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Going Viral with Thibaut Souyris

CEO and founder of Sales Labs, Thibaut Souyris, shares his geniusly simple game to enhance virality on LinkedIn. We learn the ins and outs of B2B social marketing along the way.

You can find Thibaut on LinkedIn and at Make sure to check out his Ultimate LinkedIn Outreach Sequence.

Episode Transcript

Andrew Phelps: Today my guest is Thibaut Souyris, he is the founder and CEO of SalesLabs, a Berlin based B2B sales training company. Before that he led a team at Applause and established the French business from zero to 2.5 million in annual recurring revenue. Thibaut thanks for joining us on the podcast.

Thibaut Souyris: Andrew, thanks for having me.

Andrew Phelps: So today you're here to share a game all about using social media in B2B sales. Recently we've had a fortune 100 company run three different campaigns. Where sales reps were asked to use social media or share on social media. You know for years, I've heard about social media in B2C marketing and sales, but how do you describe the role of social media in B2B sales to your clients?

Thibaut Souyris: So that's a very good question, actually. The thing is, if you think about Instagram, Snapchat and all these things. So personally, I don't have Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook, I think it's just a huge waste of time. However, there is huge amount of money there that is being made by companies that are using influencers. And what we see happening right now in B2B is that the same kind of mechanism are at play, so we are still influenced as business buyers. So the content will be different, the codes will be different, but the role of social media in B2B is really the same thing. So build influence, show that your customers are getting outcomes that you are selling. Yes, just influence people to actually go to buy a solution or buy something you are selling basically.

Andrew Phelps: So, for me, social media is really hard, I don't really get it. You know I would say 95% or 99% maybe of the things I see, I'm just like, “Oh, this is crap, this person is just trying to fill up my feed.” It's almost like, an ad. Then the things that I think are high quality content, you know, I still understand they're trying to do the same thing, but I judge them differently. Do you have any insight into the subtle art of doing social media right, and why so many people get it wrong?

Thibaut Souyris: So first I totally agree with you. Most of content we see is crap, because people simply don't understand what's the goal that they're trying to get. So, the thing is social media or building content as one main kind of objective is like to bring awareness, generate awareness. So, if you look at a typical marketing funnel or a sales funnel, you always have different stages. But the first stage is really this kind of awareness where people hear about you, see you and understand what you're doing, or at least start being in touch with you or your brand. Then, you know, they will just like you for a trait you're having, or like you're for an idea you're sharing or like you're for different reasons. Then you're going to be able to actually serve more and more content. Educate them to go from actually, they don't know you, you're a total stranger to, they know you, they know what you can do for them.

Then at some point they have the problem you can solve and they think of you to actually go and solve this problem. So that's really the goal of social media, is just this awareness part. So, whenever you're doing that, you also have to understand that a lot of time, the algorithms you're working with are not yours. So, you're working on LinkedIn, you're working on other algorithms that have specific kind of goals, that are sometimes different from your goals. LinkedIn, for example, they have one main goal is get people on their platform and get people to stay on their platform. So, they can serve more ads and make more money, that's basically the idea. So that's the same logic for every kind of social media platform. So, whenever you're doing that, you know that LinkedIn is fighting to make sure that they keep people on their platform. So, they're not fighting to make sure that your content is served to these people.

So, the idea is really to understand these things first, and then you have different kinds of goals. So, you have maybe some post will be a post where you are going to try and get as much visibility as possible. So, you're going to do like a viral post that doesn't have crazy amount of quality, but will actually be seen. Then you have some engagement posts that are really there for people to comment and really like think and reflect. Then you have call to action posts where the goal is to get people to sign up for, let's say an email newsletter. So then once they are in your mailing list, then you can really play with them. Serve them more content, and then you have way more control on the way you communicate with them. So that's the thing is like, it's pretty simple when you think about it. It's just a copy of what we do normally in real life. Whenever it's just like using social media to get some awareness, attract people's attention. Then serve them something to actually help them solve a problem and at some point, they may hire you or they may work with you to solve this problem in your life.

Andrew Phelps: So, you know, I have largely ignored social media for my adult life. In college it was something I realized I didn't want to participate in. And here I am, you know, years later realizing that it's a powerful tool for our businesses and our brands and I really need to learn it. So I feel intimidated to get started. I understand it's going to take time, you know, do you have any advice for someone who just does not want to do it, but understands it's important and is willing to put in the work to get results.

Thibaut Souyris: So first, why do you want to get started? Why do you think it's important?

Andrew Phelps: I think it's important to have more awareness around our brands and reach the people that our products could help.

Thibaut Souyris: Okay I see. So, for me, you know, it's like, I believe social media overall a negative contribution to mankind. That's, really what I feel. So that's why I don't have Facebook, I don't have Instagram. I just like kill all my notifications because the problem with social media as a kind of user or victim, you could say, is that your attention will be stolen from you. So, your brainpower will get directed to something else. You know what we are thinking, so you're going to get notifications popping this kind of things. So, for me, like if I'm working on LinkedIn, it's not because it's a social media, whatever. It's just because it's a very good channel that is not that expensive to generate business for me. So, for me, I'm on LinkedIn and I work with LinkedIn because it's a very good thing, very positive thing for my business. However, I know a search if I'm on LinkedIn and I'm falling victim of it, my attention span is going down and I'm just going in all directions.

So, the thing is, if you don't want to participate into that, what you can do instead of creating content is using content. So, whenever you want to serve, let's say more people and find more leads, that's a great way to actually work with social media. Is go and find competitors because competitors will post a lot on LinkedIn. Some will maybe have like a really good strategy and be able to generate a lot of traction, but your competitors, they have one thing in common, is that they serve the same customers as you. So, they actually will be posting regularly and then it's going to attract these types of people. What you can do is use their content to poach their community, because often they don't even know how to do that. How to gain of like leverage, go from awareness to kind of activation and so you can go. An example is you will find a post for example, about you're selling UX, right? What are you selling exactly?

Andrew Phelps: Yes, with the studio user 10, we do a lot of UX projects, large enterprise apps.

Thibaut Souyris: Who are you selling to? Who's your ideal customer profile?

Andrew Phelps: Our ideal customer is a funded company with a product that needs a version 2.0. Probably doing between 25 and a hundred million dollars in business.

Thibaut Souyris: And who is the person you are selling to, the job title?

Andrew Phelps: Usually a product manager, or sometimes it's the head of marketing that realizes that the product's been built by engineers and needs some design love.

Thibaut Souyris: Okay. So, you could go and look for every thought leader influencer in design or UX that is targeting these kinds of companies. And you're lucky because in your market, there are a lot of people like that. I'm thinking again, like Cristo, for example, even though maybe it's not addressing exactly your market, but you have a lot of people who are posting a lot. Then you go and check what they do, what they post, go and check the people who like. You will find that most people who like are very interesting because they are exactly into your ideal customer profile. So, what you do just go there and use these posts as an excuse to get in touch with them. So, you could be saying, “Hey, first name, I saw you like the post of Cristo about X, Y, Z. If you're into it, I have two tips I'd love to share.” Then you talk about like how you help solving something or whatever. When you do that, you're super relevant. And if you have a few thousand people who like to post, you can export these people from LinkedIn, clean that and use the same exact message to everyone. So, you're relevant at scale, that's a good way to kind of use social media. If your goal is to make money and generate like a business, that's a great way to use social media without even having to post anything.

Andrew Phelps: Well, I love that because I'm very lazy. So, from there, I would love to hear about your game, that's all about going viral on social media or LinkedIn. Can you tell us about it?

Thibaut Souyris: Yes, so I remember when I worked in a company called the Branch at a time and they were in California and they still exist actually. It's a kind of mobile attribution and deep linking company and they had the thing, which was like a viral link or viral something. For me, it was like, Oh, I wish one day, I don't know, like I have no clue how to do viral posts or whatever. The thing is, what you need to understand is social media is a game of appearance. So, people will actually think things based on who you are popping up with in their feed. So, one thing I really liked to do, actually, whenever I am doing an event, and that's something you can do. As anyone who's like running an event, if you run a webinar or if there's a place where you're talking to a lot of people, let's say more than 10 people. What you can do is get them to play a game that will increase the visibility of your profile to their network.

For example, I was running like a sales workshop about how to use LinkedIn to generate leads in a company that is selling sales training in France. So, there were 60 people joining there. What happened is, I said to everyone is I say, “Okay, what you're going to have to do is post at the beginning of this event. Which is one hour, and we do a competition. So, you post something, whatever you want and the goal is to get as many points as possible and to get points, you have two options. First, get a reaction like someone liking, clapping or whatever, that's one point. Second, anyone who's commenting, including you, whatever the comment is, is 10 points. So your goal is to optimize for comments”. So how do you do that? Then I showed them a bunch of examples, and then people have started doing that.

“The third rule, make sure you tag me [Thibaut Souyris] so I can see your posts and I can count at the end of it.” So, what happens is I give them five to 10 minutes to do that at the beginning of the event. They are really interested in that and they start posting. And often you have people who never posted before, who start asking their friends, so they use what we call engagement pods. They just like drop their link to a WhatsApp group and if it’s going to their friends, “Hey, can you just drop a comment?” then people start doing that. Then what's happening is, they post about it, their post is being seen and promoted by their friends. Their friends’ networks start seeing that, some people start liking. Then you have this viral effect where you have these kinds of viral loops that are coming. Then they often get like 60, 70, 80 likes, a hundred comments and then 60,000 views when they've never posted before. That's a great thing because you get huge awareness, so they get huge awareness.

A lot of people actually were looking for jobs and got offers or were contacted for interviews with these kinds of posts, because they got super visible to a lot of people. People were thinking, “Oh, this person has 80 likes to like a hundred comments, must be a big shot.” So, people are interpreting what's happening and why people are posting that and the best is for me. Because I'm tagging all of these posts. So people start like checking your profile and then you get a ton of leads that are coming as a by-product of that. So that's a very nice game, because it was great for me as the organizer, but it's great for the people who post. Because then they know they can post, get a lot of likes and get a lot of awareness. Again, this post has one goal, get visibility. It's not there to produce value or whatever, is just get you visible and get a lot of people to see what you're doing and that's one of the goals of this game.

Andrew Phelps: So, this is really interesting, because it's profoundly simple, but there's a lot of different dynamics going on. So, you mentioned that a like, or an interaction is one point, but a comment is 10 points.

Thibaut Souyris: Yes.

Andrew Phelps: Is that really the value that LinkedIn sees? Those different things, is a comment 10 times as important as a like, or an interaction?

Thibaut Souyris: So, it's not really that clear. But the thing is that there's a few guidelines from LinkedIn algorithm, so it always has changes. And what is very funny is if you were hanging out on LinkedIn a lot, you see people talking about how the algorithm has been changed and whatever. And it's not serving, the reach is low compared to what it was before. The thing is, it's an algorithm, it's machine learning, it's kind of evolving by itself. So, what's happening is, in general on LinkedIn, whenever you're posting something, they kind of give points to every kind of engagement interaction. So ‘like’ is kind of an engagement proxy, a ‘comment’ is a bigger engagement proxy. Because someone taking the time to comment provides like a proof is more value to the content. And the re-share is even more.

The problem of the re-share is that people who re-share a post, they don't get traffic at all. All the traffic goes to the initial post, so for me, I kill this one. But on LinkedIn, basically, if you want to have the post that works well, you have to go and within 30 minutes have as many comments and likes as possible. Because what is going to happen, the algorithm will start thinking, okay, this post is valuable. People like it, so I'm going to serve it to more and more people. Then what you're doing is when your post is like display to a network of first, connection. Then when these people start liking it, it is distributed to other people, second. And whenever it's really viral and things are really working well, a lot of comments, a lot of engagement is distributed at large to a lot of people.

So, it's really understanding that it's like to be able to get out of the sea of content, you have to show engagement and that's what the algorithm is constantly trying to figure out. Often what's interesting is it's always, so the big lesson that people sometimes don't understand is, it's about consistency. Like this week, for example, I've been posting twice, so as every day I get two or three likes. It's just the most freaking ridiculous week I've ever had, but I'm not worried, you know. Because some weeks will be like 50, 60, 70 likes and my content, you know, it works well, sometimes doesn't work well. So, it's just about consistency and being top of mind all the time, basically.

Andrew Phelps: Got you. So, you mentioned that this sort of game is really for a post about visibility or awareness. How does that visibility or awareness fit into that kind of funnel you were describing before? Where you were doing different posts at different times for different reasons.

Thibaut Souyris: So, this kind of awareness is great once in a while. But the problem is, the people who like, what is very interesting with that is most people who actually like, and comment on your posts will not become customers. They are just ambassadors, so that's what you need to understand. You are not posting for your customers too much. So, you are posting for them, but most of your customers will be taking another door, like your kind of direct book a call with me or whatever, or they will send you a direct message. They will not really interact with your content; they will see it and that's what you see if you post regularly. You have people coming back to you and say, “Hey, I really love your posts.” Then you see, they never like anything, they never comment on anything they just like to watch and that's it.

So, the idea is to understand, whenever you're doing these kind of huge awareness posts. The goal is very simple, is get in front of as many eyeballs as possible because most people will just see that and some will start following you. That's what you need to do is check, because these posts are really there just for that. That's why it's important to not do it too often. So, you have these posts you see on LinkedIn, where people are saying, “Hey, I've got these checklists comment something, and I send it to you”. I do that once in a while because you get a lot of visibility, but the value of the post itself is very low. Also, the most people who like it, the value of these people as like leads is also very low. So the idea is doing that, it's just, you're in front of as many people as you can, then you do some posts that are super tactical. So, for me, it's always tactical posts where I explain to you, there's a problem, this is how you solve it. Every day I talk about that. And sometimes I go and I say, okay I need more awareness, I do kind of the viral post.

Andrew Phelps: Very interesting. So, it sounds like people really enjoyed it and you help people who might not be into social media, build some confidence. Because as a first-time poster or a rare poster, they got a lot of interactions on their posts.

Thibaut Souyris: Yes.

Andrew Phelps: And back to the game where we love to play is once you tallied all this up, what were the top scores?

Thibaut Souyris: So, I had scores where you had, like, I think the biggest, I was around 600 points. So, it was something like yeah, no, no, like 50 comments, something like that or 680 points. So that's the maximum I had, but mostly it's a point system that I do so I can rank and find people who are the best. But one person told me, “Hey, Thibaut,” like someone contacted me for a job. I was looking for a job, someone contacted me asking me if I was looking for a job. So, a CEO from another company, so that's a real value. Because the thing is these points, these likes, one thing they are dopamine rush that are used to actually make you do more and keep doing that.

Because once again, the kind of big thing is come on the platform every day, stay on the platform, look at some ads, so I can make more money as a platform, basically. So that's the thing you have to understand is that's what LinkedIn is going to try to do. But your goal should be to use this platform and these [inaudible 21:47] to kind of reach your outcome. Should it be finding a job, generating leads or developing thought leadership? So, for me, that was the best. I had a lot of people coming back to me and being like, “Hey, Thibaut, that was really cool, this game, because it got me to be more visible,” and now these people are just like solving a problem they had and I think that's really the real value of it.

Andrew Phelps: Very cool. Did you give a prize away to the winner or was it all about bragging rights?

Thibaut Souyris: No, you get a prize. So, for people who are in my accelerator, so like the training program I'm doing. I always give them like the winner, we do it at the beginning of each kind of kickoff, and the winner gets like a pullover. A t-shirt like some swag with the SalesLabs. For the others in general for like free events, they get one-year access to a sales community and building. Where, you know, it's free for one year, instead of paying like a hundred euro for a year, basically.

Andrew Phelps: Very cool. So, I'm going to repeat some takeaways I got, and you can tell me if I miss the point. So, I think the first is when to do this. So, at an event, a webinar or maybe a training with a lot of different sales reps, so you have a lot of interactivity. The second is to understand that the point is about awareness and getting visibility. And that this is about getting a wide reach and not necessarily about targeting a specific type of person or a type of person that you can engage with as a prospect. Finally, that consistency is really important in social media and it takes a lot of posting to build your audience over time and use it effectively.

Thibaut Souyris: Yeah, that's a very good, wrap-up very good summary.

Andrew Phelps: Great. Well, is there anything else you'd love to share with our audience before we sign off?

Thibaut Souyris: So, I always like a good call to action to everything I do. So if the listeners, actually want to get some value immediately. If their customers are on LinkedIn and they're selling something, they can go to my website. So, it's at and they put a slash in. So /ULOS and it's my Ultimate LinkedIn Outreach Sequence. So it's a called Outreach Sequence they get up to 55% answer rate and 15% booking rate all that within five touch points. So that's where they'll be able to get a lot of value. If they do that, basically they will be able to see a lot of content I do, will be able to add me on LinkedIn. That's the thing also, go and look for me on LinkedIn, I post regularly and yeah that's where people can get some value.

Andrew Phelps: Great and we'll make sure that all those links are with the show notes online. Thank you so much for coming on the show, I learned a lot.

Thibaut Souyris: Yeah, thanks a lot. I also was really happy to talk about that and yes thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew Phelps: Alright, bye. Bye.

Thibaut Souyris: Bye.