How to Grow Your Sales with Social Media

(This article originally appeared on Forbes.) Aside from referrals, 100% of my new business comes from my activities on LinkedIn, Forbes and SlideShare. Almost every day, someone emails me and asks if I have time to speak with them. It’s now 7:45 a.m., and I’ve already received an inquiry today.

Three years ago, this wasn’t the case. At that point, I was experimenting with offering free 30-minute phone consultations; almost no one took me up on them. Most of my sales came from outbound lead generation, which was time-consuming, expensive and inefficient.

So what changed?

Well, I wrote over 325 articles, and created more than 50 new SlideShares. Some might call this content marketing, but I call it getting my voice heard.

My first LinkedIn articles, which competed against the likes of Richard Branson and the Prime Minister of England, went quietly into the night. A few hundred people read them, if I was lucky. But I kept at it, and started experimenting with new topics. In the process, I discovered what most interests me: bringing out talent in other people.

The more content I created, the more people seemed to respond. They learned what to expect of me.

Still, some weeks were very lonely. I’d have one article that “hit” pretty big, but then weeks would go by in which it seemed I had slipped back to my quiet existence.

I wanted a magic formula, then I realized: the only magic formula is persistence.

Let me repeat this: persistence is how you grow your sales with social media. Use it every day. Use it to help others. Use it in a clear and focused manner.

Many people I know hate this reality. They hate the idea of being persistent and taking time every day (“are you serious?”) for social media. They are “too busy” to do this, which means they are too busy spending time and money on prospecting for new customers.

You’re not going to double your sales by writing ten articles or sending out a dozen tweets. But you probably will double your business if you stick at social media for a year or two.

Here’s how I look at social media… it’s my way of making it possible for very good things to happen.

That’s why I get up early and stay up late, to find time for social media. My wife and kids are used to seeing me with a laptop at the kitchen counter. I’ve posted articles from trains, planes, and blankets on the beach.

Most importantly, I start every day with my “kindness first” rule: I use social media to help someone else. This might mean sharing a piece that otherwise would go unnoticed, or introducing two talented people to each other. Doing so sets a tone to my day, and helps me resist the temptation to be – as social selling maven Jill Rowley calls it – a “pushy-pushy” self-promoter.

If you use social media to help others, your persistence will pay off. Just make sure that every post you make has a clear and compelling benefit to others. Serve, don’t sell. Be in it for the long run, and don’t quit because only 14 people read your first two pieces.

Finally, don’t be obsessed with how many people in total read your stuff. Instead, focus on engagement, which means connecting with individual human beings in a deep and meaningful way.

Image: Kevin Dooley/Flickr