To say I was sceptical of the power of social media for business and of Twitter in particular would be an understatement.

If you’d asked me just a few months ago what I thought of Twitter – the answer was simple… Twitter, Twatter, Schmitter, Schmatter – what a complete waste of time. All I’d witnessed was, “I’ve had a cheese sandwich” ping. Who cares? What a waste of time. All I could see was that it was for people that were playing at business and had nothing real to do in their day. Boy was I wrong…

I’m a grass roots sales and marketing kind of a guy. A direct marketing man. Do this – get that, measurable outcomes. So when I read Penny Power’s book called “Know me, Like me, Follow Me”, in an attempt to get my head around social media, I struggled, I mean really struggled.

I was scouring the pages for how to use social networking for my business and what did Penny in her infinite wisdom tell me to do?… “spread the love”. Really? Sorry, but I thought Penny was away with the fairies – spread the love, oh come on… I’m in business, I’m a salesman, a direct marketer.

Let me tell you; I hold Penny in very high regard and we have now become good friends. She and her husband Thomas are the founders of an incredibly successful social media business – Ecademy. I persevered and read her book – it delivered an eye popping pivotal moment for me in my relationship with social media and dozens of Eureka moments too.

The first thing was to understand that this is social networking not social selling. (Read that again and take it onboard too.) The second thing that hit me was that people use Google to search for information where as they use social media to find the people with the knowledge – that’s important to understand.

OK, so spread the love. Penny wrote about how we should be open and random. Find people and groups to engage with and listen to. Join in conversations on things other than just what we are trying to sell.

So I took a deep breath and jumped on in. At the time I was trying to get fit for for the London to Brighton bike ride so I set up a filter to let me listen to people on Twitter talking about cycling. In no time at all a guy had pinged out a tweet asking if anyone knew someone that could help him with getting fit for road riding?

OK I thought – let’s spread the love. I sent back a tweet.

“I just bought a bike from a former UK triathlete who has a bike shop with a gym attached, he could help”. Ping.

He tweeted back, “sounds great where is he?” Ping.

“Flitch bikes, Dunmow, Essex.” Ping.

“Great thanks.” Ping.

That was it. I felt I’d been helpful. I’d certainly spread some love, Penny would be proud, but so what? Well here’s what happened next…

They guy that had asked the question thought… who’s this nice guy @uksalesmentor helping me with the cycling thing? He checked my Twitter profile and saw I was involved in sales and marketing. He then clicked the link to my website. He read my bio and decided to sign up for my free marketing strategies. As he got to know me, he liked what he read and began to follow my tweets too.

(What’s the name of Penny’s book? Know me, Like me, Follow me. Ah ha.)

A day or two went by and he pinged me another tweet. This time with a link to a photo.

“What do you think of the graphics on my van?” Ping.

I opened the link and there was his van covered with a beautiful model in a bikini and fur hat a wielding a great big power tool that his company sells.

With my marketing hat on I would have lectured him on the lack of benefit statements, missing phone number etc etc etc. Instead, all I said was;

“That will grab attention.” Ping.

Quite fun this spreading the love stuff was all I thought, but really, who has time for this nonsense?

Three weeks went by and I was hosting one of my Fast Track Marketing Master Classes. These are always relatively small groups to ensure it’s fully interactive and personal. Around 20 people were registered on this occasion. To break the ice a little and to help everyone get to know who else is in the room I have each person give a brief intro of who they are, what they do and to help illustrate how various elements of my marketing generate sales I always ask them to say how they came to hear about the event.

The first person kicked off;

“Hi, I’m Jane I’m and architect and I’ve been getting Steve’s top tips for the last few months after I heard him speak at a networking event and wanted to learn more.”

“Morning, I’m Dan, I’m a fitness instructor I’ve been implementing Steve’s free tips and my enquiries have gone up by 20% – thought I’d come and see what else I could learn.”

“Hi I’m Dave, I run a web design company I’ve been reading Steve’s column in the paper and again, I wanted to learn more.” And so it went on. All my marketing efforts were working, email, PR, Public Speaking, Direct Mail, recommendations etc.

Then…

Hi I’m Paul. I met Steve on Twitter. He introduced me to someone that could help me with my bike fitness… Wow – it was Van Man! He got to know me, like me, follow me – then decided he’d like to buy from me – without me selling anything at all.

That opened my eyes… wide. Since that day I’ve been completely converted. I now deliver regular talks on how and why people in business should engage in the amazing world of social networking.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube deliver new clients to me every single month. I now operate an active social media strategy as part of my marketing mix which keeps me from spending every waking moment online. I’ve actually got it down to around 20 minutes a day and it works a treat.

And to think… it took a bikini, a fur hat and a transit van! Go on – you make sense of it.

Spread the love (but have a strategy for best results).