Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

How to Turn an Elephant into a Sale

Every week, salespeople ask whether they should have a “professional” Facebook page instead of a “personal” one. To which I can now reply: Can your professional page turn a silly elephant picture into thousands of dollars?

Why is everyone so worried about looking “professional” in social networks? Oh, yes: Your image. Your brand. The belief that you have to act professionally – air-brushed and buttoned down – everywhere, including online. News flash: You’re mostly a legend in our own mind. The rest of us know you mostly as, well, you. Not your logo, colors, website or letterhead. And especially not through attempts to turn your Facebook page into a sales and marketing brochure.

In fact, being “too” professional in social networks might be costing you business.

If you’re a sales person for a stock firm, insurance agency, real estate company or Main Street retail store, this is for you. I’m talking to sales people here. Not corporate marketing departments of established brands that more than 100 random people can recognize off the tops of their heads. So, if your name is Coca Cola, Starbucks or Tiffany’s, this post isn’t for you. For the rest of us:

Lighten up!

Relax. It’s social networking, not a funeral. Come to the party and don’t be a bore. Stop trying to make every status update generate a lead. You’re trying too hard. You’re starting to look desperate. Stop worrying about who might see something personal, weird or off-color on your wall. Especially if that person might be – gasp! – a potential customer.

Sure, you can use the tools to “separate” your Facebook friends into “lists” and divide your posts amongst different groups of professional and personal messages. You can set your privacy and viewing settings accordingly. But don’t over-do it. Just like “in real life” you often don’t know what part of you people like most: Your wisdom or your wit.

If you’re too uptight about it, you might never post a picture of an elephant’s ass on your profile. And you’ll miss out on all that business.

That’s how sales works, for most of us.Our deals comes from our sphere of influence. People who relate to us as people, not a marketing pieces. Your peeps are connected to you because they like you, which includes the personal you and your job. Definitely more than your job, though. The biggest professional pages on Facebook have found that over 84% of their fans are existing customers. People who have already trust them, like them, bought from them, and want to be influenced by them.

Not just receive their press releases.

Sales comes from influence. Influence means attracting friends, then attracting their business. To influence others, you have to contribute value to people’s lives every day. That’s real marketing: People experiencing your brand by experiencing you.

Enter the elephant.

Marketing firms spend billions trying to make customers smile. You can do it for free using social media. There are multiple values you can contribute to your friends’ lives: knowledge, certainly, but also emotion. Some things will help your friends think better, others will simply make them go hmmm, hahaha, or ROFLMAO! 

But does it make money? Consider: You can keep posting “it’s the best time to buy…” until the last person gets tired of hearing it and de-friends you. Or you can try an elephant picture.

I didn’t take the photo; I just re-shared it from a friend who made me laugh. Whereupon my sphere of influence went bonkers.  It received 56 likes, 25 comments and 28 shares within hours. For a little guy, that’s a lot of influence. It even extended my influence, because my sphere shared it with their sphere, helping me make new friends.

But the money! Gosh, you have a one-track mind. Yes, it even generated money. You see, I’ve connected personally to many clients, past clients and friends on Facebook. The silly elephant picture would never have been posted on my “company page” because it’s too, well, silly. But it’s perfect content for my personal page. That’s how it caught the attention of one of my peeps who has hired me in the past. A peep who subsequently emailed me to invite me to deliver an event for their company next year.


Not every prospecting moment comes from your most insightful blog post. Not every customer is motivated by well researched data, advice and predictions. Charts and graphs, quotes and controversy can only go so far. Sometimes, it takes a funny elephant picture to re-connect with people. To catch their attention, add value in the form of a smile, and remind them you’re there to help. Personally and professionally.

So, go ahead and post that picture. Share that silly video. Add Klingon to your language profile. Join a good Mafia War. Imagine if sales were as simple as having fun with your sphere of influence!

Maybe you can’t be funny every day. Maybe the tattoo should stay covered up forever. But sales is a people business; and people are motivated by emotions as well as intelligence. Like the elephant, people remember that you’ve made them smile. And eventually reward you with dollars.

  • Thanks, Greg! I think just being friendly, fun and throwing in a little business content is all we need to be real, and generate real returns. Thanks for your comments!

  • Excellent! I attended a bar camp and people were amazed when i said I do not try to brand myself. I am me, I am not a brand. People want to work with a person, not a brand IMHO.

    The whole point of social networks is being social. Not stalking people in case they something about buying or selling a house.

    You need to be authentic in all your social media endeavors. Use some common sense but just be yourself. Have fun.

  • I agree…to a point.

    There’s silly and fun and there’s stuff that makes you cringe. There’s you in a clown suit and you mooning someone from your balcony on your Miami Beach vacation.

    There is a line between silly and fun and *you* (the “authenticity” everyone raves about) and the insensitive or tasteless. Sometimes it’s hard to see the line.

    PS…Is now the best time to buy?  I hadn’t heard.  🙂

  • John Schumacher

    It’s a great time to buy!

  • This is the exciting bit; gently push push pushing at the boundaries and getting the optimal mix of serious and silly so that not only does your brand have values, it also has personality. That way you start to attract the audience that values that personality, and that is probably the most loyal customer base you will ever produce.

  • Peter – thanks for your comment! Yes, I agree – you have to be careful to preserve your brand’s values and meaning – while still injecting some personality and fun! For me, it means I can work on a specific customer base who will be loyal…