Article

What is social selling? Definition, index, and examples

Build brand credibility and customer relationships online through social selling.

By Donny Kelwig, Contributing Writer

Published October 22, 2021
Last updated October 22, 2021

Social selling has impacted the market ever since we started trading products. A gentleman in 1600s Italy could visit a family member, adore their new statue, and ask where they got it.

Market analysis indicates that consumers influenced by social media are four times more likely to spend more on purchases. That’s over standard advertising.

With the market shifting, it’s essential that your company has a strong handle on the social market and how to use it to your advantage. Below, we’ll discuss what social selling is, why it’s important, and best practices on mainstream social media sites.

What is social selling?

Social selling is the sales methodology of using your company’s social media channels to interact with potential customers and generate leads. Most brand-based social selling occurs on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, all of which we’ll look at individually later on. But it can also occur on the company website, on Instagram, or via influencer partnerships.

This type of selling is not about closing the deal, it’s about playing the long game. By commenting, liking, and sharing customer posts, companies can build natural social credibility and generate "free" advertising to influence buyers down the line.

It’s ethical selling without the cold calls.

Social selling vs. social media marketing vs. social media advertising

Did you know that every four posts on anyone’s Facebook feed is a sponsored ad? Three posts from friends or family, and then an ad based on the interest algorithm. Considering the average person spends approximately 2 hours and 24 minutes on Facebook a day, that’s a lot of ads.

There’s so much content circulating. It’s important to ensure you’re staying on track and following the guidelines of each type of social media branding.

  1. Social selling: directly interacting with customers via their posts or in messages to create a sense of familiarity or credibility
  2. Social media marketing: actively running sales and promotions via a company’s social media platform (i.e., Facebook Market)
  3. Social media advertising: using part of your marketing budget to pay for advertisements on social media, regardless or whether or not your company has social media pages

There’s nothing wrong with any of these types of branding, but if your goal is to create stronger relationships with customers, then you want to make sure you’re following social selling practices.

Are you and your business currently participating in social selling?

There’s a strong chance the answer is yes, even if your company is new to social media. Any time you use a testimonial as part of an advertisement, you are participating in social selling. “We’re not saying our product is great, Linda is. Listen to Linda, she’s just like you.”

Your company likely already knows the benefits of customer-to-customer recommendations. So, why not take advantage and expand those benefits further? According to recent studies, 78 percent of social sellers outsell their peers who don’t use social media. And 39 percent reported that using social selling decreased the time and resources spent on lead research.

What is the social selling index?

If you want to know how your company is doing in terms of social selling impact, you’ll want to consult the social selling index, or SSI.

LinkedIn first developed the SSI in 2014, along with four skill points to assess a company’s social selling strategy:

  • Establishing a professional brand with a well-managed LinkedIn profile
  • Finding the right people on the platform
  • Sharing relevant, conversation-inspiring content
  • Building and strengthening relationships

Since launching the analysis in 2014, here’s what LinkedIn has discovered:

  • Social selling leaders get better results.
  • Social selling leaders create 45 percent more opportunities than peers with lower SSI scores.
  • Social selling leaders are 51 percent more likely to reach quota.

Even without focusing on direct deals, it’s clear that social selling is the new key to boosting revenue and growing your company.

Let’s look now at social media selling and how an online presence can impact your brand.

Social media selling

social media selling

Not all platforms are created equal. The first step in a successful social media campaign is finding the right social media platforms for your company. Some won’t align with your brand, and others won’t align with your market. If your primary market is teenagers, it’s worth it to see if you can create a presence on TikTok, a popular platform among that demographic. But if your primary market is anyone over age 60, including TikTok in your social media plan won’t help you reach your desired audience.

We’re going to explore the most popular platforms for social selling and each of their best practices:

LinkedIn social selling

LinkedIn might not immediately come to mind when you think of marketing, as it was created for job connections. But it’s now one of the leading sites for social selling. It naturally connects you with those who might support your company. And its formatting tends to make people respond more professionally, so their recommendations carry more weight and credibility.

Here are a few suggestions for social selling on LinkedIn:

  • Gather endorsements: If you or your team have strong connections, ask them to endorse your page, products, and skills. It’s a simple task that only requires the click of a button, but it makes a big difference in how you are perceived. For example, an athletic clothing line with multiple endorsements from Olympians can nearly sell itself.
  • Extend your network: LinkedIn provides a built-in search feature that allows you to use your contacts to find mutual connections. If you can reach out to those potential connections, you can increase endorsements and traffic to your page.
  • Discover your SSI: As discussed earlier, LinkedIn can analyze your company’s social selling skills and give you points for improvement. It’s an affordable service and well worth your while if you want to increase your social selling impact.

Facebook social selling

It can take some time before your social selling takes off on Facebook because you have to gain a strong following. But once it does, Facebook becomes one of the best ways to engage with your customers. Facebook pages are easily editable, are user-friendly, and can be customized to comfortably suit most brands. Additionally, many of your customers are likely already on the platform.

Here are a few suggestions for social selling on Facebook:

  • Make sure your page is up-to-date: Social media works in real-time. Your website should always be current, but customers are more forgiving if your site contains some outdated information. But not on Facebook. Make sure your hours, contact information, address, and listings are always up-to-date. If someone is going to share a post from your page, you want it to be accurate.
  • Engage with other businesses: Not every business on Facebook is the competition. By creating relevant content and interacting with other businesses, you can expose your brand to another business’ market and boost their traffic in return.
  • Respond to your followers: Social media is all about feeling important. Look at social media customer service. It’s worth your time to make your followers feel noticed, even if it’s just a simple like. Acknowledging your followers' comments or mentions of your business goes a long way in creating a loyal and engaged customer.

Twitter social selling

Twitter is the most fast-paced and complicated of the three platforms. But when done right, it can generate a great deal of revenue growth and provide opportunities for competition analysis and social listening.

Here are a few suggestions for social selling on Twitter:

  • Create automated tracking lists: Follow existing customers, strong prospective customers, and competitors via a Twitter Stream. This will allow you to keep tabs on people you want to respond to. You can reinforce your brand and track your competition for new promotions or marketing tactics.
  • Develop a Twitter Brand persona: Especially if you are catering to a younger market, make sure your tweets are simple, a little sassy, and not heavily hashtagged. You don’t need to reinvent your company values. But it’s important to recognize that each social media platform has a specific brand of its own. Customers will notice when you don’t fit that brand.
  • Engage sparingly: You want your customers to remember you exist, but some of them may tweet over 50 times a day. Engaging with all those posts may do more harm than good past a certain point. Monitor how often you are interacting, and cross-reference with other social media platforms you’re using.

Why social selling benefits your business

There are a great number of sales psychology tactics businesses can use to increase revenue and grow their customer base. Social selling, however, may be the most influential of those tactics. That sounds like a grand statement. But research over the past few years suggests that social media has a 100 percent higher lead-to-close rate than outbound marketing.

This advantage only increased during the pandemic. With many customers shopping exclusively online through inside sales, a strong social selling plan can make or break a business.

Let’s take a look at the specifics of how social selling can benefit you.

  • Social selling increases sales

    We’ve established that social selling increases your sales. But what are the actual numbers?

    To start, approximately 3.2 billion people around the globe use at least one type of social media platform. That’s 45 percent of the global population. That number increases when you consider that children under age 10 and elders over age 85 are unlikely to purchase products for themselves.

    Of those customers, the average buyer reports spending 20 to 40 percent more money on brands that have interacted with them on social media.

    3.2 billion people spending 20 to 40 percent more on purchases is a lot of opportunity. And your company shouldn’t miss out on it.

  • Social selling makes your salespeople relatable to your customers

    We take product recommendations from our friends and family because we trust them to give us reliable information. When sales reps can build that same relationship with customers, it’s far easier to create brand loyalty.

    In fact, 77 percent of Twitter users report a more positive feeling towards companies that reply to their tweets. Additionally, 71 percent of customers with a positive social selling experience are more likely to recommend that brand to others.

    In a world of aggressive online content, brands that create a personal connection stand out to the consumer—and make it easier to upsell.

  • Your customers expect social selling

    Social media is now so ingrained in day-to-day life that most buyers expect "legitimate" businesses to have a social media presence. They’re even a little suspicious of those that don’t.

    Even if you aren’t ready to interact with customers via social media, it’s worth your time to create the relevant pages. It establishes another level of trust with potential customers.

  • Your competitors are already in social sales

    Ninety-one percent of retail brands are already using at least two social media platforms, and that number is growing daily. In recent years, social media platforms reported over $8 billion dollars in ad revenue.

    The social selling market is thriving, and it’s time you joined in.

Why Zendesk is your key to social selling

A strong social seller keeps track of their customers, and Zendesk is here to help you do just that. Take control of your database with Zendesk Sell, and then ensure your customers are satisfied with Zendesk for customer service.

Without the right tools, it’s difficult to keep track of hundreds of thousands of leads. Let Zendesk help you stay organized and deliver a personal touch with each customer interaction.

Request a demo and start your social selling journey today.

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