Approved Index customers are made up of all types and sizes of business and they all engage with social media to a varying degree. One of the most frequent questions we’ve heard about social media for business is: what’s the point? Or, in other words: how can social media help me drive sales?
It’s a very good question. Whilst it’s all fun and games reaching out to people on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc., the time spent doing it has to lead to tangible benefits – just like any other business activity.
You might be building your brand online, generating a buzz, making all the right noises but if you can’t prove it’s adding to the bottom line then it’s all wasted time (at least in the eyes of the MD).
In this post we’re going to introduce you to a few ways in which you can not only drive sales via social media but also, and perhaps more importantly, prove that those sales came via social media.
Use Social Media in Content Marketing
We’ve written in-depth about content marketing before, highlighting the importance of using social media for promoting your content in a targeted way.
In short, a good content marketing plan will have identified distinct audiences and created bespoke pieces of content for them. In order to push this content to a specific crowd it’s possible to identify and reach out to the influencers and opinion formers in that market.
Here’s an example of how to do it: let’s say we work in the marketing department at a printer manufacturer and we have a great new video we’ve produced on the quality of our products. The video is targeted at high-end print users at big media companies. How do we find people who might be interested?
The free tools Followerwonk and Tweepz both allow you to search within the Twitter bios of users. We search for ‘printers’ to begin with and, refining our results for people with a minimum of 500 followers, this is what we get:
The second result is a printers and ink review site: perfect. And straight away we’re building a list of prospects for re-tweeting our content. Of course you have scope for getting infinitely clever with the terms you search for. We could try ‘print department‘, ‘office supplies‘ etc – remember, we’re not necessarily searching for potential customers but people our potential customers might be following and influenced by. We want to amplify our reach.
How to approach our prospects? Well the first step is following them – they’ll be alerted to the fact that they’ve got new followers and might check out your profile, even follow back. Check their Twitter profile for links to their website, email address and other social media profiles.
If you become a fan of their Facebook profile, add them to your Google+ circles and follow them on Twitter they’re already starting to get exposure to your brand. The best result is that they add you back and get exposure to your content as a matter of course. But, if that doesn’t happen we could gently nudge them in the right direction by, perhaps, mentioning them in a Tweet with a link to the video or including the link in response to a Tweet they’ve written.
E.g. “@PrintersInkMag Love your review of the HP WonderJet500 – have you seen the quality of our offering in the same range? www.youtube.com/ourvideo”
Sure, it’s not a subtle example but there will no doubt be creative and less in-your-face ways of doing something similar for a piece of content you believe in (and it’s important that you do believe in the quality of your content for this kind of outreach).
This kind of proactive content promotion can dramatically enhance the effectiveness of your content as a lead generation tool – much better than hoping it goes viral of its own accord (hardly ever happens btw).
Social Media Monitoring for Sales and Customer Service Wins
Actively listening on the major social media platforms can alert you to potential sales opportunities and help you manage the reputation of your brand in the eyes of current and potential future customers.
Savvy consumers are learning that by making a fuss of their customer service problems on Twitter, Facebook and the rest, their problems are more likely to receive attention. This can work in your favour in two ways: first, by listening for complaints about your competitors you can swoop in with competing service offerings; second, you can resolve your own customers’ problems speedily and show all their friends and followers that you’re a top notch company, potentially leading to more sales.
How to do this? Here’s one example: the free (in a limited sense) tool Hootsuite allows you to add Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google+ accounts to a single dashboard. You can then set the tool up to show streams where your brand is actively mentioned (e.g. Tweets containing @yourbrand) or that simply contain a set search term (e.g. ‘@yourcompetitor’).
This puts you in an ideal position for swooping in whenever your brand is mentioned (in a positive or negative light), or your competitor’s brand (in a negative light) and taking appropriate action.
For example, if someone Tweets “Your Brand or Competitor’s Brand – which is the best?” there’s definitely a sales opportunity.
Social Media Attribution
So you’ve jumped in to social media activity, you’re building follower numbers, interacting with potential customers and generally having a lovely time. But how can you prove that your efforts are actually bringing in revenue?
This is where you’ll need some web analytics software, the most popular and free, of course, being Google Analytics.
(Google provide lots of information and guides on how to set this up – you’ll need goal tracking in place at least in order to attribute value to your social media campaigns.)
In Google Analytics the first place to look for the success of your social media interaction is the Traffic Sources > Sources >Referrals report. It should be fairly easy to pick out the social media sources from the rest (e.g. t.co referrals come from Twitter, facebook.com come from, you guessed it…).
Make sure your Goal Set tab is selected and you’ll be able to see which channels led to the highest conversion rates and, in the case of ecommerce sites, the most revenue.
If your website is used for generating leads rather than closing sales you can multiply the number of conversions by your average revenue per lead for a rough and ready measure of how much social media contributes.
Of course, the next step would be to create custom segments and reports for the social media channels themselves but Google Analytics Help is the best place to look for such advice.
If you want to get more complex, there are a number of paid for tools which can help with attributing your revenue streams to different online marketing channels e.g. Hubspot, Optify etc.
It’s important to remember though that social media marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum and that to truly reap the rewards you also need a great website that’s optimised for search and conversions, a great content marketing strategy, email marketing and perhaps some PPC too.
In short, it’s just one piece of a total marketing strategy and even where you’re not seeing direct conversions from social you should be asking ‘how is our social media activity supporting our other marketing activity?’ to assess its full benefit.