Break down these 5 barriers to cultivate long-term social selling success

Break down these 5 barriers to cultivate long-term social selling success

Today, we’re going deep on a very important topic: How to break down common social selling barriers that cause programs to falter. To help us out, we’re bringing in the big guns: Our Senior Director of Value Consulting, Tim Rickards. Tim has phenomenal insight on this topic because he’s lived it from both sides—first as the marketing mind behind many firms’ integrated social programs and now as a consultant to firm program administrators. Here’s his advice for firm leaders tasked with building a successful social selling program.

'Social selling’ is the act of using social media networks as a tool to find, connect with, and convert prospects and nurture existing customers. It presents both a golden opportunity and a formidable challenge in a highly regulated industry like financial services.

When done successfully, both firms and the field can build sales pipeline and deepen relationships with existing clients. But in spite of all the potential, a handful of common pitfalls can derail social selling progress.

In this post, I’ll highlight five barriers and offer advice on how to navigate over, around, and through them to build an effective social selling program that leads to long-term success for your firm. I experienced some of these firsthand throughout my long, varied career at Charles Schwab and have seen these same issues pop up as I help Hearsay customers build successful social programs.

Barrier 1: Struggling to trust the process

Here’s the uncomfortable truth: To be successful, you have to give up some control

Venturing into social selling means stepping into the unknown, and that can be, well… uncomfortable. Surrendering control by enabling others to become the voice of your brand can feel counterintuitive. It can even feel a bit unsettling, especially for the marketers reading this post. But you have permission to feel a little out of depth.

It's through this relinquishment that the magic happens. Personalized content generated by those closest to your clients and prospects resonates more deeply than any centrally controlled campaign ever could.

The bottom line is that modified and original content, created or adapted by your team to make it authentic to their voice, will always be the most engaging content by far. Need proof? We just wrapped up our 2024 Social Selling Content Study, and we found that original content consistently outperformed marketing-generated content by 10x. 

Barrier 2: Expecting immediate payoff

Remember this: Achieving social success is a marathon, not a sprint

Social selling is inherently a long-haul game. If you're entering with expectations of immediate, viral success, take a moment to recalibrate.

Unlike the ephemeral fame of going viral on platforms like TikTok, true social selling success is measured in the strength and endurance of the relationships you build. And those relationships grow not with flash-in-the-pan ‘fame’ but by developing lasting connections with consistent effort over time. 

Barrier 3: Trying to master everything on day one

New idea: Start simple, then scale

Ever heard the phrase, jack of all trades, master of none? It's tempting to want to tackle everything at once – to shoot for the stars with complex metrics and multi-faceted goals. But in reality, starting simple gives your program the foundation it needs to grow sustainably. Taking a step-by-step approach also avoids overwhelming your team and allows for organic growth and learning.

Start with a single goal that you go after in a linear way. Say you decide to focus on getting the field to consistently post at least once a week by subscribing to a campaign, publishing their own content, or some combination of the two. By truly prioritizing one metric over all others, your attention and efforts won’t be divided. As you make strides toward achieving that goal, other things will improve along the way—and once you have a comfortable process in place, you can extend your reach to focus on other goals.

Barrier 4: Neglecting to partner with compliance

Collaborating with compliance is not just beneficial; it's essential.

Perhaps one of the most daunting aspects of social selling in the financial sector is navigating the compliance aspect of the equation. But rather than viewing compliance as an obstacle to progress—consider your compliance partners as essential pieces to the entire process who can contribute to the success of every aspect of your social efforts.

Some of the most successful social programs are rooted in strong collaboration between marketing and compliance.

Together, these teams can simultaneously achieve three critical goals: 

  • Reduce the workload of compliance reviewers
  • Support risk mitigation, and…
  • Empower your program to drive better business outcomes

Refining supervision workflows and policies are great ways to support these efforts. This may come in the form of enabling pre-review or re-assessing your lexicon to make it more effective,

Seemingly simple changes can have an incredible impact. At Summit a few weeks back, I was talking to a compliance leader who told me that overhauling their lexicon ‘changed her life.’ Putting the right terms in place as a safety net helped her reduce her team’s work queue by 40%. So, you can see why having a strong alliance with compliance is crucial. And if you prioritize building that kind of relationship from the jump, you’re proactively setting yourself up for success. 

Barrier 5: Not giving it your all

Dabbling in social media publishing won’t get you results; consistency will.

If you want to test social selling as a viable business growth tool, go after it. Jump in with both feet. Maintain a consistent posting cadence. Train your team. Build a content library that newer users can rely on to build confidence on social. If you hype up the program but don’t deliver training or promise campaign content and let it fizzle out on week three, your program is doomed to fail.

Instead, commit to piloting an ‘all-in’ push to make social a valuable sales tool. Commit at least 9-12 months to make sure you have time to see measurable growth. And learn by doing—try things and be willing to learn along the way. You need to publish a variety of content to see what works. Every audience is different and is receptive to different things. Don’t be afraid to test and learn.

Where should you start when building a successful selling program?

Steering clear of common barriers and continuously optimizing your approach will ensure that your social selling efforts are not just about meeting the immediate goals—but about setting the stage for enduring relationships and sustained business growth.

These three things need to work together to help your program deliver the most benefit:

  1. Quality content that engages and adds value
  2. User behavior that aligns with the brand and drives interaction
  3. A compliance framework that supports dynamic engagement

As you consider the order of things to focus on, align with compliance first. Then, pivot to user behavior and get your field connected and publishing. Finally, focus on building a content strategy that drives engagement. Over time, evaluate your performance and continually optimize your efforts. 

Maturity is the true secret to long-term success

Enhancing these three pillars will naturally evolve your program towards sophistication. We can help you hone in on advancing user behavior with our proprietary User Maturity Model. This model evaluates where every active publisher falls in the scheme of ‘user maturity’ by assessing each user’s skill and comfort level with social media tasks. Users are then assigned to one of five ‘maturity’ levels. We have tailored training available to help you convert social skeptics, strengthen middle-of-the-road performers, and empower your strongest social sellers. We can also help you hone in on a targeted content strategy and build compliance processes that support your team. If you’re interested in learning more, talk to your CSM.

Tim Rickards
Tim leads Hearsay’s Value Consulting team, which helps customers identify and tackle pain points, capture opportunities, and achieve better business results from their Hearsay Social investments.

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