Human connections make us who we are. From core family groups to large communities, social frameworks help define our identities, influence our decisions and seed the dreams that compel us to alter the systems that shape our lives. When these systems no longer excite our imagination or fit our lifestyle, we create new ones that mirror shifting social landscapes.
Science provides evidence that we are genetically hard-coded to be social. So does economics. Prominent neuroscientist and psychologist Matthew Lieberman believes that the brain’s primary purpose is social thinking, building on prior conclusive research that brain size depends on the size of a species’ social group. With human brains proportionately the largest in all of nature, it’s easy to see why we socialize as much as we do. Meanwhile, some of the world’s most valuable brands such as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn primarily operate as venues for building human connections.
Inevitably, these connections assume real monetary value. For example, GSMA (Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) Intelligence reported that the mobile industry — which traces its roots from the landline telephone that allows people to talk to each other — has a valuation of more than $3 trillion. Similarly, it’s no coincidence that social selling (the stuff you get when you blend e-commerce with social connections) generated about $30 billion in 2015, based on projections by Statista.
Given the strong influence of people’s social connections — family, friends, co-workers, business partners and favored organizations — over their purchasing behavior, sales professionals and marketers scramble over each other to promote their respective brands on social media.
You can’t blame them. On the contrary, you should aggressively join their ranks if you plan on selling anything. Social media — the lively patch of the Internet where Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube and other relationship-heavy and consumer-driven websites reside — accounts for 28% of the total time spent by people online, according to Social Times. And where prospects go, so should smart sales professionals.
Also known as social commerce, social selling refers to a brand’s efforts at establishing trust and building relationships with its target audience on social media sites. The obvious goal is to make them subscribe to a service or purchase your products by generating interest in your business. However, the more critical and long-term objective is to keep your audience positively involved as much as possible in online conversations about your brand.
Here are some observations and facts about social commerce that will persuade you to draw up and deploy your own social selling strategy:
While social media accounts for just a small fraction of total e-commerce revenues, the pace at which it’s helping drive sales cannot be ignored. Any business that neglects social media risks losing valuable opportunities at increasing market share. Clearly, business owners will find it difficult to keep a brand competitive without a social media strategy in place. After all, even the world’s most recognizable brands have to maintain robust social media presence just to safeguard their dominant positions.
Not all social selling strategies are the same though. As commonly encountered, social media messages — especially those that are ill-conceived — can backfire, dealing significant damage to a brand in terms of public humiliation and even lost revenue. You can find cringeworthy examples in these articles from Digital Trends, Entrepreneur and Inc.
To avoid massive social media blunders, here are some points to remember:
Meanwhile, here are some tips that will help bolster your social selling efforts:
Excellent sales professionals are always on the lookout for new and better ways of surpassing targets. Arguably the most promising to have ever emerged in the last few years is social selling. While social media has been around for some time, its significant and growing impact on e-commerce revenues is on a steep rise.
Some sales experts already hail the phenomenon as a revved-up alternative to cold calls. Marketing mentor and business strategist Gerry Moran has worked with global brands such as HBO, Ikea and SAP. He prescribes social selling techniques as a remedy for the infamously low success rates of cold calling. This is not to say that you should ditch cold calls. You can still keep cold calling as an important part of your regimen, but you shouldn’t execute a sales plan without a strong social selling strategy.
With consumers using social channels more and more to help them resolve purchasing scenarios, salespeople can only benefit when they tap this market to find, qualify, engage and convert prospects. As Linkedin Global Content Marketing head Alex Hisaka said on one of her posts, “The sales professionals who continue to get better at social selling will continue to get better at sales, period.”
Perhaps more than just a place to sell, social media is a venue where game-changing ideas sometimes evolve as more people join conversations. To investor, entrepreneur and online influencer Gary Vaynerchuk, it’s where entrepreneurs can establish trust, respect and connection: the same components that make up the heart of what truly makes us human — good relationships.
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