Did you know that 94 percent of adults in Canada have at least one social media account? Whether it’s people weighing in on the latest political missteps on Twitter, consulting their Facebook circle for drywaller recommendations, or scoping the #ootd from style mavens on Instagram — social media is as ingrained in our daily routine as brushing our teeth.
For a while now, the checklist of things-to-do-when-starting-a-business has included building a social media presence — somewhere between creating a website and ordering a point of sale system. Everyone’s doing it, but now and then, someone stops and asks: Does social media directly contribute to my company’s bottom line? First of all, we have to reckon with the notion that only “direct” contributions to revenue are valid.
The point is not to think of it as transactional but to value social media as a market aggregator. Anyone with a Marketing 101 course under their belt knows that you can’t make the market, you have to go where your market is, and get your value proposition in front of that market.
Successful brands use multiple social media channels to help bolster their online brand and to help improve website search engine optimization (SEO). The key to effective social media marketing is first knowing how to use social media properly and secondly, knowing how to measure its effectiveness. Let’s explore the art of selling on social a little further.
Trying to Hard-sell on Social Media? You’re Doing it Wrong.
While some of our clients have had excellent success with things like a Facebook Shop tab, they are using it to drive traffic and create product awareness. But this tab is not the silver bullet for instant sales. Not every business has a product that will appeal to the demographic that’s on Facebook. While pushing out coupons and deals to your social media feeds is a good idea, you shouldn’t expect to see a huge bump in sales from your efforts.
People on social platforms don’t like to feel like they’re being sold to; they want to feel like they’re being SOCIAL and part of a community. If your product or service happens to align with their interests, you’ll make them happy and possibly win their business. If you’re constantly in their face with a “BUY NOW” message on social media, you’ll lose them quickly. While social media has certainly evolved, at its core it is still about building relationships and engagement. Shifting focus from pitching to creating value-added, informative content that helps cultivate a relationship with your audience will nurture the trust that leads to sales and loyalty.
Organic vs Paid Social Media
I know what you’re thinking. If engagement and quality content stoke the relationships that lead to sales, why do I need to pay for ads or promoted posts? Well, social media platforms are constantly making algorithm changes and some of those changes have reprioritized the content that displays in our feeds.
Facebook now gives posts from family and friends top priority and Twitter replaced its chronological feed with a feature called “show me the best Tweets first” so that users can catch up on content from the accounts they engage in the most when they log into the app. What was once an even playing field for both Aunt Cathy’s latest quilting project and the most recent beauty hack blog from your favourite spa is now more patchwork pictures and less overnight masks for every skin type.
Boosted posts, paid ads, and promoted tweets are important for reaching your targeted audience, especially on platforms where algorithms aren’t as kind to organic content as they once were. Paid content helps you reach your audience but regular, organic content is what will keep that audience engaged with your brand over time.
Email is a Much Better Avenue for Direct Sales
People who have signed up for an email from your company are essentially signing up to remain informed about your brand, including new products or services and sales or promotions. Email is definitely a leader in website traffic and sales. Of course, selling is the purpose of an email campaign, and this is almost never the case with organic social media. Email and social media are apples and oranges; they are different vehicles for different tasks. Social media influences purchasing decisions and emails can close the sale. You could make the bold assertion that social media has replaced the print ad (awareness) and email (transaction) has replaced the in-store salesperson. As with any aspect of your digital marketing strategy, you’ll need to gain a solid understanding of how to use email marketing for your business before venturing forth.
Make Sure You’re Doing Social Media Right
Social media absolutely works for getting eyeballs on your company but you need to know which platforms your audience is using, and how to use each platform effectively. There’s plenty of great social media demographic data out there that tells you who’s using each platform. Once you understand who your audience is and where they are spending their time online, you can micro-target your social media efforts to better engage with your existing followers, while expanding your reach to other people just like them. When creating content, think of your brand as a real person — your posts should have a voice that feels genuine, human, and approachable.
While it’s tempting to take a more is more approach and get on as many platforms as you can, it’s better to focus on two or three and create the right content for those platforms. Take Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat for instance. These are visual-first networks where your content must look good to garner any attention. Even Twitter has become increasingly image- or video-focussed. The numbers don’t lie: according to eMarketer, more than 50% of Gen Z and Millennial online shoppers in the US said that recent fashion purchases were inspired by social media browsing.
Thinking about taking your brand to Twitter? Keep in mind that Twitter is often used as a customer service tool as well as a platform for your brand. Make sure you’re responding quickly to complaints or questions about your company to ensure you’re using Twitter effectively.
Lastly, don’t underestimate the power of influence on social media. There’s tremendous value in working with bloggers and micro-influencers in your niche to help promote your brand. This is a big part of the relationship-building aspect of social that helps create trust and brand loyalty that ultimately leads to sales.
So, How DO You Know If You’re Doing Social Media Right?
While social media indirectly contributes to sales, that doesn’t mean there aren’t quantitative measures you can use to evaluate its effectiveness. Three main metrics you should regularly evaluate are:
- Organic engagement – This is the number of followers who are finding your brand on social media without being prompted by a paid promotion. Achieve this by focusing your efforts on the social media networks your target audience is using and by creating content that is shareworthy. And don’t forget to engage by responding quickly to comments and questions.
- Multi-channel attribution – Refers to a set of rules that assigns credit for sales and revenue to various stages of engagement (touchpoints) across the customer journey. This is perhaps the most complex aspect of marketing analytics to establish, but will provide you with the most valuable insight into what is working and what isn’t. You can set up custom credit rules within Google Analytics and tailor a model to the precise set of assumptions you want to evaluate.
- Assisted sales / conversion metrics – These reports show how many sales were attributed to and assisted by each media channel, along with the value of those conversions and revenue of the sales. In this case, the ‘assist’ is any interaction, excluding the attributed interaction, that occurs prior to a conversion.
To summarize, the key to selling your product using social media is to use it the way it was intended — as a social platform to build relationships and engage with your audience. You’re using social media to influence purchasing decisions, using email campaigns to close the sale, and setting up analytic metrics to evaluate your efforts. Social media is your marketing; email is your transaction-stimulant; metrics show you how to tweak your efforts to maximize the bottom line. While the path from awareness to purchase may not always be a straight line, social media marketing WILL get you there.
This blog was originally published on August 22, 2013 but was updated in November of 2019.