What is Social Selling: Definition, Strategy and Tools

Learn what social selling is and how your brand can leverage it for successful lead generation with reduced dependency on cold calling.

Karishma BorkakotyYugal Pandey
September 13, 2023
7 min read

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Table of Contents

According to LinkedIn, 78% of social sellers outsell peers who do not use social media. Another study by Forrester found that 68% of modern buyers prefer self-research often via social media platforms.  

However, despite plenty of evidence, a surprising number of companies have yet to fully grasp and harness the potential of social selling. In fact, according to IDC, only 25% of companies have a clear social selling strategy in place.  

How can you build an effective social selling strategy? And what steps should you take to blend social media and commerce without lowering your ROI? Let’s break it down starting with the definition first. 

What is social selling? 

Social selling is the process of engaging with prospects on social media, and then nurturing and converting them into customers.  

Do not confuse the typical "SALE" ad popping up on your feed with social selling. Think of it like a friend of yours recommending a particular brand of sneakers – mind you, they are only suggesting and not trying to oversell you. In short, social selling enables your brand to have organic conversations, gently nudging your followers to buy your products without coming across as pushy.  

Social selling benefits for businesses  

Here are the key benefits of social selling. 

Drives more sales 

Instead of flooding social platforms with random ads, brands that prioritize actual one-on-one conversations are more likely to build genuine connections with their potential customers. Since most consumers these days are avid social media users, the chances of you making a successful sale on the platforms they frequent are higher than ever.  

For example, when users have questions or need recommendations and the brands are engaging with them in real time, the chances of that user buying from that brand increase exponentially. Why? Because genuine and personalized engagement almost always gets you in their good books. So, when it's buying time, guess who's top of mind? The brand that prioritized engagement over invasive and pushy tactics. That's how social selling is turning casual chats into big sales. In addition, customers are also using social media for brand and product research, so engaging with them on their favorite platforms speeds up their decision-making process. 

Provides an “ear to the ground” 

Social selling involves active engagement on social media platforms where consumers talk about their preferences and share their likes and dislikes along with brand feedback. By tuning into these conversations, brands can pick up on concerns and sentiments that might not be captured through traditional market research. This can help you spot and adapt to the latest consumer trends, allowing your brand to make timely product tweaks and adjustments.  

Turns likes into loyalty 

A recent report analyzing 100 posts on X, formerly known as Twitter, containing the phrase, “can anyone recommend,” demonstrated that brands that actively engaged with those posts received a positive response over 60% of the time. Initially, the goal of this study was to simply track consumer responses to different suggestions. Interestingly, 31% of the consumers appreciated the suggestions and recommendations while 34% took active part in this engagement.  

Such levels of responses and engagement not only give your brand a potential sales lead, but also expose it to a community of people with similar values and interests. In fact, these figures suggest that social selling efforts not only require less persuasion but also facilitate friendly engagement and improve brand awareness. Rather than relying on intrusive sales tactics, social media selling provides a cost-effective approach for brands to engage with users organically and build trust. 

Learn more: How Social Selling Can Help Build Your B2B Sales Pipeline  

Why should you build a social selling strategy? 

With a well-executed social selling strategy, you're not just promoting a product. You're addressing customer concerns, offering solutions and weaving a narrative that resonates with your audience across demographics.  

 Here are three reasons why you should take social selling a bit more seriously.   

  • Enhanced engagement: Engaging directly on social platforms humanizes your brand, creating more meaningful and trust-filled interactions with your prospective customers.   

  • Higher conversion rates: Social selling targets warm leads — those showing interest in your products, leading toward more favorable sales outcomes.  

  • Competition advantage: With real-time feedback and insights from active social engagement, brands can adapt faster to evolving market changes, ensuring they remain relevant in any scenario.   

Social selling strategies for top platforms 

Social selling is no longer an option. It’s a necessity. Read on to understand how it’s done on top platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram and X.  

Use LinkedIn as the business version of your social network 

Tip 1: Engage with thought leadership content   

  • What’s the first move? You need to first position yourself as an expert or authority. Next, begin by publishing weekly articles on industry insights, curating content from leading sources and engaging in meaningful discussions in the comments section.  

    Take Microsoft for example: the brand constantly educates its followers on LinkedIn about cloud technology, reinforcing its position in the market. 

  • What’s the impact? A LinkedIn report highlighted that 92% of B2B buyers engage with sales professionals if the brand has known industry thought leaders.  

 Tip 2: Utilize advanced search filters 

  • What’s the first move? Proactively search and connect with potential leads. Use the Advanced Search option by inserting industry-specific keywords. Then refine your search by filtering by location, company size and job role. Once you’ve identified your leads, reach out to them with personalized connection requests.  

  • What’s the impact? According to a LinkedIn report, tailored InMails based on advanced searches boasts a 15% higher open rate. 

Use Instagram but NOT just as a visual storefront  

Tip 1: Share stories and give your users a sneak peek of your brand  

  • What’s the first move? Share stories and updates and keep your audience engaged with the latest information, including behind-the-scenes snippets of your latest brand collaborations. Your audience should be in the know about what you are doing as a brand. If you’re sharing product related stories, leverage shoppable tags in stories and posts. This allows you to highlight products, list prices and direct users to the checkout page.  

  • What’s the impact? A luxury and lifestyle brand was able to increase its sales by up to 42% with Instagram shoppable tags and posts. 

 Tip 2: Engage with polls & quizzes  

  • What’s the first move? Design your questions carefully and customize them based on your end goal. Take advantage of Instagram's poll or quiz stickers in your stories to gauge product preferences or to simply gather feedback. 

  • What’s the impact? Setting up polls on Instagram Stories encourages healthy audience participation and boosts engagement. It’s also a great way to gather information and see what your audience likes (or doesn’t like). 

Tip 3: Boost brand visibility with partnerships and collabs  

  • What’s the first move? Focus on influencer marketing strategies. Collaborate with influencers who identify with your brand values, keeping your budget in mind. Send partnership requests for sponsored posts or account takeovers. 

  • What’s the impact? 82% of consumers say they are likely to follow a recommendation made by a micro-influencer.  

X is your real-time pulse checker 

Tip 1: Tap into trending topics and initiate conversations using unique brand hashtags  

  • What’s the first move? Engage in DMs, repost posts that are trending on the internet as well as those tagged with topical hashtags. For instance, Starbucks consistently celebrates its community on X, sharing quirky posts, user stories and their unique coffee experiences with hashtags like #starbuckscollection. 

  • What’s the impact? A recent study by X underscores that driving brand conversation on X has a direct impact on various stages of the marketing funnel. In addition, a modest 10% rise in brand conversations has resulted in a 3% increase in sales volume.  

    Starbuck's active engagement with followers on X (formerly known as Twitter)

How to choose a social selling tool in 4 easy steps 

In today's rapidly evolving social landscape, mastering the nuances of social selling has become paramount. Yet, investing time and resources into social media selling without a capable tool can be challenging.  

Here's how you should go about choosing the right social selling tool.  

Step 1: Make a vision board of your goals and objectives  

Before beginning your search, map out your objectives. Do you want to gather consumer insights? Or are you just looking for a tool that tracks social media conversations? Do a thorough research and sketch out the ideal features you want in your social selling tool.     

Step 2: Take a “test drive”  

Don’t be in a rush. Try out as many platforms as you can and opt for free trials whenever possible. Most leading tools in the market offer trial periods. Use this opportunity to explore the tool’s functionalities and assess how well it fits your intended social selling strategy approach.  

Step 3: Hassle-free integration capabilities  

Keep in mind that your social selling tool shouldn’t exist in isolation. It should be able to integrate seamlessly with all your other existing systems and tools, be it CRM, marketing or analytics tools. Simply put, seamless integration equals fewer tech glitches.  

Step 4: Value alignment over price point  

A critical mistake many of us make is equating cost with quality. While budgetary considerations are essential, prioritize the tool's features along with your strategy, vision and the overall value it can bring to the table. 

Here’s how you can boost your social selling strategy with Sprinklr Social

  • Categorize social conversations by intent and identify the ones worth engaging with to improve your sales while saving considerable time and effort 

  • Manage interactions across 30+ digital channels, including chat and messaging from a single, unified platform 

  • Reduce risk by sharing pre-approved brand communications with sales reps from a central auditable repository  

Successful social selling case-studies 

Bank of Montreal achieved a 150% spike in engagement with social selling  

The Bank of Montreal (BMO) wanted to amplify and optimize its social selling initiatives across its 185 branches, without compromising on compliance. BMO sought a reliable solution for streamlining the huge flow of information, with the ultimate goal being ensuring on-brand communication and boosting engagement with local communities and customers. 

With Sprinklr Distributed, BMO not only achieved a staggering 150% growth in publishing and engagement, but also earned an impressive 85% audience participation rate. In addition, it empowered 2500+ advisors with compliance training across 15+ diverse lines of business.  

SAP’s sales team outperformed its quotas by a mile 

The German software enterprise SAP's strategic implementation of social selling tools has proven to be beneficial to its entire sales community.  In fact, by honing the social selling skills of their sales teams, SAP witnessed a 32% surge in revenue. Furthermore, their teams became 10% more successful in meeting their quotas. What started out as a fresh tactical approach has now morphed into a significant pivot in SAP’s business strategy.  

Final thoughts 

Social media is ripe with opportunities for brands that are ready to tap into the power of social selling. As this landscape evolves, so should your strategies. Engage, empathize, and most importantly, listen! Your audience is talking, but are you listening?

Frequently Asked Questions

Social selling is the art of using social media platforms to find, connect with and nurture potential clients. Instead of traditional hard-selling techniques, it focuses on building genuine relationships and providing value to foster trust and drive sales.

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