Photo Credit: pexels
Talk to ten different people, and you’ll probably get ten different answers for what “social selling” is on the Internet. Just about the only thing that people agree on is that it’s a way for people doing the selling to interact directly with people doing the buying via social media.
The origins of social selling
While “social selling” is a big buzzword, the concept itself is not really new and actually pre-dates the social media era. You can think of the great multi-level marketing companies of the 1960s and 1970s – like Amway and Mary Kay Cosmetics – as the early pioneers of this “social selling” concept. Invite people over to your home for a party, let them try out some products, and then let them buy those same products right there on the spot.
In this social selling model, the line between “salesperson” and “social acquaintance” blurred, and so did the “social context.” Instead of seeing the products on the shelves of a store, you saw them in a unique social context – someone’s home. And you had the “social proof” to convince you to buy – the fabulously beautiful and wealthy person sitting in front of you, now offering you a chance to become part of the same elite club.
So flash forward 50 years and now we have the Internet and social media. But the same basic building blocks for social selling still exist – you have the “social acquaintance” (i.e. your friends on Facebook), the “social context” (i.e. whatever online platform or channel you happen to be using) and the “social proof” (e.g. cool YouTube videos or Instagram photos of people using these products).
Reverse engineering the social selling model
One reason why this model (still) works is because you don’t have the cold calls and the hard sells. Instead of calling someone up and asking them if they’d like to buy your products, you invite them over to a low-pressure, friendly social event. Instead of dealing with a salesperson (who is compensated based on the number of sales he or she is making), you now have a social acquaintance, who presumably has your best interests in mind rather than just the pure commercial interests of his or her company.
You can already see how some companies are using this social selling concept in interesting new ways to help move product. In many ways, “content marketing” is a social selling concept. Brands crank out lots of blog posts, YouTube videos and podcasts, all with the intention of interacting with passionate and engaged fans. If the content is good enough, it “pulls” customers over to them, without having to invest in expensive advertising. And if it’s done in an authentic way, a prospect no longer feels that he or she is being sold to – it’s more of an educational and informational process. They want to buy your products.
You can think of Facebook Marketplace as the latest twist on the social selling concept. Here, all selling actually takes place within a social media context. You interact directly with potential buyers and sellers on Facebook, and the line between “salesperson” and “social acquaintance” blurs even further. You might not buy a $30 wool scarf in a retail store, but you’ll certainly buy a $30 wool scarf from your dear friend on Facebook, who has just gone to so much trouble to post some absolutely adorable photos of her other friends wearing that scarf.