Right now, customers across the world want what you’re selling and traditional e-commerce will only get you so far. The demand is there so all you need to do is find a way to get in front of them and meet it. This has always been a challenge but fortunately, in our interconnected world, it is becoming easier.
Social media has long been touted as a great way of gaining attention or directing people to your website but outside of the marketing department, its usefulness was limited. Now, thanks to the advent of social selling – or social commerce – businesses can use social platforms to generate and nurture sales leads while building relationships with potential and existing customers.
It works by providing valuable content to consumers in a non-invasive way. With a plethora of media platforms available, consumers have access to more information than ever before and will likely know what they want to buy and from whom even before visiting a company website.
Sure, all selling is social; it always has been and it always will be. But the social aspect of sales is clearly changing. According to research by Forbes, 78% of customers say that posts made by companies on social media influence their purchases and Marketing Land found that 91% of people have gone into a store because of an online experience. Social platforms like Facebook and Twitter have allowed brands to effectively market to a wider audience and helps to guide consumer product decisions and purchases.
Its usefulness needn’t stop there. Social platforms and techniques can be mapped to every step of a typical buying process, even though some still don’t realise it. “There is an army of ‘social media gurus’ who insist you can’t sell on social media because people are there only to ‘hang out with their friends at a party’ and people at parties are not receptive to marketing or sales,” says Gideon Lask, CEO of social commerce experts, Buyapowa. “The first step to implementing social commerce is to debunk this fallacy. Selling at parties made a nice business for Tupperware and Ann Summers and provided you ‘bake’ social into your e-commerce from the outset – rather than as a bolt on – you can sell to new and existing customers.” Very simply, your customers are now spending more time online and 80% of that time is being social so you want to be there with them says Lask. “As they say, ‘if you want to catch fish, fish where the fish are’.”
It is important to emphasise that simply bolting a catalogue and a store onto a social network is not social commerce. “That is why Facebook Commerce – or F-commerce – failed: because it did not make the actual sales process social. Social selling means making an offer to a potential customer who is incentivised to buy and then share the deal with friends and family,” says Lask. “Sharing is incentivised in that the person sharing will typically get some reward based on the number of people who also buy as a result of his or her efforts.”
Of course, each social network is different in terms of the demographics of members and the content they share, whether in terms of text length or media type. “People’s mentality is often different on different networks, as the same person may use LinkedIn for business and Facebook for friends and family. However, when it comes to social commerce, the medium is much less important than the sharing itself,” says Lask.
Therefore, when a buyer is incentivised to share a deal, he or she should be able to share across all networks. Gavin Hammar, CEO and founder of Sendible, a tool you can use to monitor conversations on social media, has some pointers. “With Facebook you need to use the ad platform to drive traffic to a highly targeted landing page, whereas on Twitter you need to listen and join conversations that are relevant to your company.” He advises that you build relationships by following your prospects and providing them with advice, before offering your product or services. “With LinkedIn, with its niche groups, you can build trust with extremely targeted groups.”
Pinterest is a very visual platform and is great for driving traffic to e-commerce websites. And while Google+ isn’t currently proving to be a great place for sales, Hammar believes it is still should good to share content there for the boost in the SEO.
For Marc Schillaci, CEO and founder of Actinic, the e-commerce solution, businesses can have more engaging conversations through social selling. “Businesses tend to share more relevant posts and are able to directly see the reaction on social media, whereas direct marketing and one-to-one meetings are not only more time consuming but also create a very limited viewership,” he says. “Social media allows companies to go wider and even reach more customers that were never initially targeted.” For example, when a customer shares a Facebook story on their timeline, it allows all of his or her friends to see the post. “This would allow organic growth via word-of-mouth and achieve greater results in comparison to targeted mail, calls and face-to-face meetings.”
Keeping customers happy has always been one of the hardest parts in business. “Social selling allows a company to have a better understanding of their customer base, as they will be interacting and reading what customers honestly think about their products or services,” says Schillaci. “This in-turn allows a company to see what’s going on and react accordingly. If a company takes these initial steps, they will be able to better retain customers, due to them having the knowledge of what they like and dislike via social platforms.”
If you are in any doubt as to the inevitability of social selling playing a large part in the future of sales, then just follow the money: last month the social selling app, Shopa, secured $11m in funding from Notion Capital and Octopus Investments to scale internationally. This was one of the largest ever Series A investments into a UK start-up. Now is definitely the time to take a serious look at social selling.