How to social sell as a small business owner 

Chloe Bell
By Chloë Bell, Content Journalist

When you’re a business owner, navigating social media on top of everything else can feel like an added and unnecessary struggle. But social selling could help tap into your customer base, allowing you to boost sales and better get to know your customers. 

Internet shopping has become increasingly popular over the last few years and social platforms are a now huge part of our lives, with 60% of the world’s population now using some sort of social media.  

If you don’t board the social media train, you could be missing out on important customer interactions, so why not learn how to use it to sell your products? Here’s all you need to know about social selling. First up, what exactly is social selling? 

What is social selling? 

Social selling means using your business's social media accounts to connect with current and potential customers and sell your products or services to them. 

It also allows you to develop a deeper bond with customers, figure out what else they care about and personalise content to get them to notice your business.  

Social selling has become popular over the last few years, as the move to online shopping has become more obvious. According to Forbes, around 79% of shoppers make purchases online at least once a month  – not using your social channels means you’re missing an opportunity. 

What kinds of businesses can social sell? 

If you have a social media account (whether that be Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, or all of the above), you can social sell.  

It doesn’t matter if you’re an independent café with 50 followers or a huge restaurant chain with millions of followers, your business can benefit from using social media. It’s free, easy to set up and if you get your content right, you can reap a lot of benefits.  

According to Hootsuite, businesses that make the most of social selling are 51% more likely to reach their sales goals. Plus, 78% of businesses that use social selling outsell businesses that don’t use social media at all. 

As you can see, social media can be great for linking with future customers. But it can also be a great way to see into the minds of your current customers. You can uncover what else they care about and which other brands they follow and engage with regularly. You can also analyse patterns and personalise your posts to appeal to what they want. In short, you can see where there’s a gap in the market for your business and utilise it.  

What isn’t classed as social selling? 

Although social selling involves interacting with your potential customers on social media and enticing them to buy your product, it’s important to work out what isn’t social selling. Then you can get it right first time. 

Social selling does not mean sending out random direct messages (DMs) and posts asking strangers to buy your product or check out your business. Do you know those spammy comments you sometimes see on Instagram from bot accounts? These comments usually have nothing to do with the original content posted and can be annoying.  

You don’t want to be tarred with the same brush as them. You want to use social media to uncover customer trends and then design your content to appeal to them directly. You want to be engaging and build strong bonds. That’s how you social sell the smart way. 

Social selling is also not about mass adding random new contacts and hoping some of them will convert into customers. You need to be focused on the quality of your social followers, not the quantity. Social selling takes time, but you’ll likely see a lot more conversion by doing it properly. 

Make your interactions meaningful and unique to mirror your business personality. Start off by adding local businesses that might be in the same niche as you, for example, if you’re a restaurant owner, follow fellow eateries in the area. If you’re a pet store, follow local dog groups, groomers, pet suppliers and animal training businesses. Then you may get access to their followers with minimal effort.  

How do I social sell? 

Learning about social selling is all well and good, but if you’re a business owner, you want real tips and tricks on how to succeed, fast. So how do you do it? 

Build your brand  

First, you need to build your brand credibility and be seen as a figurehead. You want your potential customers to notice you for your content and then visit your website to see what you’re about.  

This is where it’s important to really visualise your brand and the personality it needs to show off to the world. Spend time and effort on building local followers and posting quality content that people will want to engage with. It might even be worth looking into how some of the world's biggest brands build customer loyalty.

Do some research into the things your customers like, and highlight relevant stock, products, and services. Good content can mean different things to different businesses, but the best-performing social accounts are unique in their ideas. 

If you run an independent bookshop, why not have a ‘book of the day'? You or another staff member can recommend a book and write a little bit about why you love it in the caption. Try and visualise placement too, you could make your Instagram grid look really colourful and vibrant by choosing books with certain front covers pallets and arranging them in a specific way. (Check out our #BionicChristmasCountdown and #BionicSantaDash Instagram campaigns to get idea of what we mean).

Everything you post needs to be carefully thought through and make a habit of checking out which hashtags are trending so you can include them in your posts. 

Also, keep track of global awareness days to tailor your content and jump on the bandwagon so to speak. Using the bookshop example again, ‘World Book Day’ is an obvious one, but you could recommend books about dogs to celebrate ‘International Dog Day’, cocktail recipe books for ‘World Cocktail Day’ or fiction novels with strong female leads for ‘International Women’s Day’.  

Keep it local  

The next thing to do is cement your presence as a local business in the community. 

A good way to do this is to browse competitor social accounts and see if they follow any local businesses you can connect with too. 

Some areas have a ‘Spotted’ page where local users post information or recommendations.  

Maybe you could join and see if anyone nearby needs your services? You don’t even need to put a post up asking, just keep an eye out. If you owned a mechanic and someone was asking for recommendations, then you could comment and see if you could help. 

Follow appropriate local pages too. A good way to do this is to do a Facebook or Instagram search of your area and see if there are any accounts or pages relevant to you.   

Another important thing to do is to keep an eye on how your customers are finding you and adapt via that. Simple questionnaires that ask things like ‘How did you hear from us’ are a great way to get this information. Maybe include a widget on confirmation emails when a customer buys something online, or just ask them how they came across your business when they’re buying in-store. It’s a good idea to make note of how your customers are hearing about you, then you can make the most of that channel.  

Be consistent   

Another important thing to consider is your posting schedule. Figuring out when your customers are online and more likely to be interacting can take time. It’s a lot of trial and error. Try posting on Facebook at say 7am for a week then switch it up to 11am the next week and so on, to see when you’re getting the most views. Then create a schedule with whatever times and days are getting the most engagement.  

Social media selling is a huge job, so you need to make sure you’re regularly commenting, liking your follower’s content, and getting involved in conversations that apply to you. But remember, don’t sell directly in the comments, you want to make them aware of your brand - not annoy them. They’ll come to you naturally if you do it right.  

If one of your followers has posted a photo of a delicious-looking cake they’ve just made and you happen to be a local cakemaker or bakery, comment your praise on their photo and like it. A simple ‘Wow, delicious! The icing looks amazing’ will make sure you’re on their radar. But because you’re not pushily saying ‘Great cake, now look at my business’ they’ll be more likely to check you out after a few interactions. 

Show don’t tell 

As we mentioned earlier, followers like original content that’s clever and tells a clear story. If you’re talking about the importance of using local suppliers in an Instagram post, don’t just put up a stock image and write an essay in the caption. In harsh reality, most followers will skip over this.  

If you run a restaurant, why don’t you do little TikTok videos introducing your bar staff and have them tell followers what their favourite cocktail is to make? Why don’t you describe your favourite dish to serve and explain why each ingredient is important? 

Maybe show content from your own local suppliers and a day in the life of them. This will help make it clear you’re consistently caring about the topic. If you run a coffee shop, why not show snippets of your suppliers chatting about their own coffee recommendations or grinding up the coffee beans? 

Or create a short video about the history of coffee, where it comes from, how many people drink it worldwide and different ways people use coffee (e.g to drink, to put in cakes, in face masks and beauty products and any health benefits it has) Figure out what’s important to your business and make sure your posts are focused around it.  

Set up groups  

Another thing to consider is joining relevant Facebook groups or setting up your own. Regularly interacting with your customers is important when building your brand and a group makes people feel included.  

A sense of community is important for small business owners, so why not set up a ‘Local Small Business’ group where SMEs can share tips with each other? 

You might have to start off posting first to get people in the spirit, but it can be so useful. Ask questions and encourage like-minded owners to share their business success stories or what they wished they’d known before starting.  

For example, have a weekly poll to see what owners in the local community have found positive in the last week when interacting with other businesses, was it customer service, good food, or a friendly chat? Were they inspired in any way? What would they do differently? 

You could also have ‘business of the week’ where you suggest fellow businesses that have gone above and beyond and deserve a pat on the back. You might also want to share tips on vital things business owners should know (like how to social sell, how to deal with a dip in demand forr a product, how to write a business plan or how to access SME loans) and become a pool of useful information you and others regularly add to. 

Pick your interactions  

Pick your interactions carefully, remember it’s all about quality not quantity, so don’t DM random people you don’t have relationships with.  

You need to build the foundations first. Once you’ve built up some connections, regularly comment and like their posts or reply to their stories. They’ll get to know you and then will naturally become more familiar with your business. 

Then you can start reaching out, if a follower posts a photo of a cosy desk set up with a candle and you happen to sell handmade candles in your store, maybe message them and let them know you like their post. Follow it up by asking what scent it is and let them know you're always looking to add to your range. It may pique their interest and start a conversation. The next time they need a candle, they might check you out. Don’t be too forward though as this could scare off potential customers.  

You can also try to cement relationships with fellow business owners in order to collaborate. If you run a hair salon that regularly interacts with a brow technician, you could see if they’d be interested in renting a space in your premises to offer their own services. Remember, you might get access to their customers too as they’ll be more likely to see the benefit in getting all their beauty needs met in one place.  

Get personal  

Another tip to try is to make sure you’re personalising every encounter you’re having with customers.  

Whether you’re commenting, liking, replying to a story or sending a message, try to personalise as much as possible, it will strengthen the relationship and stop followers from thinking you’re just sending out blanket messages to boost sales.  

Have a think about your customer touchpoints, maybe you could send a welcome message when you get a new order or a message when someone follows. A simple thank you and noting something you like about their profile can go a long way.  

For example, if you ran a clothes shop and someone with lots of fashion-based posts followed you, you could DM them, keeping it simple, saying something like ‘Thanks so much for the follow (name) love your style!’ This should improve the chances of your business sticking in their mind. then you’ll stick in their mind as an attentive business. 

How can Bionic help my business boost sales? 

Juggling social selling with the everyday runnings of your business can be hard. This blog should have given you a few ideas on how to make strong, lasting relationships with your customers using social media.  

Although Bionic can’t take care of your social accounts for you, we can help with other hassles that come with being a busy business owner. Our team can compare and help you switchbusiness energy,phone and broadband deals. 

We can also help with business insurance and business loans. Contact us today to find out more. All you need to do is input your postcode in the box on the right or call 0800 156 0899.