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Social selling may seem like a trendy buzzword today, but it’s actually a vital and durable tool that all salespeople should add to their repertoires.
The idea behind social selling is simple: you leverage the power and popularity of social media to connect with prospects through content and engagement. In other words, social selling is all about engagement, meaning it requires a different approach than traditional sales techniques. However, effective social selling takes time, dedication, and practice, so it can be daunting when you're first getting started, especially if you don’t have a solid strategy in place to work the practice into your daily routine.
According to a report by HubSpot, social selling is a priority for only 8% of salespeople, and yet nearly 60% of people follow brands on social media. Moreover, among 18 to 34-year-olds, between 43 and 48% follow brands on social media because they're interested in buying products or want coupons.
Social media, therefore, is an untapped sales platform for many businesses, and staying ahead of the competition and remaining relevant in today’s world necessitates a solid social selling routine.
Create and Curate: It All Starts with Great Content
Content still reigns supreme in the world of digital marketing, and that’s because it has the power to engage. But a content strategy isn't just about finding any old blog and sharing it widely across your various social networks.
Imagine you followed your favorite restaurant on social media and were bombarded daily with posts about taxes, woodworking, grumpy cats, and other non-food related stories. You'd stop paying attention, and possibly even stop following that brand, right? The key with content is relevance, and that means finding content that will resonate with your audience, spark conversations, and provide insights to educate prospects.
There are many different types of content you can use to capture the attention of your audience, including blogs, articles, whitepapers, videos, photos, infographics, and much more. If you plan to go forward with your own content creation strategy, start by brainstorming ideas and topics that would be of interest to your audience.
You can also curate content by repurposing or resharing other people’s work (which includes user-generated content), and there are some excellent sites out there you can use as resources, such as:
- The New York Times: What We're Reading
- The Moz Top 10
- LinkedIn Pulse
Working content creation/curation into your routine: Spend 10 to 15 minutes each day going through content, evaluating it for relevance to your audience, and choosing suitable pieces to share.
Share: Publish Content Widely to Reach Your Audience
Content on its own will do you no good unless you distribute it far and wide across social networks. However, it’s not enough to just hit every social media site—because there are thousands and that would take too much time and produce few results—and the important thing is targeting the sites where your audience spends the most time, and where you'll have the best opportunities to attract their attention.
Depending on how much time you can dedicate to social selling, it’s probably best to limit your focus to between two and four networks. Here are some tips for choosing the right platforms for your organization:
- Pinterest is the top choice for driving sales because the majority of users use the platform to plan future purchases
- LinkedIn is especially good for B2B companies, lead generation, and establishing authority
- Facebook is the most widely used network (so there's a lot of opportunity and competition), and it’s good for relationship building
- Instagram is the go-to network for brand building, especially if your target audience is under 30
- Twitter is the network you want when you deal in time-sensitive matters, and when you want to share messages like breaking news and similar in-the-moment content
Working distribution into your routine: Publishing content to social sites doesn’t have to be time-consuming, and there are many scheduling and automation tools you can use to limit the time it takes. Some of the most popular tools include Iconosquare, Hubspot, MeetEdgar, HootSuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer.
Engage: Use Content to Start Conversations
One of the major differences between a basic content marketing strategy and social selling is what comes after publishing because social sales are all about leveraging content to drive engagement among prospects.
There are many ways you can do this, including starting and participating in conversations, asking and answering questions, commenting on posts, responding to comments, taking care of customer service issues, managing complaints, and otherwise interacting with your audience. The main purpose here is to solidify your brand, show your personality, build relationships with individual prospects, and convert audience members and prospects into loyal customers.
At this point, it’s very important to gather data and use metrics to analyze your efforts to see who has been engaging with your content, what posts have been the most successful, and where you can stand to make improvements. Another way to measure engagement is by looking at likes, shares, comments, and other social signals.
Working engagement into your routine: Spend at least 20 minutes a day on the aforementioned activities, making note of the names that crop up again and again.
Leverage: Develop Relationships with Influencers and Key Audience Members
Tracking engagement isn't just important to measure the success of your social selling campaign, but also because it can help you identify qualified prospects, new connections, and potential influencers.
When you locate followers who are repeatedly engaging with your posts, reach out, connect, and start conversations with these people specifically. Not only will this help to build relationships with some of your best prospects, but it can also encourage them to share your posts and spread the word more widely to their own social circles. You can encourage social sharing by simply asking for it (“share this with a friend you think might enjoy it,” for instance), by including share buttons and “click to tweet” links on all your content (including emails), and by focusing on hot and trending topics that people will want to share and talk about.
When it comes to finding influencers, there are a few things you can do to identify ones in your field. For one thing, you can search LinkedIn to network with experts and people with authority who fit your niche. Similarly, you can use advanced search options on Twitter to find the people who are already addressing your audience.
Finally, BuzzSumo has a great tool that’s specifically designed to connect brands with influencers. Once you’ve found these people, you can leverage their voices to drive engagement through guest posts and blogs, affiliate partnerships, product reviews, interviews or debates, and even collaborating on events.
Sell: Use Social Media Engagement to Increase the Impact of Promotions
Sales have changed drastically over the past few decades because the advent of the public internet has forever changed the way consumers shop and behave. Whereas consumers used to wait for brands to come to them (in the form of television, print, and other ads), today people use the internet to search for the brands they want to support.
Social selling is a perfect example of this change because it’s a technique that’s about building relationships, with very little time dedicated to active selling. However, that’s not to say there's no place in social selling for active selling, but the key is subtlety. Many clothing companies do this very well by having accompanying photos with their content where readers can actually click on specific items in the photo to purchase. Other options are to make exclusive and personalized offers to your best prospects and by turning pitches into stories.
Working sales into your routine: The sales aspect of your job can be worked into the content portion by working subtle sales techniques and calls to action into your content to drive traffic to your site, increase conversions, and boost sales.
Social selling should be a staple of any modern sales strategy, but the practice is still new enough that incorporating it into your daily routine now will give you an immediate leg up on the competition, and help drive brand recognition and engagement with your social media audience.
Even if working social selling into your routine seems daunting or impossible, remember that it can be done and that it’s well worth the effort. In fact, when you get the routine down, you'll probably only need to dedicate between 30 and 60 minutes a day to these tasks, and in the end, you'll be rewarded with more prospects, better conversions, higher traffic, steadier engagement, and more sales.
The key points to remember are finding the right content, publishing it in the right places, following up with engagement, leveraging your best prospects, and subtly dropping sales hints.