There are few people who enjoy making an unsolicited promotion. Who wants to annoy others and possibly damage future sales chances? But for many, when the ads stop pulling in new customers, it’s an unavoidable aspect of marketing.

But imagine if you could avoid this terrible fate. Instead of irritating people, you could make connections with potential customers — and not leave them walking away with a bad taste in their mouths.

Social selling is a newer trend, an offshoot of social media marketing that aims to create meaningful relationships with individual potential customers by offering thought leadership and free advice to build trust and nurture leads through the funnel.

With social selling, there’s no script and no quota. You simply increase your reputation by being friendly and professional, and the sales roll in.

It may be slow, but this less forceful approach has proved effective, especially for B2B businesses. But any team can adopt this technique and use it to draw in customers.

The Importance of Human Interaction

Don’t be a faceless company. It’s easy to picture a business as a lifeless machine, but when customers interact with company employee, they feel more comfortable. Making these connections is how you introduce the human element.

It’s much easier to trust someone who isn’t a robot, reading from a script, or obviously trying to sell you something. And taking some time out of your day to respond to users gives a good impression. That’s the core of social selling.

Avoid over-automation at all costs. If someone sees your Twitter is nothing but generic scheduled posts, or if you send auto-replies when a bot detects certain keywords, everything you’ve worked for will be wasted.

Instead, make connections. Get to know a prospect one-on-one. Start an engaging conversation — one that isn’t just a pitch for your latest software demo. Don’t spam people with unsolicited ads. Reach out and build a real relationship!

Social Media

Here’s the big rule: Only join as many social media accounts as you can meaningfully contribute to. What’s the point if you’re juggling so many that you only have time to write low-quality posts? Or some accounts lie dead?

Pick a few sites that reflect your company’s ideals. If your target audience is 60+, what exactly are you doing on Tumblr?

And before you get started, remember the key to social selling: Not every interaction should be a pitch. Develop your reputation as a professional, helpful, authoritative and honest company first. Ask the right questions, and consider others’ opinions. Watch for relevant tags, but make a connection before you make an offer.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is the obvious first choice for businesses. B2B in particular will feel right at home here. There are forums, groups, and articles that can help you meet other companies and potential employees. LinkedIn even has a social selling index to rank how well you’re doing.

The downside is that there’s less chance to connect with the general populace here — only those who own a business or are searching for a job will use LinkedIn regularly. If your business is not B2B, there will be less opportunity for word to spread.

However, it’s still a good idea to spend time on LinkedIn if you wish to find employees and tap into other companies’ knowledge.

Twitter

Twitter is another solid choice. It’s popular among businesses, and with its diverse user base, you’ll reach a variety of people. B2B or B2C, you’ll quickly find a large network to interact with.

Twitter limits post length, so you won’t be writing any essays here (even with the recent increase in allowed characters). Instead, make content short, snappy, and impactful. Use visual media. And if you’re targeting teenagers and adults, remember that Twitter users appreciate businesses with a sense of humor.

Bring in an ounce of creativity, a dose of wit, and a whole lot of engaging content, and you’ll be pulling in the retweets in no time.

Facebook

Unlike Twitter, Facebook is less business-casual. But consistently being in the top 5 popular websites worldwide, it’s always worth consideration. With a more adult demographic and a considerable portion of the internet’s older population, companies targeting them should definitely use Facebook’s tools.

Facebook comes with many helpful features, including a shop/menu listing, a place for people to ask questions, and even analytics. Many other social media networks lack these features.

The downside is that it seems considerably harder to market a B2B business. And though many remain, young adults are slowly ditching Facebook. But if you only had one option between all social media, and Twitter or LinkedIn didn’t appeal, Facebook would be the best choice.

Tumblr

People on Tumblr love to share. The site is filled with creators ready to reblog interesting content. This is not the site for an overly long article on recent business trends; it’s for fun images, engaging posts, creative contests, and a lot of humor.

If “relaxed, casual, and funny” does not fit your brand image, then Tumblr is certainly not ideal. But while it may not have a huge business following, it’s picking up traction among the companies with the right mindset.

Downsides to Tumblr include some difficulty making connections and having public conversations (without reblogging every reply). This is balanced by the ask box and a decent private messaging system, enabling customer communication.

Instagram and Pinterest

While these two aren’t especially popular with businesses, some have made it work and encountered fair success.

A constant stream of images is necessary, so it won’t be suitable for a corporation without visual appeal. But a creative or artistic company may find good connections here.

Business Instagram has similar features to Facebook, with analytics, company info, and a blog. Pinterest for Business has fewer features, but it does come with analytics and educational tools.

Employee Advocacy

Now that you have a good grasp on the most popular social media networks, it’s time to start promoting your business online. You could do it yourself, but it’s a job on its own. Should you hire a social media specialist to handle things for you?

Possibly. But you already have a valuable online presence sitting right in front of you. That’s right: Your employees.

Employee advocacy is becoming more and more popular, and for good reason. People tend to trust employees of a company more, and their established profiles can reach farther than your brand-new Twitter account can. They can share company-made content to their pages, contribute their own posts and ideas, and provide the world with insight into the daily workings of your company.

But it’s important to incentivize employees, and reward them for their valuable contributions. It can be through extra pay, a points system with redeemable rewards, or whatever you think will interest them. A motivated person is a happy person, and one willing to create and share positive content.

Consider using a formal advocacy program to automate the process. This will make it easier to see the top contributors, examine data, set up a rewards system, and post right from the dashboard.

Social Selling: A Valuable Strategy

If you haven’t adopted social selling yet, the time is now. Whether you have established accounts or are just getting started, switching your social media mindset could do wonders for your reputation and sales.

Instead of throwing pitches left and right, create relationships with potential customers. Don’t throw links at them unless it’s a valuable response, such as a blog post that addresses their question. Be helpful and friendly, and answer questions, even when it doesn’t directly contribute to sales.

And don’t talk like you’re a walking advertisement. Let your customers know that you’re a human being, and they’ll empathize with and trust you. Without consumer trust, your business can never flourish so now is the time to start building it.