Can social media ever generate sales directly, or is it merely a marketing tool that generates awareness?
In reality, both of the above factors often feed into each other: awareness often precedes sales as consumers cannot buy what they do not know exists; be it a product or specific local promotion. It allows for interaction with a wide pool of sales prospects like no other medium; and with such access comes the opportunity for the building of relationships and consumer trust – building blocks of sales.
Outlined below are a few examples of ways through which the potential can be converted into sales.
Consider businesses that utilise social accounts as part of an Inbound Strategy: inbound marketing centred on the targeting of specific target markets through the creation of highly valuable content of relevance to the ideal consumer. Other than SEO, social media is the only way to make the content visible and encourage audiences to consume it. An important distinction to make is that inbound content doesn’t advertise or sell directly, it encourages interaction by offering impartial expertise. It is non-intrusive but allows for direct entry into the buyer’s journey through “calls to action”. The driver for responding to calls to action is that the expertise will by definition be in an area that aligns with the business’s offering or product.
Consider the classic fishing analogy: putting out the bait and waiting for the fishes to bite – inbound attracts potential sales leads directly, without “selling“ directly.
The Direct Promotion:
For businesses with a specific sales team that deals with direct interaction with sales prospects, it is possible to use social media to either “cold call” (for example scouting for potential sales prospects via LinkedIn before engaging in conversation to offer a service) or, as is more popular, putting out messages that encourage direct contacting of the sales team. Generally speaking, directly selling through social media platforms isn’t considered best practice if done too frequently (studies have shown this actually encourages a lack of engagement) – to address this, co-ordinate direct sales messages with new promotions, informative content and exclusive offers as opposed to merely advertising everyday services.
Reaching New Audiences
Social platforms are a medium through which to develop, reach and deliver messages to various audiences. Fortunately for many businesses, it offers the ability to tap into alternate markets. Using Twitter hashtags for example, gives businesses the ability to diversify and make offerings to new target markets by simply changing their postings in accordance with the new service or product range on offer. For example, if an online fashion retailer begins offering children’s clothes – social accounts may be the fastest way to communicate this offer to the parent market and encourage them to enter the buyer’s journey through attached links.
Although this article only touches the surface of the almost infinite variables to consider when determining how effective social media is in generating sales for a specific company, it’s a medium that is changing business and is limited only by the imagination of those using it.
With the wealth of case studies illustrating how effective it can be in everything from generating viral awareness to direct sales, perhaps the question is not if, but how can businesses use this to generate direct sales.
Catalyst boast a team of in-house Inbound Marketing experts that can help you build both brand awareness and deliver leads and prospects to your sales team.