How to Train Store Associates to Sell on Social Media

Roles are changing in the retail world. Data from Square and Wakefield Research found that 43% of store managers and owners are enlisting associates to help with marketing tasks, like social media, in addition to their normal tasks, like serving customers and ringing up items. And the rise of social selling is one of the reasons behind this dramatic shift.

Selling on social media is a fast-growing trend, with 84% of retailers who sell online saying they already sell on social media or plan to in 2021. “Social-first selling is giving local retailers the tools to drive more purchases, along with the flexibility to reach larger audiences beyond their geographic area,” explains David Rusenko, the Head of eCommerce at Square.

While retailers are selling more on social, shoppers are buying more too. Our data found that customers purchase an average of eight items per month through social media channels.

Retail trends

Store owners can take advantage of this rising retail trend by training employees to generate sales through social platforms. Social selling can help retailers drive sales and reach audiences beyond their locale. And when it’s reinforced with eCommerce tools, selling on social becomes a strategic and sustainable way to generate more revenue.

Social selling vs. social media marketing

Before you start social media training for your employees, you need to understand how to best leverage each platform. Social selling is the practice of using social media platforms to drive revenue, like creating a shoppable Instagram post that can facilitate a purchase directly from the app.

Social media marketing, however, is the practice of using social platforms to build brand awareness. For example, you may create a video tutorial about one of your products or purchase a targeted ad on your most popular platform. The goal is to build relationships with customers that eventually lead to conversion, while social selling is focused on enabling customers to purchase directly from the social media sites you have a presence on.

How to train employees to sell on social media

To get the best results, it’s important to develop a social media training program for your team. In fact, you can even make it a part of your employee onboarding process.

Here are some steps to take when training employees to sell on social media.

Choose the right platform

To make the most of your team’s efforts, it’s important to understand where your customer base spends their time, and then find the format(s) that makes sense for those platforms. For example, if your product line is visual, like home décor or flowers, a good place to start is Pinterest since your customers are likely already using it when searching for inspiration.

You can also choose to select the format first, and see which platforms enable you to sell in that way. If you sell services that benefit from more interaction, like a fitness studio or specialty grocery store that offers classes, you can lean into livestreaming.

Livestream selling is getting popular, with 35% of retail managers saying they’re planning to use it in 2021, appealing to 34% of Millennial and Gen Z consumers. To give livestreaming a try, your team could post cooking or workout demonstrations to Instagram Stories, with links to buy the products you feature or sign up directly for classes through your appointment-booking software.

Bailey Ryan, the owner of experiential plant store PlantHouse, uses livestreaming to sell on social media and give customers an inside look at her business. “We get on our Instagram Stories and go through our entire plant delivery truck, almost like a talk show,” Ryan explains on Talking Squarely. “So it gives not only that personal shopping experience, but ‘Hey there’s a human running the store behind the scenes, and it’s not just products getting loaded on to a website.’”

Create customer personas

Once you identify the best platforms for what you sell, work with your team to create social personas for each one. A buyer persona is a description of your ideal customer, including their demographics, motivations, and pain points. If you sell toys, for instance, your customer persona could be a Millennial parent who lives in the suburbs, is focused on their child’s development, and spends most of their time on Instagram.

Creating personas help your employees keep a specific customer in mind when generating posts and interacting with followers while tailoring the tone of the content and the products or services they feature. You may even give your persona a name to help your team keep them in mind as they engage.

Train employees on posting protocols and schedules

Employees need to know how to use the platforms that work best for your business. For example, on Instagram, your team can create shoppable posts. On Pinterest, they can tag products in Shop the Look pins, and on Facebook, they can set up a shop where customers can buy directly from your storefront.

Some retailers are taking it to the next level by compelling customers to buy at specific times. “We’re seeing retailers take a QVC-style approach on TikTok or doing flash sales on Instagram where customers have to direct message the brand at a certain time to get the product,” explains Rusenko. “It creates a sense of urgency.”

The platform you select will dictate the guidelines your team needs to successfully bring your strategy to life. Each site has tutorials that you can walk through with your team. If you use Square, you can refer them to the tutorials and overviews on this page about how to sell on social media using Square products.

Once your employees understand the basics, look at how your competitors or favorite businesses are creating their content, and provide your team with inspiration by sharing examples. For instance, associates can give followers sneak peaks of new products with behind-the-scenes unpacking photos or videos, like Ryan does at PlantHouse, with links to buy directly from those posts. Employees can talk about their favorite items or services, explaining why they chose them, offering an authentic take on what you sell.

To build customer relationships, your team also needs to be consistent with posting, so work that into their daily tasks. Research from Sprout Social suggests the following posting cadence for maximum visibility:

  • Facebook: 1 to 2 times a day
  • Instagram: 1 to 3 times a day
  • Instagram Stories: 2 to 5 times a day
  • Pinterest: 3 to 20 times a day

In addition to creating a social posting schedule, set clear expectations around response times for replies so your customers know when they’ll hear back and your team knows when they need to respond. Forty percent of consumers expect brands to respond within the first hour of reaching out on social media, while 79% expect a response in the first 24 hours, according to Sprout Social.

Set guidelines to help employees handle complaints or negative posts in addition to more positive feedback. Train your employees to consider social media engagement as part of customer service, letting all shoppers know that they appreciate the feedback and value their business. Then make sure you have the tools set up so you can collect that feedback at large.

Provide your team with the right social selling tools

Employees need the right tools to be successful while selling on social media.

If posting on YouTube, for example, they’ll need a high-quality camera or smartphone, and depending on what you sell, they may need stands, lighting, and other accessories. Those same tools may be useful when taking product shots to post on Pinterest or Instagram, but try out each task with your employee to see if there is any other equipment needed to get the job done. Make those tools available so your team doesn’t have to use their personal devices.

Consider offering training in design programs, like Canva, that employees can use to edit images, create graphics, or add text to photos you can share on social platforms. And regardless of the platforms you select, look at tools like Square that can help you easily integrate your inventory and online store with the channels you want to sell on.

Set social selling goals

You always want to measure your team’s efforts, and this is essential with selling on social media. Give your team an overview of the analytics within each social platform, and encourage them to identify the types of posts that prompt the most customer engagement.

Set goals to ensure the best use of your employees’ time. Social selling is about driving purchases, so pay attention to metrics like views and shares compared to actual sales. Note which posts were most successful, and try to identify why they resonated with your target market. Then set a goal for conversions and challenge your team to tweak their social content so they can increase sales.

Going forward

As new social media tools, platforms, and trends arise, stay up to date by offering ongoing training for your team.

Consider dividing social selling responsibilities by platform or day, and assigning the role to a staff member who has experience with the channels you want to focus on. You may also want to choose employees who want to be more of a public face for your business, since sharing who they are can add personality to your content. While you want to limit who has access to your accounts to avoid problems with consistency or misuse, you may want to train multiple employees in case anyone leaves.

By training your employees on how to sell on social media, you can reach new customers, build deeper relationships with existing customers, and tap into additional streams of revenue that can help you grow in new and exciting ways.