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Social Selling Explained: 2024 Guide to Social Media Sales

Social selling allows you to laser-target your prospecting, establish rapport with potential clients, and drive social media sales.

Stacey McLachlan, Christina Newberry July 31, 2023
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Forget about cold calling: today’s most powerful sales technique is social selling.

Social selling allows your business to zero in on business prospects on social media and build rapport with a network of potential leads.

It’s a modern way of building relationships and connections — and it’s a seriously powerful sales tactic.

Social selling is not social media advertising. It’s not social media marketing. It’s the practice of nurturing relationships as part of your sales funnel. Think: less pitching, more conversations.

You may already be doing social selling intuitively, but just for funsies, we’ve pulled together this super-post. In it, we’re covering everything you need to know to really crush the social selling game.

In this post, we:

  • Define social selling
  • Share why you should care about social selling
  • Outline the best networks for social selling
  • Identify helpful social selling tools
  • List social selling tips and best practices

Bonus: Find out what people really want from brands on social—including why they follow, engage, buy, and even unfollow them—in The Social Media Consumer Report.

What is social selling?

Social selling is the practice of using a brand’s social media channels to connect with prospects, develop a connection with them, and engage with potential leads.

Social selling can be a powerful tactic for helping businesses reach their sales targets — just think of it as modern relationship-building! If your brand has a Facebook Business Page, a LinkedIn page, or Twitter profile, or is active on any other platform, you’re already engaged in the basics of social selling.

Any kind of business can use social selling. Whether you’re a big corporation or an independent entrepreneur, whether you’re selling jet skis or handmade granola, social media can be an incredibly useful tool for nurturing relationships with prospects.

What social selling is not

This is really, really important: social selling is certainly not about bombarding strangers with unsolicited Tweets and DMs. That’s spam. Don’t do it.

Social selling is also not just about adding new contacts to your list. To successfully turn your social media activity into sales requires quality, not quantity.

Make your interactions meaningful, and present your brand as having a solution to a problem. When you do that, you’re more likely to build trust and loyalty… and hopefully, convert your new social media friends or fans to a sale when the time is right.

What is the social selling index?

The social selling index (SSI) is a metric used to measure the impact of a brand’s social selling efforts.

LinkedIn first introduced the concept of SSI back in 2014. The LinkedIn SSI combines four components to establish a score. It is updated daily.

It looks at whether you are:

  • Establishing a professional brand with a well-managed LinkedIn profile.
  • Finding the right people on the platform.
  • Sharing relevant, conversation-inspiring content.
  • Building and strengthening relationships.

To find your LinkedIn SSI score, sign in to your account and navigate to your Social Selling Index dashboard. Treat your score as a starting point to begin improving your social selling performance.

LinkedIn Social Sales Index score

Your SSI report will let you know how you stack up in your specific industry and against your own network, too.

What are good social selling index scores?

The top possible score to get is 100. So the closer your social selling index score is to that, the better.

LinkedIn says that the best social sellers have an SSI of 75 or higher.

Why you should care about having a social selling strategy

If you’re still not sold (see what we did there?) on creating a social selling strategy, here are 4 reasons why you should give it a try.

1. Social selling works

Don’t just take our word for it. 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.
  • Businesses that prioritize social selling are 51% more likely to reach their sales quotas.
  • 78% of businesses that use social selling outsell businesses that don’t use social media.

2. Social selling helps your sales team build real relationships

Social selling creates opportunities to connect with new potential customers on social media, where they’re already active and engaging in conversations. Using social listening tools allows your sales reps to go a step further and identify leads who are already talking about your business, your competitors, or your industry.

More than 22% of audiences are on social media explicitly seeking content from their favorite brands, but the majority of folks are online just seeking connection: 23.9% are there to share and discuss opinions with others, 23.4% are there to make new contacts, 21.7% are there to find like-minded communities and interest groups.

main reasons for using social media top response keeping in touch with friends and family

In other words: people are seeking out relationships.

That means you can reach out to an audience who already has an interest in what you’re offering and authentically connect with them, offering useful information when the time is right. Authenticity builds trust — and that, in turn, can become customer loyalty.

3. Your customers (and prospects) are already engaged in social buying

Considering the sheer volume of people currently using social media, the potential for brands to make social media sales is huge:

Simply speaking, these users are getting ready to buy.

4. Your top competitors are already social selling

Using social selling means staying competitive. Other brands are active on social media interacting with potential customers on popular social platforms. According to data from Statista: “Global sales through social media platforms were estimated at 992 billion U.S. dollars in 2022.”

value of social commerce sales worldwide from 2022 to 2026

Now, consider the numbers:

(There’s more where this came from! We’ve compiled a post with more than 160 social media statistics that matter to marketers in 2024.)

What are the best networks for social media sales?

Your choice should depend on your target audience and your approach to social selling. In short, it depends.

Twitter and Instagram are great platforms for interacting with customers. They offer tools for responding to customer queries, and they’re casual virtual spaces where communication comes naturally.

Simply speaking, these platforms are great for building relationships.

LinkedIn, on the other hand, is a more formal business platform ideal for B2B companies looking to identify and reach business decision-makers. Here, businesses can connect with potential customers directly to try and build a professional relationship:

In fact, according to LinkedIn:

  • 89% of B2B marketers turn to LinkedIn to generate leads.
  • 62% of B2B marketers say LinkedIn generates leads at twice the rate of the next-best performing social channel.

In other words, use whichever social platform your audience prefers — and whichever platform your brand will be able to use consistently!

Here’s how to get started on three popular platforms:

3 steps to social selling on LinkedIn

1. Build your credibility

If you have a good relationship with your connections, ask them for endorsements or recommendations. These are posted on your profile and can help give you instant credibility with new contacts.

As a brand, be sure your profile highlights expertise relevant to a potential customer or client by highlighting how you’ve helped previous customers achieve their goals.

You should also only share information and content from credible sources and make sure to maintain a professional tone across all of your LinkedIn activity.

2. Extend your LinkedIn network

Use LinkedIn’s search feature to extend your network by seeking out mutual connections with your existing contacts.

You can also join LinkedIn Groups relevant to your industry to network with peers and prospects.

3. Use LinkedIn Sales Navigator

Sales Navigator, LinkedIn’s professional social selling tool, can help you target the right prospects with personalized communications and better understand your performance with in-depth analytics.

LinkedIn Sales Navigator dashboard with analytics

3 steps to social selling on Twitter

Twitter is a great network for social listening. You can create Twitter Lists to monitor content from specific groups of people. Here are three key Twitter lists you can use to start social selling on the network.

Twitter lists to monitor content from specific accounts

1. Existing customers

Use this list to keep close tabs on your existing customers and watch for opportunities to reply to — or like — their Tweets. This will help you keep your brand on their radar.

Don’t overdo it, though. Be sure that your interactions with clients are meaningful: only like Tweets that you genuinely like and only comment when you have something valuable to say. And make sure to stay relevant — your customers don’t need your brand interacting with personal updates.

2. Prospects

As you identify potential customers, add them to a private list. But don’t engage with them with the same sense of familiarity as you do with existing customers. Instead, keep an eye out for requests for help or grievances about your competitors. That way, you can reply with a helpful comment.

3. Competitors

Adding competitors to a private list lets you keep tabs on them without actually following them. This could help spark ideas for your own social selling efforts.

Hot tip: You can set up Twitter Lists within Hootsuite to help keep all your intel in one place. Find the how-to video here.

Twitter list competitors on Hootsuite Streams

3 ways to start social selling on Facebook

​​Be sure to create a Facebook Page, then use these strategies to start social selling.

1. Engage with other businesses

It’s easy to reach out through likes, comments, and shares. But take it one step further: if you create thoughtful, valuable content, it’s likely to be shared, increasing your brand’s reach. Your Facebook Page could be exposed to a whole new audience as other businesses share and like your content.

2. Engage with followers

Always respond to your follower’s comments and mentions of your brand. Also, when putting together your own posts, include questions to spark conversations with your Facebook audience — they don’t need to be directly related to your product or service to be effective!

Betty Kroeker Facebook comment reply engagement

3. Join Facebook groups

These grassroots communities are great places to strike up conversations and build organic connections. You can also learn a lot about your community or target market: valuable insights to help you better position your own (subtle) pitches.

Hamburger Helper’s marketing team, for instance, might find some superfans to connect with over in any of these hamburger-themed Groups.

Hamburger Helper Facebook groups

More on growing your business using Facebook Groups here.

5 useful social selling tools

To increase your odds of landing new clients on social media, leverage social selling software and tools. Here are 5 to help you get started:

1. Hootsuite Inbox

Regardless of whether your brand’s social selling techniques involve private messages, public messages (like comments), or both, Hootsuite Inbox (for Enterprise Plans) will keep all of them organized.

Think of this social selling tool as a convenient way to keep all of your brand’s social media conversations in one place. Using the Hootsuite Inbox, you can monitor, organize and respond to any private and public messages your brand receives across many social platforms.

Keeping your social media communications organized is a way to ensure no messages fall through the cracks and that everyone who connects with you gets a response.

Other useful features include:

  • Handy filters you can apply to quickly and easily find the communication thread you’re looking for, even if you’re handling high volumes of messages and comments.
  • Teamwork and collaboration solutions that allow you to assign messages to team members as tasks so that each query receives a response from the best possible person at your company.
  • Saved replies that you can reuse to quickly reply to common queries.

Get a free demo

2. Amplify

This app is a Hootsuite product and is an effective way for your brand to extend its social reach. In a nutshell, Amplify helps your brand increase its online visibility by making it easy for team members to share company updates, campaigns, or announcements.

Amplify Hootsuite integration

An employee advocacy app like Amplify can help employees feel engaged and compelled to share company content — which is a great, organic way for your brand to reach new potential customers. That’s because tapping into your employees’ personal networks extends the reach of your content.

Pro tip: Try our employee advocacy calculator to see how many more people your posts could be reaching.

3. Salesforce

This app also integrates with Hootsuite and is an easy way to search, edit and monitor new business leads.

With Salesforce, you can fetch new customer or prospect records into the app directly from Hootsuite streams. Plus, Salesforce streamlines reaching out to potential leads and qualifying them. You can also add more details to existing Salesforce records to inform future conversations around social selling.

connect with customers and monitor business leads using Salesforce

Here’s more info on how to get the most out of Salesforce with Hootsuite:

Sales has always been about building relationships, establishing credibility and providing the right solutions to the right prospects at the right time. Social selling is like that too. It simply leverages social media to help you build relationships, expand your network, streamline lead generation and meet your sales goals!

4. Microsoft Dynamics 365

Another great integration for Hootsuite is Microsoft Dynamics 365. Create sales leads and opportunities based on social media conversations from your Hootsuite dashboard.

Microsoft Dynamics 365

Create leads and opportunities based on social posts and conversations from within the Hootsuite dashboard, view details and activity history for leads, contacts, and other Dynamics Online entities in Hootsuite, and view all relevant social activities and conversations to Dynamics Online lead and contact records.

You’ll add value to the customer conversation through informed and timely engagement with your customers, and quickly address and resolve customer issues and complaints with Dynamics case management.

5. Simple Sales Tracking

This Hootsuite integration is helpful for compiling your new social media BFFs . This web-based sales CRM software tracks, analyzes and forecasts individual and team sales pipeline and contacts.

Create new leads, specify the warmth of a lead, and add details. The app will capture the post and associate it with the record to retain the content of the lead for easy tracking.

Simple Sales Tracking CRM software

Social selling best practices

Whichever platform you use to reach your unique audience, make sure you’re adopting these tried and true social selling tips. Here are 4 to keep in mind.

1. Establish your brand by providing value

When interacting with prospects and customers through social networks, it’s important not to get too salesy. And if your brand is new to a social media platform, don’t dive into social selling right away. Before you jump to sales pitches, establish your position as an expert in your industry.

One way to build your brand on social media for social selling is by sharing interesting, valuable, and shareable content. For B2B brands and business influencers using LinkedIn, this could mean sharing content written by others that aligns with your brand:

Or it might mean writing and sharing interesting content that others will find useful to establish your brand (or personal brand) as an industry thought leader.

LinkedIn post by Alex McFadyen

Basically, show your prospects that you’re not just out to get something. You’re there to give something, too.

2. Listen strategically and build relationships with the right people

Effective social selling means paying attention. In other words, make sure you’re social listening.

Use social lists and Hootsuite streams to monitor what people are saying about you, your company, your industry, and your competitors. Watch for pain points and requests, both of which provide natural opportunities for you to provide solutions.

curate social lists on Hootsuite streams

You should also leverage your existing network whenever possible. Before reaching out to any of the leads you identify, check their following and follower lists to see if you have any mutual connections. If you do, ask your shared contact for an introduction.

3. Keep it real

Instead of writing one note and sending it to countless potential buyers, take the time to personalize your social selling messaging. This means you could:

  • Acknowledge your mutual professional contacts.
  • Refer to a piece of content you both shared or reacted to.
  • Highlight a shared interest or something else you have in common.

In other words, be yourself. Form a connection by starting a real, genuine conversation!

Sure, you could use automated liking and commenting tools, but these do nothing to build rapport. In fact, they can do serious damage to your personal and professional brand. When it comes to selling, nothing beats interacting with an actual human.

4. Be consistent

Finally, don’t expect immediate results. If your relationship-building efforts don’t yield immediate results, don’t give up. Some contacts may not be ready to purchase whatever you’re offering quite yet — keep in touch.

Follow-up with new leads. Reach out to contacts you’ve previously connected with but haven’t heard from in a while. Maintain meaningful relationships by offering congratulations when they move to new positions or companies or engaging with the content they share over social media. Be ready to offer advice or help, even if it doesn’t directly promote your product.

5. Optimize social profiles

Social selling starts with establishing your brand and authority, so you’d better make sure your profile is looking sharp.

Sandals Resorts Facebook page

That means making sure your profile image and header are high-res and on-brand, filling out all the pertinent details in your profile bio, linking to your official website(s), and including search terms and hashtags where applicable.

Find more on crafting the perfect social media profile here.

6. Join groups and participate in community

While posting great content is super important for social selling, so is putting yourself out there on other profiles and in groups. Your goal is to be seen as an authentic and participatory member of your community, and sometimes that means venturing away from your profile to interact elsewhere.

After all, building relationships is about conversation, not broadcasting. Comment on other people’s posts. Join a group and participate actively. Share other users’ content and help hype up projects that have nothing to do with you. In other words: be a good friend, and hopefully, your network will do the same for you.

Here’s an in-depth guide to growing your business using Facebook Groups to get you started.

7. Build engagement (and analyze it)

Once you’ve got that engagement poppin’, don’t just rest on your laurels. Review your analytics regularly to note what’s working well and what strategies are flopping.

Hootsuite Analytics Instagram publishing

What kind of posts are your followers liking more or reacting to? How can you provide even more value to your profile? Social selling involves putting your best foot forward, but sometimes you need to look back to do just that.

Read more about social analytics here.

FAQs about social selling

Have questions about social selling? We’ve got answers.

What is social selling the inbound way?

“Social selling the inbound way” is just another way to describe what we’ve been talking about in this whole post. Social selling is inherently inbound: that means you’re attracting (or pulling) prospects by nurturing organic relationships and sharing valuable content.

Inbound sales requires building a reputation as a trustworthy industry leader so that when your customer is ready to make a purchase, your brand is top of mind.

On Modo’s LinkedIn, for example, you’ll find very few posts about membership sales or content pushing you to sign up. Instead, you’ll find posts about value-aligned partnerships or re-posts from members.

social selling post on LinkedIn by Modo

Conversely, selling the “outbound way” would involve pitching or explicitly pursuing someone to buy what you’re selling — think cold calls or traditional advertising.

To practice social selling the inbound way, focus on providing insights and information, sharing your authentic journey and struggles, and maybe offering a little entertainment in the process. In short, practice the basics of good social media engagement.

What are the 4 pillars of social selling?

There are four pillars of social selling are:

  1. Building a professional, established brand. Publish meaningful content and position yourself as an industry leader.
  2. Build a strong network of prospects. Identify the right people to target.
  3. Engage your audience with meaningful insights. Post and share conversation-worthy content consistently.
  4. Nurture relationships. Establish trust with decision-makers and build professional connections.

How do you get into social selling?

It’s easy to get into social selling: start a social media account, and you’re on your way!

Social selling is about building trust via your social media presence. Create connections, provide value, build your reputation as a trustworthy resource, and build an audience.

Becker Accounting, for instance, is using Twitter to share information and be as helpful as possible to its followers — with the hope that maybe one day those followers will become customers. That’s social selling in action. Surprisingly simple, right?

When the time comes for your prospect to make a purchase or deal, you’ll have an incredible, authentic foundation to build that sale on.

What is social selling for B2B?

Social selling for B2B (business to business) is the same as social selling for B2C (business to consumer). Whoever your target audience is, social selling requires using your social media accounts to collect leads in an organic way.

Forget about spamming their LinkedIn inbox: with social selling, you’re in it for the long game. But while social selling for B2B takes time, it can be incredibly effective. (Scroll up for some impressive stats). Establish your professional brand, find the right audience, engage them with valuable content, and build a relationship based on trust and authority.

These leads will slide neatly into your sales funnel when the time comes.

What is the best social selling platform?

We’re so glad you asked. Hootsuite is a hyper-effective social selling platform… and one that your team will actually use.

It’s a powerful way to build and nurture relationships on social media, allowing your team to engage with prospects and customers while also scheduling thought leadership content across multiple key platforms. Bonus: we’ve also got you covered with in-depth analytics that can show you what’s working and who’s watching.

Hootsuite streams analytics

  • Drive adoption of social selling with an easy-to-use solution—for all levels of social and tech savviness.
  • Find new leads based on sales territory in real-time with intuitive monitoring and search features.
  • Onboard teams quickly and build new social selling skills with training so reps see value sooner.

Learn more about Hootsuite for social selling here.

This has been a very long way of saying: social selling is ultimately all about creating genuine value for your followers and setting the stage to turn those positive interactions into future sales. Social media may be a new-ish technology in the sales game, but it all really boils down to the age-old sales philosophy: you’re ultimately always just selling yourself.

Save time managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can publish and schedule posts, find relevant conversions, engage the audience, measure results, and more. Try it free today.

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By Stacey McLachlan

Stacey McLachlan is an award-winning writer and editor from Vancouver with more than a decade of experience working for print and digital publications.

She is editor-at-large for Western Living and Vancouver Magazine, author of the National Magazine Award-nominated 'City Informer' column, and a regular contributor to Dwell. Her previous work covers a wide range of topics, from SEO-focused thought-leadership to profiles of mushroom foragers, but her specialties include design, people, social media strategy, and humor.

You can usually find her at the beach, or cleaning sand out of her bag.

Read more by Stacey McLachlan
By Christina Newberry

Christina Newberry is an award-winning writer and editor whose greatest passions include food, travel, urban gardening, and the Oxford comma—not necessarily in that order.

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