“Which network is better for social selling -- Twitter or LinkedIn?”

I hear that question all the time. It always makes me cringe. Social selling is transforming sales teams across industries through its ability to engage buyers in a multi-channel world.

Notice that I said "multi-channel world." You can’t be successful at social selling just by becoming a power user of your favorite social network. There’s plenty of debate about which social network -- Twitter or LinkedIn -- is the most valuable for salespeople, but I have to challenge that way of looking at the world.

LinkedIn is a channel. So is Twitter. And email. Phone, screensharing, texting -- they’re all channels. We can waste time arguing over which channel is better, or we can do what marketers have been doing for years: use the different channels to enhance and supplement each other.

The truth is:

Smart Salespeople Aren’t Using LinkedIn or Twitter

They’re using LinkedIn and Twitter.

At first glance, Twitter and LinkedIn can look similar. What’s the real difference, and why does it matter to salespeople?

Twitter: Find and Engage

There are many times when you’ll want to reach out and catch the attention of a buyer that doesn’t even know you exist yet. Twitter can change that. It’s a tool for beginning relationships with the people you want to know.

Twitter is a great channel to interact with people based on their interests and activities. If you sell office copiers and see someone complaining on Twitter about a jammed copier, that’s a chance to engage. If you sell conference sponsorships and you see someone tweeting from another conference in the same industry, that’s also an engagement opportunity.

The basic rule of thumb is to look for people who are saying the things that your buyers, partners, and influencers say. Twitter has lots of great markers to help you find those people.

Look at what hashtags people use, who they’re following, who is following them, and what lists they appear on to start identifying who is relevant.

Once you find interesting people, the barriers to engaging on Twitter are low. Following a stranger on Twitter is perfectly acceptable. It doesn’t cross any uncomfortable etiquette boundaries. It’s a great way to get to know buyers, and to start to make them aware of you.

Once you’re connected to a buyer on Twitter, you can start to engage.

Twitter’s live-action nature enables you to converse directly with buyers in real time, based on their online activity. If someone just posted on Twitter, it’s likely they’re online. Seize the moment.

Twitter’s also a great source of real-time information on your buyer’s companies. In the old days, you had to wait for the company’s Annual Report to get an update on corporate priorities and initiatives. Now you can get up-to-the-minute reporting from the corporate Twitter handle. That context is critical as you engage your buyers.

LinkedIn: Connect and Research

LinkedIn shines when it comes to deepening relationships you’ve initiated and developed elsewhere.

Connecting with buyers on LinkedIn is a best practice, but only once you’ve already had professional interactions with them. In contrast to Twitter, asking to connect with strangers on LinkedIn is a no-no. Buyers don’t want LinkedIn connection requests from random salespeople any more than they want cold calls.

Once you know a buyer, a well-written LinkedIn connection request is a good thing. It strengthens the relationship, and allows you to be alerted when that buyer has a birthday, gets a promotion, or joins a new company. That information is invaluable.

And then there’s that profile. Member profiles are LinkedIn’s crown jewels, and an unbelievably rich source of information for salespeople.

If you’re outbounding, LinkedIn lets you identify prospects based on title, company, industry, or geography. This information is more than just demographics. It helps you personalize your interactions with a buyer based on what you know about their background and interests.

You should never walk into a meeting, a phone call, or even an email exchange without doing your research about a prospect -- where they report, what they do, where they live, where they’ve worked, where they went to school, and so on. LinkedIn’s profile tells you all of that, and you’ll never find it on Twitter.

Don’t forget your own branding. Just as you’re using LinkedIn to research buyers, they’re using it to research you. Make sure it showcases your credibility, expertise, and professionalism. Include a professional picture, your full work history, educational background, links to relevant content, etc.

You may be able to get away without a Twitter account, but you MUST be on LinkedIn. And you’d better look good.

Using LinkedIn and Twitter Together

So how should salespeople use the two channels together? Here’s a seven-step cadence for using the two tools together to cultivate a new relationship with a buyer.

  1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile to look your best.
  2. Find buyers on Twitter based on their activity (tweets, hashtags, lists, etc.).
  3. Once you’ve found someone promising, engage on Twitter by favoriting, replying, and following.
  4. View the prospect’s LinkedIn profile for context and shared experiences/connections.
  5. Send an email with a more formal introduction that touches on shared context. Ask for a phone call.
  6. After the meeting, connect on LinkedIn with a personal note.
  7. Stay top-of-mind by sharing insights on LinkedIn, Twitter, and email.

Whether you’re using LinkedIn, Twitter, or any other engagement channel, the timeless sales principles still apply: Listen more than you talk, understand your buyer’s needs, and figure out how you can solve them.

That's the real winner.

For your reference, here's a helpful infographic that explains how the two networks differ from a social selling perspective:


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Originally published Jun 5, 2015 7:30:00 AM, updated February 01 2017


Social Selling