In the modern digital business environment, companies of all sizes need to find routes to sales in a multichannel environment. This new reality has caused the disciplines of marketing and sales to converge in ways that they never have before. One of those ways is known as social selling, and it's now a core part of the digital strategy of many, if not most, businesses.
The trouble is, most marketing and sales organizations have little knowledge of what it takes to build an effective social selling strategy. Most of the reason for that is a simple lack of experience in doing it since it's a discipline with a short history of being included in the sales cycle. So, to help businesses just starting out on the road to building a social selling strategy, here's a step-by-step road map of what the process looks like and how to make sure you've covered all of the bases.
Step 1: Figure out where your core audience is
The first step in building a social selling strategy is to do some exploratory research to figure out where the business's primary audience spends its time online. Since there are now a multitude of social media sites and platforms for customers to choose from, that process may not be as simple as it seems. For example, business to business (B2B) customers may be easiest to reach on sites like LinkedIn and Twitter, but that also depends on the types of products you're trying to sell.
So, to make sure that your social selling strategy is aimed at the right social media channels, it's a good idea to do some social listening to gather data about brand and product mentions across the spectrum of social media sites. To complement that effort, it's also a good idea to use existing sales and marketing data like net promoter scores and purchase histories to identify your most loyal and valuable existing customers, and to reach out to them to ask which social media platforms they favor. Between the two types of information, it should be possible to develop a shortlist of platforms where potential customers and existing ones tend to congregate.
Step 2: Create and optimize social media profiles
The next step in the process of getting a social selling strategy off the ground is to create and optimize the business's profiles on the social media platforms targeted based on the previous step's research. In the context of social selling, those profiles have to be much more than just a bland representation of the business; they must communicate the business's mission, strengths, and its value proposition to customers—all communicated in buyer-centric language designed to prompt engagement.
To get this step right, businesses should aim for a profile that includes messaging in an authentic brand voice that doesn't try to pander to the audience. Within the copy, it's worthwhile to work in some high-value target keywords that resonate with the audience you're trying to reach. Doing so will increase the profile's visibility with the target audience via organic search and on-platform suggestions.
Step 3: Identify and follow relevant accounts
To get the business's social media accounts involved in the conversations that prospects are having, it's important to identify other users and businesses on the target platforms who are relevant to the audience you're trying to reach. The goal is to follow those accounts so that your business can participate in ongoing conversations and become part of the circles of your key audience cohort. To get started, conduct an in-depth study of the accounts of users identified in Step 1 to see if there are any account follows that overlap between them. Those overlapping follows will be the beginnings of your social follow list.
After that, you can round out the list of accounts to follow by searching for other businesses in related industries and by searching for conversations connected to the industry you're operating in. With some careful digging, it should be possible to build a list of accounts to follow that will give your business instant access to the prospects you're trying to target and allow you to begin engaging with them in an organic way.
Step 4: Design a content creation program
To begin creating the kind of engagement with prospects and existing customers that drives a social selling strategy, it's necessary to start creating content to share that will get their attention. Doing this may be accomplished as an extension of an already-existing content marketing program, or as a social content creation effort built from the ground up.
In both cases, the key to success is to do some Google analytics research to figure out some topic areas that the audience will respond to. Then, develop a rigorous A/B testing program to help fine-tune the messaging used to deliver the content to the audience. The process should allow you to develop content style guidelines that can serve as the foundation for future content creation to fuel social selling efforts.
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Step 5: Take advantage of platform-specific tools
One of the key goals of a social selling strategy is to leverage social media sites to drive traffic to whichever sales medium your business uses. For most digital businesses, this means trying to shepherd prospects to an ecommerce site to get them into a pre-existing sales funnel. Depending on the platforms your strategy is targeting, however, this may be an inefficient process that wastes valuable sales opportunities.
As an alternative, sites like Instagram and Facebook allow business accounts to sell products straight from their social accounts. This eliminates the attrition that often occurs in the hand off from your social profile to your primary ecommerce site. For example, activating the Instagram Shopping feature on your business's profile there creates an instant showcase for products that your followers can purchase on the spot—which makes the transaction easier, and thus, more attractive to your prospects.
Step 6: Prepare to measure engagement
At this stage of the process, everything should be in place to allow your business to implement the social selling strategy created over the previous five steps. The only thing left to do is to set up a process to measure and track engagement with the content you're posting on your social channels. This is the best way—aside from tracking the resulting sales—to see how well your social selling strategy performs.
This is a critical step because better engagement will increase your social reach and therefore increase your opportunities to sell. To capture the best possible picture of engagement, it's a good idea to create a custom engagement score that weighs performance based on the goals you deem most important to your strategy.
For example, having your content shared far and wide might be weighted heavily in the early days of social selling, but eventually would be less crucial as your influence spreads. At that point, a metric like conversions might become the highest weighted outcome a piece of content can achieve. The point is, having a sliding scale point system lets you create a single engagement metric that you can adjust to match your social selling goals over time.
And that's all there is to it. After going through this six-step process, a business should have built a solid social selling strategy that it can put into effect immediately. It provides all of the targeting, content creation, and measurement processes needed to create a self-sustaining cycle of social sales that should become a valuable addition to the business's marketing and sales arsenal. With hard work, time, and a little bit of good luck, that ought to be enough to create a sales engine to feed its bottom line for as long as customers keep flocking to social media platforms.