Social selling uses trust built through personal connections to sell products or services. The industry has pivoted to the digital realm, and most social selling now relies on social media platforms to create that trusting, organic connection with potential customers.
Effective social sales means engaging in actual conversations with potential customers and business partners, either in person or via the web. As you build trust and establish relationships, you can eventually move the customer through the sales funnel toward lead generation and a successful deal.Click here to start selling online now with Shopify
What is social selling?
Social selling is a sales process that uses social media platforms to build relationships with potential customers, with the eventual goal of selling products or services to them. It relies on platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to engage with prospects, provide them with valuable content, and establish trust and credibility. This is different compared to traditional advertising that focuses on pushing products to customers by highlighting their benefits or how they solve a problem.
Social selling builds relationships and provides value to potential customers before asking them to buy. Social sellers who invest in this relationship-building process increase their chances of converting prospects into customers and ultimately driving more sales.
Benefits of social selling
Social selling offers key benefits to sellers promoting a professional brand or their own personal brand.
It builds trust
Trust forms the basis of dealmaking and the sales process—people want to do deals with someone they trust. Communicating with your customers and building a personal relationship with them establishes a baseline of trust so they feel comfortable with you and, by extension, with buying your product or service.
For example, when selling with social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, you can build a community around you and your company that gives people a sense of belonging (however big or small).
It yields long-term rewards
Social selling doesn’t aim for impulse purchases. It steadily and progressively builds relationships with potential clients, and it maintains those relationships after they become paying customers.
For instance, the online audio retailer Sweetwater assigns each customer to a “sales engineer” who periodically sends emails to check in, and who always follows up a purchase with a direct note of thanks. This has led to substantial repeat business for the company.
It gives you insights into your customer base
When a company commits to social listening and robust dialogue with customers, it learns a lot about what motivates those customers. In this regard, social selling is not only a sales technique but also a market research technique. Even if a social interaction does not yield a sale, it can still provide the company with valuable information about customer wishes and interests. Companies can use this information to shape future marketing campaigns, develop new product designs, and refine product descriptions.
How to choose the right social selling platform for your brand
Social selling largely takes place via online social network platforms. And choosing the social media selling platforms for you comes down to an honest self-assessment of your brand.
Facebook and Twitter are big for salespeople, given their emphasis on discussion. Instagram and TikTok reach younger audiences, while LinkedIn is great for networking in the professional world. Reddit and YouTube comment threads often draw enthusiasts with deep knowledge of a topic, or those looking to learn.
Some of the main social selling platforms to consider include:
1 LinkedIn for business-to-business (B2B) interactions
LinkedIn is a B2B platform, where people refine their personal brands to pitch themselves as employees or business partners. It features a proprietary tool called the LinkedIn Sales Navigator that helps you target business customers. It also gives you a Social Selling Index, LinkedIn’s proprietary profiling tool. It’s a great platform for social selling to a business audience, ideal for promoting your business services, digital products for professionals, and other relevant offerings.
2 Instagram and its dedicated user base
There are many ways to sell on Instagram, as well as use the channel to connect with customers and build relationships. It’s visually driven, so you’ll need to be prepared to post photo and video content to your feed and Stories. Overall, it’s an excellent platform for social selling because it has a massive base of engaged users. In fact, more than 500 million Instagram users browse the app on a daily basis, making it home to one of the most engaged audiences around. Plus, you can open an Instagram Shop to make sales directly within the app.
3 TikTok to reach a younger audience
TikTok’s unique algorithm offers social sellers the opportunity to go viral, quickly. It’s not just videos and memes that go viral on TikTok—products go viral too, and often sell out in a matter of days. While TikTok’s own ecommerce strategy isn’t as advanced as other social media platforms, like Instagram, it’s quickly becoming more refined, including through a prominent partnership with Shopify. Companies can tap into a younger market by using TikTok to track and engage with viral trends, and leverage that to make viral content of their own.
4 Facebook to promote both discussion and sales
Facebook is a great channel for selling products on social media. Nearly three-quarters of Facebook users browse the social media site to discover new brands and products. The company has tapped into this trend with Facebook Shops, its own native ecommerce platform, making Facebook a one-stop shop for learning about and acquiring a product.
Facebook is also known for lengthy discussions in its comment threads, including those by product enthusiasts sharing their experiences on a brand’s official Facebook page. Lengthy, substantive discussions naturally foster social engagement and are a key facet of social selling.
5 Twitter and customer service
Twitter is an influential discussion forum, especially for customer service. Many social sellers use Twitter marketing to monitor mentions, respond to customer service queries, and take extra care to take action on negative feedback.
Twitter hasn’t invested in ecommerce to the same degree as Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), so brands use it more for product discussions and fielding feedback. Plus, its future is uncertain after Elon Musk acquired the platform.
6 YouTube to inform and connect through video
YouTube offers many options to make money, social selling being one of them. While you can’t sell on YouTube directly, it’s an important promotional channel and outlet to connect with shoppers. Many major brands create a YouTube channel where they showcase products and provide useful content to interest their customer base. Successfully marketing on YouTube requires effective videos, authentic engagement with your audience, and general-purpose information. Over time, the sales will come organically.
8 tips for social selling success
As you embark upon your own social selling campaign, remember what distinguishes social selling from traditional advertising—it’s that trusting connection. Here are some social selling best practices and tips to keep in mind:
1. Create a professional brand
If you want potential shoppers to not only trust but also respect your business, it’s time to get professional. This includes making your venture “official”—by way of business registration, incorporation, and even building out a digital presence. Research any required business licenses or relevant industry certifications.
Once you’ve got the paperwork filed, build and maintain a website that’s cohesive with the rest of your online presence and brand. And always remember to provide prompt, respectful communication to your customers.
2. Check your social selling index
LinkedIn pioneered a tool called the Social Selling Index, or SSI, which measures social selling success and relationship building based on four broad criteria. Using that tool and this guide you can check your social selling index score. Whether you use its tool or not, these guidelines can help you create a unique and successful social selling campaign.
3. Focus on the right prospects
A key advantage of social selling is that you connect with customers who genuinely care about your product (if you’re promoting a professional brand) or your core competencies (if you’re promoting a personal brand). The most self-aware and efficient social sellers hone in on the people who seem truly engaged, and they don’t bother with uninterested people who are unlikely to turn into paying customers.
With a tool like Shopify Audiences, you can ensure you’re putting your ads in front of the right buyers. Shopify’s unique insights from commerce data help you create custom audience lists to make better targeting decisions.
4. Build trusting relationships
In case you haven’t picked up on the theme here, trust is the cornerstone to successful social selling. It’s important to engage in genuine conversations and listen to potential customers about their needs and current pain points, using those interactions to foster authentic relationships.
Aside from showing up authentically in all your interactions, you can try the following to help build and strengthen your customer relationships:
- Set up a customer relationship management (CRM) platform to help track customers, build segments, and offer personalized communication.
- Use cohort analytics in your Shopify dashboard to check in on customers.
- Focus on customer retention strategies to drive repeat purchases and even word-of-mouth marketing.
- Prioritize shoppers with a high customer lifetime value (CLV).
- Launch a customer loyalty program to reward shoppers for their purchases.
5. Use built-in tools to target potential buyers
Many online platforms offer social selling tools that steer companies toward their presumed customer base. These tools involve lead generation and a statistical breakdown of who is visiting your pages. LinkedIn reports that social selling tools can make a big impact on company-customer connections—62% of B2B buyers responded favorably to salespeople who knew something about them, including business model, objectives, and pain points.
6. Leverage third-party tools to expand your online presence
Social selling tools are not limited to the native functions of a platform. Other companies, including Salesforce, Hootsuite, and Amplify, have tools that let businesses easily communicate with customers on a variety of platforms. These tools are particularly useful for communicating with a unified message so a recipient gets the same experience whether via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or email.
7. Listen first, sell later
Whether you’re promoting a professional brand or your own personal brand, it helps to begin your interactions with social listening. This means paying attention to online conversations to hear what people are saying about your product, noting customer pain points or things they love about your company, and building your messaging around that. You can engage in these conversations and answer people’s questions, but don’t launch into salesperson mode. The goal is to have authentic discussions, not to put on a hard sell.
There are many ways and places to listen to your customers. Here are some ideas:
- Take note of impressionable in-person interactions, and train your associates to do the same.
- Send customer surveys via email to solicit feedback.
- Ask for customer testimonials and share insights with your team.
- Collect, monitor, and track customer reviews.
8. Use analytics
Most social networks provide robust analytical insight. You can use these insights to identify the types of people who engage with your profiles, which content they like, and which posts and ads they’re clicking on. Top social sellers use these insights to inform and refine their messaging and outreach.
Get started with social selling today
Social selling is an excellent way to build relationships, promote your brand, and drive sales. However, it’s important to be strategic and professional in your approach. Engage with customers, listen to them, and make a plan to reap sufficient rewards as time passes.