Social media has evolved to become a key channel for communications in the enterprise. There are now 3.4 billion active social media users – 3.2 billion of which are socially active on mobile, too.
Thanks to these rather staggering numbers, social selling holds huge potential for businesses looking to grow. A quick definition, for those who aren’t familiar with the term:
Social selling is when marketers use social media to interact directly with existing and potential customers, providing value by answering questions and offering thoughtful content to aid individuals and/or businesses through the buying journey.
From in-built analytics tools in Twitter and LinkedIn to an array of third-party tools, there are increasingly more ways to track results and measure the value of social selling. But while the tools for internal analysis are there, identifying which metrics are the most important and relevant to your business remains the real challenge.
You may have a large Twitter following, and see good engagement on posts, but is this translating into website traffic or sales enquiries? And should you even expect as much from a platform like Twitter? It’s nuances like these that make it difficult to identify the return on investment of social selling. And that’s what our upcoming insights paper looks to uncover.
In this post, we provide three social selling best practices you can follow to net real return on investment with social media.
3 social selling best practices
From that, we’ve been able to collate some best practice advice and techniques when it comes to social selling, so that you can follow and look to implement in your own marketing now and in the future.
1. Know your audience. Know your content. Make a plan
Like all facets of marketing, the best results come from planning your approach. When it comes to social selling, best practice is adapting your company message, brand image, and content distribution to the world of social media.
When it comes to the content you publish on social media, brevity is key. Among the crowds of individuals on social media platforms, everyone is fighting for attention. As people have less and less time to read content and engage with it, those who can capture people’s attention—be it through written words, video, images, animation, etc.—stand the best chance.
Alongside the content itself is the way you broadcast it. We spoke to Kristin Treat, Head of Corporate Communications at Nintex, about the company’s content approach on social media. She explained how they set out an editorial calendar, the same way they do for blog content, for the content they’ll publish on social media channels. This calendar is set for each quarter of the fiscal year, divided out week-by-week. To break it down:
- Monday: left intentionally open, when news breaks
- Tuesday: product focus – new tech, new capabilities, features, functions
- Wednesday: thought leadership, position ourselves as a leader in process automation
- Thursday: customer-focus, highlight the success companies are having with our tech
- Friday: just launched, Q&A series. Interview internally, in the industry, partners, customers. People like that easily-digestible content.
This kind of structure is vital to broadcasting content routinely and to a high standard on platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. Although Kristin notes not keeping it so rigid that you can’t adapt to things like topical news stories or new product releases.
We also asked Kristin how they measure marketing success at Nintex:
We measure everything! We have quarterly targets for unique page views of our blog and our website, and we’ve got a set number of leads we need to meet on a quarterly basis on our social channels. And when we run paid campaigns they obviously have their own metrics we track.
2. Lead with LinkedIn
Social platforms and their audiences are always changing. Twitter was the first social platform to be adopted by businesses, but LinkedIn has made considerable ground in recent years. Twitter remains the perfect platform for publicising company events, webinars, and the more personable side of your business and its employees. LinkedIn, however, was designed with enterprise in mind, which makes it a much more effective platform for starting conversations with potential buyers.
We spoke with Sarah Pavlik, Vice President of Marketing at pavliks.com, on the differences between LinkedIn and Twitter in terms of social selling best practices:
We get a lot more valuable engagement out of LinkedIn. We base that on a variety of different metrics. We’ve found that unbranded content performs better than branded – as soon as we put ‘pavliks.com’ in the visuals, it doesn’t perform as well as standard content information. I think when people see a brand’s on content it feels advertising, rather than educational, which is what we’re aiming for.
On Twitter, we deem success as whenever people will share information to their own followers. That’s showing they think it’s interesting and are helping us boost our own reach. We track our followers, but they can be fickle. It’s something we keep aware of, but we know that it will fluctuate. That’s fine because we know that conversions into actual website traffic is more important.
We also asked Matthias Seidel, Head of Marketing at Rencore, on his thoughts about paid advertising on LinkedIn:
I would recommend directing paid marketing campaigns towards LinkedIn, particularly with lead-generation forms. We used auto-generation lead forms through LinkedIn so if someone sees our content and wants to investigate, the form is already filled out with their information. This works 100% better than any campaign we’ve tried.
3. Integrate your social selling
Your blog, website, or social media channels… which is the most effective lead generation tool? Rather than picking a favourite, you use all three in combination with each other. Your blog is a great tool for introducing customers to your company, its offerings, and value to them. And your social channels are the best tool for sending your blog content out to as wide and dedicated an audience as possible. If you find success in these two areas, you’ll see an increase in site traffic, which is the best place to convert leads into customers.
Of course, this is the ideal. The reality is more convoluted.
We spoke to David Lavenda, Vice President of Products and Marketing at harmon.ie, on the difficulties of the end-to-end buying process:
There are several avenues along the modern-day buying cycle. We’re taught to always be selling, but people aren’t always buying – they’re investigating. They’re finding out more so when they get to the buying process, they’re already poised to make a decision.
So, the question becomes: how can you adapt your social techniques to match this? Thought leadership can provide knowledge and expertise, rather than constantly pushing the sale. And this builds up both the individual’s personality and the greater brand.