March 7, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Social Selling

One of the most effective channels for making sales are social platforms. Various industries believe that these social media sites are the key to reaching their audience. It’s not surprising that more and more companies are incorporating a concept called social selling into their sales strategies.

Social selling — when done right — optimises your reach, builds strong relationships with customers, and ultimately increases your revenue. However, integrating it into your current business plan may be more complex than you anticipated. You'll need a deeper understanding of what it is and how it works to take advantage of its benefits.

In this article, we share comprehensive insight into social selling. We’ll discuss what it is, what advantages and strategies you can leverage, and the most popular social platforms for social selling. Let’s begin.

What Is Social Selling?

In a nutshell, social selling is a practice that uses social media for:

  • Making authentic and organic connections with prospects or the target audience
  • Establishing you or your company as a trusted authority by sharing insightful and timely content
  • Developing strong relationships with clients

The end goal of social selling is to increase conversions and sales while also improving retention. 

In the strictest sense, social selling is a lead generation and nurturing technique. It entails research, connections, and interaction with prospects, so salespeople can build their credibility and foster relationships.

Social selling is an indicator of the upheaval that digital marketing is causing in sales and advertising. Before, old sales models took advantage of strategies like cold calling or demos by salespeople. These are rapidly becoming a thing of the past as social selling becomes the norm.

The newer sales models take advantage of how salespeople can organically interact with prospects. There’s a huge focus on engaging and educating them on social platforms so they first establish a connection with a brand. 

Of course, creating this connection will entail complex strategies that help address the pain points of customers. If done well, social selling not only creates more authentic relationships but also fosters retention and loyalty among customers.

What Isn’t Social Selling?

Social selling has lots of overlaps with other practices like social media marketing and advertising. However, these three are completely different and have distinct purposes that the others can’t address.

Social Media Marketing vs Social Selling

Social media marketing is focused on strategies for reaching a wider audience. It’s all about promoting the company, brand, or offerings. On the other hand, social selling leans more toward individual prospects instead of a broad target audience.

There is certainly an overlap here since marketing can be narrowed to a specific buyer persona. However, knowing the difference between the two can help you create a more focused strategy overall.

Social Media Advertising vs Social Selling

The hallmark characteristic of social media advertising is the use of paid ad campaigns, whatever the purpose may be. While it may seem like an antithesis to the more organic social selling, advertising is an important tool in lead generation and can be used as part of social selling strategies.

The Advantages of Social Selling

In terms of numbers, there is quantitative evidence that companies that employ social selling strategies are more likely to hit their revenue goals by as much as 40%. In addition, salespeople who leverage their social media presence often have 45% more sales opportunities than those who don’t.

The bottom line is, social selling will allow you to reach your key performance indicators (KPIs) earlier than most other approaches. More than the increase in sales and revenue, social selling helps your business in other ways.

Enhances Customer Retention

Cold calling and other direct methods of selling have been known to put off customers. The intrusive nature of these approaches makes prospects feel irritated, decreasing the chances of them becoming loyal and long-term customers. 

Social selling creates a level of trust since most methods don’t go for sale immediately. Instead, it begins with engaging and educating customers about a brand or offering.

Builds Stronger Long-term Relationships

One important aspect of social selling is addressing the pain points of clients. Understanding their concerns and presenting products organically is how companies establish their value. This then builds strong relationships that lead to repeat conversions and brand loyalty. 

Shortens the Sale Cycle

Among the seven major steps of the sale cycle, prospecting is the one that takes the longest time. It can be hard trying to find the niches where your target audience gathers. However, the use of social media platforms makes this step a lot quicker.

You’ll know exactly where to find them by using key terms, joining forums, and following hashtags. Those that directly follow your pages or comment on your post are already good prospects. 

Reach the Market

In relation to the point above, social selling helps you capture your target audience better than those who fail to use this practice. 

Right now, millennials are taking over important decision-making positions in many companies. One of the places where they go the most is their social media pages or profiles.

This will only become more prevalent as we head into the future. With social selling, you have a method that’s guaranteed to reach them.

Creates the Right Connections

Not all of your social selling strategies will result in a sale, but that doesn’t mean you’ve wasted energy and resources. Interacting with prospects consistently allows you to establish your brand and its offerings.

In the long term, you can enjoy referrals of leads who didn’t convert. They can recommend you to other customers that may see your product or service as the solution to their pain points.

Stay Ahead of the Curve

Using social selling is one way to stay updated on whether your lead is ready to buy a product or service. You can keep tabs on them without being too intrusive and pushy, jumping at the perfect moment where chances of conversion are the highest.

Social Media Sites for Social Selling

You may already be doing social selling without realising it. If you or your brand already has a page on Facebook, sharing tweets on Twitter, or discussing points about a new SaaS technology on LinkedIn, then you’re already doing it.

You may have already recognized the differences between these social media platforms. Some of them are more suited for either B2B or B2C social selling. Others are more text-heavy, and there are ones that thrive the most on visual media.

Because of the reasons above, it’s important to understand how each major platform works, what kind of audiences they attract, how these audiences communicate, etc. For now, let’s familiarise ourselves with the most well-known platforms and how you can leverage them for social selling.

1. Instagram

Among the popular sites out there, Instagram is arguably the one that’s the most visually-led. Here, people post photos and videos of themselves, foods, destinations, and products they’ve enjoyed. A huge percentage of the audience is young, mostly belonging to the millennials and Gen Z demographic. 

In the past, the way to create a personal brand or story was by using images with the same themes, colour motifs, or filters. This is commonly referred to as “feed goals.” 

Today, this has evolved given how Instagram has adopted short-form and long-form videos into the platform. Branding has also shifted into this media format, with Stories, Reels, and IGTV being used to make an impression amongst audiences. 

For business use, Instagram encourages businesses to have their own accounts, which can be “Verified” and turned into e-commerce platforms. Because of this model, it’s not recommended for businesses to engage with personal accounts unless they’ve been tagged by the user. 

In addition, B2Cs thrive the most on the platform. B2Bs will have a hard time social selling this such an environment. 

To interact or engage with a target audience on Instagram, companies can do the following:

  • Repost Stories or Reels where their products are used
  • Add customer Stories to their Highlights
  • Comment on posts where they mention you or your products 
  • Scan hashtags to find users who can be turned into prospects

2. Facebook

Facebook has a massive user base, making it a prime location for social selling. Unlike Instagram, this platform encourages text-based posts, not just images and videos. While Mark Zuckerberg wants to shift Facebook into a platform for making social connections, it still has a huge potential for businesses and social selling. 

One of the top reasons for this is the fact that more personal accounts interact with business pages on Facebook than on any other platform. 

These people willingly engage with brands, from liking and sharing posts, discussing their thoughts on comments, and simply “liking” brand pages. This makes it that much easier for salespeople to pinpoint their prospects.

Here are other strategies to harness the power of social selling on Facebook. 

  • Posting Company Content: From Facebook Stories to timeline posts, you have plenty of methods to share company content. Don’t focus on hard selling yet. What you want to do is post content that encourages sharing. This is how you increase visibility and boost engagement on your page.
  • Engage With Customers on Your Page: People who comment or react to your posts are great prospects. Make sure that they feel seen by interacting with their comments on your page. If they have an inquiry or question, you can even message them directly on Messenger to start building rapport.
  • Join Business-related Groups: This tip is more for salespeople than brands; these groups are a hotspot for prospects who need answers, advice, and solutions for various questions and pain points. However, don’t start selling products or services outright. You’re there to help and serve as a trusted counsel. It’s one way to build trust and credibility.

3. TikTok

TikTok is the newest of the bunch, but it’s rapidly becoming one of the biggest social media platforms today. 

Like Instagram, this site is focused heavily on visual media — videos, in particular. However, TikTok is friendly for both B2C and B2B customers. The biggest consideration really is the algorithm, which dictates what users can see on their feed.

TikTok users are often referred to as creators or influencers. For the bigger brands, they usually partner with these creators to publish content. 

Functionalities like Duet also help brands interact with posts that mention their product or service. There’s also TikTok Live, where you can live stream to your followers and talk about your brand, offerings, and other topics. 

You can do hard selling on the site by creating videos directly advertising products. However, social selling takes a bit more patience and creativity. 

Salespeople can post blog-type posts where they can make lists, discuss pain points and solutions, and provide answers to questions. The key here is to act as a subject matter expert.

Those who engage with your content can be seen as prospects. It will be up to you later to research their public profiles to see if they match your buyer persona. With this information, you’ll know which relationships you must prioritise and nurture.

4. Twitter

Twitter users often refer to the platform as a public town square. Everyone is talking via their tweets all at the same time. 

It can be hard to get attention on the app or find prospects who might fit your buyer persona. There are ways to go around this.

Whichever method you choose, the one thing to remember is that Twitter encourages social selling instead of hard selling. Don’t try to make sales outright in your strategy. 

In fact, don’t try to make sales at all. Tweets, retweets, and quote tweets are designed to make the site more suitable for engagement.

You want to present yourself as an expert and drive conversation to increase tweet views and interactions. Make sure to reply to tweets related to your topic or quote them for further discussions. You can even post threads about any topic and treat anyone who engages as a prospect.  

Here are some other tools and tips you can leverage on the website:

  • Twitter Lists: This functionality allows you to neatly sort your followers into groups, tailored based on whatever similarities they have. You can categorise them according to their job titles, the company they belong to, location, existing customers, and more.
  • Images and Videos: Tweets with visual media usually receive more engagement than text-based-only posts.
  • Twitter Trends and Trend Lists: It’s easy to find the most talk-about topics at any given time by checking Twitter trends. By engaging with these hashtags or keywords, you may increase interactions on your posts and profile.

5. LinkedIn

When you’re talking about social selling, the conversation will always arrive at LinkedIn. It’s the prime location where salespeople can interact with prospects on a more personal level while still maintaining a more professional tone. On this platform, you can foster trust and improve your credibility even at the earliest stages of the sales cycle.

To successfully practise social selling on this platform, try the following tips:

  • Create an Optimised Profile: Before everything else, make sure to give a good first impression with an optimised LinkedIn profile. Add a professional picture, list down your credentials, and create an attention-grabbing headline.
  • Share Content That Builds Credibility and Offers Value: Building your brand entails sharing insights and messages that add value. You should publish long-form articles, make perceptive comments, and show off your insight into relevant topics to prop yourself as an expert in your field. This is how you create a professional brand that offers value.
  • Build Rapport With the Right Prospects: Not everyone who engages with you is a good prospect. You’ll need to do research and find the ones that are a good match for the solutions you offer. With them, you can make more meaningful connections that are built on problem-solving, not making a sale.
  • Use LinkedIn’s Tools: The platform has several tools you can use to gain insight into your social selling efforts, and we’ll dissect them further below. Two of the most popular ones are the Sales Navigator and Social Selling Index (SSI).
  • Build and Grow Your Network: Reaching more prospects means widening your network. That means joining groups, sharing content from relevant profiles, and of course, adding more people to your network.

Social Selling Strategies

There are several ways you can leverage social media sites for social selling. Here are the best practices you can incorporate into your strategy, regardless of which platform you’re using.

1. Make Sure You’re Social Listening

As we’ve mentioned above, you should always be on the lookout for what your customers are saying about your brand, services, or products. This practice is called social listening, and it’s an integral part of social selling.

This practice isn’t limited to your company or offerings. You should also monitor competitors and keywords related to your niche. 

By doing this, you can gain valuable, real-time insight into how customers feel about you. That way, you can make better smarter decisions, manage crises, and remain relevant with your content.

2. Stay Authentic

The truth is, many customers already have some level of awareness that you’re a salesperson or a brand. They know that your presence on the social media platform is meant to help you increase your sales.

Don’t go about using generic messages or automated responses to your prospects. Keep it real and show that you actually care about making a connection with these people. Show them that you’re not just there to make a sale. You can:

  • Start conversations about content that you are mutually engaged with.
  • Highlight common interests.
  • Show sympathy over a pain point.
  • Provide support.

3. Get Past the Gatekeepers

Gatekeepers are members of a company that won’t let you interact with the important decision-makers. Examples of gatekeepers include receptionists and assistants. 

These people control what kind of information the decision-maker receives. They establish a hierarchy that’s hard to penetrate and could even harm your social selling efforts. 

Getting past them entails being smart about which prospects you’re nurturing. You wouldn’t want to waste effort on a profile that’s parading as a CEO but is actually controlled by an assistant. 

Use your research skills on Google and LinkedIn to find the actual profiles of decision-makers. Then establish connections with them.

4. Position Yourself as an Expert

We’ve already established this while discussing tips for each social media platform. However, positioning yourself as an expert bears repeating because it's the bread and butter of social selling. No one will engage with you or your brand if you don’t have any credibility in your industry. 

So what are concrete steps you can take to become a trusted figure? Here are a few:

  • Share relevant and valuable content that’s related to your offering or customer pain point.
  • Post informative and engaging content showing off your expertise.
  • Engage with relevant posts by commenting or creating discussions.
  • Share success stories and testimonials that emphasise your problem-solving skills.

5. Show Off What Makes You Different

It doesn’t end with establishing yourself as an expert in your field. Those who claim to be experts come in many numbers, and you could drown in that ocean if you don’t know how to make yourself stand out. After you’ve demonstrated your capabilities and insight, the next step is to differentiate yourself from the rest. 

What qualities about you or your offerings aren’t present in the others? What elements make you the better choice? 

Your answers to these questions should be a part of your messaging. That way, you can make a more impactful impression.

6. Pay Attention to the Comments

Every one of the social media websites we’ve mentioned has a comment section or a similar feature. This is where customers and prospects share their thoughts, discuss topics, and engage with brands. It’s a prime spot for social listening. 

You can check which posts have the most engagement by viewing the number of comments. In addition, reading comments help you understand the perspectives of customers and what kind of content they enjoy. That way, you can publish something that’s more likely to gain engagement. 

7. Share Solutions With Media

This practice strikes two birds with one stone. Offering solutions through media like vlogs, online presentations, and webinars helps increase your engagement while also establishing your credibility in your niche.

For this strategy, it’s better to focus on a platform that facilitates a specific type of media. Live streaming is great on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. On the other hand, pre-recorded webinars can be published on LinkedIn or Vimeo. 

Whichever you choose, make sure to engage with your audience after uploading these videos for follow-up questions and discussions.

8. Be Consistent

This does not just apply to branding; it should already be a given for salespeople and companies to have cohesive and consistent branding messages. We’re talking about being consistent in your online presence. 

You might think that it’s a waste of time to stay on social media platforms, but that’s what’s necessary for social selling. If you want to succeed in creating strong relationships with prospects, you shouldn’t leave them hanging. 

Be consistent about your posting and engagement. Follow up on your interactions and nurture the relationship, but don’t overdo it so much that your audience gets overwhelmed.

9. Track Your Engagement

Social selling may sound like something that you can’t easily track, but there are ways to measure your efforts. The most obvious ones would be the number of likes, shares, or comments (and their variations on each respective platform) that your posts get. These are great indicators of which content your followers and prospects like. 

On a much deeper level, some platforms have ways to provide advanced insights into your posts. For example, Twitter Analytics and Instagram Insights can show profile visits, top accounts engaging with your pages, and metrics about your most popular posts.

10. Sustain the Relationship

Don’t end your engagement with customers once you make a conversion. The whole point of social selling is to ensure that you maintain strong relationships and gain repeat conversions. 

Make the effort to interact with past and current customers. Focus on sustainable selling tactics and adjust your goal to give you more incentives.

Tools Used for Social Selling

Plenty of programs, website plugins, and apps help with social selling. Here are four of the most popular ones and what they can do. 

  • Sales Navigator: Sales Navigator is a LinkedIn premium feature with plenty of functionalities. Among these are SSI, Advanced Lead and Company Search, and Lead Recommendations — highly useful tools for salespeople.
  • SSI: Social Selling Index (SSI) needs a special mention because of how important it is in social selling. It’s an easy-to-read dashboard showing insights about your social selling efforts. You’ll see whether you’re engaging with the right people, establishing a strong personal brand, or building relationships.
  • Hootsuite: Hootsuite is another social selling essential that consolidates your social media content management efforts into one platform. It’s also great for social listening thanks to its comment, conversation, hashtag, and keyword tracking capabilities.
  • HubSpot: With its lead tracking and monitoring features, HubSpot has become one of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) programs. Use it to learn where leads are coming from and where they are in the buyer journey. 
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