Social Selling: What It Is, Why You Should Care, And How To Get It Right
Social Selling – you may have heard of it but are not entirely sure what it means.
Do you think it's the same as social media marketing? (Spoiler: It isn't.)
Or maybe you are thinking that this is basically just social media advertising? (Second spoiler: Also no. That is something completely different.)
In short, social selling enables your company to identify business prospects on social media and to build a relationship with a network of potential leads. Done right, social selling can replace the dreaded practice of cold calling.
If you haven't built social selling into your funnel yet, you are likely losing your business to more social media savvy competitors. Once you've read this guide, you will have all the information you need to change that.
In this post we have:
- Answer the question: what is social selling?
- Explain what a social selling index is.
- Share 4 reasons your company should be interested in social selling.
- Outline tips and best practices for social selling.
- Name 3 important social selling tools.
Let us begin.
Bonus: Get the Free Social Selling Guide to Financial Services. Learn how social media can be used to generate and nurture leads and win business.
Social selling is the practice of using a brand's social media channels to connect with potential customers, connect with them, and attract potential leads. The tactic can help companies achieve their sales goals.
Think of social selling as a modern way of building relationships. By actively connecting with prospects through social media, you can be the first brand a prospect will consider when they're ready to make a purchase. And it can replace outdated relationship and sales techniques like cold calling!
What social selling is not
Social selling is certainly not about bombarding strangers with unwanted tweets and DMs. This is spam. Do not do it.
Social selling isn't just about adding new contacts to your list. It's about making these interactions meaningful and presenting your brand as the solution to a problem. When you do this, you are more likely to build trust and loyalty.
For example, natural skin care company SoKind uses basic social selling principles in this Facebook post. They clearly outline how their product solves a problem for mothers. Highlighting the value of the products helps the brand naturally attract the right audience and promotes sales:
An intensely nourishing body lotion with strong antioxidants, vitamin E and active plant extracts for protection …
Posted by Sokind on Tuesday 25th Aug 2020
Are you already involved in social selling?
Probably! If your brand has a Facebook Company Page, a LinkedIn Page, a Twitter profile, or is active on another platform, you are already familiar with the basics of social selling.
To learn more about social selling, take the Hootsuite Academy's Social Selling Certification course:
The Social Selling Index (SSI) is a metric used to measure the impact of a brand's social selling efforts.
LinkedIn introduced the SSI concept back in 2014. The LinkedIn SSI combines four components to determine a score. It looks like you:
- Establish a professional brand with a well-managed LinkedIn profile.
- Find the right people on the platform.
- Share relevant, conversation-inspiring content.
- Building and strengthening relationships.
To find out your LinkedIn SSI score, log into your account and navigate to your Social Selling Index dashboard. Treat your score as a starting point to improve your social selling performance.
If you're still unsold on social selling (see what we did there?), Here are four reasons why you should give it a try.
1. Social selling works
Don't just take our word for it. According to LinkedIn Sales Solutions internal data:
- Companies that are leaders in social selling offer 45% more sales opportunities than brands with a low social selling index.
- Companies that prioritize social selling are 51% more likely to hit their sales quotas.
- 78% of companies that use social selling sell companies that do not use social media.
2. Social selling helps your sales team build real relationships
A recent Forbes article states: "87% of business events professionals have canceled events because of the pandemic and 66% have postponed events."
Networking and relationship building have shifted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic – and now is the perfect time to prioritize social selling.
Social selling offers the opportunity to connect with new potential customers via social media, in whom they are already active and have conversations. Social listening tools allow your sales reps to go one step further and identify leads who are already talking about your company, your competitors, or your industry.
This means you can reach out to an audience that is already interested in what you are offering and authentically connect with them to offer useful information at the right time. Authenticity creates trust – and that in turn can lead to customer loyalty.
3. Your customers (and prospects) are already dealing with social buying
In the last six months of 2020, 25% of Americans ages 18 to 34 made a purchase through social media. In India, the UK, Australia and New Zealand, around a third of 18-34 year olds made purchases on social media over the same period.
Given the sheer number of people currently using social media, the potential for brands to make social sales is enormous:
- 4.2 billion people are active on social media worldwide.
- Social media platforms gained 490 million users in 2020 alone.
- That is an increase of 13.2% – in 2019 a growth rate of 7.2% was recorded.
Source: The Global State of Digital 2021
Also, many of these users use social platforms for brand research. Simply put, these users are preparing to buy.
Source: The Global State of Digital 2021
4. Your top competitors are already selling social media
Social selling means staying competitive. Other brands are active on social media and interact with potential customers on popular social platforms. According to Statista data: "In 2020, an estimated 25% of e-commerce companies worldwide were planning to sell their goods on social media."
Now look at the numbers:
(There's more where this comes from! We've compiled a post with 140+ social media stats that will matter to marketers in 2021.)
In short, it depends.
Your choice should depend on your target audience and your approach to social selling.
Twitter and Instagram are great platforms for engaging with customers. They provide tools for answering customer inquiries and are casual virtual spaces where communication takes place naturally. Simply put, they are great for building relationships.
For example, Destination BC creates new connections with users and forges relationships by proactively commenting on users' posts:
And Left On Friday responds to the comments from users and influencers to continue the existing relationships:
LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a more formal business platform ideal for B2B companies looking to identify and reach business decision makers. Here companies can get in direct contact with potential customers in order to build a professional relationship:
According to LinkedIn:
- 89% of B2B marketers turn to LinkedIn to generate leads.
- 62% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn generates twice as many leads as the next best performing social channel.
In other words, use the social platform your audience prefers – and the platform your brand can consistently use!
How to get started on three popular platforms:
1. Build your credibility
If you have a good relationship with your connections, ask them for endorsements or recommendations. These will be published on your profile and can help you gain instant credibility with new contacts.
Here is an example of numerous recommendations regarding the profile of researcher and storyteller Brené Brown:
As a brand, make sure your profile highlights the expertise relevant to a prospect or client by highlighting how you've helped previous clients achieve their goals.
You should also only share information and content from credible sources, and make sure you maintain a professional tone in all of your LinkedIn activities.
2. Expand your LinkedIn network
Use LinkedIn's search feature to expand your network by looking for mutual connections with your existing contacts.
You can also join LinkedIn groups relevant to your industry to network with colleagues and prospects.
3. Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator
With Sales Navigator, the professional social selling tool from LinkedIn, you can address the right prospects with personalized communication and better understand your performance with detailed analyzes.
Twitter is a great social listening network. You can create Twitter lists to monitor content from specific groups of people. Here are three essential Twitter lists you can use to start social selling on the network.
1. Existing customers
Use this list to keep an eye on your existing customers and look for ways to reply to or like their tweets. This will help you keep your brand on the radar.
Don't overdo it, however. Make sure your interactions with customers matter: just like tweets you really like, and only comment when you have something valuable to say. And make sure you stay relevant – your customers don't need your brand to interact with personal updates.
When identifying prospects, add them to a private list. However, don't treat them with the same sense of familiarity as you do with existing customers. Instead, keep an eye out for requests for help or complaints about your competitors. That way, you can respond with a helpful comment.
Adding competitors to a private list allows you to keep an eye on them without actually following them. This could help develop ideas for your own social selling endeavors.
Make sure to create a Facebook Page and use these strategies to start social selling.
1. Get involved with other companies
It's easy to reach through comments and likes. But take it one step further: if you create valuable content, it will likely get shared, which will increase your brand's reach. Your Facebook page could become accessible to a whole new audience if other companies share and like your content.
2. Engage with followers
Always respond to your followers' comments and mentions about your brand. When putting together your own posts, be sure to include questions to help lead conversations with your Facebook audience. These don't have to be directly related to your product or service to be effective.
This tourism operator asks a question and follows her up with a few interesting facts about sea lions before linking the post with their business:
Did you know that some male Steller sea lions can weigh over 1 ton ?! Although they are the largest of all sea lions, on our …
Posted by Spirit of the West Adventures on Tuesday May 11th, 2021
This strategy enables you to interact directly with followers, build rapport and build your image as an expert.
Social Selling Best Practices
Regardless of the platform on which you are reaching your unique audience, make sure you are applying social selling best practices. There are 4 to consider here.
1. Establish your brand by creating value
When interacting with prospects and customers through social networks, it is important not to get too big on sales. And if your brand is new to a social media platform, don't dive right into social selling right away. Before you move on to sales pitches, you should establish yourself as an expert in your industry.
One way to build your brand on social media for social selling is to share interesting, valuable, and shareable content. For B2B brands and business influencers using LinkedIn, this can mean sharing content written by others that is in line with your brand:
Or it can mean writing and sharing interesting content that others will find useful in establishing your brand (or your personal brand) as an industry thought leader. For example, Destination BC shares business-specific content that may be of interest to their professional network:
Basically, you're showing your prospects that you're not just looking for something. You are also there to give something.
2. Listen strategically and build relationships with the right people
Effective social selling means paying attention. In other words, make sure you are socially listening.
Use social lists and Hootsuite streams to monitor what people are saying about you, your company, your industry, and your competitors. Pay attention to weaknesses and requirements that offer you natural opportunities to offer solutions.
If possible, you should also use your existing network. Before reaching out to any of the leads you've identified, check the following and follower lists to see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, ask your mutual contact for an introduction.
3. Keep it real
Instead of writing a note and sending it to tons of potential buyers, take the time to personalize your social selling messages. This means that you:
- Confirm your mutual professional contacts.
- Reference content that you both shared or responded to.
- Highlight a common interest or something else you have in common.
In other words, be yourself. Connect by starting a real conversation!
Sure, you could use automated liking and commenting tools, but these don't help build a relationship. In fact, they can do serious damage to your personal and professional brand. When it comes to selling, there's nothing like interacting with an actual person.
4. Be consistent
Don't expect instant results. If your relationship-building efforts don't produce immediate results, don't give up. Some contacts may not be ready to buy what you are offering. Stay in contact.
Follow up with new leads. Reach out to contacts who you've previously connected but haven't heard from in a while. Maintain meaningful relationships by congratulating them as they move to new roles, companies, or engaging with the content they share on social media. Be ready to offer advice or help, even if it doesn't directly promote your product.
Use social selling tools to increase your chances of attracting new customers on social media. Here are 3 to get you started:
1. Hootsuite inbox
Whether your brand's social selling techniques include private messages, public messages (like comments), or both, the Hootsuite inbox keeps them all organized.
Think of this social selling tool as a convenient way to have all of your brand's social media conversations in one place. The Hootsuite inbox allows you to monitor, organize, and reply to all private and public messages your brand receives on many social platforms.
Keeping your social media communications organized can help ensure that messages don't fall through the cracks and that everyone who connects with you gets a response.
Other useful functions are:
- Convenient filters to help you quickly and easily find the communication thread you need, even if you're handling a large amount of messages and comments.
- Teamwork and collaboration solutions that allow you to assign messages to team members as tasks so that every query gets an answer from the best possible person in your company.
- Saved answers that you can reuse to answer frequently asked questions.
Here's more information on how to get the most out of your Hootsuite inbox:
This app integrates with Hootsuite and is an effective way for your brand to expand its social reach. In short, Amplify helps your brand improve its online visibility by making it easier for team members to share company updates, campaigns, or announcements.
An employee advocacy app like Amplify can help employees feel engaged and compelled to share company content. This is a great, organic way for your brand to reach new prospects. This is because using your employees' personal networks will expand the reach of your content.
This app also integrates with Hootsuite and is an easy way to find, edit and monitor new business contacts.
With Salesforce, you can pull new customer or prospect records straight into the app from Hootsuite streams. In addition, Salesforce optimizes the contact with potential leads and their qualification. You can also add existing details to existing Salesforce records to inform future social selling conversations.
For more information on how to get the most out of Salesforce with Hootsuite:
Sales has always been about building relationships, building credibility, and delivering the right solutions to the right prospects at the right time. Social selling is like that too. It simply uses social media to build relationships, expand your network, optimize lead generation, and meet your sales goals!
Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage the audience, measure results, and much more. Try it for free today.
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