They are two very different disciplines; one dates back to ancient civilizations, the other is a comparatively recent practice. But despite apparent differences, social selling and public speaking actually have quite a lot in common. Here we will look at both sides of the coin, exploring what unites these two activities as well as what sets them apart.
The Similarities: Things that Are True of Social Selling and Public Speaking
1 – You Must Engage Your Audience
In social selling as in public speaking, it’s essential to make a good impression. Ahead of anything else, you’re objective is to grab your audience’s attention. As far as public speaking is concerned, this is dependent on tone, and is often achieved through a striking visual, an impactful statistic, or a rhetorical question (“Did you know that…”). Social selling can involve these things, too. But above all, it’s about sharing content that will catch audiences’ attention, spark curiosity, and make them want to engage.
2 – You Need to Demonstrate Credibility
Whether you’re a social seller or a public speaker (or, as may well be the case, both), you need to establish credibility. In other words, your audience needs to know that you are worth their time, that you will provide value, and that they will learn something. And in both cases, this comes down to your ability to combine pertinent content with your own insights and expertise, in order to construct pertinent arguments.
3 – You Should Open the Floor to Questions
Just as it is custom for public speakers to finish by opening the floor to questions, so too social sellers should invite audiences to interact. Depending on the context, this can be by asking them to bring additional insights to the table, express their own ideas, or provide their opinion on a given topic or piece of content. The key point is that, to a far greater extent than public speaking, social selling is a two-way street.
The Differences: Areas in which Social Selling Differs from Public Speaking
1 – All Eyes Aren’t on You
Unlike public speakers, who have an allotted slot either by themselves or as part of a panel discussion, social sellers are competing for audiences’ attention. There’s no microphone being passed around, neither are you under the spotlight; instead, your posts appear alongside many others on your audience’s social network news feeds, making the task of engaging those audiences all the more difficult.
2 – You Invest in One-on-One Discussion
While similar in that they involve addressing a large audience in the first instance, social selling differs from public speaking because there is a subsequent focus on one-on-one interaction. For example, if you share an article that is seen by three hundred people but liked by seven, your follow-up strategy might be to focus your energy on engaging directly with those seven individuals. Similarly, if you are already in discussions with a given prospect, you might spend time curating content that ties in with the conversations you’re having, and share it directly with that person.
3 – You Have Time to Think
Granted, public speaking involves a great deal of planning and, even when “in action”, you can still think on your feet. However, social selling is quite different in this regard. Whereas public speakers typically have between 30 minutes and an hour to put their point across, social sellers have an undetermined amount of time to draw prospects in, and nurture relationships. This gives them time to reflect on their online activity: what works, what doesn’t, and what their next steps should be.
Now, you might be wondering what inspired us to compare social selling to public speaking. It’s because they are linked by two crucial things. The first is that engaging your audience is a priority, and your ability to do so will determine the success of what you say thereafter. The second is that demonstrating your own expertise is a must. Whether you’re stage is LinkedIn, Twitter or…well, an actual stage, remember that it’s not just content, but your ability to present it in a dynamic, personal way that will help you win audiences over.