How to sell on social media

Friday, March 11, 2022

Social media has made it easier than ever for potential customers to learn about – and buy – your brand’s goods or services. Before social media existed, there was good old fashioned word of mouth. Consumers would ask friends and family for advice on buying all kinds of products and services. Those conversations still happen, but mainly in online social spaces. Unlike private conversations, on social media you can actually be a part of that conversation. Let’s talk about how to sell on social media – so you’re not only part of the conversation, but getting the sale, too.

Conversation illustration

Being a part of the conversation gives you opportunity to sell

In real life conversations, your prospective customer’s aunt’s best-friend’s brother’s negative opinion based on assumptions or a bad experience can go unchecked. With online conversations, you have a unique opportunity to set the record straight, rectify the problem, and impact your business reputation in real time. When advocating for your brand on social media, you can tailor your pitch to the exact needs and concerns of the potential customer instead of just talking about your business in broad strokes.

So how do you start selling online? It all begins with a strong social media presence, and only takes a little know-how. Let’s get started.

What is social selling?

Social selling is using social media platforms to connect with potential customers. But it’s not always about the actual sale. It’s how you build a connection with your audience and engage with potential leads. Think of it as social media relationship-building. By actively connecting and interacting with your target audience on social media platforms you can help them keep your business top of mind when they decide they’re ready to make a purchase.

Social selling can replace relationship-building activities and sales techniques, such as cold calling, that now seem old-fashioned. After all, when was the last time you picked up a cold call from a number you didn’t know?

Social selling consists of both outbound prospecting and inbound marketing techniques:

Outbound prospecting icon

Outbound prospecting
“Outbound” means putting your business, products, and or promotions out there in the market to try to attract interest. In this case, it’s about using social media to identify potential customer prospects, learning about where they are in their buying process, and connecting with them directly. It helps you find the right customers for your products and services.

Inbound marketing icon

Inbound marketing
“Inbound” is when prospects seek out more information about your business, products, or promotions and end up on your website, or social media platforms. This marketing type is about creating valuable content that attracts and educates customers, addresses their pain points and provides tailored experiences. It’s the relationship-building side of social selling.

Social selling is about nurturing leads vs. a hard closing tactic. It’s not a short game: social selling won’t yield quick wins, but the time and effort will be rewarded in the long run.

Sales reps that close deals 51% more than their peers say that social media is “very important” to their success in reaching their quota.

Source: LinkedIn

If your brand has a Facebook Business page, LinkedIn page, Twitter or Instagram, you’re probably already using social selling techniques.

Why is selling on social media important?

Social media networks offer businesses many ways to communicate with potential customers, find new customers and evangelize your brand. According to Kepios analysis, there are 4.55 billion people worldwide active on social media – that’s 57.6% of the global population. Social media platforms saw an increase of 490 million users in the pandemic year 2020.

Simply put, whether or not you’re engaging in social media, your potential customers and competitors are. On Instagram alone, 83% of Instagram users use the app to discover new products and services and 87% said they took specific action, such as making a purchase, after seeing product information, according to Meta (formerly Facebook).

Graphic showing statistics on social media selling

Engaging in social selling strategy, whether using your sales reps to reach out via social networks to find prospects or sell more directly through online stores via Facebook and Instagram Shopping, you can get the new business you want.

Social media marketing vs. social selling

Social selling and social media marketing aren’t separate paths you need to choose between. Let’s break it down a little so you can see how these concepts work together.

Social media marketing is using social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to promote and build a brand, increase sales and drive website traffic. It is used to achieve marketing and brand awareness goals through sharing valuable content about a brand organically or using paid social media advertising.

Image of a social media post with a “Boost Post” button

Social media marketing also involves listening and engaging with your audience, running social media ads and analyzing the metrics. It doesn’t have the same revenue generation goals as social selling – although it can and does help with sales. It’s more about generating interest, word of mouth and building familiarity with your audience. Whether it’s free or paid social media, it’s all about building awareness for your brand.

In contrast, social selling is focused on lead generation and sales goals. It’s still leveraging social media to interact and build relationships with potential and new customers. But instead of focusing on general brand awareness and positive associations, social selling is about really demonstrating understanding of a customer’s pain point or issue they’re trying to solve.

Image of a social media post with a “Show Now” button

Social selling often means targeting particular customer bases and companies that are a good fit for your offerings. For example, if you sell products or services with a B2B focus, targeting business owners and decision makers at companies that could clearly benefit from working with you could be a great social sales strategy. Salespeople will answer questions, acknowledge a potential customer’s pain point and offer support to help them.

When you combine both strategies, you can really gain traction with your social media sales and marketing efforts. By building a strong and consistent social media presence and running general marketing campaigns on social, you elevate your brand awareness. When your social media marketing campaigns attract attention and get more eyes on your brand, your sales team can identify potential customers and provide them with the color and context tailored to them. Your sales team can reinforce messaging and encourage a deeper relationship with potential customers.

Using both strategies offers your business a way to create meaningful, expansive social media campaigns that lead to an improved sales experience – with a better bottom line. Social media marketing and social selling are about building trust and relationships with potential customers, educating/letting them know your brand, and lastly, selling products or services.

Photo of a retail worker holding a tablet with images of products

How to sell products on social media

Know your core demographics

Matching your digital marketing strategy to your target audience’s demographics can help you choose the social media networks you should consider. Is your audience B2B? Then you’re more likely to identify and reach business decision makers on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you’re selling directly to consumers, considering platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube or Snapchat may be right for your business. In this digital age, customers want communications and offers that are customized for them. If you use a point of sale (POS) system, it’s possible that you’re already gathering a lot of data on your customers – you can put that data to work for you.

Create meaningful, valuable content

Social media users don’t care about your products or services until they know how you can improve their lives by using them. You have to provide your audience content that is original, engaging and valuable to them regularly.

Once you know your audience demographics and which social media platforms you’ll use, you’ll want to create content that works well on the channel. Tutorials may work well on LinkedIn or Instagram Stories, whereas limited-time discount codes may work better for Twitter. It’s essential to get into a steady cadence with content, but don’t overdo it. Consumers and decision makers don’t respond to inauthentic, sales-driven content or impersonal messaging that seems like spam.

If you’re always directing your audience to your website or buy your product in comments, that can put off potential customers. Too little content will seem like your business is inactive and too much seems spammy: You want to hit a “just right” cadence of posting to reach your goals.

Find thought leaders and influencers to build up your network

Building a network takes time and research to establish. Finding people who are thought leaders or influencers in your industry and engaging them with your brand can be time consuming, but it’s time well-spent. You’ll also want to find people that often use related keywords and hashtags. You can respond to their questions, comment on their posts, try retweeting them, or share their content you find that speaks to your brand. Engaging in these conversations helps you build relationships and helps them to develop their clout. It takes real effort to build your network, so help your sales and/or social teams to create goals to make sure you’re building your network well and getting the engagement you’re seeking.

Sell directly on social media platforms

Social media isn’t only a tool to help you find and cultivate potential customers – it’s now also a fantastic method for selling your products or services directly. Social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have created shopping experiences to help businesses sell on their sites as more businesses and brands shift to selling online.

Meta offers Facebook Shop and Instagram Shop, online storefronts where people can browse, explore and purchase your products directly. Twitter doesn’t provide an online storefront, but they offer ads and Promoted Tweets, allowing you to advertise and direct link to your website or product landing page. Read on for details about which social media platforms you can leverage for your social media sales and marketing efforts and how they work.

Illustration of a phone surrounded by icons used by Facebook

How to sell on Facebook

Facebook currently has the largest audience of any social media platform, with 2.8 billion monthly active users. According to the Pew Research Center, around seven-in-ten U.S. adults (69%) say they use Facebook. Facebook users under age 35 make up 61% of total users. Close to 57% of Facebook users self-identify as male and 43% identify as female. Men aged 25-34 make up the largest demographic group, at almost 19%. Facebook usage is high among US adults that earn more than $70,000 annually. Seniors are the smallest yet fastest-growing age demographic for Facebook. Among Americans aged 65+, 46% use Facebook. Luckily for small businesses, your target audience is likely on Facebook. And, it’s never been easier to sell on the platform.

Facebook Shop

Meta introduced Facebook Shop, a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook for free. Creating a shop has many ways for you to show off your brand. With Facebook Shop, you can:

  • Create collections of your products to show off brand assets that build your brand’s identity.
  • Add shopping engagement custom audiences to Facebook ad campaigns.
  • Respond to messages regarding orders quickly through Messenger and WhatsApp.
  • Get access to shoppers wherever they are from your Facebook Page, shoppable content in feed, stories and Live.
  • Get access to the popular Facebook Shop, a destination on the Facebook app where people can shop brands that they and their friends like for a discovery-oriented shopping experience.
  • Understand how your store is performing through Facebook’s Commerce Manager, allowing you to adapt your store to meet target customer need.

To use Facebook Shop, you must have a Facebook business page, a catalog you want to use for your shop and meet the Meta for Business Commerce Eligibility Requirements.

Facebook ads

Advertising on Facebook is about getting your business’ message in front of the right potential customers. Facebook ads allow you to build a target audience around the following:

A row of icons for target location, gender, language and age

You can specifically choose to include or exclude cities over a certain size for location. Detailed targeting for Facebook ads allows you to specifically include or exclude people based on demographics, interests and behaviors.

There are many types of Facebook ads, from lead ads that let Facebook users quickly share their contact info with you to Collection ads, which pair directly to a collection that allows users to buy your products without ever leaving Facebook.

To advertise on Facebook, you will need to have a Facebook business page. From there, you can use Facebook Ads Manager to get started.

Illustration of a phone surrounded by icons used by Instagram

How to sell on Instagram

Instagram isn’t far from Facebook in popularity. Instagram has more than 1 billion monthly active users globally. Instagram daily active users total around 500 million globally. According to SEMRush, 23.92% of the 4.18 billion active mobile internet users use Instagram at least once monthly. That’s the same number of people as the populations of Europe and North America combined. There is no sign of this platform’s growth slowing, so it’s a great opportunity for businesses to sell their products directly on the platform. Instagram claims that nearly half of people surveyed use Instagram to shop weekly.

The largest share of Instagram users is aged 18 to 34 and makes up about 60% of the platform’s total audience. Instagram is also the favorite platform of Gen Z – global users age 16 to 24, placing it even above TikTok. A little over half of Instagram users self-identify as female, with 49% identifying as male. An important thing to note: Instagram users are highly likely to have another social media account. 83% of Instagram users also use Facebook, and 55% are on Twitter. When considering your ad buy across platforms, you’ll want to make sure you’re not bombarding your target audience.

Instagram Shopping

Instagram Shopping is a set of features that allow people to easily shop your brand’s photos and videos all across Instagram. Meta introduced Instagram Shop, a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Instagram for free.

Creating a shop has many ways for you to show off your brand. With Instagram Shop, you can:

  • Create collections of your products to show off brand assets that build your brand’s identity.
  • Add shopping engagement custom audiences to Instagram ad campaigns.
  • Respond to messages regarding orders quickly through Messenger and WhatsApp.
  • Get access to shoppers wherever they are from your Instagram profile, Instagram ads with product tags or shoppable content in feed, stories, Instagram Live and Instagram Reels.
  • Get access to the popular Instagram Shop tab, a destination on the Instagram home screen where people can shop and discover new brands and personalized products.
  • Understand how your store is performing through Commerce Manager, allowing you to adapt your store to meet target customer need.

An Instagram Shop allows your business to sell and share your brand story in the app with potential customers. They can browse your products and collections.

The collections functionality allows you to curate your shop by putting products under themes, such as new arrivals, gifts and more. Product detail page functionality provides users with all relevant info on items from your product catalog, such as pricing and descriptions. Product detail pages also pull in content where the product is tagged on Instagram and drive people to your website to complete a transaction. There is checkout functionality directly in the app, so someone can buy without ever visiting your website. Checkout is currently available to eligible U.S. business and creator accounts. To be eligible to use Instagram Shopping, you need to have an Instagram Business account.

Instagram ads can get your business in front of a targeted audience. You can “boost” social posts to a wider audience or create specific advertisements for products or services. Instagram ads increase the reach of your content as well as include call-to-action buttons. These features help reduce the steps to get viewers to your store. Using Instagram ads can help you reach your sales goals faster and help you build your audience on Instagram.

Illustration of a phone surrounded by icons used by Twitter

How to social sell on Twitter

There is less direct product sales functionality on Twitter compared to Facebook and Instagram. There is no actual “shop” functionality – although you can advertise through Twitter by promoting your own tweets or creating ads. However, Twitter is great for social listening in real-time about what people think about your brand. Also, it’s an excellent place for your sales team to use social selling. On Twitter, it’s easy to find potential customer prospects and engage with them.

And according to Twitter, their users are influential and have a thirst for discovery. 53% of people on the platform are more likely to be the first to buy new products. The platform also says 26% of users spend more time viewing ads than other platforms. Twitter users skew male, with 70% of users identifying as male and only 30% identifying as female. Almost 30% of Twitter’s audience is aged 25 to 34, the largest age demographic on the platform, followed by 35- to 49-year-olds at 28%.

Social listening to find prospective new customers

Leading off with a sales pitch isn’t how it’s done in traditional sales – so why would it be on Twitter? Like traditional selling, you’d want to listen to the prospect to understand their needs and problems before ever pitching them via direct message (DM). Twitter makes it easy for you to listen to your prospects and find an opportunity to have your product save the day. Twitter allows you to follow and listen to prospects as they share what’s on their minds.

Using Twitter lists can give you a way to group your prospects to aid your sales strategy. Your groups could include:

A row of icons for companies, job titles, geographical locations and people you’ve interacted with in person

Focus on your Twitter content

Your Twitter content should reflect your brand. Your tweets should show off your product and industry knowledge and expertise – and be approachable and helpful. With social selling being all about relationships, think about each tweet potentially starting a conversation with your next potential customer.

In addition to your Twitter content, retweeting posts is key to building your following and engaging with your potential customer audience. Retweet and reply to thought leaders and influencers in your industry, as well as any prospective customers, when their content is good and reflects your business’s values and messaging. It can gain you followers and leads.

Engage first, then sell

When a prospect is engaging with you, you’re retweeting each other and more importantly, they know your brand? That’s the time to begin considering pitching them. Pitching before putting in the relationship building element is the same as cold calling, but in digital form. When they know who you are, you can start the sales conversation.

Illustration of a phone surrounded by icons used by LinkedIn

How to social sell on LinkedIn

As with Twitter, being successful with social selling on LinkedIn is all about relationships and credibility. According to LinkedIn, 62% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn generates leads at twice the rate of the next-best performing social channel. Let’s see how to use the platform best.

LinkedIn’s community of professionals is 700 million strong. 61 million of those are senior-level influencers, and 65 million are considered decision-makers, according to LinkedIn. The platform estimates 34% of 19 to 25-year olds and 41% of 26 to 35-year olds have decision-making responsibilities. While reaching C-suite-level executives is essential, senior individual contributors have an increasingly significant say in purchase decisions due to expanding buying committees.

Build credibility and mind your content

Like any social media platform, LinkedIn is about connections. To build credibility for your brand or profile, ask your connections for endorsements or recommendations. Building up your profile to show off skills and endorsements can help your credibility in the eyes of a prospective client. The endorsements should focus on your expertise – try to enlist customers or clients to highlight instances where you went above and beyond for them to achieve their goals.

Make sure the tenor of your content on LinkedIn is professional. Unlike other social platforms such as Instagram, where content is informal, LinkedIn is more formal. Formal doesn’t mean stiff; use your brand voice, but focus on credibility. Share information and content from credible sources, and keep content relevant about your industry and the business world in general.

LinkedIn is not Business Facebook – while it’s evolved over time to include status updates, blogging and direct messaging like other social media platforms, it started as a vehicle for corporate recruitment. So, you’ll have more success with thought leadership content about your industry on LinkedIn than Facebook. Save memes, funny videos and more informal content for your personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, not your LinkedIn.

Build up your LinkedIn network

Seek out contacts to extend your network reach. You can do this by using LinkedIn’s search function to find mutual connections to your existing contacts. Additionally, joining LinkedIn Groups relevant to your business and industry can help you find your peers and potential customers.

Consider using LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator is LinkedIn’s social selling tool. It is available for individual sales professionals, sales teams or enterprises. It helps you target the right decision makers, understand insights and build engagement. Analytic tools show performance metrics to give you or your sales team an understanding of where you are with goals. Sales Navigator is a paid tool, so you may want to consider the potential benefit for your business.

Illustration of a phone surrounded by icons used by LinkedIn

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Nearly 1,000,000 entrepreneurs trust Heartland to provide the technology to run and grow sustainable businesses – technology to make money, move money, manage employees, and engage customers. We develop tools to help entrepreneurs respond to market changes and stay competitive. We know it’s not enough to just look good and have fancy features. That’s why Heartland delivers human-tech across all of our solutions, service, and support. All designed to help entrepreneurs overcome the challenges encountered every day. Learn more at heartland.us