From Social Presence To Social Selling: 5 Tips For Making The Leap

How can brands transform superficial engagement into purchases?

By Dana Olivas

Social

Consumers rarely first learn about your brand from your website. Instead they tend to hear about it from their friends, both offline and online, and the various reviews, comments, and articles they read online. And the first destination they visit is often your social accounts. These customers want a personalized connection with brands; they want to see how you deal with issues, what kind of company personality you have, and how much you engage with your customers. So they usually head to your social pages because they know those will be more revealing than your official website.

Building a social media presence is marketing 101 these days. Businesses from startups to enterprises understand the necessity of some type of social platform, even if it’s a simple Facebook page.

The problem? Too many brands stop there and think that posting contests, photos, and blog posts is enough. In today’s digital landscape, turning social engagement into sales requires a little more strategy.

Leads and prospects feel alienated when brands try to sell from behind a faceless, corporate wall.

Look at it this way; personal referrals are often the leading source of new customers. People trust their friends’ and families’ opinions precisely because of the personal connection involved; there’s an element of trust that no ad can compete with. That’s why social accounts are so valuable. Brands can cultivate that same trust with that more personal touch and then connect their sales efforts to that personalized sphere.

Which brings us to the next problem. While many brands recognize the sales potential in social media, they often take a laissez-faire attitude and assume the conversions will happen on their own. This is generally an unwise idea.

If you let your social presence diminish, your customers will quickly manage your online reputation for you. It’s well documented that customers with complaints and negative commentary are often more motivated to share their feelings online than happy customers. If that dynamic plays out on your social accounts, your brand will acquire a skewed image.

You must strategically curate the right social ambiance and guide it for maximum selling effectiveness. Here’s how.

5 Social Selling Tips

1. Make Your Social Selling Strategy A Priority

Too often brands will say, “Oh, it’s just social media. We’ll have an intern do it.” Or they’ll kick it over to the most junior person in the office, usually someone right out of college.

What they fail to grasp is that social media and social selling are different.

Posting party pictures on Facebook and Instagram is a far cry from handling a company’s strategy, content, and online reputation. The person in charge needs to understand the persuasion that’s at the heart of all social selling.

For instance, there’s an art to handling negative comments. Done well, a response can actually drive more business than a complimentary review. But you need someone who understands the strategy behind it. That person also needs to make the right connections and nurture them carefully.

Rather than simply following or friending a horde of new names, it’s smarter to set aside time every day to reach out to one new person, respond to mentions, and slowly grow the relationship. That approach will deliver 20 new personal relationships a month, rather than a blast of contacts who immediately forget you in their sea of other contacts.

2. Cultivate The Right Tone

Authentic is a buzzword for a good reason: customers know when they’re being told the truth and they like it. Once upon a time, sales people would attend seminars on slick selling tactics. Now many of them will apply those practices to the Internet and it always rings false.

Today’s consumers are digitally savvy. They can recognize hype from a hundred yards off. It’s like choosing between a candid photo and a stock photo; people can tell the difference and they’ll choose the real photo every time.

So if you’re tempted to create a fake social media personality for your brand, don’t. Instead, share who your company really is through your tone.

If you’re family-oriented, show it in your blog posts. Share your client philosophy. Develop a relationship, just as you would a customer in the store.

This is a good time, incidentally, to think about your brand image. Are you playful? Authoritative? Inject that feeling into your social content.

Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain – buyers like to see the personal element. What happens behind the scenes? Who are the leaders and what are they like?

3. Go Where Your Market Is

For the longest time, if you didn’t have a product that was some kind of cutting-edge cell phone or big new game system, marketers believed they didn’t have a seat at the social table. But that just isn’t true.

No matter what kind of business you run, you can be successful at social selling. It’s just the platforms that differ.

Marketers targeting moms or consumers interested in fashion will probably find their buyers on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram, as those platforms offer a window into the customer’s soul and foster the deep loyalty B2C brands want to create.

Less “sexy” products, on the other hand, usually have a longer buying process involved, which makes collaboration, education, and networking top priorities. If you’re selling insurance, cleaning products, cloud technology or other, less flashy products, you’re going to have more success positioning yourself as someone who can educate the market.

LinkedIn is an obvious choice for building those connections and posting strategic content, but don’t forget about Google+. Plenty of marketers who are selling products you aren’t likely to impulse-buy in the grocery store checkout line are advertising their value and expanding their networks by holding Hangouts and posting blog posts.

4. Saying No Is As Important As Saying Yes

When it comes to social selling, there’s an immense – you might even say endless – number of activities and initiatives you can launch. While that might seem promising, chasing too many options can sabotage your program.

Plenty of digital sales teams will become overwhelmed and execute weakly in a high number of areas, rather than performing strongly in a few.

The solution here: enlisting the help of good tools that can map out your activities. Programs like HootSuites can help make social curation and selling more manageable. They can also set boundaries and curtail your impulses to do too much or not enough; for every person who forgets to update their social accounts, someone else will dive in and lose too many hours posting, sharing, and reading content.

5. Measure And Adapt

Another social selling myth is that social success can’t be measured. It can. This is another instance where the right tools can be a big help.

For instance, looking at analytics can tell you if the demographics are actually matching up with your customer personas. You can also treat social as a free focus group, trying out products and measuring response.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that social success can take different forms. For instance, if a piece of content went viral, that’s a success. The ROI in terms of exposure might be hard to quantify but the value is still undeniable.

The best approach is to have an intention for every post and campaign you share and monitor your results – then adjust based on response.

Conclusion

Selling is about relationships – and social media is all about building relationships. To transform superficial engagement into purchases, teams must employ the same efforts, such as buyer personas, nurture campaigns and education, that they would in any sales initiative. By fusing those strategies with the personal authenticity of social platforms, brands can inspire the kind of connections that drive conversions, and amplify their sales power.

Is social selling a priority for your brand? Why or why not?

Dana Olivas

Marketing Director, LeadMD

Dana Olivas is marketing director at LeadMD. Dana has over a decade of experience in marketing, ranging from small businesses to multi-billion dollar companies. She has worked in social selling since 2010 for B2B and B2C brands. More of Dana's expertise can be found on LeadMD's blog.

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