Four practical ways to use Social Media to sell

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I’ve been thinking back over the years to when I was active on the PowerSeller board on eBay UK. At the time my main income was from selling 2nd hand laser printers and before the days that people called it “Social Media”, I was busily selling online socially.

I asked Social Media expert John Hayes of iContact what are his top four ways for a company to use social media and he told me:

  1. To distribute information about their company, products, service and wider industry as a whole and perhaps build their reputation as the go-to person or thought leader in their particular field of expertise
  2. To engage socially with existing customers and prospective clients in their own environment, field customer service issues and humanize your approach to business
  3. To recruit an army of virtual (unpaid) brand ambassadors who will not only help you sell your products or services but also field customer service issues
  4. To monitor sentiment towards your brand (and your competitors’ brands), glean new ideas and stay ahead of the game in terms of new developments in your industry.

Looking back I had social media cracked. I wasn’t aware that it would be named “Social Media” in the future. I didn’t have John’s guidelines for using social media. I just knew what I had to do to sell, but it appears I instinctively followed the four steps and:

  1. Answered questions about printers and established myself as the go-to person for all printer related questions.
  2. Engaged with people looking to purchase a printer and gave helpful advice on which model or technology to use (and if you haven’t already scrapped your inkjet and invested in a laser printer I still say that you should!)
  3. I didn’t try to recruit an army of brand ambassadors, it just happened naturally. So many times over the years when someone asked about a printer another PowerSeller would say “Ask Mountie, oh and he sells them as well” or “Ask Mountie, I bought my printer from him!”
  4. Because I was the PowerSeller printer expert I knew pretty much what printers customers were considering and what PowerSellers needed. I knew their businesses, how they operated and what was available on the market. I was the printer expert!

If you’re interested in learning how to apply these Social Media lessons in real life then John Hayes is running “A Crash Course in Email & Social Media Marketing for SMEs” at various locations around the country. The next is in York on the 19th June.

I never kept records of how many printers I sold on the PowerSeller board (and sorry eBay, but many of them were “off-eBay” sales so I didn’t pay eBay fees on them). I do know one of the first printers I sold was to Tamebay’s Sue, and her husband still has it running in France. Did you buy your printer from me and did you hear about it on the PowerSeller board?

46 Responses

  1. Been to one of John’s Social Media Crash Courses before, very informative always something new to learn.

  2. if social media were a viable sales outlet for most there would be no ebay or amazon

  3. st georges dragon please consider that Chris, Dan and the late (lovely Sue)have spent a lot of time developing Tamebay and I’m sure that the advertising revenue is much appreciated.

    Ask yourself why you visit and make comments – you don’t have any back links so there is no financial benefit for you.

    I visit Tamebay to interact and learn from others, and like yourself I enjoy a good old moan, but surely when you come down to it Tamebay wouldn’t exist without social interaction.

    If Chris is making some dosh from Tamebay then I suggest that there are benefits to social media.

  4. PS. seems my main reason

    I visit and make comments is to irritate others


  5. I am glad to see that non of those points include ‘facebook e-commerce’ as in stores to buy from ON facebook…still not convinced this will catch on 🙂

  6. still think ebay is the 8th wonder of the world when it comes to selling, chasing your tail trying to do it on the cheap using social media is false economy in our opinion

  7. I would say the extra revenue gained from social media interaction that I spend 2-3 hours a week doing, probably covers my mortgage each month, so its worth getting out of bed for.

    Some goods point made by John Hayes.

  8. Yes and yes

    You were the expert and even sourced me an excellent a3 printer.

    You were also an HTML, feedback, advertising and font of all knowledge expert

  9. I personally think it all boils down to being genuine and helpful to your market (even without you knowing it, like Chris). Forums allow brands to do this, in fact, it could be said forums are the grandfather of all social media! 🙂

    Recently read this piece from if anyone is interested: Why forums may be the most powerful social media channel –

  10. Twice in the last few months I’ve been after a printer and I thought ‘Oh Mountie’ but both times you had your holiday settings on (or had no listings).

    But the point is, I still thought ‘ask Mountie’, mainly from what I’d read over the years on the PSB.

  11. ok so posting on the powerseller board worked to at least some degree, so if the blanket exposure social media theory is to work , just on ebay alone there are at least another 30 message boards other than the powerseller board to make your self known on

  12. Well, it’s down to the saying ‘if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll have mostly have what you’ve always had’

    If you never try something new, you’ll never know if it works or not. For the linkage alone it’s worth a dabble.

    People do business with people and if they trust you they’ll buy from you so being helpful and being around on social media as said above people think of YOU rather than searching Google.

    Social Media is old school networking bought to the 21st century, it’s not on the golf course any more, it’s twitter, facebook & pinterest these far out reach the realms of either the business club, pub or the golf course. If someone cold calls me on the phone, I’m saying no before they even say what they are selling, they annoy me. With social networking when people want to buy they seek you out.

    If you treat it as a selling channel people will not be interested.

    Another thing you can slam down without knowledge or experience on the subject just like businesses did eBay once upon a time (and some still do). Ask Dell if Social Media is effective with £2m sales from one tweeted discount code alone.

    Embrace change and grow or stay as you are and get left behind end of 😉

  13. Well we have been having some good sales on our sites from Facebook and we signed upto Pintrest the other day and within a week had two sales from there on the site, £80+ OK I am not going to retire but it takes about 5 mins a day to stick some bits on there!

    It’s just another tool and is showing direct sales from it, if social media wasn’t important people like ASOS with over 1million fans wouldn’t be doing it.

  14. Tv and Radio Advertising is/was important
    though to do it effectively you need to have the capital and the means the the Dells of this world have available, we imagine this to be true with social media too,
    a one man band piddling about is only ever going to get one man band results

  15. Interesting article, and comments!

    Pure customer engagement gives social media the edge for us. Not in immediate sales, no, but in building brand loyalty, positioning and also the ‘look and feel’ going forward.

    It’s definitely NOT ‘trying to sell on the cheap’ – that’s missing the point. It can add immense value and build trust, and ultimately, enhance your selling price.

    I’m very interested in the effectiveness of Pinterest too. I shall report back at some point! 🙂


  16. #15 – I am a one (and a half!) girl band ‘piddling about’ with social media.

    I would like to blow my own trumpet. Today I came 3rd in a National competition for ‘favourite bead website’. The kudos and free advertising this has brought to me is yet to be quantified, but it will be.

    Granted, my website looks quite pretty and fun, and my product range is fun – but none of it is fantastically innovative.

    The *only* yes, absolutely the *only* reason I gained enough public votes to come 3rd (against 2 much bigger companies) is because I piddle about with social media. It’s a great leveller :0)

    Get stuck in, and pull ahead. The digital world is changing beyond measure. If you’re in an industry with any kind of online competition, you need to sort out CRM and digital marketing (including Social Media) *now* or you will not hold market position.

    This sounds a bit OTT I know, but I absolutely believe it is the case.

    Shape up or ship out I reckon 😀

  17. so with all these social media gurus around here with this advantage
    and marketing know how
    whats their annual turnover?
    if its above £750.000
    I will join facebook now

  18. I don’t have £750000 turnover, although I wager that I could have if I wanted to expand. (I have a toddler, so part time currently)

    However.. in part time hours I have a 6 figure turnover.

    Much more importantly, I have a very solid margin, that is enhanced by Social Media.


    And ‘joining facebook’ aint going to cut it. Maybe 2 years ago it might have though.

    I guess the point is, either do it properly and well, or don’t do it at all. ‘Half doing it’ (or worse – using your Facebook status to flog some random items every day!) is counter productive.

    I’m no Guru by the way.. just a woman, selling some beads well! 😀



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