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Commentary: Social selling tips for supply chain sales pros

Promoting your work by promoting your personal brand

Personal branding is the way you present yourself, independent of the company you own or work for. (Photo: Pinnacle Growth Advisors)

The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.

As LinkedIn continues to grow its user base, industry professionals are increasingly looking to the concept of social selling: promoting their work by way of promoting their personal brand. A social presence is becoming a necessity for networking in the industry — not just on LinkedIn but also through channels such as publications, podcasts, interviews, videos, etc.

What has emerged from social media is a distinction between a company’s brand and a personal brand. LinkedIn, in particular, has an algorithm that favors a personal profile over a company profile, making the platform more about connecting people to people, not enterprises to people or other enterprises. It’s about a personal connection.

Personal branding is the way you present yourself, independent of the company you own or work for. It’s a brand that can grow with you long term, as you grow and even change directions over time.

Personal branding vs. company branding

Authenticity is key in personal branding, and this is best shown by speaking directly to your viewers — showing your face, in a photo or video, and writing in the first person. Audiences are learning that they no longer want the fabricated portrayals that social media was first known for; they want what is real, imperfect and personable.

Brent Orsuga of Pinnacle Growth Advisors said, “We got over 1 million views multiple times in 2020 (many during COVID so, from March on). When COVID hit and I knew we were not going to be able to travel and see clients or go to conferences, I knew it was time to go all-in on social media. Once we knew people were going to be remote, we knew they would be online a ton more.

“Because of the content, we pushed out, we got in front of a lot of eyeballs. We also saw the power of video. I started this back in 2018 when LinkedIn turned this on but we really cranked this up this year. We started an Instagram page to give people more of a behind-the-scenes look into what we do. The most important part to me was always making sure that everything we did was authentic and providing value to others,” Orsuga said.

Company branding is more what we, as consumers, are used to seeing, which traditionally doesn’t include the person-to-person relatability. Companies still have a social media presence but often with a limited connection to consumers compared to personal branding. “We try to provide some company support and best practices for our employees when it comes to social media content, but we want everyone to build their own brand while trying new things and promoting a positive image above all else,” Orsuga went on to say. While building his company’s team over the past couple of years, Pinnacle has welcomed employees who were already leveraging social media as part of their daily strategy. That approach has worked well, with several of Pinnacle’s social media posts reaching more than a million viewers without any sponsorship or promotion. 

Develop your personal brand

While establishing your personal brand, it’s important to outline for yourself the values you stand for. There are foundational characteristics that must remain consistent throughout any message. Even while most of your audience will never have met you in person, you are trying to give an accurate picture of who you are, through what you present.

Other types of characteristics, such as your topics or your tone, have room to vary. For example, you may decide to use a different tone with a data-driven topic versus a more personal topic, or you may use the same tone throughout. You can show the dynamics of your personal brand while maintaining the same foundation.

Be authentic and honest

Your honesty is what makes your personal brand real. Lean into your strengths, and learn to laugh at your weaknesses. While the tendency is to avoid acknowledging any shortcomings, you can accept that they have a part to play in your brand. Your audience will appreciate the model of openness and the ability to handle an uncomfortable topic in a professional way through self-awareness. When it comes to honesty and being authentic, Chris Jolly, The FreightCoach, says it best. “Personalize the message. Get away from your mass LinkedIn or Twitter DM blast style format, and commit to getting to know them as a person, and not a transaction.”

Engage with others

A part of your presence on social media is crossing paths with others in your field, those you might consider competitors. Social media has allowed anyone the opportunity to interact and engage, and people are using this opportunity now more than ever. Collaborations, such as creating new content, emerge from building relationships and sharing ideas, and it benefits not only the audience of the content but also the individuals working together.

“The best advice I can give about social selling is that it’s not about selling. It’s about creating meaningful and engaging content that will resonate with your audience. Approaching social selling with the intent of providing something of value will give much better results than simply pitching your company on social media,” said Nick Dangles, co-founder of Kinetic, a company focused on helping logistics tech firms build their brand across the various supply chain ecosystems.

Charley Dehoney

Charley Dehoney is a growth-focused executive, consultant, advisor and investor, with more than 15 years of experience at the intersection of transportation technology. He's helped create revenue systems that have supported hundreds of millions of dollars in growth for the businesses he's helped build. Dehoney is currently serving as CEO of Manning's Truck Brokerage, a 50-year-old, private equity-backed logistics company. He lives in Omaha, Nebraska with his beautiful wife and three strapping young sons.