The Number 1 Issue with Selling on Social Media in 2023 -
Written by James Patrick

We blast out our sales offers and promotions on Instagram, yet no one engages. We launch our online shopping cart, yet no orders come in. We finally unveil our new app, yet downloads remain stagnant.

We want to blame the algorithm. We want to blame the economy. We want to blame our pricing, and ultimately, we unfortunately blame our own abilities at our work. However, the reality is that our lack of sales is often the result of a lack of understanding on how consumers want to be sold to.

The Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” needs to be revised to “sell to others as you would have them sell to you.”

If we are not engaging with a barrage of sponsored and advertising content on social media, why would we expect our potential customers to respond any differently? If we are not purchasing from cold DMs that land in our inbox, why do we push those onto our prospects? If we cannot stand pushy sales, why are we replicating that approach to others?

Thus, if most of our audience is tired of constantly being sold to (and they are, much like you are) how do we expect to ever make any sales? By analyzing how we ourselves are guided into a sale. How do we prefer to be sold to?

It is not likely that someone opens up Instagram or Facebook holding a credit card with the expectation of making a purchase. In fact, we are all wired to skip over anything that remotely looks like an advertisement. We fire up social media to consumer one of three things:

  1. Entertainment
  2. Education
  3. Inspiration

This means that the content you create and distribute has to achieve one or more of those goals. Your role is to entertain, education or inspire your audience. The content should also connect to the problem you solve or the clear and specific benefit you provide so as to identify why you matter and what solution you provide, in the mind of your audience.

The next thing to consider is the space where that content is distributed. Instagram now has a much shorter audience attention span than ever before as it has modeled so much of its platform from TikTok. This means that long-form content does not tend to perform well as viewers are quick to move on.

This has made it incredibly difficult to be able to deliver short-form content that entertains, educations or inspires while still managing to sell. Think of Instagram as the platform to create a digital handshake and call to action to invite the audience to take a next step.

The next step is important for a few reasons. It requests the audience take some form of action. That action signals clearly to you as the seller that this individual is paying attention and engaged. They are much closer to being a client than someone who ignores (or never sees) the next step.

That next step could be simply requesting they message you to carry on the conversation, or, better yet, it could be asking them to get off Instagram and onto another platform where you can deliver longer-form content. This could be a podcast, a private FB group, an e-mail list, an SMS list, a YouTube channel, a walkie-talker app or the like.

This provides you the opportunity to create a deeper connection with you prospect as you now can deliver longer form content that still provides a clear benefit or solves a specific problem without the severe constraints of the short attention span.

It is on this second platform that you can now deliver a sales pitch to an audience who has already signaled to you that they are paying attention, have consumed more of your content in greater depth, thus having received more value from you.

For example, this could look like you posting short helpful video clips on Instagram and letting viewers know they can find more and fuller length videos on your YouTube platform. Once they are on YouTube being served longer form content you can have requests for intakes at the end of your YouTube videos or even mix in a weekly YouTube live which provides another opportunity to add value while giving a platform to ask for a sale.

What this teaches all of us is that consumers rightfully are asking to be nurtured longer than they have previously. They want to build trust and establish rapport with those they wish to do business with. Those are difficult facets to establish on a short-form platform such as Instagram.

Thus, your role is to position yourself as a problem solver for your prospective clients, providing them solutions and benefits honoring the short form platform with an invitation to gain more on a secondary platform where you have the opportunity to properly build an effective, mutually beneficial relationship.

We as consumers want to be seen and heard by those wishing to work with us. We need to honor that when we are the ones pitching and selling.

James Patrick is an internationally published photographer with more than 600 magazine covers to his credit, a best-selling author, podcast host and marketing strategist. He works with professionals to help them increase their awareness leveraging the power of earned media to ultimately grow their revenue. His work can be see at or on Instagram
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