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How to tap into social media to sell a controversial product

Being knowledgeable about your products goes a long way.

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Due to today’s generation asking for more transparency with the information and products that they consume, social media, by default, became a one-stop shop for reputable news sources. And who can blame it? Its core point is to let people be social, and as such, it tends to be more open for the users. In essence, social media is a basically a worldwide megaphone.

As a result, more and more companies are using social media to sell their products and services, hoping to get a clear gauge of how this landscape works, and changing their policies appropriately to accompany it. And most of the time, it works. Just take a quick glance at young customer-friendly companies that got their start with social media. It’s as useful a tool as any, especially in gaining customer loyalty.

So then, what happens if you try selling a product that’s generated a bit of a negative buzz? Will it still work? The short answer is yes, and here are some ways on how to take control:

1. Understand your audience and determine the best way to approach them

First things first, learn your audience, know what makes them tick, and understand how they think. And what better way to use social media than for its intended purpose? Understand that these are people with real emotions and real lives. And how you think of them will greatly influence the strategies you will devise to get and retain their attention. So keep your ears, and your phones, open. And observe.

2. Challenge public perception

Now that you’ve spent time observing the pulse of this market, understand what it thinks of your product and why people think of it like that in the first place. People use social media to read up on product reviews and such, so read them as well. According to Business.com, always be informed of what your product is so that when asked, you know what to answer. Controversial products also tend to have a divisive audience, so be ready.

Spreading of false information is rampant in social media, so make sure you always have the resources to provide the correct one, as well as an effective plan to distribute it to your audience.

Social media

Keep yourself informed of accurate and reliable updates as fake news are rampant in social media. (Source)

Participate in social listening, and understand their likes and dislikes about your product. Social media is filled with opinions that are sometimes mistaken as fact, so learn to challenge this by actively engaging. Learn about reputation marketing, and if you can, stand up for your product in an effective manner. Have conviction, and always believe in your product. Using more effective language can also do wonders.

3. Go the extra mile, but know when to stop

We know, we know. “Stop” is a word best avoided when you’re a representative trying to make a sale. But look back at the first point: Your customers are real people that grew up soaked in information. Sometimes, they just don’t want something, and you don’t want to add a potential customer’s annoyance in the equation when you’re already representing a controversial brand. Transact like a real person, do your pitch, give it your best shot and politely walk away if it still doesn’t work. Besides, why waste time on a doomed transaction that benefits neither parties when you could be looking for other potential customers?

4. Don’t sell a product, sell a lifestyle

Finally, don’t just simply sell a product, sell a lifestyle. Take cues from Marlboro, which created the iconic Marlboro man, a rugged man on the road who male consumers aspired to be, and therefore generated a powerful association with its cigarettes.

So don’t just sell your product, sell to consumers the improved lifestyle that comes along with it.

These are just the basics when it comes to selling a controversial product. Social media is a powerful tool with ever-changing rules, and what works today may no longer do tomorrow. Still, having a basic understanding of how a brand should act and interact with consumers on social media will ultimately determine whether a product will take off or not. So keep these things in mind the next time you’re confronted by a consumer that have questions, and you’re already halfway there.

Arturo Garcia is a Peruvian-Filipino financial journalist. He is a self-confessed football fan. He started out as a political writer for a local daily in Peru, but now focuses on tech and business. Arturo studied Economics at Unibersidad de Lima and currently lives at an apartment in Salinas Valley, Northern California, exactly 725 meters from John Steinbeck’s hometown.

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