Social selling is often discussed as a tactical sales and lead generation mechanism whereby sales professionals leverage social networks to connect and interact with prospects. Despite the concept's hyper-relevance to today's marketing mix, social selling is seldom examined beyond its use cases for sales teams.
Enter social selling for brands. It is a perfect example of how marketing and sales are (or should be) inextricably linked.
Are you curious, or perhaps even skeptical, about how your brand's marketing efforts contribute to the bottom line? Of course you are because the links between marketing and sales are notoriously nebulous — even if you're the most sophisticated marketer in the game.
In this article, we discuss:
Social selling involves leveraging social media to connect and build relationships with potential customers. Today's consumer interacts with brands as if they were people. Likewise, modern brands have evolved into online personalities, complete with core values, beliefs, a tone of voice, and a unique perspective.
Why is it essential for brands to build deeper relationships with consumers? Because buying behavior has evolved far beyond simple transactions. New research commissioned by Google Cloud tells us that 82% of shoppers want a brand's values to align with their own; in fact, three-quarters of shoppers reported parting ways with a brand over a conflict in values.
Social selling provides brands a framework to connect with their audience beyond selling transactions. The framework involves building trust over time and through multiple channels to secure consumer share of mind so that when it comes time for a consumer to consider purchasing within your category, your brand is already in the consideration set.
It follows that the key to social selling is not to sell. Quite the contrary, the key to social selling is to meet your audience where they are and to build lasting connections.
Let's recall some of the concepts from Marketing 101. In its simplest form, there are three stages in the traditional buyer's journey, and the buyer's needs are distinctly different at each stage:
The savviest marketers employ different social selling tactics that depend on where their audience appears in their journey. For example, a wedding dress brand might direct its audience with a call-to-action to "book a fitting" for those showing up in the "decision stage". Would this CTA also be relevant for people showing up in the "awareness stage"? No. For those in the "awareness stage", the wedding dress brand would more likely employ an aspirational call-to-action like "envision your dream dress".
It's important to add value to prospective buyers at every stage of their journey. Brands that create value for their audience beyond products and services are far more likely to reap the benefits of repeat purchases and customer loyalty in the long run.
Effective social selling involves the following tactics:
Are you curious about which brands do this well? Listed below are some of the best examples of social selling, along with what makes them unique.
Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty was founded with a mission to de-stigmatize mental health and celebrate individuality by redefining what ‘beautiful’ means. Rare Beauty is a true social-first brand with a sophisticated social strategy built around influencer marketing and community to drive sales.
In a recent interview with The Verge, Rare Beauty’s CMO, Katie Welch, shares some of the ways the Rare Beauty team goes above and beyond to connect with their community: “Once quarantine hit, we started doing Zoom calls with our community to try to get to know them, and now it has evolved to in-person events.” This is a beautiful example of social selling, in which the brand is quite literally getting to know its community. In creating a two-way dialogue, the brand builds trust and gathers invaluable first-hand information about what its community cares about.
While Rare Beauty certainly reaps the benefits of having a famous founder, what sets this brand apart is the team’s focus on educating its audience and nurturing its creator community. The brand balances education, entertainment, and direct selling moments effortlessly. See below for an example of each.
Education: Rare Beauty features its community by sharing their posts, tagging the creator, and including the featured products and shades. There is no “buy now” call to action.
Entertainment: The brand also uses its celebrity founder in extremely effective but simple ways; for example, TikToks that feature Selena Gomez talking about a hot date with ramen noodles — purely entertainment-focused, this video has over 10.5 million views.
Direct Selling: However, it still drives its audience to purchase while featuring creators. Despite the direct selling call-to-action, it produces educational Instagram posts that feel authentic due to the brand’s holistic approach to social selling.
Fashion retailer and influencer marketing powerhouse, Revolve, has built a best-in-class social selling model by leveraging the power of brand ambassadors and creators. Social selling through ambassadors and creators helps prospective customers to visualize what the products look and fit like. This is particularly important for direct-to-consumer brands with no brick-and-mortar.
Revolve has become the indisputable fashion inspiration destination on social, posting to Instagram on average 32 times per week (compared to the fashion industry standard of 12 times per week). As a result, Instagram and TikTok, have become major complementary revenue streams, offering users a seamless checkout experience with Dash Hudson’s LikeShop link-in-bio.
In a recent podcast episode of Earned (Ep. 65), Revolve’s Chief Brand Officer Raissa Gerona emphasizes that influencer marketing should be viewed as top-of-funnel marketing (like a billboard) and that marketers shouldn’t try to equate every single influencer post to a sale. Remember, the key to social selling is not to sell; instead, the key is to educate and build lasting connections. Revolve educates its audience by sharing creator-led content that focuses on how to style outfits around products, trends, events, and relatable life moments. This approach, in combination with an unmatched posting cadence, has proven to be a highly lucrative strategy for the brand.
Revolve has effectively built an always-on creator content engine, and its efforts have paid off (literally): in an A/B test for paid social ads, Dash Hudson’s AI-selected creator content drove 6.8x ROAS (an increase of 70%) compared to traditional e-commerce assets.
Erewhon is a great example of social selling in 2023 — how many of us have tried the Hailey Bieber or Bella Hadid smoothie?
Although geography limits its e-commerce capabilities (grocery items can only be shipped so far), its popular brand ambassadors have piqued the interest of consumers across the globe — some locals who don’t regularly shop there are producing UGC exploring the grocery store’s aisles, creating their own versions of their popular smoothies, and comparing their local luxury grocery stores to Erewhon’s offerings. Its virality on social media has even encouraged people who don’t normally go there to try the smoothie and film their own ‘first impression’ video.
Interestingly enough, most of the Erewhon-centric content from influencers and creators appearing on the ‘FYP’ has higher views than posts from the store itself — this is a powerful anecdote demonstrating just how impactful social selling can be.
Social selling is one of those elements every brand needs to have in its arsenal if they expect longevity.
Here are just a few very important reasons to care about social selling.
While transactions have become almost effortlessly integrated into our lives to normalize ordering coffee from an app on our phones, the actual buying journey has become increasingly complex. Digital connectivity and mobile devices have given rise to exponentially more consumer touch points, decreasing barriers to entry for brands, yet—perhaps counter-intuitively—increasing the cost and the effort of acquiring new customers.
For brands to succeed in this environment, it is imperative that they engage with their community beyond transactional customer touch points.
Social selling is the answer to this problem, requiring your brand to participate actively in an online ecosystem. Not only will this help your brand to connect with existing customers, but it will also help your brand to access new potential customers through secondary and tertiary social connections (think, friends of friends of friends on social).
78.3% of US users report they’ve made a purchase driven by social media. On Instagram alone, 130 million users tap on shopping posts each month, which does not account for users who navigate to brand sites through direct traffic due to social posts. Social selling is a must if your company’s mandate is to grow.
What’s more, buyers are far more informed than they’ve ever been before. If you want to win over your competition, you need to be discoverable first. To win time and time again, your content needs to be interesting enough to keep your audience engaged beyond the purchasing transaction.
It’s worth mentioning that your audience may also be social selling. According to Instagram’s 2023 trend report, nearly two-thirds of Gen Z plan to use social media to make money in 2023.
Simply put, social selling is already effective for brands. The beauty of social selling is that most of it happens through organic channels, so it’s cost-effective. If you want to understand whether social selling is currently working for your brand, check out some leading indicators like engagement and follower growth rates, and compare them to industry averages.
You can also track site visits and revenue originating from social channels by accessing Google Analytics or Adobe Omniture. Most social tools integrate this data for you so you can easily report on the ROI of your social efforts.
While social selling is cost-effective, it does require sustained effort and intellectual capital to keep the engine running. Here are a few tips on how to get started with social selling:
Social selling can be highly effective when done well. Like most things pertaining to social, it’s best to seek out tools to be efficient and to sift through the noise. It seems new social channels are being added to the mix every year. If you are looking to stay ahead of the curve, Dash Hudson has you covered.
First and foremost, Dash Hudson has all the social management tools you need to maintain an always-on social media presence, including a fully automated scheduler, influencer, UGC tracking, and a community manager with sentiment analysis.
To get the most out of your organic social media efforts, Dash Hudson’s LikeShop helps by creating seamless conversion opportunities for potential buyers, while Social Analytics and Monitoring provide marketers with all of the metrics required to measure ROI.
Social selling is about building lasting connections with potential customers on social media. The more a brand communicates to its audience on social media, the more likely social followers will turn into customers. When social media users convert through a social post, this is considered an inbound lead, as the conversion came as a result of an organic social post.
The four C’s of social media marketing are communities, conversations, channels, and campaigns.
Yes, social selling works. To thrive in today’s digital environment, brands must practice social selling. Your audience is buying on social, and modern consumers expect to build relationships with brands. In 2023, 50.3% of all social users are also social buyers, which is projected to grow to 51.8% in 2025. TikTok, in particular, is expected to see a staggering 14.1 million increase in social buyers by 2025, with Instagram coming in second with a 6.5 million increase in social buyers, up from 41 million in 2022.
78.3% of US users report they’ve made a purchase driven by social media, and 82% of shoppers want a brand’s values to align with theirs.
Social selling involves far more than just adding a CTA to your posts and reels — sophisticated social selling focuses on engagement, community-building and sharing your values, and nurturing the right partnerships, contributing to brand awareness and conversions.
By honing in on the right tactics in your social selling strategy, brands can reach the growing number of consumers who are looking to buy on social now and in the approaching years.