We all know by now that social media is an incredibly powerful lead-generation tool that can magnify revenue for any business or entrepreneur. But surprisingly, the amount of followers someone has is not always indicative of what is going on behind the scenes. Having a large following is great, but if no one is engaging with your content, it’s not going anywhere. In general, the stronger the engagement rate, the more exposure a profile can get, leading to more organic revenue opportunities.
Shawn Sharma, cofounder and CEO of multiple eight-figure companies, is a 28-year old-entrepreneur who has leveraged Instagram to build a community of travel and credit-savvy business owners. His educational content has allowed him to build a network of over 2 million followers across social media and expand his businesses into four verticals that bring in over $10 million in sales annually. He has a unique strategy that involves sliding into DMs (direct messages) on Instagram. Here is how you can do the same for your brand.
Shama Hyder: Could you explain to us in detail what a DM strategy is and how you made yours work?
Shawn Sharma: Once you’ve created your content and generated leads, you need to figure out how to turn that lead into a client. Using a DM strategy, I proactively reach out to everyone who engages me on social media and start a conversation. The goal here is to lead the prospect further down the funnel and into the nurturing phase. My team and I converse with leads in their inbox and ask what resonated with them, what their pain points were, and what services we can provide. The more conversations we have, the more conversions we will get. Once we’ve secured a lead, we use DMs to get their feedback so we constantly have a finger on the pulse of our audience.
We also cold DM prospects who have never seen our pages, but engage with similar content elsewhere. These people are already interested in the same service we provide, but on a different page. We then DM them and start a conversation about what we can do for them. Using this strategy, we’ve let our competition do most of the work of generating warm leads, but we swoop in and close the deal. You would be surprised how many brands out there build an audience but never directly engage their following.
Hyder: Can you explain to us how you push customers further along the sales funnel?
Sharma: It all starts with posting content—the more the better. Next, we examine every engagement on our post. We treat them as warm leads and proactively start conversations, and sometimes even send them voice memos. We contact them as quickly as possible to make sure we are still top of mind. Lastly, we go after cold leads—people who have not engaged with our content but we think will be good prospects based on their engagement with similar content or competitors as found by doing market research. People are so used to messaging on Instagram that we try to keep our contact with them in their direct message box for as long as possible before moving to text or email. The key here is that we don’t go straight for the sale—we focus on asking for feedback and building relationships, which creates a more authentic connection that lasts.
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Hyder: How did you get started in social media and what was your turning point toward success?
Sharma: After graduating from Cornell, I spent time researching social media and noticed how Instagram started adding features designed for content creators and their respective businesses. After testing out some features, it all clicked, and I started experimenting with different content types and growth strategies. It took years of trial and error to get to where I am now, including with growing my business network outside of social media.
Aligning an organic sales funnel across various channels was the turning point for me. No one I interact with on social media feels like they are directly advertised to, that’s what I mean by “organic”. My focus lies in providing as much free value as possible, and then leading up to more complex service offerings. The days of click-bait and gamified growth are numbered—people are becoming savvier about the inner workings of social media.