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:
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)
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!