In marketing, we encounter business buzzwords every day that make us roll our eyes. Heck, we’re even guilty of using them when we say your business should be a “thought leader,” a “disruptor,” or even an “innovator.” But I’m actually a fan of one of the latest business buzzwords on the scene. Social selling.

While not an entirely new concept, the idea of social selling is gaining a pretty large following for its effectiveness in small business marketing on social media.

So what exactly is social selling?

If you’re familiar with sales tactics, you may have heard of “consultative selling.” With consultative selling, sales teams move away from pushing their product or service and toward acting as a true consultant with target customers. They ask questions, learn about prospects’ needs, nurture relationships, and share helpful insights, all with the hope that at some point, prospects will arrive at their own conclusion that they can’t live without whatever’s being sold. No pushy sales pitch needed.

Social selling is kind of like that, but on social media. Instead of using social media to share promotions and push products or services, businesses can use social media to build and nurture relationships well enough that they’ll be top of mind when consumers decide they need a specific product or service.

It’s selling, without really “selling,” so to speak.

9 Ways to Use Social Selling

1. Establish your social channels and posting rhythm.

You can’t do social selling without a solid social media presence in the first place. That’s not to say you should have a presence on every single channel out there. In fact, you should really choose 2-3 channels that fit your business and target market best. Then, commit to a posting rhythm that resonates best for users of those channels.

Not sure which social channels to choose for your business? We can help you stand out on social media.

2. Follow folks.

If you’re waiting for consumers to find you and follow you first, you’ll be waiting a long time. The first step in making connections and building your following is to follow first. Follow adjacent businesses, even competitors, and their followers too. On most social media channels, these people and pages will be notified when you do so, and they’ll likely follow you back.

3. Start creating content.

Once you have a following, don’t let your pages stay static. It’s time to create content you know your target audience will relate to.

Ask yourself questions like:
  • What do my customers like? What don’t they?
  • Can I give them advice on something?
  • Why did they follow me in the first place?

Create content you’d want to read. Because according to the social selling methodology, most consumers didn’t follow you to be sold. They followed you because there was something in it for them.

4. Start sharing other people’s content.

Creating content takes time; we know that. Don’t think that has to slow you down!

Not everything you share has to be totally fresh and authentic. You can actually use posts and content from other businesses, pages, and even individuals, to build your social media presence.

Content ideas worth sharing on social media:
  • A relevant post from another small business in your area
  • Consumer questions you can answer
  • A positive consumer-generated rating or review of your business

5. Pay to play.

With an increase in Facebook privacy concerns, Facebook has made public statements about their efforts to reduce the amount of ads and spam consumers see from businesses and third parties. So posts that may have once gotten in front of large audiences thanks to organic engagement soon might not do so well on their own.

Give your posts a boost (literally a boost, on Facebook anyway) to increase the odds they’re seen. Or, dip your toe in further with paid advertising plans.

Don’t forget, just because you’re paying to advertise doesn’t mean you should be blatantly pushing your products and services. Social selling says you can pay to advertise helpful content too, with longer-term benefits.

6. Use social media as a customer service tool.

Most social media sites (especially Facebook) prioritize their placement of ratings and reviews on business pages. As long as your service model isn’t totally terrible, this can actually be really good news for you.

When you get reviews that are less than desirable, respond and act right away. Not only will you get to handle problems more quickly than you would have with an old school game of phone tag, you’ll get kudos from other consumers who see how well you respond to feedback.

7. Get your team involved.

One of the most critical steps in social selling is giving a face to your business. You already have this advantage over big brands, since small business owners are typically much closer to daily operations than leaders of big businesses are.

To use social media to push this competitive advantage even further, get your team involved. Sound a little crazy? It’s not. 76% of companies actually involve their employees in their marketing efforts.

Consider letting your team hook their personal accounts into the business one so they can post and share great content with their networks. (Salons and spas love this trick, since their stylists and staff are likely already sharing great content about their work!)

If you’re hesitant to give your team too much access, post your own pictures of them in action at work. Remember, people don’t buy from brands. They buy from people.

8. Collect leads.

You may already do this, but if not, use your social media not as a selling tool, but as a lead generation tool. Most social channels will let you choose call-to-action buttons or include actionable links. While it may be tempting to set all of these buttons and links to “Book Now” or “Buy Now,” consider a softer approach.

Instead, choose “Contact Us” or “Subscribe” so you can get their phone numbers or email addresses for future opportunities to build upon these relationships.

9. Nurture those leads.

If you’re engaging people on social media using social selling, and you’re gathering leads, don’t let them go to waste! Use your other channels, like text and email marketing, to continue getting your small business in front of interested consumers.

Pro tip: The tricky part here is transferring those leads into a contact list or customer relationship management (CRM) system you can use to nurture them. That’s where business management software like Thryv comes in. Once you collect leads through your social selling efforts, Thryv helps you nurture them without having to move contact information from tool to tool.