Social selling: A personal approach to engaging with customers online

By Anne Kiely | Jan 28, 2022

Anne Kiely is a Content Operations Intern and writer at Ready for Social.

Do you want to showcase your company’s work and attract prospects in a digital world? Then it’s crucial to understand the main types of online selling. Social selling is often confused with the more general category of online selling, which includes social media marketing and employee advocacy. Social selling is a more targeted approach; it focuses on building relationships with customers using online tools. However, social selling does share some fundamental traits with other approaches to online sales. 

Creating awareness around a business 

Social selling, social media marketing and employee advocacy build awareness of a brand, product, company or individual. These techniques all involve spreading content through social media, which serves a purpose much like scattering seeds in the wind. Your messages may reach some people who aren’t interested, but they will plant seeds in some customers’ memories, leading to later sales. 

In general, creating awareness improves people’s impressions of businesses. According to studies of the “mere exposure effect,” customers who repeatedly see content from a given company develop more positive opinions about it. To build on the baseline effect created by repeated messaging, you should make sure that your content is not only consistent but also thoughtful and meaningful. 

Building purpose within a company 

In addition to establishing a business’s identity in customers’ minds, virtual sales strategies build unity among a company’s employees. The process of creating and sharing content helps emphasize why a business exists and why people choose to work there. In particular, asking workers to develop their own content provides opportunities to share their views and expertise, which can boost morale. 

When everyone is involved in social media communication, it’s easier to strengthen company culture. Whether your organization is people- or task-oriented, consistent or constantly innovating, it’s important to harness digital tools to celebrate those values. In addition, a vibrant culture and a sense of direction often improve employee motivation and engagement. 

If you only look at these fundamental traits, it’s easy to confuse social selling with other online selling methods such as social media marketing. However, while they share some core characteristics, there are significant differences that set social selling apart. 

A more personal tone 

Social selling is distinct from social media marketing and employee advocacy for the same reason that sales is different from PR and marketing. Sales involves forming relationships with prospects, whereas marketing and PR are about relaying information to a broad audience. As a result, social selling is more tailored for individual buyers and sellers than other types of online sales.  

When using social selling, employees share their own observations and anecdotes, use the pronoun “I” and communicate with small target audiences. Writing informative articles on LinkedIn or for local news sources is a great way to present your business as generous and helpful, as opposed to aggressive, and keep your brand at the “top of customers’ minds.” 

Listening and reacting with customers 

Social media marketing and employee advocacy sometimes involve responding to online content, but these responses usually focus on the company. In contrast, social selling is a far-sighted strategy. It’s about listening and reacting to customers’ thoughts and experiences without necessarily bringing the focus back to the company’s product. 

Listening is a crucial sales skill. Clarifying a person’s point to make sure you understand, maintaining awareness of emotional cues and asking insightful, open-ended questions are great ways to engage customers and make them feel heard. When a business becomes an active, helpful member of the industry community, customers see them as the natural choice for their future needs. 

The power of social selling in a world of digital noise 

Online platforms are transforming the sales world with their simple, large-scale marketing approach. While all forms of online marketing help build awareness and company identity, generic, often irrelevant messages are flooding customers’ feeds. 

Although social selling shares several qualities with other online sales methods, it’s set apart by a personalized tone and a lack of self-centeredness in customer interactions. Social selling is a customer-centered approach that puts a personal touch back into sales, draws genuine interest and can help you create authentic connections, which are often missing from conversations online. 

How do you communicate with customers in the digital landscape? Are you able to create meaningful connections with your clients? Let me know in the comments. 

Photos by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay; Photo Mix from Pixabay; and by monicore from Pixabay 


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