3:08pm

Thu January 27, 2011
All Tech Considered

For Sale On the Web: You!

ABC. Always Be Closing.

That's the advice that Alec Baldwin's character gives to a roomful of ragged salesmen in the movie Glengarry Glen Ross.

Always Be Closing. The same message could easily apply to almost everyone who shares on the web. We're all trying to close. We want to close our potential employers, our readers, our buyers, our friends, and sometimes, even ourselves.

Maybe you're sending around a resume on LinkedIn, describing yourself on a dating site, or (ahem) posting a link back to your blog post on Twitter. But these are just the concrete examples. You might be selling an opinion, or a joke, a political ideology, a favorite television show or even a photo of your kids at the top of a ski slope.

When I post a photo of my two year-old daughter on Facebook, I expect likes. I expect comments about how cute she is. And if I don't get them, I consider the sales-effort to be a failure. Maybe it's my camera skills. Maybe the timing of my posts is off. Or maybe it's my two year-old. Sure, everyone in my family likes to think she's the cutest little button in the whole wide world. But the numbers don't lie. Come on little girl, either you smile bigger or Daddy's gonna have to break out the Photoshop.

I need you to know how full my inbox is, how great my marriage is, and what an awesome workout I had this morning.

Friend Me. Follow me. RT me. Like me. @ Me. Poke me. Forward me. Buy. Buy. Buy.

We used to be more subtle in our acts of self-promotion. During a conversation, maybe we'd drop an aside about a recent achievement or put a sticker on our bumpers proclaiming our kid's status as an honor student.

In part, this subtlety was a reaction to the difficulty of the task. It's not so easy to sell yourself in person. It takes guts to make a pitch and have to watch the realtime response of the person sitting across the table. It's a lot harder to ask someone out on a date when they're a few inches away than it is to drop them a text.

It's also a lot easier to be on the receiving end of a web pitch rather than facing a seller in the terrestrial world where there is no ignore button.

In Glengarry Glen Ross, Baldwin's character explains what it takes to really sell: Brass Balls.

On the web, no such anatomic abnormalities are required. Self-promotion is as easy as clicking the publish button.

The social web changes the entire selling equation. There's no more emotional friction associated with a sales job. The age of subtlety is dead. So we all push the product nonstop and the product is us. I know plenty of former Luddites who have been forced onto Twitter and Facebook by their employers or PR people. And they're all here now, for one reason and one reason only.

This is where you sell.

Sure, they start by doing the minimum. A tweet about their company. A Facebook post about an upcoming appearance. Then they see how easy it is and they get sucked in. And like the rest of us, they start selling everything.

Read my book. Buy my art. Check out my profile. Like my blog. Share my tweet. This is an article you might like. Here's a nice picture. Check out my company's new product. Here's a creative pun I felt like tweeting.

You buying it?

Wait, don't answer that. I already know because I've checked the stats. I share on the web and then I habitually check to see how well what I shared is performing by counting the number of clicks, likes, retweets and comments I get. You want reads? You know how many people are clicking. You want to move products? You have instant access to your sales numbers. You want attendees? Look at your RSVPs on Evite. You want laughs. Just check how many retweets and LOLs you get.

Like millions of others, I have become an expert at analyzing these statistics. I know how well I'm selling. And I know who's selling better.

I've often been surprised by the personal medical details that some people are willing to share on the web. I'd never do that. Is it because I think the data is too personal or is it because I'm just worried that my disease will get fewer retweets than the next guy?

Ever pause before sharing a picture of your kid to ask yourself, "I wonder if this particular shot really does much to build our family brand?"

Critics of the social web complain that they don't want to hear about what you had for breakfast.

It's not about what you had for breakfast. It's about how well what you had for breakfast is selling.

And your hotcakes might be selling like hotcakes. But maybe that's the problem. We're all selling so many things, it's becoming increasingly difficult for the buyers to figure out the best products you have to offer. There is no separation of the really good stuff from the rest of the items on the sales rack. Does the French Toast you had for breakfast really deserve a position on the same shelf as your writing, your career or your kids? As a buyer, I can't answer that question. Everything about you is priced to move.

As we all become increasingly overwhelmed by the constant deluge of our always-on marketplace, it might make sense to pick and choose what we want to sell. Maybe that's the new advice that should be given to social media's ragged group of salespeople:

Sometimes be closing.

Dave Pell is a San Francisco based, Web-addicted insider, investor and entrepreneur. He has been blogging for more than a decade. This post first appeared on his blog Tweetage Wasteland. You can also follow Dave on Twitter. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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