Compare 2 hours spent on social media with 2 hours having lunch with a client, peer or colleague.

Let me preface this by saying I am a big fan of social media as a business tool for freelancers, or for any other kind of solopreneur or business.

The smart use of social media can be a great way to connect with people in your industry and reach out to potential customers, clients or partners.

However…

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Next time you write an online sales page, put a pea under the mattress.

adding a real pea to a direct mail letter

adding a real pea to a direct mail letter

Before we get to the point I want to make with this article, let’s look at using a real pea to grab people’s attention.

The image above shows a mailing I wrote back in the early 1980’s. It was for a company that sold company formation services. That’s not a very exciting topic, so we scratched our heads and came up with an idea that would make the mailing stand out.

Our thinking was that most of our client’s prospects were probably fairly happy with the company formation services they already had, but there were probably one or two things about the service that niggled away at them and annoyed them – a bit like the princess trying to sleep with a pea under her mattress.

So that was our starting point.

Yes, that’s a real pea. Yes, we asked a lot from our printer and mailing house: a custom window in the envelope, a real dried pea in a bag, which had to be glued to the letter, and then each mailing had to be hand-inserted.

Expensive, but worthwhile, because we got a response rate of over 17%. (Without the pea it would probably have been closer to 1% or 2%.)

In the world of writing for the web, it’s a little harder to insert a real pea into people’s monitors. But we do need to find some ways to put a pea under the mattress. We need to find a way to make our sales copy hook our readers, and keep them engaged.

There are billions of sales pages online. Most are bad, a few are good. But almost all are simply a rewrite of what everyone else has written. Many follow a formula or a template.

So how can we put a pea under the mattress when we are trying to sell online?

First, get away from the old, offline concept that every sales page has to open with a headline, followed by 500 or 5,000 words of sales text with the occasional sub-head.

Instead of hoping the text will do all the work, why not use a video, slide show, infographic or social media to do the heavy lifting?

No, I’m not talking about those irritating squeeze pages which offer to show a video in return for your contact information. I’m talking about replacing or at least adding to traditional text-based sales pages with multimedia.

You can communicate your value proposition with a video.

You can describe the benefits of your product or service with an infographic.

You can show proof with a slide-show of images, or a second video.

You can replace the usual, barely-credible testimonials with captures of tweets or Facebook updates which praise your product or service.

Or how about communicating your guarantee with a face-to-face video clip?

What I am seeing so far is the occasional use of video and images on sales pages.

What I am suggesting is that you go further, disrupt the traditional sales format, and use multimedia to better capture and engage your readers.

It may not be the same as sticking a pea in an envelope, but it should be enough to separate your sales pages from the billions of others which all seem much the same, and are decidedly old-school and offline in their approach to making sales.

To set smarter social media goals, think like a B2B marketer.

One of the great challenges of social media marketing is to make sure your time and resources are being used effectively.

It’s all too easy to put a huge amount of energy into social media, across multiple sites, and then scratch your head and wonder whether your hard work actually made a significant difference.

Social media activity is always open-ended. There are always more sites you could become active on, and there is no limit to the time you can spend on the sites where you are already engaged.

Hence the need for a strong strategy and clear limits.

If you work for B2C companies, it can be tough to set those limits. And that’s why, even if you don’t have B2B clients, I suggest you create a social media strategy for an imaginary B2B client. Just as an exercise.

For B2B it is somehow easier to set limits.

Let’s imagine you are working for a company in the food services industry that specializes in selling frozen goods to independent restaurants and bars.

How might you help them with social media?

Here are some options I might explore:

– Look for vertical social media sites which serve restaurant and bar owners etc.

– Search for and join relevant groups on LinkedIn and Facebook.

– Create an account on Twitter and engage prospects, thought leaders, food journalists and other influencers.

– Create a geolocation based campaign to implement at hospitality services trade shows and other relevant events.

– Reach out to restaurants and offer to sponsor local, geolocation based deals and offers.

That will do for now.

Each option is fairly clearly defined. Each has a specific purpose. Each is looking to engage with a specific group of people.

It’s this kind of clarity you want to apply to any social media work, especially for B2C clients.

What you want to avoid is goals that sound like this: “Reach out to as many new prospects as possible.” Or, “Use social media to better establish our brand.”

These are very open-ended goals. There are no boundaries or limits. You could spend forever on them, and probably with a very poor ROI.

One way or another, whether you do my B2B exercise or not, create social media strategies and campaigns that address a specific audience, for a particular purpose, within a specified time frame.

Do that, and you’ll be able to apply resources where they matter most, and measure the results you achieve.

Above all, avoid vague, open ended strategies and campaigns that will be a drain on your time and unlikely to achieve tangible results.