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Social Media: What’s it Good For?

Does social media drive sales?

I’ve been asked this question quite a few times lately from business owners trying to get their head around how to use social media in their online marketing mix. Many of them tell me that they don’t see a direct return on investment from their use of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks.

In response, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts on how social media benefits what I do. Keep in mind,  there’s no right or wrong way to use social media. I know of many online and offline businesses that use social media very differently.

For me Social Media is NOT Primarily about Direct Selling

Perhaps the biggest thing that I can say about how I’ve come to use social media is that I don’t see it as a primary avenue for selling.

I know some online businesses see substantial sales generated directly through their social media pages. In most cases, it is through offering coupons or running discounting sales. That said, the tests I’ve run have not seen a great deal of success.

In contrast, I see the vast majority of our sales of eBooks and events to be the result of our email marketing.

In a recent eBook launch, here’s a break down of where sales came from:

Screen Shot 2013 06 11 at 9 37 08 AM

Interestingly, over the 4 week launch of that eBook we sent/posted:

  • 4 sales emails
  • 3 blog posts
  • 17 Tweets
  • 5 Facebook Status Updates
  • 3 Pinterest Pins
  • 2 LinkedIn Updates
  • 3 Google Plus Updates

As you can see, we promoted the eBook quite a few times to our social networks. Those social networks have a combined reach of over 350,000.

In the same time we sent 4 emails (to around 700,000 people). The ‘return’ on sending a handful of emails far outweighed the effort in social.

That’s not to say we will stop doing sales related updates on social media – (there are ways to use it to sell) – it just isn’t our primary sales avenue.

Social Media – What is it Good For?

So social media hasn’t generated as many direct sales as other channels, and my business relies upon sales to be sustainable, so what is it good for?

I do invest a fair amount of time (and some money) into social media but for me, it is not a direct sales strategy.

Rather social media is largely about:

  • Building the Brand – by being useful, telling stories, answering questions, giving glimpses behind the scenes
  • Building Community and Engagement – asking and answering questions, listening to feedback, supporting the goals of those you connect with
  • Building Trust and Credibility – by showing you know what you’re talking about and an understanding of the niche you operate in
  • Driving Traffic – sharing links to new content (and highlighting the best bits in the archives)

By building a presence in places like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn (and more you) you create relationships with and create impressions upon those you connect with.

Those relationships may not directly lead to a sale but they have other powerful outcomes.

They all have an indirect long term positive impact upon the the bottom line of your business. In many ways, by building brand, engagement, trust and driving traffic you are building the foundations of a strong relationship. Once the time for selling comes, you’re much more likely to see a conversion at some point.

They also make business a lot more satisfying and fun to run!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jack Bull says:

    I agree with you, in fact we only use social media to build brand only. Our thinking is simple, if increasingly popular in social media is getting stronger branding a product that affects the sales.

    Thanks,

    Jack Bull

  2. From my experience, IF you have someone’s attention from your inbox to theirs, that will always be more valuable than a connection on social media.

    To me, social media is a good place “to connect”… but the sooner you take that “to connect” from the social media tool to your inbox (or heck, face to face, Skype, on the phone etc…) then you can further develop the relationship in a one-to-one setting.

    The relationship is where the “gold” is in business.

  3. shawn says:

    I’m not big on social media but the way you use have given me a different prospective. Good post. Thanks a lot.

  4. Dick Moomey says:

    Your article was shared from a fellow author. I have had four books published and another due this summer. I have had three different publishers who put out books in email format and print soft cover. We have all been bombarded with the values of social networking to sell books. I have never bought this concept although I belong to five social groups. You tout the email as the far better way to sell products. How does one find emails in this quantity and any other tid-bits you might want to share.on reaching potential buyers.
    Appreciate any insights or advice.
    Dick Moomey

  5. Jordan says:

    Building brand using social media is very effective. If your audience is on Twitter or Facebook or some other network, seeing your brand repeatedly will allow those users to build trust in your brand, even if they never visit your site. You will not see the results of this immediately.

    Along the same lines, social networks also work really well for rebranding.

    I’ve seen the same results as your pie chart – email produces more direct sales than anything else.

  6. Baturay Kaya says:

    Hello, first of all I want to thank you for your tips and useful information. I want to ask you some advice about my blog. I created my blog http://scoreshighlights.blogspot.com/ a month ago and I want to drive some traffic to it. I want to use social media but I don’t know the best way to do it. For instance, should I join Facebook groups to share my link? Or, how can I use Twitter to make my blog popular if I don’t have a high amount of followers? Thank you

    Best regards

  7. Diana says:

    I can’t belive that email marketing can generate better conversions than blogposts or affiliation.
    On what niche are those statiscs done?

  8. Social media seems to be an effective communicating tool, Darren, almost like a layering tool. How?

    You chat with folks. You share your valuable blog posts, and share other people’s content, and build strong connections with individuals.

    If people are interested in buying your product or joining your team or signing up as a client, they might reach you through social, through the layer you built between you, the individual, and your actual sales page.

    Detach from most business stuff, but not all, as I have signed up ghostwriting clients through the platform….but of course, I also shared value throughout the course of the day to add some serious juice to my advertisements.

    Thanks Darren!

  9. Nancy says:

    Thanks for your article, it’s very interesting to read!

    I have slightly different opinion here:
    How many validate twitter/facebook/pinterest/google+ followers do you have? As you mentioned, you sent 4 emails to around 700,000 people. Do you have same amount of social media followers?

    Are these followers interested in what you are selling? As we know, when we collecting email list, we need collect potential clients who may interested in your product. Are your followers also interested in the product?

    For me, I think social media is also a great opportunity for direct sales, but we need be patient and collect more relevent followers, and followers who are willing to spread the sale message.

    As you mentioned,

  10. This is interesting that the majority of profits come from email. It has been documented that email open rates have been dropping in recent years as we are favouring email communication less and less and are more vigilant around un wanted selling. Im wondering how the numbers would shift in the years to come. It would be great to see a follow up post on this in a few years to see if any metrics change.

  11. Okto says:

    Important experience you have shared here. Everyone might have different result with their own social media campaign. Some will find it great to generate more direct sales while some other not. For me, it’s the best partner for building relationship, credibility and brand (not the direct sale).

  12. Shana Norris says:

    The pie graph really says it all, in terms of your experience.

    Jordan, interesting comments. Deciding where to invest your time and energy just might involve figuring out where your audience is spending THEIR time. Of course, you have to identify who your audience is first.

  13. narda says:

    I always not good about Social Media because I am doing a lot of effort, but I did not achieved my goals. I think may be I am looking at it at the wrong direction or perhaps may be this is not for me…..

  14. YazeeDOT says:

    I’m not huge with social websites although the method that you utilize get granted myself an alternative potential. Great publish. Cheers a whole lot.

  15. Louis says:

    I agree. Social media can get you NEW readers. Moreover if you become an authority in such social media.

  16. Edson Hale says:

    You are right; social media is not a direct marketing tool it actually works in a same way as public relation do for the virtual marketing. If it brings any sales it can be a bonus point but our marketing strategy should not fully rely on it

  17. I think social media is one of the most powerful marketing tool these days. FaceBook, Twitter, Linkedin and Google plus are some of the big names in this game. I think Social media is a great platform for branding where we can get new visits. it is good to share the latest blog post of a website on social media so that more and more people came to know about it. I like to use these social platform in my work and it makes me happy all the time.

  18. jerrylewis says:

    From my own point of view, social media from the word alone is synonymous to socializing. This platform could be use in connecting to friends and relatives and to some extent marketers exploit this site to get connected to possible leads.

    To some marketers, social media may turn out good while others doesn’t work for them. It is all about where you fit and how you treat social media as it is.

    This is a great post

  19. Social media is all about engaging your community. And this is not necessarily about selling something. Brand awareness and connection I find is what social media is best for.

    To be selling a product like an email I can see why a newsletter would be more effective. Different medium, maybe different audience too.

  20. Khushboo says:

    Hi Darren,
    Thanks for sharing the post.Everybody is aware that Social media drives sales.but i had no clue e-mails can be of so much benefit.

  21. Bob Baker says:

    And it may very well be that social media activity drives traffic to your website, which then leads to more people on your mailing list. Those people who sign up then get your follow-up communication and offers, which result in more sales!

    Thanks Darren for confirming that email is still King!

  22. William says:

    I think the big factor here is that your email list has already taken action. Through emails you probably established a relationship with them already. The more they trust you, the more likely they will buy from you. Social media is a tough one. I find that the majority of social media followers are not invested in you yet. Its when you convert them into email followers that they become a greater asset. Thanks for sharing this information. I think it also proves that we sometimes spend too much time and focus on social media. It is just one avenue, and may not be the best one.

  23. Suan says:

    Great Stuff! Social Media is truly the best way to target audience and Facebook is probably one of the best social networking site so far which is user friendly and it also helps in promoting products or services of a company.

  24. Social media is crucial for connecting with the target audience. It may not bring sales like emails would, but it can enhance relationship marketing. I still use twitter and constantly, I’m looking to understand linkedin. Thank you Darren for this insight.

  25. Hermine says:

    I’m a big fan of social media but, I kind of think of it as the welcome mat that you put out inviting people over to your house to sip on margaritas and check out all your cool content. No one want’s to buy stuff until they’ve at least had a chance to do that. I think a lot of small businesses have a misconstrued idea of how social media works… It’s for being social, making friends and networking, not some open air market place where people are hawking their wares to hungry buyers!

  26. Selena Luv says:

    There are so many uses of social media in this digital era. It is not only a way to be in touch with all your dear friends but also have become a big way of marketing too as it enables companies to directly connect to the consumers. this is just an example of how to use social media for more benefits. I Liked the post.
    good job done.
    :)

  27. JJ Wong says:

    So perhaps the time of selling is yet to be coming to my site, as I’m posting information, positive quotes which people seldom buy, it’s free information on the web, no one seems to plan to spend money on these type of information. Hrm…

  28. Ferb says:

    Email list is one of the most effective tools that people use and when you send out an email, number of click through rates is higher than other tools that you use to inform people.

  29. Candy Galaxy says:

    We’re an online candy store. And we’ve pretty much found the exact same things. Despite what I’ve read a lot about social commerce and people buying through social networks. We’ve found that we almost never receive converting traffic through social media pushes. We’ve started to use the social side as a way to build our blog audience who do tend to be converting customers. So I guess indirectly we’re still going after the social audience, but just not with a direct sales pitch like you said.

  30. Wadud says:

    Very nice post on social media. Thanks for this helpful article.

  31. In my experience, Social media is pretty much helpful for sales and also for build good relationship with customers. Email is also good to drive sales as Feb Said but Social Media always play better role.

  32. I love using social media to connect. I’ve met some of the most amazing people on Twitter – you are one of those of course LOL and from that other opportunities opened. But for me it normally starts with a question from them, or a hello from me, and a relationship begins to build.

    I really enjoy it though. It opens up endless possibilities. I have made some direct sales as well but many times they’ve followed me for a while first. (According to them.)

  33. But I find all this is difficult to explain to clients who have read amazing stories about businesses who totally really on FB, for example, for all their marketing needs.

  34. Randy horton says:

    I’m not big on social media but the way you use it has given me a different prospective. Email list is one of the most effective tools that people use and when you send out an email, number of click through rates is higher than other tools that you use to inform people.

  35. I am in total terms with what is said in this article. Crux of the Social media lies in creating TOMA. It is just how your brand is recalled & how many times. Infact Social Media creates indirect word of mouth advertising when consumers check-in at that place or mention about the place. And this in turn create sales since you rely more on the users. I think people should understand the cycle & concentrate on building the brand rather than just on sales.

  36. Nrupen says:

    I totally agree with the point that your list is your biggest source of income. Social media can help build reputation and relationship with your readers and followers. In fact I have seen several marketers combining info-graphics marketing approach to social media just to build reputation. It’s also a kind of Content Marketing.

  37. Nidia Ituarte says:

    Social Media has become as an essential part in our life, specially in our professional life. Social Media will help us to create those relationships that could help us to get our dream jobs, as well as to get to know people from different backgrounds. Social Media help us to learn from people that have different knowledge, work experiences, etc. Social Media can open or close a door for new jobs. Great Article!

  38. I completely agree that Facebook isn’t necessarily about selling. People hate being pitched to. I use social media as a promotion tool and I use it as tool to help connect with people in a more personable way outside of my blog. Social media is also a lot easier to update little things here and there throughout the day and connecting without having to write a blog post. A lot of my traffic also comes through Facebook.