If you think social selling is about placing ads on social media, that’s not the way it is.
Of course, advertising brings its share of new customers and conversions, but if you are only focusing on ads, you are missing a great chunk of business opportunities that are just within arm’s reach.
Think about it: there are close to 4 billion active social media users in the world right now, each spending on the average two hours per day browsing social networks.
Everyone is on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, or all of the mentioned - from presidents and billionaire innovators to your neighbors.
Your prospective customers are out there, although they may not know about it yet.
Your job is to find them, target them, and turn them into your customers.
My job is to tell you how to leverage your social media presence to the maximum.
How Social Selling Can Open New Business Opportunities
Simply put, social selling is a practice - or should I say, an art? - of turning your business’s social media presence into a selling channel through interaction with prospective customers.
Note the word “interaction” because this is what social selling is mostly about.
In social selling, you do not just post content as you see fit. You rather interact and create relationships with other members by actively listening and responding to what is going on around you.
If you have not yet included social selling in your marketing strategy, you’d better hurry.
Most likely, your competitors are doing it already. The statistics say that in 14 major industries, more than 50% of revenue come from social selling.
Today, social media is no longer just a platform to find your long-lost classmates and post vacation photos. Social media have become a place to find facts, knowledge, opinions, and, naturally, shopping opportunities.
54% of people browsing social networks do it to research goods and products. They visit the brands’ page, read reviews, compare products, share brands’ posts, and click on links. This is the audience you need to target in your social selling campaigns.
Image Source: GWI
It’s not going to be easy, though. At the first glance, it may seem straightforward - you post some engaging content, people come to check it out, they click links and land on your home page - et voilà, you’ve got your sales.
In reality, social selling is a complex strategy with careful preparation and planning, quick on-the-fly adjustments, implementation of various marketing and sales funnel tools, metrics, and analytics.
A successful social selling strategy is a coordinated effort of multiple teams - marketing, sales, support, customer service - and involves multiple resources - the company’s website, social media accounts, blog, self-service tools, such as a knowledge base.
So, let’s dive deeper into the mechanics of building a successful social selling strategy and see which techniques you can practice in order to turn your social media accounts into a strong brand presence.
Social Selling Best Practices
At the end of the day, social selling is about establishing relationships and make sure they turn to leads, to prospects, and, ultimately, to customers. Use the tips I have collected in this guide to start building relationships in social media and convert them into paying customers.
Find Your Target Audience
Target audience is one of the core concepts of any marketing strategy, and social selling is no exception. However, with social media, the point is not only identifying your target audience but also determining on which social platform it is most likely to be found.
Instead of carpet-bombing all social media equally, see which of them your target audience frequents, and focus on it.
Luckily, we have rather comprehensive statistics on the social groups that tend to use this or that social network. For example, the majority of Instagram users fall into the age group of 24-34, while for Twitter, this metric shifts to 30-49. LinkedIn may be your focus platform if you are a B2B business. If you offer products for the young audience, establish your presence on TikTok and Snapchat.
However, in all cases, it would be wise to target Facebook. It is the largest social platform out there with the highest number of active users. You can find all age groups and social categories there, so I recommend that you include Facebook in your social selling strategy planning.
Follow & Connect With Your Prospects
Start building your network by following businesses, brands, and individuals who can transform to your prospects. Sign up for the updates of the companies that you wish to do business with and be informed of any important news, events, or changes. Use them as opportunities to reach out with a congratulation message or a comment.
In addition to manual search, you can use tools that help you find your target audience. For example, LinkedIn offers its Business Solutions for generating leads on that platform in a smart way.
Follow individual users, too. They may be both your potential customers and influencers who can promote your product. Here, you can also take advantage of tools specially designed to help you build a network of social contacts. For example, for Twitter, check Followerwonk – a tool to find users with a certain keyword in their profiles.
Join Relevant Groups & Communities
Most, if not all, social networks support groups and communities where users with similar interests get together. Find groups that are relevant to your area of business and join them. You can either search for such communities within the network or check your prospects' and leads' profiles. See the groups they have joined and do the same.
This way, you will get another point of contact with potential customers. The advantage of a group is that all its members are already within the same context and sales opportunities may occur rather often. The key is to be friendly, communicative but not overly sales-y.
Listen To Online Discussions
In order not to miss any sales opportunities, listen to everything that is relevant for your business or that creates an opening for you. For example, that can be a mention of your brand or product, a discussion on a problem that your product can resolve, or an event that gives you a chance to reach out to a business or an individual user.
Such trigger events can include changes in business management, a new product line announcement, an expansion to another geographic area. All these events can be a business opportunity for you.
To make sure you never miss an important event or discussion, implement listening tools such as Statusbrew. The tool monitors all the social networks and websites that are important to you alerting you of all events that you configure it for. Moreover, you can listen to your competitors in the same way.
Engage In Conversations
This is the next logical step after following your prospects and joining the right groups. Engage in discussions that are related to your business. The more active you are, the more noticed your brand becomes and the higher your social media engagement gets.
You are going to see tons of opportunities to engage in online discussions and your job is to do it in the most organic and human manner. Do not become a robot that gets triggered by a certain keyword and posts a standard reply to any comment.
Rather, try to actually hear what other users say and respond accordingly:
If someone describes a particular problem or pain point that your product can resolve, make a natural suggestion focusing on how your brand can help in the situation in question.
If a user is looking for a solution that you might have, propose it with an explanation of how their problem can be resolved.
If another user has already tried your product and was happy with it, thank them for the positive feedback.
If, however, someone thinks that your product did not meet their expectations, try to find out the exact problems that they had and propose a solution.
Highlight Your Competitive Advantages
Nobody knows your product better than you do, and nobody can present its strongest points in a more advantageous way than you can. Use the openings created by your social presence to highlight the most important features of your product showing why users should choose it over the competition.
You can start right from your profile mentioning your core advantage. See, for example, how Nordstrom, a US luxury clothing and accessories chain, does it. Its Instagram profile proudly mentions that the chain has been serving customers since 1901, which immediately suggests stability, tradition, and a good reputation.
Image Source: Nordstrom
Provide Relevant Content
When users engage with a business over social media, they do not want to see only advertising or sale offers. They want to be educated, entertained, and amused, too. Offer them content that shows your expertise in the subject matter and delivers new knowledge, provides facts - or even fun facts - and provokes thoughts.
With high-quality, engaging content, you can build trust with your followers and prospects. If what you post is truly valuable and unique, other users will be more likely to browse not only your posts but your product catalog, too. To produce such content, you will need to invest some time and resources in building a content creation process, but the result will be worth it.
For example, MyFitnessPal, a calorie counter app, posts health- and fitness-related pieces in its blog and announces them in its social media accounts. Its followers wishing to read more on the topics raised by MyFitnessPal will be highly likely to click the link to the blog and, maybe, consider using the app to change their lifestyle.
Image Source: MyFitnessPal
If I am researching a brand on social media, I always look at when the last post was made. And if I see a recent date, it is always a good sign. This means the business maintains its social networks, it has something to tell its followers, it’s alive!
How often should I post on social media you would ask? The answer is, naturally, it depends. It depends on the social media channels you are using in your marketing strategy. Let's say, you can post on Facebook once a day and that will be enough to maintain your followers’ engagement.
At the same time, you can go as high as five posts on Twitter where messages are limited in length. Each social network has its principles and patterns, but regular posting is the key.
Sure thing, you can plan your content manually, but with accounts on multiple networks and a team of several agents managing them, it becomes too easy to lose track. Try content planning tools instead.
With Statusbrew, for that matter, you will always have all your social media postings under complete control.
The main goal of your social selling strategy is to connect with people and businesses over social media, so be available there. Respond to any direct questions or comments as quickly as possible. If your name is mentioned, respond to mentions, too.
The speed of response on social media matters more than you think. If you take too long to respond to a question or a mention, or fail to respond altogether, you may lose customers and prospects.
If a person wants to do business with a brand, they want the brand to pay attention to their inquiries. About 40% of social network users expect an answer to their questions within one hour. While that may be not always realistic, you should try to keep the response time as short as you can.
Finally, keep your communication channels well-maintained and do not forget to inform your followers about them. If they want to reach out to you directly, they should not take too long to find how to do it.
Complete your profile with your contact details and links to your official website and assign your team of sales representatives to monitor the accounts on a regular basis.
Use Social Media Analytics
All the techniques I have described so far can bring benefits only when you know that they actually work. To gain that knowledge, you need to implement some powerful social media analytics to measure and monitor the performance of your social media marketing campaign.
Don’t worry, there are tools for that, too. The choice is quite extensive, and in selecting the right solution for evaluating your social media success, check how it gives answers to the most important questions:
- Which social network performs the best for my purposes?
- Which of my accounts is the least performing and should, maybe, be dropped or revamped?
- Which pieces of my content are the most engaging and converting?
- What is my ROI of social media marketing?
A comprehensive analytical tool can help you find answers to these and other questions. You could try Google Analytics, the tool that can draw a complete picture of your social media traffic and even calculate your social ROI.
Some social networks have their own analytical tools to measure your account's performance within the network. If you are active on Twitter, you may use Twitter Analytics to get knowledge about your account activity or insights about your followers’ demographics.
Social selling works. However, it works best when you are not super-focused on selling. Rather, focus on building relationships, connecting with people, expanding your network, and making your name and your brand recognized.
When you have established your social presence and built your network of contacts and followers, sales opportunities will appear as if by magic. In reality, it’s not magic but hard work and careful planning, but at the end of the day, it pays back in spades.
Do not be afraid to try new approaches, discard useless techniques, make quick adjustments, and, most importantly, remain open in your communication with other social network users. I hope this little guide helps you get started on this exciting journey.