Digital Selling & Social Selling: What’s The Difference?

by | 17 Jul 23

I’ve had a number of conversations with EdTech Sales, Customer Success and Marketing people who are involved, one way or another, in promoting their products online. What’s become apparent is that these two terms – ‘Digital Selling’ and ‘Social Selling’ – are often used interchangeably.

So, if you’re wanting to work out the difference between Digital Selling and Social Selling, you’re not alone!

In this blog, I’ll clear up the confusion and look closely at the differences between Digital Selling and Social Selling, as well as look at each one individually in a little more detail. Read on to discover everything you need to know about these two powerful strategies and where digital activity stops and human activity takes over.

Table of Contents

Use these links to jump straight to the part of the article that interests you most.

> The Difference Between Digital Selling & Social Selling
> What Is Digital Selling
> What Is Social Selling
> Human and Digital Collaboration

The Difference Between Digital Selling & Social Selling

When it comes to Digital Selling and Social Selling, there are a few core differences that set them apart. Actually, it’s more than that… Social Selling is part of Digital Selling. Let me explain.

Digital Selling is a broad term used to describe the use of technology to find and engage customers online. This can include things like

  • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
  • Digital Sales Rooms (DSRs)
  • Content Marketing
  • Pay-per-click Advertising
  • Social Media Ads
  • Email Marketing Campaigns
  • Social Selling

Did you spot it? Social Selling is one of the Digital Selling techniques. So it sits within the wider Digital Selling space. Social Selling involves leveraging social media platforms (such as LinkedIn and Twitter) to build relationships and engage potential customers.

Social Selling is all about building your personal brand online, connecting with prospects through meaningful conversations, and using the power of influence to drive conversations.

And that’s a really important point: it drives conversations. These are conversations for both parties to work out if you can benefit each other. These aren’t ‘sales pitch’ conversations. No one and I mean absolutely no one needs to jump on a quick Zoom call with someone to find out you’ve been duped and are on the receiving end of a sales pitch! Urgh!

What Is Digital Selling?

Digital Selling is an overarching term that includes a range of different techniques. Generally, it involves using technology to identify and reach customers online. This could include anything from SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) to Content Marketing or Pay-Per-Click Advertising. The ultimate aim is to create visibility for your product and attract attention from potential customers.

One of the great things about Digital Selling is that it allows for highly targeted campaigns. You can create ads and campaigns that are tailored to the exact needs of your target audience, which helps to increase engagement and conversions.

In my opinion, to implement a solid Digital Selling strategy in your business, you need the help of a great marketing person or team. Now, that’s not us here at Accelerate – so I’m not pitching at you. I’ve run a number of small businesses over the years and I’ve given this my best shot. But in my opinion SEO, Social Media Advertising and Pay-Per-Click Advertising are special skills that you need to bring in. You can, of course, learn the basics but to make these a real success you need someone with particular skills and with time that’s dedicated to these activities.

What Is Social Selling?

Social Selling however is a skill that you as a Sales, Customer Success or Marketing person, should spend the time to understand. This is something that will give you an edge over your competitors.

Social Selling is a technique that you can use by leveraging social media platforms, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, to build relationships and engage with potential customers. The aim of Social Selling is to create a community around your own personal brand, where the conversations you have are meaningful and mutually beneficial for both parties.

The key to successful Social Selling lies in understanding your target audience. You need to be able to identify the right people who may be interested in your product or service, and then create content that resonates with them. Once you know who you’re targeting, it’s time to start engaging with them online. This can include sharing relevant articles, liking their posts, commenting on their updates, and creating content that’s entertaining, educational and useful to them. By interacting with your target audience in this way, you can build relationships and trust.

As well as this, you should always look for opportunities to join in conversations that are already happening, rather than just pushing out content that no one will engage with. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, join in debates and provide your opinion – remember, the aim is to create conversations, not just push out sales messages.

Once you have established a relationship with potential customers, it’s important to keep them engaged by staying up-to-date with their posts and offering value.

My favourite tools for Social Selling are – without a doubt – LinkedIn with Sales Navigator. There’s a myth in EdTech that ‘schools aren’t on LinkedIn’. Well, I can say, with 100% certainty that that isn’t the case. If you look at the data available on LinkedIn, you may just be surprised! Maybe there’s another blog idea in that somewhere?

Of course, there are examples of EdTech businesses that have leveraged Twitter as their go-to Social Selling platform, and they’ve done that extremely well. So, I’m not saying don’t look at Twitter. But I just prefer LinkedIn for forming and building relationships.

Human and Digital Collaboration

The other important factor to consider in all of this is the role of the human. Digital Selling and Social Selling are incredibly powerful tools, but they should never replace human interaction.

At some point, the conversation needs to be taken offline and moved into a more personal space (usually Zoom or Teams these days).

So, for example, there are companies out there that build automation and scheduling tools for LinkedIn and Twitter. These are tools such as Buffer, Hootsuite, Owlead and Dripify. There are plenty out there.

But I think it’s important to put a human front and centre. So, for example, scheduling Tweets is a great thing to do, but the main aim of all your Tweets (and posts on LinkedIn) is to engage your audience to generate value and therefore conversations. That means you’ve got to work out where in the process, automation and scheduling stops and you take over. This is absolutely key, especially for Social Selling.

A Quick Wrap Up

So, to wrap up and summarise, Digital Selling and Social Selling are two distinct techniques that can be used to promote your EdTech product. While Digital Selling uses technology for a wide range of activities such as SEO, Content Marketing and Pay-Per-Click Advertising; Social Selling is another tool in the Digital Selling space, and it’s all about expanding your network, creating great content and developing meaningful relationships with customers and prospects.

For successful Social Selling, you need to understand your target audience and leverage the right social media platforms. Don’t forget though that at some point, the conversation needs to be taken offline and moved into a more personal space – automation can help you get there, but human interaction is key for success.

I hope this blog has helped you understand the differences between Digital Selling and Social Selling.

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