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Social media platforms provide many ways for businesses to build meaningful relationships with their current and potential customers. Social selling strategies in particular empower businesses to use those methods — such as commenting on posts or utilizing direct messaging — to nurture relationships and build trust with customers, ultimately to drive sales.
According to LinkedIn, which specializes in business-to-business (B2B) social networking, 78% of social sellers outsell peers who don’t use social media. Here’s what businesses should know about social selling and tips to get started with social selling practices.
What is social selling?
Social selling is using social media to build relationships with existing and potential customers that ultimately result in sales. By interacting and connecting with customers through social media platforms, sellers can build rapport and connect with customers, helping their brand stay top of mind when those customers are ready to make a purchase.
Social selling is not the same as social media marketing, which requires investing in content, or social media advertising, which requires an ad budget. Rather, social selling is an approach to sales that leverages social media’s relationship-building capabilities to the fullest with the goal of driving commerce outcomes.
How is social selling different from social commerce?
Social commerce is about implementing tools and strategies that attract customers, facilitate discovery, and encourage the purchasing of products within social media environments.
Social selling, on the other hand, is more akin to lead nurturing, which is the process of building relationships and engaging with leads and prospects.
Social selling requires developing a rapport and building trust with a customer. It can take place across every stage of the sales funnel — from awareness to interest to conversion to re-engagement stages. It’s especially useful in moving customers from the interest stage, signaled when a customer becomes a social media follower, to the conversion stage, when that customer uses social commerce tools to make a purchase.
Tips for creating a social selling strategy
Before you can use social selling to help compel purchases, you need the right foundation in place. These six tips will help set your business up for success.
1. Social selling starts with social listening
It’s important to know what customers are saying about your brand before you start engaging with them. Set up alerts so you can “listen” to customer comments and get a sense for how customers feel about your business. Even if it’s negative, it’s valuable insight.
Whatever insights you learn, it’s also important to put them to good use. Social media is a great tool for talking with prospects about their pain points or their current ways of doing things or with current customers about their positive or negative experiences with your business. Use the insights gained from those conversations to inform your product, sales, and marketing strategies.
2. Build a trusted brand image and clear message
Before you can communicate with customers and leads on social media, they need to trust your brand enough to engage with you on their personal accounts. Make sure you invest in keeping your profiles up to date, posting content regularly, and using high-quality photos and other imagery to showcase your products or services.
Part of building trust with customers is also about bringing them into your business. Use social media to give consumers unique insights or offer them a look behind the scenes. The skincare brand Glossier, for example, has used TikTok to connect with customers by giving them a peek at how their product gets made — and engaging with them in the comments about future videos they’d like to see.
3. Align with your target audience
Connecting with customers on TikTok — which is most popular with 18- to 24-year-olds — isn’t the right choice for every business. Businesses should focus their social selling efforts on the social media platforms where their target audience is spending time.
Whereas TikTok suits businesses that are targeting a younger consumer, LinkedIn can be a valuable place for B2B businesses to connect with potential buyers. Twitter and Facebook are important for putting a voice behind your brand and connecting with customers about customer service issues and sales questions. And Instagram provides businesses with a way to reinforce their visual brand and capture new customer interest by posting engaging photos and digital content.
4. Leverage a trusted toolset
There are plenty of tools available to enhance your social selling efforts and to measure your social selling reach. Back-end tools of platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook offer analytics so that you can understand the performance of your posts and social selling outreach on social media. These analytics can be useful in understanding what content consumers engaged or interacted with and can provide insight into future social selling strategies for your business.
Third-party tools like Hootsuite and Amplify enable you to schedule posts and communicate in a consistent voice and coordinated manner across platforms, while platforms like HubSpot and Sprout Social offer tools for social listening and social tracking to keep up on what consumers are saying about your brand.
5. Be genuine, authentic, and interesting
Communicating in a consistent voice is essential to building trust with customers on social media. Use that voice to start a dialogue and maintain a conversation with your customers. Since social selling is about engaging in conversations with your followers that help you build relationships, your posts on social media should help spark those conversations in the moment and give you the opportunity to keep them going over time.
Show interest in what your customers care about. For example, BarkBox — which has 238,900 TikTok followers and a highly creative social media presence — showcased how it delivered on a customer’s request for an out-of-stock toy. This showed off the brand’s commitment to customer service while sparking a new conversation about customers’ dogs and their favorite toys.
6. Focus on engaged prospects
Social selling is a long-game strategy. It can take weeks or months to move customers from the interest stage to the to conversion stages of the sales funnel through social media communication. That makes it all the more important for businesses to focus on engaged users or content that performed well on social channels.
It can take some time to see traction and user engagement on social platforms, but paying attention to posts and social interactions that generated interest or customer attention is important — even if they’re small. Use those insights to inform future social selling efforts.
Use social selling to power social purchasing
Meaningful relationships drive sales, and social media platforms provide the foundation for those relationships. Social selling can help your business gain recognition and generate brand awareness, which can support your social commerce sales strategy by keeping your brand top of mind when a customer decides to makes a purchase on social platforms.