How Your Business Can Start Social Selling to Improve Lead Generation
There’s a high chance that your business may already be engaged in the basics of social selling, especially if you have a LinkedIn or Twitter account or are actively engaged on forums like Quora and Reddit, as these are ideal platforms to ‘social sell’.
Social selling, in short, is when businesses find and engage with prospects through social media channels. By answering questions, joining conversations, sharing valuable content or responding to content posts, companies can nurture their prospects with the aim of turning them into qualified leads. The term 'sell' in the title is a little misleading as it refers to the sales process rather than the sale itself.
The time it takes for prospects to become qualified (if they ever do), depends on a number of factors. For example, someone may be already using a product or service but could potentially be thinking of making a switch to a different brand or provider. This may mean that they don’t reach out to you straight away because they are not ready to make a change. However, this doesn’t mean you should stop social selling to these users. At this stage, you should aim to position yourself as an expert in your field and provide your prospects with valuable, educational and relevant content that can answer their questions and help simplify their challenges (even if you don’t know them personally or have them in a database).
Who does social selling apply to?
Social selling can be applied to anyone and to any business. However, a lot of what we cover in this article is around how to social sell on an B2B basis, from an individual or personal account as this is where people often have a greater chance of becoming thought leaders in their field. That’s not to say business accounts don’t serve a purpose and don’t work for social selling (they definitely do). However, the strategy tends to be most effective when using high C-Suite level individual accounts. This is because these are the people your potential customers are more likely to follow for insight and are likely to elevate your businesses brand the most. It’s important to remember that, although less vital, social selling throughout all levels of an organisation from intern to director is still of value.
Social Selling Channels
Where to find and engage with prospects
Your type of business will guide which channels you focus on for social selling. As the world’s largest social network for professionals, LinkedIn may well be the best B2B bet. However, Twitter is also a useful platform for social selling because so many people use it in their day-to-day lives and it has more of a B2B presence than maybe Facebook or Instagram. There isn’t a 'one size fits all' channel and understanding who your customers are will help you identify which platform (or platforms) you should be using.
Twitter, is inherently a ‘social’ platform and can be used in a more light-hearted manner than LinkedIn, for example. However, if you’re coming to Twitter from a purely professional perspective, you are less likely to to engage successfully with your B2B audience and so your social selling will be less effective. Instead you need to adapt your content to the right channel and engage people in different ways, aligning with their intent and what they expect from each channel.
A personal Twitter account can be used to share a news article that’s on your website. However, it should also include content around community involvement or activities you may have been involved in. This shows you as real person, not just as a business and gives your prospect a more human impression of your brand.
Platforms like Twitter are also perfect for B2C businesses to engage with consumers. Channels like this allow brands to speak directly to their audience by commenting, retweeting, taking part in the conversation and liking content. Not only helping to show they care and are interested in what their audience talks about, it also helps to engage the audience with the brand in a way that lives the brand personality and via a channel the audience is comfortable with.
Twitter also allows you to follow other thought leaders or relevant people related to your business. It’s important to follow and engage with these people as they can vicariously help you to grow your own following. These leaders can also be helpful in keeping you up to date with important trends and helping to generate fresh ideas for your own content.
On the other hand, LinkedIn should be solely the preserve of professional content and is more often than not reserved for B2B interaction. This doesn’t mean it can only be used for articles, thought pieces or industry news, but it does mean everything you share on LinkedIn should have some relation to work or your professional life.
LinkedIn groups are a powerful tool for B2B social selling. They bring together like-minded connections that are likely to be interested not only in what you’re saying but also in what you’re selling. The most important aspect of social selling in LinkedIn groups is to be helpful and provide value. If you join a group and all you do is try to sell your product or service, you will simply end up annoying people (and you may be removed). Instead provide valuable insights through blog posts and comments on other member’s posts. Some general advice for groups would be to introduce yourself when you join and always comment when you believe you can provide an alternative/supporting and interesting point of view.
On a LinkedIn account it’s advisable to maintain the following split in your content:
- 50% External Posts
- 25% Company Posts
- 25% Personal Posts
How many posts should I create?
There is no defined number of posts you should post every week, month or year. However, the key is to be consistent. You shouldn’t post every day one week and then once a week for a month. One golden rule is to only post when you actually have something to say; don't post for the hell of it but also, don't stop posting. You just need to put some effort into finding useful content or developing a perspicacious opinion to share. A second even more golden rule is to remember what goes on the internet is there forever and you should never post anything that can be read by the world.
Aim to keep your content consistent in style, tone and volume. If someone has connected with you because they like your thought leadership on your profile and have seen some of your responses, they will be expecting content aligned with that.
As a guide to start with we would recommend your post around 2-3 times a week, maximum as a B2B professional. This is important as you don’t want to oversaturate someone’s feed and have them get sick of your content. That said, too little content can decrease engagement and you may not show in anyone’s feed at all! Find your balance.
Social Selling Personas
One of the main challenges businesses face when they look to improve their social selling strategy is how prospects should be spoken to. What kind of content do they care about? What are the problems they face on a daily basis? What action has driven them to make a certain decision or to search for information? These are huge questions; understanding who your customers actually are and what problems they may have takes time and effort. However, having the answers to these questions will help you to successfully convert prospects into qualified leads.
To answer these questions, you need to develop buyer personas. You might already have a few personas outlines or at least have a basic understanding of their demographics. However, although these work to an extent, they often fail to provide you with the necessary detail you need to implement an effective social selling strategy. Instead we would recommend using the ‘jobs to be done’ persona framework. These more accurate personas are invaluable in delivering a better understanding of what prompts a potential buyer to take action.
Here is the basic framework for ‘jobs-to-be-done’. The key is to understand the ‘job’ which the consumer needs to complete and which motivates them to seek a solution.
When… (the situation that triggers the struggle)
Help me… (struggle motivating them)
So, I can… (what’s the goal and what is this helping them accomplish)
How can ‘jobs to be done’ be used in a social selling scenario?
Social selling is all about improving how your business is perceived. You want prospects to visit your social channels and see that you:
- Are a thought leader
- Are experienced
- Are knowledgeable
- Can Provide Results
- Have a similar ethos to them or have one they aspire to
- Are consistent
- Can solve their specific problem
- And more…
The problem with all these ideas is that they will look different to everyone or at least every persona. With your ‘jobs-to-be-done’ personas you can tailor your content and messaging so it’s as effective and relevant to both the persona and the job to be done, as possible. If you can manage to do all these things, you’ll be sure to be running an effective social selling campaign.
The key with all these ideas is to be consistent and be relevant. What you put out on these channels is a reflection on your business as well as you personally and should always be done to the same high standard.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning social selling is not a quick fix or a vehicle for quick returns or lead generation. Instead, social selling is often a long process that takes time, but you will be sure to see the results and the engagement if you commit and do it correctly.
Turning Social Selling into Leads
The ultimate goal of any social selling endeavour is that ‘eventually’ you’re going to see an upturn in lead generation and therefore provide value added to your business. But how do you know when it’s time to contact your users and turn them from qualified prospects to high value leads?
Social selling by nature is a fairly passive strategy. You are rarely going to directly contact your audience. This is one of the main positives of this strategy; as it requires less manual work, but is one of the main negatives as well. Done well and over time, social selling will naturally bring in leads who’ll contact you, making it a useful part of your implementation of the inbound methodology. However, social selling can be used provide you with an engaged audience when you chose to reach out as well.
A perfect example of using social selling to create an audience which you can then capitalise on, is through ads. On platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn you can create audiences from your follower network and connections which you can then target with lead generation ad formats. These formats work well as you can then get these qualified leads into a database where you can push them through to the final stages of the customer journey.
Another, potentially simpler example, is to respond to people’s questions on these channels with your solution or service. If you provide a solution that you know will help, people should be happy to hear it. But be sure not to push too hard and aim to be helpful more than anything else. Another added benefit of this is you can respond to people’s challenges as they happen, making you the first solution they come across. Even if your service isn’t applicable; but you know you can help solve that person’s issue, you can demonstrate and your knowledge and expertise, reinforcing your position as a thought leader.
Finally, you should always ensure you are easily contactable. Make sure your details are accessible on your profile as well as your website and enable notifications so that you can quickly respond to any direct messages you might receive. In addition, tools such as chat bots on your site can help greatly with ensuring you and your business are contactable 24/7. Be sure to check out our blog on how chatbots are taking over marketing for more information around this.
If you would like more information on some of the ideas and steps discussed in this article, please do get in touch with our experienced team of social marketers who will be delighted to help.