If you’re looking to boost your sales and connect with potential customers, you’ve likely heard the term “social selling” thrown around. And the increased popularity of TikTok has only added fuel to the fire.
But what exactly is social selling, and why should you care? Is it another buzzword that’ll quickly fade, or should it hold a coveted spot in your marketing and sales playbook?
But before you go all-in, it’s important to make sure that social selling is the right fit for your business. So in this comprehensive guide, we’ll take a closer look at what social selling is, why it matters, and how to get started with a social selling strategy that works for you.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
What is social selling?
True or false: is social selling synonymous with social media marketing?
Drum roll, please…the answer is false.
Social media marketing is vastly different from social selling. And spoiler alert, it’s also different from social media advertising. So what’s left on these social platforms?
In a nutshell, social selling uses social media platforms to build relationships with potential customers, share valuable content, and ultimately drive sales.
It’s a powerful tool for businesses of all sizes and industries, allowing you to reach a wider audience, build trust and credibility with potential customers, and stay top-of-mind when they’re ready to purchase.
The biggest difference between social and traditional selling methods revolves around building relationships and providing value, rather than coming off as “salsey” or spammy like a used car salesman.
For example, supplement company Athletic Greens uses basic social selling principles in this Instagram post.
They clearly outline how the six main ingredients solve a problem for people struggling with mental health. Focusing on the benefits and advantages of these ingredients in their greens powder helps the brand attract its desired audience and foster sales naturally.
Let’s break it down even further. Social selling differs from traditional selling methods in several ways:
- Online vs offline: Social selling primarily takes place on digital platforms such as social media and networking sites, whereas traditional selling methods rely on face-to-face interactions and other offline methods like phone calls, emails, or business cards to keep the relationship alive.
- Sales approach: Social selling focuses on building relationships with potential customers over time by providing valuable information, sharing industry insights, and engaging in conversations. On the other hand, traditional selling methods tend to focus more on direct selling tactics and pushing products or services.
- Audience reach: Social selling allows for a wider reach and targeting specific audiences by leveraging the power of social media and online platforms, whereas traditional methods rely more on personal networks and people you contact with.
- Flexibility: Social selling can be done remotely, from any location, and at any time, whereas traditional selling methods typically require in-person interactions and more rigid schedules.
- Adaptability: Social selling allows instant feedback and customer communication, allowing marketing and sales assistants to adapt and improve their approach in real-time, whereas traditional methods can be less responsive to customer needs and feedback.
- Automation: Social selling often utilises automation tools such as social media management, CRM, and lead generation software, which can help to streamline the process and reach more prospects, whereas traditional methods are generally more manual.
What is the Social Selling Index?
The Social Selling Index (SSI) is a metric developed by LinkedIn that measures your effectiveness at using social media to engage with your professional network, share valuable content, and ultimately drive sales.
The SSI score is calculated based on four factors:
- Establishing a professional brand, such as having a complete profile and regularly publishing content relevant to your industry.
- Finding the right people and growing your network.
- Engaging with your audience by liking, commenting, and sharing content relevant to your industry.
- Building and fostering relationships with decision-makers.
LinkedIn assigns each factor a score and provides an overall SSI score ranging from 0 to 100.
The higher your SSI score, the more effective you are at using social selling techniques on LinkedIn.
5 benefits of social selling for your business
Are you ready to unlock the full potential of your social media presence and take your sales to new heights?
Here are the top five reasons you should consider adding social selling to your marketing arsenal:
1. Increased reach and visibility
Social media dominates the internet with billions of monthly active users. So why not capture a slice of that pie?
You can connect with potential customers and industry influencers globally at your fingertips by utilising platforms like LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, with a combined reach of over 7 billion.
Try picturing that many people in one place together. It’s nearly impossible to imagine. That’s why social media is so powerful.
And with 26.3% of internet users turning to social media to find products to purchase, you certainly don’t want to miss out on this opportunity to get your brand in front of the right people at the right time (on a massive scale and with minimal effort). It’s a no-brainer.
2. Improved customer relationships
According to Inc. Magazine, 96% of consumers don’t trust ads.
Like in all relationships, you want to start off on the right foot. And if you are resorting to ads as your main sales strategy, your relationship could get off to a rocky start.
Consumers are looking for a face behind the brand. It’s no longer acceptable to bombard consumers with spammy ads. Today, consumers crave human interaction and being treated like a person rather than a number in a spreadsheet.
Social selling allows you to tap into the power of social media to connect with potential customers where they already naturally spend their time. Social listening tools help your sales and marketing teams identify the warm leads who actively talk about your brand or industry.
These conversations open the door for you to share relevant, helpful information at the right place and time. Soon your social pages will become the go-to spot when consumers search for information about a product or service.
3. Greater credibility and trust
When you share genuine content that helps address customer pain points or answers common questions, it’s better perceived than a cold call or generic outreach email.
For instance, we all hate walking past mall kiosks where they try to jam a free skincare sample in your face. It’s not a pleasant interaction, to say the least. And honestly, it makes you less inclined to try the product.
On the other hand, social selling often isn’t perceived by the consumer as selling. It’s just another conversation on their favourite social media platforms. And at the end of the day, authentic conversations build trust. And trust leads to paying customers.
4. Enhanced targeting and personalisation
Social media has many superpowers. But one area where it shines is the ability to reach your target audience with ease.
Why? Well, certain social media platforms are more popular with different demographics.
For instance, LinkedIn is a treasure trove for B2B business owners. And TikTok is worth its weight in gold for Gen Z.
Social selling helps you narrow in on the platforms your audience uses, and detailed analytics can also help you identify optimal times to post and engage with your audience.
Gone are the days of generic, faceless ads. And say hello to personalised comments and interactions with people who care what you have to say.
5. Increased sales and revenue
According to LinkedIn, brands participating in social selling are 78% more likely to outsell their peers who don’t use social media.
If you still aren’t convinced, further data shows that 51% of businesses participating in social selling are more likely to reach their sales quotas.
Participating in social selling is a surefire way to boost your company’s bottom line.
The best networks for social selling
All the signs point to the increased benefits of social selling. So what’s the best social media platform for optimal results?
Well, the answer is…it depends. The best networks for social selling depend on the industry and target audience, but here are some popular options.
- Social selling on Instagram: Instagram is a popular platform for B2C companies. It’s a visual-heavy platform great for using design templates to create compelling visuals to stand out from the crowd in the food, fashion, lifestyle and travel industry.
- Social selling on TikTok: TikTok has emerged as a new platform for social selling. It’s ideal for companies that want to create short, engaging videos to align with the wants and needs of the younger generations.
- Social selling on LinkedIn: The professional networking site is a great choice for B2B companies, as it allows you to share your virtual business cards and connect with other professionals and decision-makers in your industry.
- Social selling on Twitter: Twitter can be a great way to engage with potential customers and stay up-to-date on industry news and trends.
- Social selling on Facebook: With almost 3 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the perfect platform for reaching a large audience. It’s also a good choice for B2C companies, as it can help you connect with customers on a more personal level.
- Social selling on Pinterest: Pinterest can be a great platform for social selling, especially for businesses with a strong visual aspect, such as fashion, home decor, and travel. It ties Twitter with around 400 million monthly active users.
Ultimately, it’s important to choose the platforms your target audience is most active on and where you can reach them most effectively.
But it’s also wise to have a presence on multiple platforms to maximise your reach.
How to succeed at social selling
Like other sales and marketing strategies, solidifying a game plan is the key to success.
Follow these simple tips to boost the effectiveness of your next social selling campaign.
Identify and engage with the right prospects
Sometimes social media efforts can feel like you are throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping something sticks.
So before you dive headfirst into your social selling strategy, it’s critical to identify the people worthy of your interactions.
Thankfully, social listening tools allow you to monitor conversations about your brand online and identify potential leads already talking about your products or services. And voila, you have a direct insight into their demographics.
Sounds too good to be true, huh? Well, it’s a simple, foolproof method for building your ideal customer profile.
Build relationships through valuable content and interactions
The key to succeeding at social selling is building relationships with potential customers. And one of the best ways to do that’s by sharing expert knowledge that your audience finds helpful.
For instance, you can provide value by answering questions about the latest trends in your niche. There’s no better way to develop yourself into a go-to resource than when people have questions about whatever product or service interests them most.
You can regularly publish creative and informative posts along with captions to quickly explain the posts to foster engagement. You can use AI-powered tools to generate creative post ideas and use an AI-powered caption generator to help you automate the process.
Take Zillow, for example. They conducted a poll about the top housing resolutions for 2023 and turned it into a helpful guide for customers on how to land their dream homes.
The guide focuses more on the audience than on pitching their tools. It provides valuable insight into the housing market and outlines tips for navigating a challenging market.
Plus, the content shows that Zillow cared about their followers because they collected customer data and published it back to their feed to spread the knowledge (rather than using it for retargeting or other paid advertisements).
Use social media analytics to track and optimise your efforts
Your social media analytics will quickly become your best friend in understanding the success of your social selling strategies.
Why? Well, the numbers don’t lie. It’s a quick way to confirm if your directed efforts are paying off, what’s working and what’s falling by the wayside. With Hopper HQ, you can see what content format performs best, including views, likes, comments, and saves (all in one simple view).
For instance, if you notice that you gained 1,000 followers in one day after you posted an Instagram poll about 2023 beauty trends, that’s a strong indicator that your audience enjoys an interactive post (and you should keep up with that content format).
On the flip side, if your follower count stays stagnant after posting simple graphics with links to blog posts, you know that’s probably not resonating well with your audience, and you should move on to the next content strategy.
Leverage automation tools to streamline your social selling process
As the saying goes: work smarter, not harder.
Social media automation tools make social selling a breeze by taking care of tedious tasks like social listening and sticking to a consistent content publishing schedule (even in the wee hours of the morning).
It saves you time, and these tools help identify the best leads and schedule content to keep your brand front and center with the most promising opportunities. As a prime example of automation’s power, consider using WhatsApp chatbots in your social selling strategy. WhatsApp chatbots are versatile automation tools that can engage with prospects, answer frequently asked questions, and qualify leads, all within the familiar and convenient WhatsApp platform.
Workflow automation will help you to spend less time and effort on tedious tasks and frees up more time to solidify those customer relationships and close more deals. It’s a win-win.
Tips and best practices for social selling
Are you ready to take your social selling game to new heights?
Here are a few simple tips and tricks for the best results.
Use social listening to stay up-to-date on industry trends and customer needs
One of the key aspects of social selling is staying up-to-date on the latest industry trends and understanding the needs of your target customers.
As we’ve mentioned, adding social listening tools to your tech stack can help you track mentions of your brand, competitors, and industry keywords across social media platforms.
For instance, ChatGPT has taken over LinkedIn and Twitter feeds by storm. It’s seemingly the only thing marketers have discussed over the last few months.
And HubSpot took notice. They jumped on the bandwagon to create playful social posts around this topic that their target audience finds interesting.
And the result was incredible. It stirred up a lot of comments and shares during a usually quiet period on the platform for B2B businesses.
Keeping your eyes and ears open pays off tenfold.
Engage with prospects and customers in a personalised and authentic way
Remember the golden rule that you learned in kindergarten? Treat others the way you want to be treated. Well, this holds true for social selling as well.
Nobody is interested in generic sales messaging that sounds robotic and forced. Ideally, you want to feel like a brand genuinely cares about their online presence and providing the best product (instead of focusing on maximising margins).
So make this a priority. Use an authentic tone by writing personalized messages, engaging in direct interactions, and building a community around your brand.
This simple approach can build trust with your prospects and customers and increase the chances of turning one-time purchases into repeat customers.
Follow the lead of MegaFit Meals for some inspiration. A user commented about their preferences for a vegetarian enchilada meal.
The brand responded by acknowledging the feedback (showing that they care about their customer’s preferences) and said they’d share the feedback with the appropriate team.
Again, this shows that the brand is paying attention and wants to hear from the consumer to continually improve the product. The brand added vegetarian enchiladas to their menu a few weeks later.
Offer value and solve problems through your social selling efforts
Another component to a successful social selling is offering value and solving problems for your target customers. This means providing helpful information, answering questions, and offering solutions to the problems your prospects and customers are facing.
By doing this, you can position yourself as a valuable resource and trusted advisor, increasing the chances of building loyal customers around your brand.
Unfortunately, Twitter has become a platform where frustrated customers voice their feelings about recent interactions with a brand. Airlines typically take the brunt of the criticism on Twitter.
However, United Airlines took this opportunity to widely address a major delay due to circumstances out of their control and shared a travel waiver for impacted customers.
Any customer with specific questions or concerns can also directly message United Airlines for further assistance. Instead of using Twitter to sell more flight tickets, United Airlines uses the platform to understand current issues and offer real-time solutions.
Continuously track and analyse your results to optimise your strategy
There’s nothing more frustrating (and hurtful to your bottom line) than throwing time and money at a sales strategy that delivers lacklustre results. Ideally, you want to avoid this scenario at all costs.
Numerous social media automation tools are available on the market to continuously track and analyse your results and optimise your social selling strategy. If a strategy works well today, it doesn’t mean it’ll work ten weeks from now (and vice versa).
By regularly analysing your results, you can make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts and how to improve your social selling strategy to drive more sales for your business.
Spend your resources on things that drive results. If you notice things aren’t working well, it’s time to switch gears to a new approach.
5 examples of brands doing social selling right
The first factor in the Social Selling Index (SSI) is establishing yourself as a professional brand, starting with a complete social media profile.
Olipop, a healthy soda brand, hits the nail on the head with this one thanks to its professional and well-organized Instagram page.
They effectively use the Instagram platform to showcase their product and mission through visually appealing photos and videos. Their Instagram profile also features highlighted stories that provide an in-depth look into the brand, its values, its investors, and positive affirmations from dieticians.
The bio is concise yet informative and effectively communicates the brand’s unique selling points, building trust with consumers looking for a healthy alternative to soda.
LinkedIn is an underrated platform for social selling. But one brand that uses it to its full potential is Zillow.
Zillow educates and informs people about the real estate industry by sharing content about current market trends, positioning itself as a valuable, go-to resource for everything real estate.
They also use their page to share their monthly newsletters and answer frequently asked questions. They publish enough content that it appears in the right place at the right time.
So when someone is looking to purchase a home in Nashville later this year, they’ll turn to Zillow for advice on the current state of the market and then leverage the platform for their search process. Everything is available at their fingertips. No fuss, no muss.
Marriott does a stellar job with the third pillar of the Social Selling Index, which revolves around active engagement with your audience.
They demonstrate their commitment to customer service by replying to comments on their Instagram posts, providing helpful information and travel tips through their content, and addressing any concerns or questions customers may have.
Marriott focuses on building trust and establishing a personal connection with its audience, making it more likely for them to book a stay at one of its many properties.
This approach also shows that Marriott actively listens to its customers, making it more likely for customers to return and recommend the brand to their family and friends on their next adventure.
The Flower Bucket
The Flower Bucket—a Lubbock florist, is all about staying trendy and celebrating local occasions.
With a recent Instagram post featuring a Halloween-inspired bouquet, they encouraged their followers with the message: “Hosting a Halloween party this year? 👀 How about a spook-tacular boo-quet to liven up the party? 🎃👻.”
Using Instagram for sharing organic but promotional posts, they highlight their readiness to deliver beautiful blooms for any occasion. It’s a reminder to their followers that they are attuned to the latest trends and always prepared to add a touch of floral magic to local festivities.
People hate ads. It’s time to say goodbye to spammy ads for good. And that’s where social selling takes centre stage.
Social selling is a game-changer for businesses looking to grow and engage with potential customers.
From identifying leads through social listening to building trust and credibility, social selling is a must-have strategy in today’s market. The benefits are clear, from qualified lead generation to building brand awareness and customer loyalty through personalised and authentic methodologies.
Don’t miss out on this opportunity. Take the leap and start investing in social selling for your business today. You won’t regret it.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is social selling?
Social selling is a strategy that uses social media platforms to interact with potential customers, build relationships, and drive sales.
What is an example of social selling?
A founder of a startup SaaS company uses LinkedIn to connect with potential customers in the tech industry.
They build their professional brand by creating a detailed profile, including information about their experience and expertise in the SaaS industry. They regularly post relevant and valuable content such as industry news, tips, best practices, and thought leadership pieces.
They use LinkedIn's advanced search features to find potential customers who are decision-makers in their target market. They also join relevant industry groups to expand their network and visibility, leaving thoughtful comments and sharing their own insights.
Through consistent and valuable engagement on LinkedIn, the startup founder has built a network of potential customers who trust and value their expertise. They can secure meetings and ultimately close deals with these warm leads, driving sales for the SaaS startup.
What are the 4 pillars of social selling?
The four pillars of social selling are:
- Building a professional brand
- Finding the right people
- Engaging with insights
- Building relationships