Using social media to build relationships with customers and to generate pipeline is not new. Companies already use solutions for managing their brands' channels. So, many marketers and salespeople are confused. How is social selling different from social media marketing, and how does it complement it?

This post will answer those questions for you.

What Is Social Selling?

In recent months, the term "social selling" has become hard to define. In part, that's because B2C companies have tried to appropriate the terms "social sales" and "social selling." However, social selling is best understood in the B2B context, where there's a complex sale that usually involves multiple decision-makers.

Here's a working definition of social selling:

Social selling is when salespeople use social networks to learn about and interact with buyers. Salespeople educate and build relationships with customers by supplying and discussing content, as well as answering buyers' questions.

Social Selling and Social Media Marketing: The Similarities

Part of the confusion also stems from social selling's similarities with social media marketing.

Virtually every B2B company has invested in using social media to market to customers, both future and current.

In fact, Duke University's research revealed that social media spending occupied nine percent of companies' marketing budgets in 2014. And that number was expected to rise.

Like social selling, social media marketing has very clear business goals. Social media marketers, like social sellers, are looking to develop customer relationships, educate buyers, and measure ROI on social media.


At the end of the day, revenue is the ultimate goal for both social media marketers and social sellers.

To drive revenue, both social media marketers and social sellers need content that educates. Blog posts, infographics, articles, and videos need to help buyers rethink their situation and understand why they need to move away from the status quo at their company.

The Differences

While social media marketing and social sales share common business goals, social media marketing's approach to social networks is different from that of social sales.

The most glaring difference deals with ownership. As the word "social media marketing" suggests, the responsibilities rest primarily in the hands of marketers.

"Social selling," on the other hand, straddles the worlds of sales and marketing. As the term suggests, salespeople are the ones who distribute content and educate customers.

But sales reps aren't alone in their social selling efforts. They need the support of marketers, who can teach sales reps how to use social media and who can supply content and messaging to the sales teams. (I've written extensively about how marketing can support salespeople on social networks here.)


As marketers educate salespeople, they must remember that a marketer's audience is different from a sales rep's audience.

Top-notch organizations are realizing that their sales team outnumbers their marketing team. Since sales teams have multiple times the people power that marketing teams have, salespeople are better equipped to deliver very personalized, very targeted messages to their customers.

While marketers are trying to speak to multiple people at once, salespeople can speak to individual buyers. In that sense, sales reps have a unique opportunity to shape each buyer's individual journey.

Plus, it helps that, with social selling, messages are coming from real people, who have faces and names and to whom buyers can relate. With social sales, customers are no longer interacting with nameless, faceless corporate accounts.

Let's face it. It feels a little awkward speaking to a company's Twitter account.

Social Selling and Social Media Marketing Require Different Technologies

Can we agree that social selling and social media marketing are not the same? As such, they require different solutions.

If you dig into the design and capabilities, you'll find that social media marketing tools provide great value to marketing organizations. But the reality is that they fall short for sales teams. In our experience, companies that give social media marketing tools to sales reps often experience low adoption rates. (Some as low as 0%!)

From a functional level, social media marketing tools make life difficult for sales representatives. Though powerful, these tools were built for marketers–not for sales enablement and sales teams.

What do I mean by that? Social marketing tools often put the onus on sales people to find content, copy and paste links into the tool, and then share posts. They don't have a complete workflow that enables content and messaging to flow freely between marketing and sales.

By contrast, a good social selling platform is built to align sales and marketing. It allows marketers and sales enablement teams to build a content library, to write sample messages, to split sales teams according to verticals and regions, and to track results.

In the End…

It's important to understand how social media marketing and social selling are alike. As you try to build your business case for social selling, the similarities between the two disciplines will help you secure buy-in from your marketing department.

That said, you cannot overlook key differences between social media marketing and social sales. Because of these differences, social media marketing and social selling require different tools. Today's companies must recognize that both types of platforms are necessary today. And they must understand what each system can do for them – and what it does not.

Want to Get Started with Social Selling?

Feel free to contact us. We'd love to discuss your specific social selling needs!


Posted by Mark Bajus

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