Updated: Feb 28
According to the 2017 CMO Survey, 45% of businesses that use social media for marketing have not been able to show any quantifiable impact on their business, while 38% have a qualitative feel but no solid quantification. This isn’t a very encouraging statistic when you’re thinking about social media marketing, but it also doesn’t show the whole picture.
Marketing and promoting your business through social media does provide quantitative impacts, but only when it’s done in an organized and purposeful way. If you begin a social media marketing campaign without having a solid plan and measurable goals, you won’t be able to see quantifiable results. However, if you create a good strategy, choose measurable goals, and execute the right actions, you will always be able to find a measurable impact.
With this in mind, we need to address how social media actually does impact your business. One of the biggest questions businesses present about the use of social media is how it works to increase sales. Not all businesses want to focus on exposure, one of the commonly listed benefits of social media, and would rather see bottom-line results. This is a viable use for social media, and it’s not an impossible goal!
Social Media Works for Brands of All Sizes
Small and large companies are both able to increase sales through social media marketing, although the process must be tailored to match their brand, industry, and size. It’s easy to imagine that exposure and building a brand personality are some of the only real business uses for social media. While these are two possible outcomes, they can also be building blocks for an effective sales strategy using social media. It all depends on how large the business is and what type of strategy is employed.
There are many different strategies that can be used to increase sales through social media marketing. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective strategies for large businesses and small businesses separately. Related: How to Build a Social Media Sales Funnel
Large Business Social Media Strategies
Larger businesses are categorized by a larger following on many social media accounts. The size of the business is usually in direct relation to the size of the social media following. It’s important to note that this doesn’t apply in B2B industries. The focus of these strategies is direct B2C businesses.
- Direct Sales through Social Media
Social media platforms have made it very easy for large companies to introduce products and services to their followers directly. Taking a direct sales approach only works when the business has a large number of followers, as it’s more likely they will get some amount of buy-in for their posts. If a large business directly markets a product or service and points to where it can be bought or incorporates an online sales portal through social media directly, they can see success in sales.
Success doesn’t mean that a lot of followers will buy. But, if there are enough followers, even a small percentage seeing the product or service and deciding to buy will equal to a good boost in sales from a relatively low-cost marketing campaign. However, if this strategy is used too frequently it can lose its effectiveness as followers grow tired of it.
- Purchasing Social Media Ad Space
One way to solve some of the common problems of the direct sales method is to use ad space on social media networks instead. This has a higher cost associated with it, but it helps businesses to target individuals who are more likely to make a purchase or show interest in their product, rather than mass marketing to everyone.
Because of this, the business can focus on building value and creating an engaged fan base with their main social media accounts while simultaneously selling directly to more targeted followers. However, ads are more likely to be ignored, especially when surrounded by other content. Ads may also be blocked by followers or may start to erode a positive brand image over time.
- Indirect Advertising and Marketing Promotions
Indirect social media strategies don’t point followers to an exact product or purchase but give them some other reason to look at the products or services offered by a business. A good example of this would be a business running promotional posts around Valentine’s Day giving ideas for gifts to your loved one. They may not be directly advertising a specific product or service but are still pointing followers toward their company in an effort to increase sales.
Many discounts and promotions are used in this type of indirect social media advertisement.
- Influencer Marketing
Using social media influencers can be costly, but may yield a very high ROI for some businesses. The right influencer can help a business spread its reach to people who aren’t yet following them while also giving a recommendation for the business through a source those people trust.
Small Business Social Media Strategies
Small B2C businesses have to focus on other strategies to increase sales through social media. They usually do not have large bases of followers, so it requires a little more creativity to get the desired sales increases.
- Staying in View of the Customer
A huge function of social media for small businesses should be staying within a customer’s mind more consistently. If a small business doesn’t want to be a victim of the old adage “out of sight, out of mind”, they need to maintain a presence where their customer base will see them. Social media is an excellent resource for this and can encourage previous customers to return and use the business again, especially if they are given some sort of incentive.
- Leading to a Sale
Most small businesses are better off focusing on indirect sales through social media. Given the smaller base of followers, it’s not always practical to advertise products and services directly, since the resulting sales would probably be negligible. Instead, social media should be the first step in the buying process. Many digital marketers would call this the beginning of the sales funnel.
Whatever you call it, social media is a valuable first step toward people buying products and services. It’s wise to point potential customers to a permanent company website by providing them with some sort of value for free. Providing value to customers before a purchase is made creates goodwill toward a company and can lead to an increase in sales in many cases. Value doesn’t have to be monetary and is often provided in the form of informational content.
- Building a Brand Personality
Making a relatable brand personality on social media is a surprisingly effective strategy for small businesses. A helpful, friendly, and responsive social media strategy can lead to a direct increase in sales, according to Sprout Social’s 2017 Q2 report. Responsiveness is the most sought-after quality in a business social media account, and it’s the one thing that’s most likely to lead to sales in all demographics of online customers. This is an inexpensive strategy that’s highly effective for small businesses.
Not all social media strategies work for all businesses or customer bases. However, you can directly or indirectly affect your company’s sales through the use of social media marketing. Choose the right strategy for your business size, industry, and audience if you want the best results.
In order to maximize the benefits of social media marketing and increase sales, it may be necessary to hire a marketing strategist who can create a comprehensive social media strategy tailored to your business's specific needs.