What is Social Selling? Why is everyone talking about it?

Buzzwords. Gotta love ‘em.

Social selling is one of those buzzwords we’re hearing quite a bit right now—but the trouble is—no one seems to really know what it means.

Is it customer service via social media? Or is more abstract than that?

And once we know what it means, who should be using it?

what is social selling

We looked around at a few of the definitions floating around right now on what is social selling, and think we’ve finally got a better grasp on what it actually means.

Prospect Interaction

Hubspot defines social selling like this:

“Social selling is when salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

Basically, that means that sales teams use social media to interact with people who are already talking about the business as well as those who might be interested in the products or services the business can offer.

Instead of using cold calls and emails, they can communicate on social media in a more proactive and personable manner (that eventually turns these people into customers.)

Building Relationships

Jonathan Becher at SAP defines social selling as something just slightly different.

“Social selling is about building stronger relationships with potential buyers, based on an authentic sense of empathy and a deep understanding of the problems they face,” he wrote.

From his viewpoint, social selling pivots on a salesperson’s ability to connect with people on a very personal level. That doesn’t mean playing defense with customer service—it means focusing on the pain points of target customers and being proactive about connecting with people on social media who are talking about the struggles they face.

For example: If you see a person that tweets, “So tired of having to go shopping for new clothes. There has to be a simpler option!” Your business sells curated collections of clothes delivered right to a person’s door. Social selling would tell you to reach out to this potential client and introduce your product as the perfect solution.


Entrepreneur defined social selling as a way to give your brand a human element. Monica Zent wrote,

“It’s a powerful strategy that can help sell your ideas, establish credibility, secure funding, attract talent and win customers.”

In her opinion, social selling is about doing your homework to find out where your target market is, being authentic through daily interaction and engagement (that is not aimed at making a hard sell), and nurturing relationships that build trust over time.

Therefore, social selling isn’t always about selling—it’s about a strong foundation of trust.

What Social Selling Really Means

TLDR (Too long, didn’t read): Social selling is a combination of all three of these definitions. Here’s how we’d explain it.

Social selling means using social media to interact with potential and existing customers to build relationships and trust, while also addressing their daily needs and concerns.

With social selling, you have a direct line of communication with your audience that’s not filtered and encumbered by the email or phone call process. It’s proactive, authentic, and geared toward building loyalty.

Who Social Selling Works For

Social selling is a great strategy for businesses and individuals who are in the B2C realm. In this market, you likely have a product or service that can solve the problems of an individual consumer—which is primarily who would be using social media.

In the B2B market place, the opportunities to interact on a personal level become much more limited. Plus, when it comes to a social media account for a business, you’d often be interacting with a marketing/communications professional in that role—which is not necessarily who would be making the financial decisions and able to act on conversion.

The Bottom Line

If you’re a consumer facing business, you need to get involved with social selling—but remember: It’s not always about making a hard sell. Be authentic and strive to build relationships over always pushing what you sell.

How to Close More Sales in 30 days

Photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg

Kaleigh Moore

Kaleigh Moore is no stranger to small business. She's the Founder of Lumen -- a business that offers copywriting, social media services, and graphic design. When she's not contributing to the EnMast blog, you'll find her running or at the movies (because the running helps manage the movie snack consumption.) Connect with Kaleigh on Twitter, LinkedIn, or read her blog.

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