“All selling is social. Always has been. Always will be. Before Facebook, before LinkedIn, before the web in fact, people bought from people in social ways.”

A blog post on the Salesforce blog has succinctly explained the phenomenon of ‘social commerce’, which basically means shopping and selling on social media where the act of purchasing is heavily influenced by peer reviews and recommendations by friends. While social commerce has been the norm in bricks n mortar stores, it is gaining popularity on social media too. Think of the times you’ve bought a dress you’re best friend liked on Etsy? Or brought a gadget that had the maximum reviews? Most of us are influenced by recommendations by our peers and friends on social media, a trend that has sparked a rise in social commerce.

This is all a part of new revelations that state that 5% of online retail sales will be via social media in 2015, taking it back to the physical shopping experience where people value other’s opinion. The rise in engagement and interaction between consumers and brands has fuelled social commerce in a big way. Social platforms have transformed from being fan pages to a place where you can nurture leads and drive actual sales. Just like in the offline world, a star salesman is able to sell products by connecting with the buyer on a personal level, the same approach can be used to build relationships with online buyers.

In such a scenario, it has become all the more important for small and medium sized business to create a social media presence and build relationship with customers online through genuine empathy. Because if you play your cards right, a simple Tweet expressing interest in your product can quickly turn into a sales opportunity.

How do you master the art of social commerce?

Well, for starters, there’s actually a university called the Social Selling University, which was set up to train sales and marketing professionals about social media in the business world. Here you can find case studies, webinars, infographics and much more to help you learn the ropes of social selling. But, I believe the best way to learn is to jump straight into the game.

Most social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin are already prepped for the social selling phenomenon.

Let’s have a look at each and understand what you can do on each social platform.

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Facebook for business

What started as a social platform to stalk our high school buddies and make everyone jealous by posting enviable vacations pictures has evolved into a serious place for business. Welcome to the world of Facebook for Business, a world where you can reach out to prospective customers and boost sales. On Facebook, business can achieve two goals. First, create a loyal fan base by getting likes and second attract the right customers through advertising leading to direct sales. It is also a low-cost and effective place for customer support and brand building as you can connect to customers directly. For instance, during 2014 FIFA World Cup, McDonalds Australia posted a video using Facebook’s Premium Video Ads, which saw one million video plays in just 24 hours. This campaign bolstered their brand visibility by riding on the soccer fever and also improved brand scores.

Linkedin for business

Recommendations by friends have always held importance in our personal lives but according to an IDC report, 50% of B2B buyers use LinkedIn for making purchase decisions. This clearly goes on to prove how social is impacting our professional interaction and decision making patterns as well. LinkedIn is capitalizing on this by effectively mining social selling opportunities for the B2B market with their new product ‘LinkedIn Sales Solution’ that highlights the importance of building relationships with prospective customers in your industry. Customers network with peers on LinkedIn and are already quite well aware of what they’re looking for when they find a company on LinkedIn, this changes the role of salesperson from a source of information to the source of confirmation and fulfilment of the customer’s educational journey. Take the case of IBM, who historically improved their sales by 400% by implementing a social selling program. You can get more tips on how to mine the wealth of opportunity in the business world by reading these actionable tips by LinkedIn.

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Twitter for Business

Whether you are a large enterprise minting millions a month or a small business ready to ride the social storm, Twitter is the place to be. The Twitter community is smart, knowledgeable and curious. It values interaction with brands and doesn’t mince words. There’s a lot to be gained if you build a Twitter rapport with potential customers by engaging in meaningful conversations and turning them into potential buyers. Companies who’ve successfully built a following on Twitter have one thing in common: They have a brand voice and are honest in their interactions. As a small business, you should focus on building a following that would generate traffic to your website and increase brand loyalty by adopting an approachable yet professional tone. Remember, it is important to have a personal touch in your conversations. Once you’ve got the hang of Twitter basics and you have a clear objective, you can grow your business through Twitter ads. This feature allows business to achieve their marketing objective from improving engagement to lead generation. Take the case of Pact Coffee, a small Coffee company in UK, who wanted to grow their customer base and interact with customers. With the right targeting and strategically planned campaigns, @pactcoffee were able to increase their follower base by 50% and significantly increased awareness of their business with over 5M impressions.

Pinterest for Business

People are lured by anything visual, a fact that has worked in favour of Pinterest, a solely visual social networking platform. Pinterest has more referral traffic than Youtube, Linkedln and Google+ combined, a good enough reason for business looking to drive sales or connect with potential clients. Etsy, which has over 800,000 online shops and 15 million one-of-a-kind items, has used Pinterest to maximum advantage. Traditionally, users “pin” items to their personal boards by using a downloadable “Pin It” widget, which increases the audience immediately. But for business, you need to sign up for a business account, create your board and use rich pins such as Product pins that show the user where they can buy the product from and link it directly to the store. With more 70 million users, Pinterest recognizes the opportunity for advertising and plans to launch a new feature ‘Promoted Pins’.