Psychology of Social Selling and LinkedIn

Psychology of Social Selling and LinkedIn

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LinkedIn currently boasts over 560 million users. And to think roughly 11% of these are senior-level influencers (plus, 40 million users are in decision-making positions), social selling cannot be regarded as another entry into the list of worthless sales buzzwords.

Its traction brings us to today's discussion: how and why social selling on LinkedIn works. Many studies and research show a link between social media and dopamine—the neurotransmitter (or chemical messenger) that creates feelings of pleasure and rewards you for repeating a specific behavior.

In that, cuddling your partner and being involved in social media engagements have the same effect on our brain. If your goal is to enable an ampler sales prospecting method or streamline your overall sales process, what can you do with this vital info?

Understanding the Concept of Social Selling

Statistics have it that an average person would spend about five years and four months of their years on social media. To buttress, 30% of all time spent online is on social media. That’s around two hours of social media interaction per day. Moreover, did you know that over 3 million companies have a LinkedIn account?

All these social media stats resonate the fact that social media is no more optional for businesses. Engaging with your target audience on a personal level is becoming a necessity, which is the sole intent of social selling.

Social selling is basically finding and reaching the right prospects with the help of social media. To put it differently, this sales strategy allows you to focus on the social aspect of selling.

Several sales teams use LinkedIn to interact with their potential customers, clients, and business associates directly as it fosters connection with people who are likely interested in your business.

The map of registered users on LinkedIn.

The central idea is that building trusted relationships with prospects is easier within a network like LinkedIn since it not only allows you to create value upfront (through relevant content) but also eliminates the need for sending cold emails or using other unsolicited sales practices.

Targeting the right prospects without wasting time on the wrong audience is one primary reason to go social selling.

Note: Social selling, social media marketing, and social media advertising are three different methodologies.

The Science Behind Social Selling

Take a sip of the drink and put your findings in motion.

Returning to how and why it works, let’s look at the psychological aspect of social media:

As shown in Dr. Mark Griffiths’ report on how social networking affects our mental state, “many people’s social media use is habitual.” Science has proven that as psychological beings, the habit-forming nature of social media is the causative factor responsible for the constant increase in its usage.

However, what makes us form these habitual patterns so easily is none other than the chemical responsible for reward and pleasure: dopamine. While 10K words might not be enough to explain what dopamine is or do, it’d help to know that this chemical is released by nerve cells in the brain and accounts for every minute most people (especially millennials) spend on social media.

A Little About Dopamine

Wolfram Schultz and co. as winners of The Brain Prize (once known as The Grete Lundbeck European Brain Research Prize) for 2017.

In the 1980s, Cambridge University neuroscience professor Wolfram Schultz unearthed that dopamine relates to the reward we get for any given action. Ever since his discovery (and greatly in the mobile age), dopamine has become a "celebrity molecule" or the Kim Kardashian of neurotransmitters as stated by clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell.

It’s widely thought to lead to addiction, intense sex drive, desire, love, ambition, and everything in-between. In Silicon Valley, however, dopamine's widespread acceptance has many investors' attention on how to make the next "sticky" app, game, or social platform.

“We found a signal in the brain that explains our most profound behaviors, in which every one of us is engaged constantly. I can see why the public has become interested.” — Wolfram Schultz

Think of dopamine as a chemical messenger that plays a focal role in movement, attention, memory, emotional responses, cognition, learning, mood, sleep, and even in the control of communication in the brain (along with other neurotransmitters). To determine its effects in the brain and define how we behave, dopamine tracts spread out to 4 different segments:

  1. The Nigrostriatal Tract: For movement and motor control of the body.
  2. The Mesolimbic Pathway: For psychosis and addiction.
  3. The Mesocortical Pathway: For motivation and emotional responses among others.
  4. The Tuberoinfundibular Pathway: For breastfeeding i.e., lactation.
"We need dopamine in the right place at the right time in the right amounts. When it all comes together, we are the awesomest ape around." — Emily Deans

In any case, there is a lot more to this brain chemical than meets the eye. Dopamine deficiency can cause intellectual disability among other common conditions; having too much of it in the wrong area can make you psychotic as well. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, dopamine is more responsible for getting us to repeat pleasurable actions than direct production of pleasure and reward.

Dopamine and Social Media

How neurotransmitters affect your state of mind.

Most behavioral patterns are often linked to dopamine since it has an immediate relationship with rewarding experiences, especially for physical activities. Setting and achieving a goal is a primary example of dopamine release.

Dopamine goes beyond physical activities and typical human behaviors, however. David Brooks, New York Times columnist who wrote “How evil is tech?", indicated that social networks and slot machines have a common element: irregularly-timed rewards, or rewarding on an arbitrary schedule. A rewarding technique that has been verified to work effectively, thanks to the works of famous psychologist B. F. Skinner on the best way to bolster a learned performance in rats.

Further, research by digital advertising company RadiumOne (now RhythmOne) shows that we “feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self through sharing.” We are building an expectation whenever we “post, share, ‘like,’ comment or send an invitation online.” This explains why we're constantly compelled to like or comment on social media posts.

2014 study of why and how Australians share online.
“Building sharing events into any marketing strategy is a valuable step in realizing this opportunity. The benefits and insights gained can ultimately inform a brand’s entire marketing approach and improve results.” — RadiumOne

The study encourages marketers to create social content that is likable and shareable, thereby increasing conversion rates and moving toward their goals.

Rutgers University psychology professor Mauricio Delgado says that social stimuli and specific human actions (e.g., eating and exercising) activate the same brain areas. Social ‘reinforcers’, as he calls them, are “abstract but show similar activity in the reward centers of the brain.”

Social affirmation is the primary drive behind social media usage these days. Getting positive feedback on social networks is a definite ‘reinforcer’ of their use. It also enables you to experience the positive effects of using the app or site and to return to the platform in search of more social reinforcement.

The Link Between Dopamine and Social Selling on LinkedIn

Likes, comments, other social reinforcements, and the fact that we have someone to communicate with are some of the rewarding experiences we get from using social media.

Social platforms are habit-forming products that cause the release of this rewarding neurotransmitter. So whenever there’s a notification, we’re quick to return to the platform and react.

Social networks form habits with ease.

This is where social selling comes in.

Social selling works because it takes advantage of habit-forming features and irregularly-timed rewards that are built into these social platforms. On LinkedIn specifically, when someone views your profile, sends a connection request or follow-up message, etc., it triggers a notification that prompts a response from the recipient.

These dopamine-driven social selling engagements (reinforcements) cause prospects you’ve performed the action on to open the app and respond as part of the rewarding experience.

In other words, social selling triggers notifications that draw in prospects or potential leads, getting you noticed, and sparking conversations that help you start developing digital relationships that can and will eventually evolve into profitable business relationships.

How Selling on LinkedIn Improves Profitability

One of the best examples of increased profitability due to social selling is IBM's experience. After launching a pilot social selling program on LinkedIn and Twitter, the tech giant reported a whopping 400% increase in sales. Companies and individuals have since evolved to adopt social selling as a tool to drive more profitability for their brands.

CSO Insights: 2016 Sales Enablement Optimization Study.

Here are two of the many ways social selling helps businesses achieve their sales goals:

Brand Awareness

Even if your business is not Internet-based, you could still be a Google search away from clinching a major business deal. Most times, potential buyers aren't even aware that your brand exists. Frequent social media engagements by others — centering on what you offer — will bring more visibility to your brand and push your products/services to the limelight. Just as brand visibility increases, the quality and quantity of sales leads will follow suit.

Business Intelligence

In B2B sales today, profitability starts and ends with business intelligence. LinkedIn provides you with a decent image of companies, their business professionals, and interests. Engaging with prospective customers/clients, followers, brand evangelists, and product ambassadors while being armed with changing views of business operations is the best way to close a deal. That's the purpose of selling on LinkedIn.

As explained above, social selling makes sense both on paper and in practice. Humans are psychological beings, and the release of dopamine guides many of our actions, which is why social selling truly works. The benefits to reap from this sales strategy range from better lead generation and sales prospecting to driving sales and revenue. Since we now have science to back up the facts, you can’t say fairer than that.

Open the world of sales opportunities, and go social selling. Cheers!