Social Selling: What it is & How to Make it Work for You

Jade Cottee
Jade Cottee
Content Marketing Manager
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Insense is a marketplace to collaborate with creators for UGC, posting, and whitelisted ads. 
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What comes to mind when you think of social selling?

Perhaps you think it’s another name for social media marketing? Or posting consistently on every social channel?

Truth be told, it does involve sales but in a way probably different from what you’re familiar with. 

So, what is it then?

That’s what you’re about to find out.

To help you understand how you can take advantage of social selling, this guide will explain:

  • What social selling is
  • Its benefits
  • How to increase your success rate
  • What platforms you can use for social selling 

We’ve got a fun ride guys, so let’s jump right in! 

What is Social Selling?

Social selling is a marketing strategy for personal brands, companies, and marketers to develop a connection with potential customers on social media platforms

Social selling leverages relationship-building to boost brands’ social credibility so prospective customers feel more comfortable buying from them. 

Here’s how Dr. Gena, an educational business coach puts it: 

Social selling is like setting up shop in your neighborhood where people know you, trust you, and want to buy from you.” 

As a result, they wouldn’t mind sharing your brand with their friends.

Let’s use an illustration to help you understand this strategy. 

Have you ever walked into a retail store – Nordstrom for instance – where an attendant walks up to you as you’re stepping in?

They try to find out what you need and point you in the right direction.  

Some even walk with you all the way to ensure you get what you came for.

Let’s assume you didn’t find what you were looking for. But the thought of leaving empty-handed makes you feel odd. 

Why?

Because of the social connection that store created with you. 

Next time you want to get something from a store, that store will be the first that comes to mind. 

That’s exactly the feeling that social selling revolves around. The difference, however, is that the interaction is done on social media channels.

Just to be clear, social selling isn’t cold outreach or boring people out of their DMs with offers or anything like that. 

That’s spamming, and no one likes it.  

It’s about developing meaningful interaction with prospects and introducing your brand as a solution to their needs. 

And in doing so, you gain their trust and loyalty, which you hope will eventually result in sales.

But isn’t that like social media marketing?

No, it’s not!

Social selling vs Traditional selling vs Social media marketing

Traditional selling is the marketing strategy we’re all used to. 

You know, the cold-calling (where strange numbers call you in the middle of an important meeting) and TV advertising (the type baby boomers are used to 🙂). 

In addition, it involves: 

  • Spending money (paid ads) to get leads and random contacts
  • Sticking to a sales script for the ad
  • Using the same approach for every sales process

*Millenials and Gen Z audiences left the group chat*

Social media marketing (SMM) and social selling are very similar marketing strategies, so telling them apart can be difficult. 

But here’s where they differ:  

SMM is a one-sided endeavor — marketers are pushing their products and benefits to prospects. 

Social selling, on the other hand,  is a two-way street. 

Marketers are focused on creating real connections with prospects. As such, both parties are involved in the communication process.  

Why should you start using social selling, especially if your current marketing strategy is profitable?

Let’s find out in the next section.

4 Benefits of Social Selling to Consider

In the last two years, the conventional ways of doing several things have evolved. 

People now prefer to work from home, have meetings remotely, and study online. 

This disruption has also extended to how people buy. 

Rather than just being told how great a product is, people prefer making purchasing decisions based on relationships and trust. 

So, actively connecting with prospective customers on social media can get them to buy from you. 

Here are a couple of stats to support this claim:

  • Brands that embrace social selling have a 51% greater chance of reaching their sales quota
  • 78% of social sales professionals outperform marketers that don’t leverage social selling

If you’re not sold on social selling yet, here are four benefits to help you reconsider:

Benefit #1: It creates lasting relationships

Building connections with your customers and prospects on social media creates relationships that can last a lifetime. 

The kind of connection we’re talking about might be commenting on customers’ posts, sharing, or liking them, but that single act can eventually lead to repeat sales and referrals from your customers. 

A study by Gallup found that customers who are engaged are more loyal and profitable than others. 

To be specific, they contribute to a 23% share in terms of profitability, relationship growth, and revenue.

With social selling, you’ll get to meet with customers where they’re most active  — making it easy for them to engage with you. 

You’ll also be able to communicate with them and, over time, those interactions can develop into a lasting relationship built on trust.

It goes this way:

Connect → Communicate → Build trust → Create a relationship

And you know what happens when people trust your brand.

You become their go-to provider when they need your product or service. 

If you then happen to use social listening tools — to know when your brand has been mentioned — you can identify prospects early on.

Hum, how does that help me?

You can start building an authentic relationship with potential customers, which can get them to trust you.

Another thing this relationship does for you is provide valuable feedback about your products or services that can help you improve them.

Benefit #2: It increases brand awareness

Creating lasting relationships with the right prospects does more than increase your sales opportunities. 

That’s part of it, obviously —but beyond that, it helps increase brand awareness.

In other words, more people become familiar with your brand and products as they see your logo and brand name in their feeds and comment sections. 

So there’s a good chance that they’ll remember you and what you offer. 

Brand awareness is important in marketing as it’s the first stage in the marketing funnel. 

Image Source: Sprout Social

Awareness relies on the idea that the more people see your brand, the more comfortable they are with you and will want to do business with you. 

But it all begins with you becoming a social seller and connecting with your customers and prospects. 

With more people becoming active on social media than ever before, leveraging social selling will certainly increase brand awareness.  

Benefit #3: It increases customer retention

Customer retention is the ‘dessert’ every marketer craves. 

Who wouldn’t like to have recurring customers over a long period?

Everyone, right? 

well, we thought as much!

With customer retention, brands can be certain that they’ll have loyal customers regularly buying from them.

If they’re service providers, this would mean they have regular subscribers. 

That’s what becoming a social seller can do for your business. You would be less dependent on getting one-off, impulse purchases. 

What you’ll be thinking about instead is how you can build a relationship with prospects that yield long-term results and then preserve that relationship when they become paying customers. 

When you leverage social selling, you speak the language of your customers, and that makes them loyal, which eventually leads to customer retention.

A good example of a company that does this is Sweetwater. 

They assign their prospect to a sales engineer who helps them with their orders, sends thank-you notes, and writes follow-up emails to check in after they make a purchase. 

This has, of course, resulted in customer retention for the company. 

Benefit #4: It provides valuable customer insights

Sometimes, brands release products they think their customers will enjoy but in reality, the products don’t actually meet their needs. 

When you devote time to social selling by interacting with customers, you’ll begin to learn about their pain points and how your product can meet them. 

Let’s pause for a moment, guys. We’ve got a small confession. 

We know it’s probably not what you’d like to hear, but you’ll be alright. 😉

So, here goes: 

The relationship you build with your customers may not always lead to sales.

There, we said it!

But it can at least provide information about what your customers are interested in and need. This can help you make better decisions in the future when: 

  • Designing new products
  • Launching marketing campaigns
  • Targeting an audience
  • Writing copy for your ads

So, it’s safe to say that social selling is also a market research technique that provides you with customer insights. 

Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s walk you through some of the best networks for social selling.

Which Platforms are Best for Social Selling? (And How to Choose One)

“Best” in this context is relative. Choosing a platform for social selling depends on which network your target audience uses. 

But if you can, feel free to use all of the social networks we’ll discuss. 

Why?

They attract different audiences and can help you gain new customers if you have a great social selling strategy. 

Platform #1: LinkedIn

The images that come to mind when people think of LinkedIn are corporate headshots and the famous words: I’m happy to share that I’m starting a new position as (you know the rest). 

You know what we’re talking about, don’t you? 😅

Well beyond that, LinkedIn happens to be a platform where business-to-business (B2B) brands can identify and connect with key decision-makers in an industry. 

In other words, you can start building a professional relationship with your target audience (business owners).

And guess what? 

You’ll be pleased to know (🙃) that a lot of B2B sales reps or marketers are using LinkedIn for their campaigns.

In fact, 89% of them turn to this social media platform for lead generation. 

Over 60% of B2B marketers say it generates leads for them at 2x the rate of the next upcoming social channel. 

How do you start social selling on LinkedIn?

  • Build your social credibility: When you start engaging with prospects, one of the first things they’ll do is check your LinkedIn profile to see if you’re credible. 

To build credibility, you want to: 

  1. Ask existing customers on the social platform to drop reviews and endorsements.
  2. Put out relevant content on your feed. 
  3. List accomplishments that make you stand out. 
  • Optimize your profile: Improve your profile’s visibility by adding keywords in your bio so there’s a good chance people will see your page. 
  • Extend your network: Use LinkedIn’s search bar to find connections who are mutual friends of your existing network. You can also join LinkedIn groups within your industry.

Platform #2: Instagram

Instagram happens to be a less formal platform and it’s great for engaging with prospects and customers alike. 

Oh, by the way, you don’t have to take headshots to be cool on IG. 😁

It has a dedicated user base who use the app every single day. Reports show that adult Instagram users spend at least 30 minutes on the network daily. 

This makes connecting with customers easy and with the site being focused on visuals, communication comes naturally. 

Instagram has several features that allow you to show your products rather than just tell people about them, such as Instagram Reels and Stories. 

Now, one of the reasons why social selling on Instagram is a good idea is because customers go there when searching for a product to buy.

About 81% of people in an Instagram survey said they use it to research products or services.

While 80% said they use Instagram when deciding which product to buy.

What are we driving at?

If they’re willing to go the extra mile researching a brand’s product, won’t they also be open to building a relationship with that brand?

Of course they will. 

According to the survey, Instagrammers want to hear from brands. 

So, the Instagram stage is set for social sales.  

To get started, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Put out great eye-catching content (it’s Instagram, baby)
  • Post people’s content on your stories when they tag you (if they consent)
  • Be willing to engage with customers

Platform #3: Facebook

If you want a platform where the possibilities of connecting with your audience are endless, then Facebook is what you’re looking for. 

They’ve got the numbers and features to make that happen. 

The social media platform has about 3 billion monthly active users, allowing brands to find, connect, and interact with countless potential buyers.

You can do that by joining forums on Facebook and engaging in long conversations in the comment section. 

Plus, you could even create your own social group where enthusiasts can share their knowledge, which is another way to spark conversations. 

These discussions encourage engagement, which is a foundation for social selling. 

Beyond the conversations, it’s also a platform that promotes sales.

For many marketers, Facebook ads have been pivotal in their sales strategy as they help them find and reach their target audience. 

In a 2021 report, it was predicted that 1 in 3 users would buy via Facebook. 

So, by no means would you be wasting time if you start social selling on the platform. 

How do you begin?

  • Open a Facebook business page if you don’t already have one
  • Engage with businesses in your niche
  • Respond to comments and mentions of your brand
  • Put out valuable pieces of content regularly

Platform #4: TikTok

Trends, dance challenges, and funny videos all come to mind when people mention TikTok. 

It’s one of the fast-rising social media channels that’s recommended for social selling. 

Aside from the fact that TikTok appeals to the generations with the largest purchasing power (millennials and Gen Z), it provides social marketers with the chance to go viral. 

Brands can connect with prospective and existing customers in different ways, including:

  • Responding to their comments with text or videos
  • Stitching users’ videos
  • Using the duet feature to share insight

While it might seem that TikTok users only come to the app to have a good time, 60% of them follow brands. And 52% use the platform to either find new products or shop.

So yes, they do come looking for entertainment but at the same time, they’re open to engaging with brands.

And if your content is quirky, humorous, and educational, you’re in for a social sales ride, as over 80% of TikTok users say they’d like to see funny content from brands. 

 Here are some quick tips for social selling on TikTok:

Platform #5: Twitter

Twitter has a mix of formal and informal cultures. That’s probably why many brands use it for customer service. 

Compared to other social sites, the number of daily active users on Twitter is currently at 237.8 million.

Even though the predominant ad creative on Twitter is text, users can write lengthy threads to share their thoughts and opinions.

This allows both brands and clients to express themselves. 

So, connecting with prospects or customers on this platform might be a good idea. 

If you want to use Twitter for social selling, you’ll need to:

  • Create a Twitter business account
  • Respond to mentions swiftly
  • Share content tweeted by your customers
  • Be up-to-date with what’s trending
  • Ensure your sales team is familiar with Twitter’s ‘street talk
  • Keep track of your competitors

Platform #6: YouTube

This platform helps you keep your audience informed by sharing valuable content with them. 

Considering there are over 2 billion users on YouTube, brands can leverage the channel by ensuring their videos are visible to people who are searching for them or something similar. 

Since this social channel is different from other platforms, being seen by your audience is crucial because that’s the only way you can connect with them. 

How do you do that?

  • Use a keyword when naming your video file
  • Add keywords to the video title
  • Tag your video with related keywords
  • Add subtitles and captions
  • Create a custom thumbnail image
  • Add hashtags
  • Leave a comment on the video

So, where does the social selling part come in? 

When people watch your video and then drop comments, ensure you respond and keep track of their requests, suggestions, or thoughts. 

If necessary, create videos to cover their needs based on the comments you’ve received.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when it comes to social selling:

  • Avoid posting TV commercials on your channel
  • Provide valuable information to your audience
  • Avoid lengthy introductions 

If you’ve decided on which platform to use, it’s time to take the next step — increasing your success rate. 

How do I do that?

Well, tighten your seat belts ’cause this ride is about to get a lot more interesting.

How to Increase Your Social Selling Success Rate

Let’s cut straight to the chase:

If you want to take your social selling to the next level, user-generated content (UGC) is the answer. 

UGC is content produced for your brand by existing customers, creators, and sometimes your employees, in the form of:

  • Videos
  • Reviews
  • Images
  • Blog/Tweets

By creating UGC, these people become brand advocates so when others see them on your social profile, they want to view the content and engage with it. 

Studies have shown that UGC has 28% greater engagement when shared by customers than when it's shared by brands. 

Over 75% of customers say it plays an important role when they make purchasing decisions.

Ok, we’re not trying to say branded content doesn’t work with social selling techniques.  

Far from it, actually. 

We mean that using UGC gets you more engagement, which can help you build better connections with prospects. 

It’ll act as social proof, so people are more convinced about the authenticity of your product. 

And we’ve seen this happen when brands have used UGC as part of their marketing campaigns. 

The famous #shotoniphone campaign by Apple is a good example of UGC.  It’s got over 26 million posts, with more people still participating. 

Image Source: Instagram

Another example is this content by Molly Yeh, a cookbook author for Macy’s:

Image Source: Instagram

It got over 1k likes and when their audience commented, the Macy’s team interacted with them in the comment section. 

Essentially, if you want to increase the success rate of this sales technique, you need to try UGC. 

We’ve got a bonus section just for you and then we can wrap up!

Bonus: What is the Social Selling Index (SSI)?

The social selling index is a metric used to measure the success of your social selling efforts based on four criteria. It’s a concept that was introduced by LinkedIn and looks at whether you are:

  1. Establishing a professional brand with customers in mind
  2. Finding the right connection
  3. Sharing valuable content as a thought leader and engaging with insights
  4. Building relationships

Each element is given a value of between 1 and 25 and so the sum of all the categories will leave you with an SSI score of 0 to 100. 

To determine your SSI score, login into your account and visit the LinkedIn sales navigator

The SSI is a social selling tool that helps ensure you have an effective social selling campaign. 

Now Over to You

Remember how we said UGC can increase your social success rate?

Well, here’s the thing: getting users to permit you to use their content, or having creators produce UGC for you can be frustrating. 

That’s where Insense comes in!

By using our platform, you can find creators who can produce UGC at scale and all you have to do is generate a creative brief

Don’t worry, we know you’d like to test the waters.

That’s why we’re inviting you to book a demo with Insense so you can raise that success rate. 

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Jade Cottee

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