All You Need to Know About Social Selling: A Comprehensive Guide
Mar 27 2023 9 min read
Social selling has emerged as a powerful strategy for businesses across all sectors, including B2C, D2C, and B2B.
Consider the growing role of social media in eCommerce, and its effects on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions:
- Consumers who use social media during the shopping process are four times more likely to spend more on purchases.
- 94% of B2B buyers conduct some form of online research before making a business purchase.
- 71% of consumers are more likely to purchase products and services based on social media referrals.
So it's crucial for companies to harness the power of social selling to stay ahead of the curve and establish themselves as industry experts.
What exactly is social selling? According to LinkedIn, it's a strategic method for sellers to connect and build relationships with prospects through social networks:
"Social selling encompasses the entire digital ecosystem ranging from social media to the internet to the sales tech stack".
In this comprehensive guide, we'll cover everything you need to know about social selling, from understanding its definition and context to differentiating it from social media marketing and social commerce.
You'll find a step-by-step guide to developing a go-to-market social media strategy, identify those that should be involved in your social selling efforts, and discuss best practices for success. By the end of this article, you'll be well-equipped to launch an effective social selling strategy for your business, whether you're operating in a B2C, D2C, or B2B context.
What is Social Selling?
Social selling is the process of identifying, engaging, and nurturing potential customers through social media platforms, ultimately leading to increased sales and customer satisfaction.
It involves creating meaningful relationships with your prospects by providing valuable content, answering questions, and addressing concerns in a non-intrusive manner. In short: selling with a personality.
Social selling allows salespeople and brands to establish themselves as industry experts and thought leaders – basically becoming the go-to resource for potential buyers in their industry.
While social selling may seem similar to social media marketing and social commerce, there are differences you need to be aware of.
Social media marketing focuses on promoting brand awareness, sharing content, and engaging with the audience through various social media channels.
In contrast, social selling targets specific prospects and involves more personalized, one-on-one interactions with the aim of building trust and fostering relationships that lead to sales.
What is social commerce, then? This refers to the process of selling products or services directly through social media platforms, such as Facebook Marketplace or Instagram's shoppable posts.
It involves the integration of eCommerce functionalities into social media networks, so users can make their purchases without leaving the platform. It relies on technical integration between social platforms and payment gateways.
Global social commerce revenue is predicted to grow from $1.3 trillion in 2023 to $2.9 trillion in 2026.
Although social selling and social commerce both involve leveraging social media for sales, social selling is more focused on relationship-building and nurturing leads, while social commerce emphasizes the actual transaction process.
Why is Social Selling Important?
Social selling has become a vital strategy for businesses across all sectors, including B2C, D2C, and B2B. With the strong influence of social media on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions, companies need to harness the power of social selling to stay ahead of the curve.
For D2C companies, social media content seems to be welcomed by customers, with more than one-third (36%) looking to social media for D2C content. US D2C ecommerce sales have more than tripled in the past six years, growing from $36 billion in 2016 to $128 billion in 2021. And it's expected to grow a lot more from there.
In short, here's why social selling is essential for modern businesses:
- Increased trust and credibility: Social selling builds trust with potential clients or buyers by establishing companies as authorities and experts in their field.
- Personalized approach: A targeted, tailored approach to interactions makes the customer experience more enjoyable and increases satisfaction.
- Higher conversion rates: Social selling can nurture leads more effectively than traditional methods, resulting in increased conversions and revenue.
- Stronger customer relationships: Ongoing engagement through social selling fosters brand loyalty with existing customers and drives repeat business.
Social Selling Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide
To harness the power of social selling and maximize its benefits, your business needs a well-crafted strategy.
You've probably worked on some of these already; if you're marketing online in any way, they'll be familiar. But social selling does have some nuance to it. Here's a step-by-step guide to implementing an effective social selling approach:
- Identify your target audience: Determine the ideal customer profiles for your products or services, considering factors like their demographics, interests, and pain points.
- Choose the right platforms: Select the social media networks most relevant to your target audience, focusing on where they're most active and engaged.
- Create valuable and engaging content: Produce creative, unique and relevant content that addresses your audience's needs, interests, and pain points. Position your brand as an industry expert and valuable resource.
- Establish a brand voice and persona: Develop a consistent brand voice and persona that reflects your company's values and resonates with your target audience.
- Build and nurture relationships with prospects: Get closer to your audience by responding to comments, answering questions, and participating in relevant conversations. Cultivate relationships by providing value and demonstrating genuine interest in their needs.
- Leverage social listening and analytics: Use social listening tools to monitor conversations around your brand, industry, and competitors. Dig into the data to identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement.
While these are easy to lay out in a short list like this, they're obviously not easy to implement, especially in the short term. Social selling is a collaborative effort, and you'll have to manage your resources wisely to make sure everyone plays their part without getting overloaded. Let's take a look at who should get involved.
The Key Players in Your Social Selling Strategy
Successful social selling takes a certain amount of collaboration and alignment between various departments in your company. Here are the key parties that should be involved, and their respective responsibilities:
- Sales team: If you've got a team of sales professionals, they need to engage with prospects through personalized interactions, giving tailored solutions, and addressing whatever concerns / objections customers might have. Sales reps should also work with marketing and customer service to ensure a consistent message and experience for potential customers.
- Marketing team: The marketing department is responsible for creating your brand voice, through compelling content that educates, entertains, and engages your target audience. They should also work closely with the sales team to really understand prospects – surveying customers is a key skill for them to share.
- Customer service team: Customer service reps play a critical role in maintaining ongoing engagement with customers after a sale. They should monitor social media channels to address customer issues or complaints (sensitively!), provide support, and gather feedback for continuous product improvement.
To maximize the benefits of social selling, these departments have to work together seamlessly. If you're serious about making this work, you'll have to let everyone know it's their responsibility to contribute, and give them the time to collaborate.
Measuring Social Selling Success
To make sure your social selling strategy is actually working, you have to track and measure its success. Monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) can help you identify areas for improvement and adjust your tactics as needed. Let's define some of the best KPIs and metrics to keep an eye on:
- Engagement: Measure likes, comments, shares, and reactions on your social media posts to gauge how well your content resonates with your target audience.
- Follower growth: Keep track of your follower count on each platform. A steady increase in followers is a decent sign that your efforts are connecting with the right people.
- Lead generation: Track the number of new leads generated through your social selling efforts. You can do this in your CRM by using trackable links or custom landing pages, and monitoring conversions from your social media channels.
- Social Selling Index (SSI): The LinkedIn SSI rank is a valuable metric for B2B businesses. It measures how effectively you're establishing your professional brand, finding the right people, engaging with insights, and building relationships through your LinkedIn profile. B2B sellers should use LinkedIn and aim for a high SSI score to increase social selling success.
- Sales revenue: Ultimately, the point of social selling is to drive sales. So monitor the revenue generated from your social selling efforts and compare it to where you were before you started.
- Customer satisfaction: Request and monitor feedback from customers who have engaged with your social output. Are you being too 'salesy'? Are you responding to public complaints quickly enough? It's all data that you need to collect and take action on.
Regularly reviewing these KPIs and metrics will help you fine-tune your social selling strategy and keep it on track. You'll have to figure out whether or not it's providing a good enough ROI through both tangible (conversions) and intangible (brand sentiment) metrics.
Don't be afraid to make changes and test new approaches. Social selling is an ongoing process, and you'll need a good deal of adaptability to make it work over time.
Best Practices for Social Selling
To make the most out of your social selling efforts, it's a good idea to follow some basic best practices. Some points to remember are:
- Be authentic and personable: Let your brand's personality shine through in your interactions. Genuine connections with prospects can lead to long-lasting relationships, so it's worth getting right. Investing in a TOV (tone of voice) guide for everyone to use will help you maintain a consistent brand voice across multiple channels. It should outline your mission, tone, messaging, and formatting, along with the way you refer to your products and wording that should be avoided.
- Listen and engage: Monitor the conversations with you and about you, and actively participate in them. You can look at tweets, forums, comments on your own social posts, discussions on your Facebook page, comments on LinkedIn groups or relevant hashtags – anywhere your customers hang out. Participate in discussions relevant to your industry - dipping in with a comment on other relevant brands' accounts (nicely) can be a fun way to gain exposure to interested customers. You can share customer success stories from using your products. Show your audience you're interested in them as people – just don't be too friendly, or it'll come across as weird and insincere.
- Be consistent: Maintain a consistent posting schedule so everyone knows and brand voice across all your social media channels. This helps build trust and familiarity with your audience.
- Mix paid and organic social channels: It's a good idea to balance the two: organic social media can help build relationships with the right prospects while paid social media can help drive conversions and sales. The two together can make for some really impressive results.
- Partner with influencers: Influencer marketing remains a powerful form of online relationship-building. If you partner with influencers with a significant following and credibility within your niche, you can benefit from their trust and authority. They'll act as a bridge between your brand and potential customers, amplifying your reach and enhancing your online presence. So collaborate with them to create unique and engaging content that showcases your products or services in a relatable way. Influencers are a powerful way to reach an increasingly sharp youth demographic – don't miss out on the opportunity.
Wrap-up: Your social sales journey awaits
Social selling has become an indispensable part of the digital marketing strategy for businesses of all types, including B2C, D2C, and B2B. By leveraging the power of social media, you can build trust, credibility, and strong relationships with your target audience.
Consumers increasingly turn to social media for recommendations and information. And that includes the business world: 75% of B2B buyers are said to be influenced by social media when making purchase decisions. (Review sites like G2 are likely to play a big part of that.)
Thankfully, the burden of content creation isn't as big as it once was: with plenty of AI digital marketing tools out there, it's much easier to draft and post social content at scale. And there are plenty of social listening tools (like Hootsuite) to make your customer interactions much easier.
In summary: companies can't afford not to be social sellers.
Ready to take your team's social selling game to the next level? Explore Circus Street's eCommerce lessons and unlock even more valuable insights for succeeding in the world of social selling.
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