counts. Start by taking your sales cycle, whether it’s four to eight or more steps from opportunity to sale. Then, matrix that information with your different personas. For instance, if your audience is in IT, you might target a user, an IT manager, a CIO or a CEO. Draw your sales cycle across the top, and put your personas across the side. Now you have a matrix of every single person that might be involved in the purchasing decision for your organization and also each step of the sales process.