Social Media proves a challenge for many businesses. It’s like a black hole down which endless time and money can disappear whilst your go-to social media person says “but engagement is picking up”, and all you want to see are some sales.
It’s challenging because it doesn’t behave like other ‘normal’ marketing methods. We can’t put up one post and see an immediate impact. The term “social media” covers a world of possibilities making it hard to work out where to start, you can spend a lot of time and effort working your way down a dead end.
If you want to see a sales impact from social media you’ve got to stop thinking of it like email or direct mail. It’s a 2-way communication channel that’s all about community and engagement. Not a blast mechanism for directly driving sales.
In the first 3 months of this year Custora (an eCommerce vendor) analysed c$100 billion of sales created by 500 million shoppers to work out where the sale came from using last-click attribution. Only 1.5% of those transactions came from social media.
This isn’t a one-off surprising result – it’s been the same for a long time, and the advent of buy buttons like Instagram’s “like 2 buy” or Pinterest’s “buy it” haven’t affected the stats.
It might not generate the direct click to sale, but social media still has a huge role to play in increasing your sales to new and existing customers.
Stop thinking about how you need to see sales in your Google Analytics account that are directly attributable back to Facebook, or Twitter or Pinterest. Of course keep a track of this so you can see the trends change of over time, but the reason you’re using Social Media isn’t to drive a sale from Twitter itself – it’s to build a better relationship with your customers and educate others about what you do. A stronger relationship leads to greater sales.
Here’s the 5 most straightforward ways you can take a step firmly towards driving greater sales from social media.
1. Find the right platform.
There are a vast choice of social platforms you can use. If you try and do it all you’ll be spread too thinly.
You need to identify the platform that your customers want to engage with you on, and embrace it. Think of it like finding the right newspaper or magazine to do an insert campaign with.
That might point you towards one of the bigger platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc), or it might point you towards a niche platform specific to your product or customer – like Houzz for home improvements.
If you’re really not sure about where to start, the Custora analysis dived into those social media last click transactions and found that Facebook was the leader with 81% of the social media sales. (Pinterest 11%, together Instagram and YouTube and Twitter were just 5%).
2. Stop trying to monetise it.
The vast majority of the people interacting with your business on social media, are not on that social media platform at that moment thinking about buying. They’re chatting to friends, killing time, looking for something interesting, researching, they are not shopping – they are actively doing something else.
If you want their attention you have to give them something interesting endless product shots screaming “buy me” are not going to work.
Yes, you should be featuring your products and asking customers to buy occasionally, but it should not be the bulk of your communications.
Of course that means you have to have something to talk about, it might be the story of your business, background about your products and how they are used, what your team are up to. It also means you have to create the content to talk about – pictures, articles etc. If you master it even your ‘selling’ posts will scream interesting content:
What works varies from business to business because the customers are different and their desires are different. Here’s a pure selling post, that’s getting great engagement because the customers are interested in the product:
You also need to be ready to help your customers – your social media channels ARE a customer service tool, as these comments from the make up post above demonstrate:
This is where social media begins to pay off – you build a community of your customers, you post things they find interesting and which relate to your business, products, brand, then do everything you can to help your existing customers. Encouraging both existing and new customers to buy.
3. Go all out to monetise it
(and yes I’m aware there’s a contradiction there)
As part of Facebook’s ongoing mission to stop us using any of the internet other than the Facebook ecosystem they have just launched “Facebook shops” where you can create your own shop right on Facebook.
If you’re on Shopify or Bigcommerce this is a lot easier as they’re integrated directly with the new Facebook shop system.
This was only announced in April, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out – it’s going to have all kinds of impact on mobile commerce as well.
4. Private Facebook Groups
These are hugely powerful for building a better relationship with your existing customers.
Create a private group on Facebook, invite your customers / best customers to it. And use it as a place to deal with customer service issues, provide special updates (offers, behind the scenes information and more), and find out more about what your customers want and like.
By allowing them to become more involved they’re going to feel more closely connected to your business, making them more likely to buy and to recommend you to their friends.
The other good things about a group rather than a page is that content from groups tends to get featured in the Newsfeed more frequently, giving you more Facebook visibility with your best customers.
5. Consider advertising
If you’re still determined to drive sales directly from your social channels – then try advertising.
In the UK you can now run adverts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (via Facebook) and Pinterest. Using all manner of targeting, tracking, and design options. Like any pay per click advertising model you need to do a lot of testing to find out what works for you.
I recommend you start on Facebook, and either Promote a Post or use the Carousel format, then target using a list of your own customers – either your Page Likers, an uploaded list of customers, or remarketing lists captured using cookies on your website.
The other (non pay per click) advertising method is to pay someone with a LOT of influence to post about you. This has become VERY popular on Instagram, with some of the ‘instafamous’ earning up to $100,000 for one post. It’s been so successful on Instagram, that a few weeks ago Facebook changed their ad policies so that publishers and celebrities can add paid/advertising content to as Facebook posts too.
Even with the advertising activity you’re not going to see that conversion in the same way you do with Google Adwords or Email. You’re going to have to look at overall sales volume increases – run the activity for a month and see what happens.
Whilst you can’t track the sales impact directly, there are a host of stats you can track to see what your customers are responding to. Use those to optimising your activity –advertising and general posting.
There is no magic bullet to increasing your sales via social media, you have to start right, learn from your customers, and slowly it will build.
Originally published in the Direct Commerce Magazine