Traditionally, businesses have focused their sales and marketing efforts on pushing information to potential customers through one-way channels like advertisements, direct mail, and push notification marketing.
The winners in social selling understand that engaging and two-way dialogues with customers are more valuable than one-way messages and it is an effective marketing strategy.
As a result, social media platforms are filling up with communities of experts and enthusiasts sharing advice and experiences.
Marketers must go to where the customers are to establish a genuine two-way dialogue, so the results of b2b social selling can be truly transformative.
What is B2B social selling?
Social selling is a method of selling that leverages the power of social media.
Rather than relying on one-way communication from a salesperson, customers can engage with the company and receive answers to their questions via social media channels directly from employees in the company, potentially cutting out the middleman.
While some business prospects may feel intimidated by a B2B salesperson, they may feel less hesitant if they can engage directly with an employee or representative of the company.
Social selling allows companies to show a friendly face to potential customers.
It also gives the company access to data and feedback from potential and current customers that a salesperson wouldn’t otherwise have access to, which ensures an excellent customer service experience.
As social selling continues to become more commonplace, it’s important to keep in mind that the definition of social selling may continue to evolve.
While the basics of social selling remain the same – using social media to connect with potential customers and build relationships – the definition may become more refined as social selling becomes more standard.
The benefits of social selling
According to LinkedIn Sales Solutions ‘internal data: Businesses that are leaders in the social selling space create 45% more sales opportunities than brands with a low social selling index.Hootsuite
As the benefits of social selling become apparent, more and more businesses are making it part of their marketing mix. Benefits include:
Ease of use and high return on investment (ROI)
According to Gartner, “the average ROI on social media programs is between 200% and 500%, depending on the program.”1
As businesses increasingly look for ways to connect with their customers and prospects, social selling has emerged as a powerful tool.
By leveraging the power of social media, businesses can reach a wider audience, build relationships and trust, and ultimately drive sales.
What makes social selling so appealing is its ease of use and high return on investment (ROI).
And because social selling is based on building relationships and trust, it can be an extremely effective way to boost sales with an increased customer acquisition rate.
Even though a traditional sales force can achieve remarkable results, it can cost a company hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars per year.
In contrast, social selling can be a very effective and cost-efficient way to reach buyers and can be highly scalable.
Identifying and reaching target audiences
In traditional B2B marketing and sales, most businesses had difficulty in knowing for certain who would be interested in the products and services they were offering.
B2B marketers and salespeople had to make some guesses on taking a business risk, which meant reaching a little of everyone and hoping that the targets actually would be interested in the offers.
Where social media platforms such as LinkedIn allow you to target specific audiences, this problem becomes less overwhelming.
B2B content marketers, like you, can reach customers with messages and content specifically relevant to your products and services.
This means higher engagement and a greater impression of your brand, which leads to greater sales potential. It is an ideal business growth strategy.
Measurement and analytics literacy
With traditional b2b marketing and sales, it was difficult to determine whether a certain strategy was effective at bringing in new satisfied customers or growing revenue. Much of the evaluation had to be done by guesswork.
With social media, businesses can tap into a larger pool of qualified leads than ever before and make better business decisions. This means fewer wasted leads and higher conversion rates.
Social media has ushered in a new era of b2b social selling, where business decision-makers can measure and analyze the impact of specific social media activities on their brands and business performance.
For example, Facebook Insights shows how many people saw each post, what type of posts were viewed, and how much time users spent on it. Twitter Analytics also provides similar information.
These tools help marketers understand what types of posts work best and when.
One of the most common complaints among consumers today is poor customer service. Every business should always aim for customer retention if not having satisfied customers.
According to the American Customer Satisfaction Index, only 63% of U.S. adults reported receiving excellent customer service over the past 12 months. In contrast, 88% of those surveyed said they received excellent customer service from small business owners.
The good news is that social media allows companies to provide exceptional customer service. Customers are more likely to respond positively to a company that takes the time to address concerns and answer customer queries.
It’s not uncommon for companies to receive hundreds of comments per day on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.
By responding quickly, companies can gain valuable feedback that will help them improve their products and services and encourage customer loyalty.
They can also learn about problems that need immediate attention, avoiding angry customers giving bad feedback.
For free, online social media platforms provide an inexpensive way to establish and maintain a presence where your target audience is likely to be.
Also, because you don’t need to fly around the country to meet with potential customers, social selling can cause significant savings on travel expenses.
In addition, there are no printing costs associated with brochures, flyers, or other printed materials.
And since these platforms are so easy to use, you won’t have to hire employees to manage the process.
As a result, social media can save companies money while increasing their exposure to prospective clients.
Social media presence and online engagement result in faster feedback and faster progress toward business goals than traditional means of marketing and sales.
The immediacy of social media makes it possible to see results almost immediately from your business building activities.
For example, if you run a contest on Facebook, you can track which pages generated the most traffic within minutes. You can then compare this data against the number of entries and decide which page needs improvement.
Similarly, if you want to know how many people clicked on your link, you can check the analytics tool provided by your social network platform. If you want to find out who visited your website, you can simply look at the list of visitors on your site.
This kind of instant feedback helps you make better decisions and move forward more efficiently.
The advantages of b2b social selling are obvious: greater reach, scale, and impact; along with enhanced marketing and branding in the current market, research capabilities, and the ability to measure and analyze.
Thanks to the instantaneous nature of social media, businesses can expect to see results from their promotional efforts almost immediately.
The challenges of b2b social selling
Even though the benefits of B2B social selling efforts are compelling, the internal business process is not necessarily easy. There are several challenges that stand in the way of successful business growth plans through social selling campaigns, including:
When considering these challenges, it’s understandable that some B2B brands might feel discouraged about the future of social selling.
However, there are several elements underlying the practice of social selling that will inevitably grow and improve the experience for both customers and employees.
The key elements shaping the B2B social selling future
Despite these challenges, the next few years will see social selling develop into an integral part of how B2B brands reach out and establish new connections with potential customers.
New scale requirements
Scale is a challenge for many companies aspiring to build a strong social selling team. B2B brands might consider scaling via outsourcing services like social media management, automation, or a Bot/AI-driven capability.
B2B marketers will need to strengthen their skills to master the elements required for successful social selling engagements when natural opportunities come.
The most accomplished social sellers will sense, think, and act like entrepreneurs in the brand’s world, bringing a personalized positive user experience to every encounter.
New models of engagement
Engagement makes social media social. It’s the core component driving the success of business-to-consumer (B2C) social media and social marketing, but it’s often an afterthought in B2B social media practices.
When building a social selling strategy, making engagement a top priority ensures relationships are central to the process.
Several new models of market strategy will emerge over the next few years. In fact, we’ve seen it emerge during the pandemic.
An emerging development is virtual events hosted on social media, like conferences with business event professionals at the forefront.
B2B brands can hold virtual conferences each year, allowing business influencers around the world to attend without leaving their offices.
Future virtual events may require meet-ups or other in-person events to take place with the virtual event, thus creating a multisensory experience that’s exciting for both participants and the brand and which can bring many benefits to companies.
Minimum friction micro-interactions
Another business model that will develop over the next few years is what I call micro-interactions, which are brief, meaningful exchanges between a brand and potential customers that don’t require a traditional sales call or visit.
Many brands are already experimenting with micro-interactions; for example, a B2B software company might provide users with links to relevant educational content.
As this practice becomes more widespread, we’ll see more B2B companies integrating micro-interactions into their customer service, market development strategies, and sales efforts.
These brief, easy-to-absorb content snippets will become an essential part of how B2B brands connect with potential customers.
Rather than making a big push on a single occasion, B2B companies will develop persistent, ongoing interactions that feel like a friendly handshake rather than a pushy sales attempt.
While content marketing has focused on creating and sharing stories across various channels and platforms to build brand awareness, B2B social sellers know narratives can inspire and move leads along the customer journeys toward purchase.
Rather than telling a wide-angle story, what if you focused on a specific industry problem, solved by your brand or product?
By narrowing the narrative down to a specific problem solved by your brand, you allow potential customers to recognize their own struggle in the story you’re telling.
This can create powerful, two-way conversations where customers feel acknowledged and your brand seems more relevant and connected to the interests of potential customers.
Specifically, vertical stories focus on a particular industry and can be shared via personal experience or a case study within the B2B space.
For example, an electrical contractor could share an article sharing best practices for keeping customers safe titled, “The Electrical Contractor’s Guide to Fire Safety for Commercial Buildings,” sharing valuable information with potential and existing customers.
Including this in your business plan serves as a starting point for engaging in conversations and could lead to potential sales opportunities.
Besides building brand awareness and creating opportunities for connection with users, vertical stories can build credibility with potential customers.
With attention receding, what better way to capture an audience than through vertical narratives.
Social selling has been around for years, but it wasn’t until recently that we started seeing the emergence of process automation tools.
These tools have made it easier than ever before to automate repetitive tasks, such as scheduling posts, sending emails, and managing leads.
Automation allows companies to save time and money while improving efficiency.
It frees up employees’ time so they can spend it doing something else. And it helps companies reduce costs because it reduces the need for human resources.
Automated processes allow companies to scale quickly without compromising quality.
Content Personalization is imperative
Today, consumers can get personalized recommendations from a Google Search or Amazon Books.
In the same way, customers can get personalized recommendations about a company and its products via Facebook Ads, Google Shopping, and other platform marketplaces to find the right product at the right price.
The same level of customer service and personalized recommendations that exist within these platforms should also exist for B2B companies when customers encounter those products and services through digital channels.
Personalization is a data science problem, and many companies are still trying to figure out how to use data to create personalized experiences at scale.
In social media channels, personalization can be a powerful tool to create more relevant and engaging content for users. By understanding a user’s interests and preferences, businesses can deliver content that is more likely to resonate with them.
Overall, personalization can help businesses to improve the user experience, build deeper relationships with customers, and better understand their needs and preferences.
When you take the time to tailor your content to meet the needs of your audience, you create an unforgettable experience.
Humanizing your brand
Navigating the immediacy of the current culture, the fear of missing out on opportunities, and many other challenges can create stressful situations in which a customer may not be ready to purchase—yet may be if provided value through genuine, interpersonal interaction
This concept—known as messenger marketing—posits that brands should use the voices of their employees to provide a different customer experience.
When individuals at a company use their own social accounts to connect with customers and grow relationships, they do so with a single, important goal in mind—to be human. Not the brand, but a person working at the company who wants to support the potential customer and make them feel heard.
This is possible in B2B social selling because though business-to-consumer (B2C is more widely practiced, B2B companies also engage with customers via social media.
This means employees from a business can communicate directly with potential customers—provided they do so in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize the business’s integrity or sales goals.
Research from Hootsuite and Revue found that employee-led profiles achieved average engagement levels of 16.79%, while brand-led profiles had engagement levels of 12.7%.
The difference was significant enough to call into question whether leaders should be the only spokespeople for their brands on social media.
As a result, leading B2B brands are considering whether employee-led messaging can improve customer retention, drive growth, and further mission-based goals.
According to a survey from the same organizations, though some leaders doubt the effectiveness of messenger marketing, organizations that engage employees in social media see 16% higher customer- satisfaction ratings.
This result suggests that employee-led messaging could play a significant role in shaping the future of B2B social selling.
The personal touch will never go away
As a result, having a level of automation and AI to scale efficiencies while also requiring a level of personalization will become an imperative for B2B companies in the long run.
The need for human interaction to guide and instruct customers through personalized experiences within various channels will be essential too.
What does this mean for marketers?
Marketers will have to think differently about how they approach social selling tools. They will need to work closely with sales teams to identify which channels are most effective for each type of lead and prospect.
This means that marketers must learn how to leverage different content across multiple channels to drive conversions.
For example, if you’re working on a campaign for a large enterprise client, it may make sense to focus your efforts on LinkedIn Sales Navigator first. However, if you’re targeting small business owners who prefer Twitter over LinkedIn, then you’ll want to shift your resources there.
Therefore it’s important to know your audience and where they spend time online. Once you’ve identified the best channel(s) for each type of lead, you can start building campaigns that target prospects based on their interests and behaviors.
This will allow you to build connections with users at the right time with the right message. It will also give you insight into what works and what doesn’t, so you can optimize future campaigns.
Focus on Context
Today, consumers face an overwhelming amount of information. They have trouble distinguishing what’s important and what’s not.
To meet consumer demand for context, consider building a narrative around the experiences of your customers as HubSpot does with our Customer Success Stories series.
This kind of company content is helpful because it provides a context for consumers and gives them insight into how other people have used your product or service to succeed.
B2B brands can also provide educational content that gives prospects useful information and teaches them about the industry in a way that’s not directly sales-centered.
For example, a B2B company in the software industry might produce a webinar that covers the latest trends in software development, or a whitepaper on data security best practices.
By educating prospects on industry topics like product development, B2B brands can show their expertise and build trust with their target audience, which can help to move prospects further down the sales funnel.
This kind of valuable, helpful content strengthens the relationship with your current market and builds trust by showing you’re interested in them as people and not simply as potential customers.
This kind of content-driven, relationship-building organic approach to B2B social selling can have a significant impact on building and maintaining relationships with prospects.
According to a survey from the same set of 25 enterprise-level B2B brands, companies that prioritize content marketing see 16x greater leads per expenditure than those that don’t.
While personal approach and one-to-one conversations are most desired when building a B2B social selling strategy, community-building is also critical.
Social selling does not happen in a vacuum. It’s about connecting with others, both within your organization and beyond. The most successful B2B sellers build communities of customers, prospects, industry leaders, and colleagues to collaborate and share collectively.
Besides creating a community of interest, these communities should also include opportunities for peer-to-peer learning and collaboration.
When you create a community of interest, you’ll be able to tap into the knowledge and experience of your peers and encourage collaborations between companies. These can help you make better decisions and solve problems faster.
You can also use communities to get feedback from your customers and prospects. For example, if you run a Facebook group for your consumer goods company, you could ask questions like “What do you think about feature X?” or “How would you improve Y?”
It’s all about building trust and credibility through transparency and authenticity.
Asking for input from your community through public messages allows you to show your customers and prospects that you value their opinions and ideas, and that you’re willing to listen to what they have to say.
Asking for feedback will also give you an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and avoid repeating them.
If you’re looking to grow your business, then you need to think about ways to connect with your customers and prospects.
Whether you’re trying to sell to existing clients or attract new ones, it’s important to understand how to communicate effectively with your audience.
Social media platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and LinkedIn offer tools to connect with groups of users together. You can use these connections to generate leads by posting public messages and sharing information about company updates, upcoming events, new products, promotions, etc.
The most successful B2B sellers are those who can optimize their sales funnel as part of the company growth plan, starting with a click-to-buy.
Whether this involves incorporating landing page best practices, using conversion optimization software, or A/B testing, it’s vital to ensure your website is serving both customers and vendors in a way that maximizes sales.
Optimizing your sales funnel ensures your efforts to go toward improving the quality of your campaigns rather than decreasing your cost-per-clicks.
As mentioned earlier, social selling isn’t just about connecting with potential buyers; it’s also about engaging them as active participants in the buying process.
To do this, you need to provide value to prospective clients through relevant content, such as blog posts, white papers, case studies, eBooks, videos, infographics, etc.
You can also help prospects along the path to purchase by providing them with valuable resources, such as links to articles, whitepapers, and more.
When developing content for your social channels, think about how you can add value to your audience. By doing so, you’ll be able to engage them and drive traffic back to your site.
Content is the currency of the modern world; creating content that adds value is essential to success.
Get help with your B2B social selling; work with us
We offer a range of social media marketing solutions to help your marketing team achieve success with social selling in the long term. From developing a social media marketing strategy to execution, we can help you plan, execute, measure, and analyze your social selling initiatives.
Our team has extensive experience helping B2B and B2B2C organizations, like yours, to develop and implement successful social selling programs.