How Is Social Selling Different from Employee Advocacy?

How well do you remember middle school? At one point, your math teacher told you, “A square is a rectangle, but a rectangle is not always a square.” And after a few seconds of head scratching, you wrapped your mind around the concept.

Well, the same thing is happening in the world of social media. Two concepts –employee advocacy and social selling – are causing marketing and sales leaders to scratch their heads. For many, it’s unclear how the two terms complement each other and how they differ from each other. This post answers those questions in the B2B context.

How Social Selling and Employee Advocacy Are Similar

The fact is, social media is a powerful avenue for connecting with our customers. But the world is changing. A few years ago, everyone was talking about the importance of social for marketing departments. Companies were encouraged to have some presence on social media. Now, having branded social channels is no longer enough. Buyers crave more authentic, human relationships with brands, and that’s where employee advocacy and social selling come in. Here are a few similarities:

Basic Premise

Ultimately, both employee advocacy and social selling aim to get employees to use social media for business purposes. As you can imagine, employee advocacy is broader, in that it wants toempower all employees to use social networks. Social selling, on the other hand, is specific. It wants salespeople to use social networks.

Communication Style

Traditional social media marketing has its limitations. Across social networks, marketers try to write messages that resonate with large groups of people, and they communicate those messages through a dehumanized, faceless brand logo.

Employee advocacy and social selling address those weaknesses. With both initiatives, the emphasis is on personalization and humanization. Individual humans – with real names and faces – can communicate one-to-one with buyers, who also have real names and faces. As a result, social selling and employee advocacy should come across as more authentic than social media marketing.

Where Social Selling and Employee Advocacy Diverge

On the surface, social selling and employee advocacy look a lot alike. But if you dig into the two concepts, you’ll find some significant differences. For instance, each type of program is designed and optimized for different purposes, and each program requires a different set of technological capabilities. Let’s dive deeper into the differences between social selling and employee advocacy.

Departmental Focus

Like we said above, the scope of employee advocacy is broader, in that it wants to empower all employees to use social networks for business purposes. It doesn’t matter whether the person is an engineer or a customer success representative. Social selling, on the other hand, is more narrow in focus. It wants salespeople to use social networks.

Business Goals

In theory, both employee advocacy and social selling initiatives are about revenue. In practice, they often have different business goals.

Many employee advocacy programs map onto traditional branding initiatives. These programs leverage employees’ social accounts so that marketers can build brand awareness, extend social reach, and drive clicks to their website.

Since social selling falls under the domain of the sales team, the tie to revenue is much stronger. A good social selling program improves a sales team’s productivity so that each sales rep can generate more revenue. Want to learn more? Check out this post.

Relationship Owner

Both initiatives being discussed revolve around relationships. Advocates need to build relationships to drive awareness, and salespeople need to build relationships to drive revenue. However, there’s a difference in terms of who owns the relationship from start to finish.

In a B2B context, where complex sales processes are common, an employee advocate may not own the buyer’s journey from start to finish. For example, an engineer may have a relationship with a potential buyer and help raise brand awareness. However, the engineer will not close the deal. The relationship will have to be passed over to a sales rep at some point.

With social selling, the sales rep owns the relationship from start to finish. The sales rep must attract buyers, develop the relationship, identify buying signals, develop them into new opportunities, and close the deals. As a result, social selling is much easier to track and attribute to revenue.

Content Needs

Given that employee advocacy and social selling have different business goals, the two programs often have different content needs. Sure, both programs need a blend of third-party and company-created content. But social selling content must fulfill a very specific need. Social selling content must help buyers understand their business predicament, and it must provide insights that will help buyers move beyond their status quo.

To be sure, you can give insightful content to all employees. However, it will be more effective in the hands of a salesperson, who will own the relationship from the beginning of the buyer’s journey until the end.

Technology Requirements

If you dig into the design and capabilities, you’ll find that, while employee advocacy platforms are great for circulating content, they often lack the capabilities that salespeople need. Since social selling is a very specific use case, sales teams need software built for them. For starters, since CRM systems are indispensable for today’s sales organization, CRM integration is a must-have, and many advocacy solutions overlook this connection. Furthermore, vendors must provide ways to tie social actions to revenue in CRM systems.

In the End…

Virtually every company has invested in communicating with customers through social channels. However, buyers on social networks are evolving, and the next step for companies is more authentic personalization. And that requires reliance on a company’s employees.

For some companies, the next logical step will be to ask their sales team to be more socially active. Once those companies prove that social is a revenue generator, rather than a cost center, they can expand into other departments. For other companies, the next logical step may be to ask all employees, regardless of department, to be more socially active.

The decision rests heavily on a company’s business objectives, which we will explore in detail in Thursday’s post.

In the Meantime…

Here are some more resources to help you learn more:

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