Matthew Ferrara, Philosopher

Befriend Every Client You Can on Facebook

If is still a people business, built upon referrals, then it’s vital to befriend every client you can online. That’s how you’ll get to meet their friends. And the friends of their friends. And the….

You get the point. Sales means getting to know people; building a sphere of influence. Earning their trust and their referrals. It’s about listening to their needs, being in the right place at the right time. And that place is no longer on the doorstep, in the mailbox or on the land line.

The location of sales has moved to a virtual address.

Even if you believe the cliche of getting “belly to belly” with customers (an unfortunate image), you’ll have a hard time finding bellies nowadays without searching a hashtag, tagging them in an update or geocoding a video. Confused by that last part? Buying an iPad won’t help. Neither will sticking your head in the sand.

Modern sales requires – demands – you befriend your clients on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn.

And anywhere else they may go online in the future. It doesn’t matter what you sell: homes, cars, or coffee. In the sales matrix, product specs don’t matter as much as personal cred. Trust is the currency. Referrals are the only way. Trading happens in shares, re-tweets and tags. Self-centered monologue gives way to share-centered dialogue.

And nobody worries about privacy, because everyone is all-in.

How do you sell in such an environment? Is the risk going too far – or not going far enough? Actually, neither. Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter didn’t change the game just the rules. And Facebook isn’t anything more than the modern consumer’s expression of their frustration with the old rules of the game.

So here’s a social sales primer, with six ways to sell using social media:

  1. Build relationships, not presence. Sales happen one-to-one. Even companies that ship thousands of books, computers or tickets do so on a person-to-person basis. So stop trying to be a big voice to thousands who don’t care. Start trying to be a trusted voice to one person who does. You can do a lot with a well-placed ‘like’ or a single ‘happy birthday!’ When you abandon advertising and embrace prospecting, this makes sense.
  2. Talk shop, not shopping. Social media isn’t a Sears catalog but a salon. Sometimes there’s polite chatter, the currency of relationships. Sometimes a business question, the opening of opportunities. Forget about violating the Facebook Terms of Use by posting products on your personal page. You will have already violated the terms of engagement with your friends, of which you will now have fewer.
  3. Share more, sell more. Smarter customers make smarter decisions. Brands aren’t shapes and colors, but people. People who act on behalf of their customers best interests. Share yourself – answering questions, offering advice, being available – building your customer’s competence. Smart customers will choose you.
  4. Stop worrying, get exposed. Modern customers demand genuine people. They hate spiels, and can smell a phony a tweet away. Stop being afraid to be genuine online. Be a person first, salesman second. Your tattoo pics might create a connection your scripts couldn’t. As for last-gen worries that your mobile number will get out: How will next-gen customers text you otherwise? (They aren’t going to call).
  5. Get assimilated, then lead. Influence requires trust from within, not authority from without. Old-model marketing declared, postured, positioned. Next-gen marketing inquires, shares, collaborates. Stop trying to be loudest, biggest, bestest; the attempt only fractures your networks. Real influence is done softly.
  6. Be quiet, to hear. Great social selling is done by searching. Status updates reveal more than focus groups or surveys. Consumers willingly divulge all, frequently. Simply learn translate. Nobody likes being qualified; incubated; treated like a lead. Besides, they already told you everything you needed to know, if you were listening.

Social network selling requires rethinking; and abandoning ideas of the past. None of these suggestions is much different from the days of cocktail party and golf course networking. But the comfort of telemarketing distance is gone; the passive aggressiveness of the postcard is past; the door knocking assertiveness has been medicated. Today’s customer won’t play that game any more. From Do Not Call to DND, they have set new rules for the game.

It’s still a chase: They’ve just shifted it to warp speed.

  • Mattie –

    I have to say that you have outdone my friend. This truly throws all the cards on the table in a way that everyone can understand it.

    “And nobody worries about privacy, because everyone is all-in.”

    I had a conversation the other day where I told my agents that the days of lurking over the tabloids are over… because as soon as you step online you are IN the tabloid. It’s up to you to conduct yourself as a grown up, a citizen, a friend, and a good person.

    Thanks for writing this Matthew – you have done a great thing and I will try to push this forward.

    Matt Dollinger

  • Matthew – I enjoyed this post. Very direct and to the point. Sort of like how you can connect with customers and clients via social media. It doesn’t always happen that way as sometimes there is a long “courting” period but when the opportunity arises, the agent who is “there” in the different social realms as a part of the conversations will earn the business.

    Transparency is so important because just getting the appointment doesn’t sell anything. You’ve got to be able to perform when you get the chance.

  • Thank you very much! I appreciate the kind comments and support on my perspective!


  • Thanks, Sean! I like the “courting” metaphor – which is very much what social selling has always been about – online or offline.


  • Steve

    Great post, Matthew. You did a fabulous job of rebuttal. As Seth Godin says: “Piracy is not the challenge. Obscurity is.”

    (BTW, how come I have to call you Matthew and Dollinger gets to call you Mattie?)

  • Steve

    Great post, Matthew. You did a fabulous job of rebuttal. As Seth Godin says: “Piracy is not the challenge. Obscurity is.”

    (BTW, how come I have to call you Matthew and Dollinger gets to call you Mattie?)

  • Well said and thanks for the reminders. Cheers.

  • Well said and thanks for the reminders. Cheers.

  • It really is a matter of being genuine online. And not doing things in “social media” that you wouldn’t do in a “social reality” situation.

  • It really is a matter of being genuine online. And not doing things in “social media” that you wouldn’t do in a “social reality” situation.

  • Exactly!
    Social media doesn’t take your “self control” away :>

  • Exactly!
    Social media doesn’t take your “self control” away :>

  • Thanks, Steve!

    You can call me anything; just as long as you call me :>


  • Thanks, Steve!

    You can call me anything; just as long as you call me :>


  • Anonymous

    I really enjoyed the article Matt. I agree 100% with the strategy of focusing on the individual oppose to being the Big Voice (great line). You can build a significant network if you focus on the one to one relationships.

  • Glad you decided to post this, Matt. What a breath of fresh air compared to the Inman article! I wouldn’t have followed that advice even if you hadn’t posted this, but since you did it just strengthens our resolve to move forward, not backward. Thanks!

  • Thanks, Wayne! I was literally stunned by the article at Inman, and just felt this needed to be said. Glad you liked it!

  • Samruta

    Hey Matt,
    One man’s butter is another man’s poison. I like your butter.

  • Matthew:

    What a strong answer to the Inman article. Your statements are simple and smart…a real primer for those folks on the fence about how to characterize their social media efforts.

    Using the internet in real world situations makes the most of its passive connections with friends, and friends of friends. And if you apply the same rules you’ve always followed in your relationships, then no boundaries will be crossed. All of your suggestions are standard social interaction guidelines, just updated for this new format.

    As an industry, we would be foolish to dismiss the opportunity to connect in this manner, particularly since it is so prevalent. And free. And easy.

  • Thanks for the rebuttal Matt… it HAD to be done and you did it so well.

    How do you suggest balancing Friends on my profile and Fans/Likes on my Page? I thought I could transition everyone to my page and just keep close personal friends on my profile…..Should I just resign myself to keeping BOTH….I really don’t want to….. then if I cross post, some people get it twice and tend to only comment on my profile not my page anyway. I don’t really like too much personal stuff revealed to customers like where I live, etc….like if I’m tagged in a photo in my home or comment on a personal friends wall. Also, even though I can use FB as my Page, I still can’t comment on a friends wall/post as my Page, making it hard to interact with them as my Page…. Ugggh…. suggestions??

  • David Kovalsky

    Thanx Matt, very good article!!

  • Anne Webster

    Thank you Matt! I just read this entire blog post to my sales associates. I’m bringing them into the social media world kicking and screaming (for some, others see it as a blessing!) Facebook is an easy form of prospecting, maybe the easiest!! I can’t believe there are people that still don’t get it. If you don’t embrace the new forms of marketing, you will become irrelevant! Thank you for sharing your thoughts!!

    Anne Webster
    ERA Home & Family Real Estate
    Andover, MA

  • I’m still a big fan of mixing social media with off line marketing. Our office sends out several hundred newsletters each month, as well as post cards and other items via mail. I don’t think we can replace our off line efforts with social nedia totally, it’s just another level of touch that will keep us top of mind with our clients and prospects.

  • Matthew,

    I too read Bernice’s post yesterday and immediately thought, “what is up with this pre-occupation with privacy”? I believe the first registrants on the DNC list were probably real estate agents!

    Thanks for the alternative.


  • Hi Joe:
    My suggestion is you keep only keep a fan-page if you need to run a “brokerage-level” presence. If you’re just trying to interact “personally” with your friends AND your clients, then you can keep a personal account and use the Facebook LISTS function to divide your address book into lists. Then you can set security, privacy settings appropriate to each group. And you can “target” any status update, photo, links, etc., you add to your wall directly to the appropriate group. We have lessons on using Facebook lists inside of the Learning Network, so check out too, if you need step-by-step instructions by video.

    Hope this helps and thanks for reading our blog and adding your comments!!

  • Excellent advice! I would say that marketing or sales are not changing but they have already changed. Connecting, listening and engaging is the new way. And it works, but changing old habits can be scary or even painful at times.

  • Great article! I understand why people are concerned about privacy, but rather than limit your inbound marketing because you’re worried about your personal information, isn’t is better to just not put anything out there that you don’t want public?

    If you wouldn’t want it printed in the newspaper in the old days, don’t put in on social media today.

    To me, the opportunity to connect with and expand my sphere far is invaluable. It far outweighs a worry that someone might know what my dog looks like 🙂

  • I know there are differences of opinion. Some say that the Dunbar Rule is the way to go. Only Friend and Connect with people you are old-school friends. I agree with your view.

    For example, take Daniel Rothamel ( story > ) if he limited his connections to a close knit group of people he knew personally, as old-school friends, would he have been able to generate what he has. Nope. Because friends of friends is a big deal and in the real estate business, even people who aren’t your old-school friends can become your new-school friends. Assuming you’re engaging, sharing and conversing correctly, size does matter. IMHO.

  • Diane Brooks

    I love this article especially after reading all these blogs that say to “unfriend” everyone. Thanks for this insight as this is more in line with my perspective on being social. 🙂

  • Kaira

    Thanks for the info, Matt. I see you suggested to Joe that he use the personal profile rather than the fan page. I currently use a personal profile for connecting with clients, but I am concerned about the friend limit that FB places on personal profiles. I understand fan pages, however, can have unlimited friends. Any thoughts on this?

  • Thank you Matthew Ferrara, This post is one of the most educational I have seen on the subject of Social Media. You get it most agents don’t thank you for the information

  • Kaira

    The limit is plenty large enough for an agent. You don’t need 10,000 friends to be successful in real estate. 300-1000 max should be plenty of people to do business with and get referrals from. It’s not a mailing database, so size does not matter. What matters is interacting with your sphere daily to find the right Opportunities. Social media requires you to participate and few of us can participate well with large groups. So I think you would be fine as an agent with a profile page. If I were a broker with 26 agents, I would need a fan page because the number of contacts would represent my 25 agents x 1000…. You see the point.

    Thanks for your comments!

  • Alex Chang

    Nailed it Matthew. Best REALTORS have always been “All in” no? Social is just a great set of tools to amplify that get more leverage from that mentality.

  • Thanks, Alex! I think it’s time to go all in and let the chips fall where they may!

  • Thanks, Alex! I think it’s time to go all in and let the chips fall where they may!

  • Tina

    Fantastic article! Couldn’t agree more.