According to Hootsuite, social selling is the practice of “using social networks to find, connect with, understand, and nurture sales prospects. When done correctly, social selling is essentially making it a priority to connect with current and future customers in a meaningful way.
When we look at our purpose as marketers, it is quite the same: we want to create meaningful connections with our audience on as many viable platforms that we can.
With this singular purpose, how can we leverage the components of social selling into an effective digital marketing strategy that incorporates social media?
Relationships Still Matter in Marketing (and Sales)
The main driving point of social selling as a strategy is that it helps salespeople facilitate and grow relationships with clients. Social media can give businesses a deeper look into contacts, so they are able to better gauge and anticipate what contacts are looking for a B2B product or service.
There are social selling tools on the market today that help professionals research and find prospects to create connections with. These tools can help make the research process a lot easier.
According to a study done by eMarketer and referenced in the above Hootsuite article, 39 percent of B2B professionals found that social selling reduced contact research time, 33 percent found that it increased the number of incoming leads, and 31 percent found that it leads to deeper relationships with clients.
Whether you’re using a specific tool or not, studies have shown that because social selling leverages the power of networks, most B2B buyers have more trust in those they’ve met through mutual connections. Eighty-seven percent said that meeting someone this way gave them a favorable impression.
Meet The Customer Where They Hang Out
This favorable impression is not only because a buyer is being introduced to someone through another connection they already like and trust, but also because it’s being facilitated by a platform they already use regularly, which gives them a sense of familiarity.
Social media users are likely to be savvier to what’s going on in their industry and online, and that pays dividends when it comes to spending.
It’s been shown that users who are on social media have a higher spend. Hubspot reports that buyers who use social media usually have budgets that are 84 percent higher than buyers who don’t.
Connect with these potential customers on the platform where they are most active in order to grow a relationship. For instance, if someone is new to Twitter and doesn’t use the platform regularly, it wouldn’t make sense to reach out to them there to make a connection. However, they may be more active on LinkedIn and would be more likely to respond to a message on that platform.
That being said, not all B2B buyers are going to be active on LinkedIn (or Twitter). Research where buyers are “hanging out” online so you can learn how to best reach them. For some industries, online discussion boards like subreddits or private forums have many more active users than traditional social media channels.
When it comes to social selling, broaden your horizons to think past LinkedIn, even for B2B. If communication and discussion are taking place in your industry, that is where you want to be.
Try searching on Social Mention or BoardReader.com to find mentions of industry keywords. Quora is also a great place to find useful discussions in a variety of different industries.
Just remember, as with any good discussion, it’s about being helpful and a member of the conversation. Social selling and marketing aren’t about spamming as many people as possible in the hopes that a small fraction clicks on your links or completes a conversion. It’s about creating genuine experiences with your target audience.
Focus on Genuine Experiences
“Spray and pray” is an old firearm phrase that means firing your automatic or semi-automatic toward the enemy in wide bursts to hopefully hit some or part of the intended target. People who don’t have good accuracy may decide not to focus on one specific target, and instead, want to spread their bullets to as wide of area as possible in the hopes of hitting something.
We can use the same analogy for marketing. Many marketers have (and still do) try to target as many people as possible, in the hopes that a few end up converting. However, as Ernan Roman pointed out on CMO.com, this approach just doesn’t work anymore in marketing.
As millennials continue to drive the web and how its used, marketers and sellers are forced to create a more personalized approach to give users exactly what they are looking for.
Because of this, social selling’s focus on genuine experiences and relationships with people have become more crucial to better marketing. A lot of social media is one-to-one engagement, whether you have a team handling social media responses or just a single person on staff monitoring mentions of your business online.
No matter your current strategy, it requires a human touch. This means that any contact with a buyer, whether through customer service or sales, needs to serve that buyer where they want, with what they want.
Digital marketing has evolved to include sales and customer service, as they are all part of the customer experience. As a result, our strategies need to incorporate better human interaction to increase satisfaction, reputation, and profits.
According to GrooveHQ, studies have shown that customers who get responses from businesses on social media tend to spend 20 to 40 percent more with the company down the road.
Get Your Employees More Involved
Better customer satisfaction doesn’t stop and start with the customer service team either. All departments can be active on social media to increase brand awareness, satisfaction, and visibility to new customers.
Here are some of the ways employees can get involved in the social selling and B2B marketing process:
- All departments: All employees can share blog posts and news items about the company on their own social media networks that they use for professional reasons. If an employee only uses Facebook for personal connections, don’t ask them to start posting business articles. However, if they maintain profiles on LinkedIn, Twitter, or other places for business reasons, sending out a weekly or monthly email with new blog posts or pieces of content (e.g. videos, white papers) to share can help get your content in front of more people. Make it as easy as possible by using share buttons or a service like ClickToTweet. Don’t make this mandatory, as sharing content on their own profiles isn’t likely part of their job description.
- Sales: Try to work in maintenance rituals to help sales teams grow their networks. Remind them to add new contacts to LinkedIn after trade shows, networking events, or conferences. Send helpful articles or pay for training and books on networking or social selling to help salespeople get better.
- Marketing: Marketers would likely benefit from the same things as sales, but also include training on industry trends or specific marketing strategies. When teams know the platforms and products they are working on better, they are better able to make it appealing to customers.
Most employees don’t mind helping out if you make it optional, as easy as possible, and include things that will help make them better employees and professionals. Be a resource to your employees as much as you are to your customers, and your efforts will be more appreciated.
Find Out What Your Audience is Interested In
As mentioned previously, B2B professionals have found that social selling tools help cut down on research time. Tools can also help B2B marketers do faster research by finding out more about what their target audience is interested in.
Social media provides real-time conversations and feedback on what’s happening in your industry today. Capitalize on that information by regularly tracking common hashtag and keyword searches across multiple platforms.
Tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention, BuzzSumo, and even Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have their own native search functions that can provide a wealth of information on what your audience is interested in.
Once you find links to articles covering your topic, look at its social stats, comments, and points of interest to get inspiration for your own content and social media posts.
For example, if we search “office remodeling” in Social Mention, a few articles turn up about renovating old historic buildings to turn into offices for a variety of tenants. This could be a great light-hearted blog post: “15 Historic Buildings Turned Into Blog Posts” or even a more technical one: “What to Look Out For When Remodeling a Historical Building For Offices.”
Similarly, we can use Twitter’s native search to find industry chats, hashtags, and comments that include related terms or questions.
Social listening has great value for all the teams we mentioned above: sales, marketing, and customer service. This key is learning how to use the information to make customers happy and interested in what you have to say.
A search for “historic office buildings” lead to a great B2B example from Scheme Glass:
They regularly showcase “famous buildings” with tidbits about their history. This is a good way to tie in what you offer (in this case, glass windows) while also creating more mainstream content that will be of interest to a wider audience. While this isn’t too wide like the “spray and pray” method, it’s utilizing more appealing imagery to reel in the customer. Using an eye-catching photo can likely lead to more clicks and engagement on social media profiles.
Explore New Platforms
What makes social selling (and online communication as a whole) great is that it’s always full of new innovative opportunities. More and more platforms are coming into the space to help marketers and salespeople interact with more people.
Texting and online chat is something that has been around for decades, with chat rooms leading the way toward online communication with people who have similar interests. The “golden age of chat rooms,” as The Washington Post puts it, was from 1998 to about 2003.
The idea behind chat rooms has since evolved into texting apps, like our phone’s native applications to programs like WhatsApp, Google Hangouts, and Skype. WhatsApp currently has about 175 million active daily users, while Skype has over 300 million.
Though these grew in popularity as a way for us to talk to people we knew directly, they are now slowly growing as a way for brands to connect with their customers.
For example, messaging bots are slowly being refined to provide a more unique experience to buyers who would rather chat with a company than call or email them (or even reach out with a tweet or Facebook comment). While these bots aren’t perfect and are still being refined (many can only currently operate using a specific set of commands and can’t intuitively pick up what the user is trying to say), there is a lot of potential.
WhatsApp, Skype, and Facebook currently allow companies to add bots to their platforms, and bot search engines and build services are cropping up online regularly.
What’s more, users show openness to bot messaging; Facebook reports that over half of users say they are more likely to do business with a company they can manage online and there are over two billion messages sent between users and brands (both human and automated) each month on Facebook messenger.
As social selling and B2B marketing moves into this era of automated, yet extremely personal, customer service and online interaction, it’s important to go back to the guiding principles that have remained throughout the evolution of digital marketing and sales.
Always seek to provide the best possible research for your current and potential buyers, and work toward growing genuine relationships and interactions with customers through a variety of methods.
Constantly refine and innovate how you are connecting with customers in real-time to learn the best ways of communication. It’s only through constant growth and dedication toward a better user experience that brands will learn how to extend their reach.
Whether it’s through social selling, marketing, or online customer service, taking the time to implement a strategy that ties them all together will help further a more cohesive user experience and a better approach toward handling customer engagement.
Images via Pexels and screenshot taken August 2017.