How to Drive Sales with Social Networks
Marketing as a business has changed drastically in recent years. In the 1950s, we saw television ad revenues surpass radio and print. Through the 1970s and 80s, print advertisements became more obsolete as digital forms of communication emerged. Search engine marketing and website advertising dominated the late 1990s. Then, in the early 2000s, future social media giants LinkedIn, Myspace, and Facebook emerged.
Now, social media marketing has become the go-to sales driver in the digital marketplace. Did you know that YouTube now reaches more adults age 18-34 in the United States than any cable network that exists? Literally every second at least two people join LinkedIn as a new member. Social media has even dethroned pornography as the #1 activity on the web. A recent survey revealed that only 7% of marketing professionals do not include social media as part of their advertising strategy.
With so much focus on social media advertising, it is important to understand how it can benefit your particular business and how it can drive traffic to your own online store. The key to driving sales is to first understand where people spend their time online, and then develop a plan to market to them. The following chart of compiled data from an eBizMBA study in December of 2013 reveals the top social media sites and estimated monthly traffic to each website:
There are essentially two methods to drive sales with social networks. One is to take advantage of the built-in advertising system that each social network promotes. The other is to create a social profile for your business and interact with the demographic of users interested in the products or services you offer.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus+ all have advanced ad management systems that allow you to promote your business to a very specific group of people based on their behaviour on social networks or the interests they post on their profiles. Pinterest is just recently joining the crowd with an announcement in September of 2013 by their CEO that “Promoted Pins” are coming soon. While each social network ad system has their individual differences, they all work on the same premise.
Most offer a type of “Sponsored Update”, “Promoted Post”, “Sponsored Story” or similar promotion system. This is where you can make a post or status update on your own social network for your business, and then pay a fee to have it broadcast outside of your immediate network of contacts to a specific demographic or the entire social network population. The other option is to create an ad that will display to users who meet the demographic you specify. The major difference between these two types of ad placements is that a “Sponsored Post”, or the equivalent of it, is more personal and social than an advertisement. The disadvantage is that they typically reach a smaller audience for the same price.
Most sponsored post systems on social networks only reach your followers or other followers connected to them. The ad system will reach across your entire demographic to every user of the site. While the ads typically have a wider reach, they can come across more as spam if they are not carefully designed. A promoted post can be more personal by tagging friends, adding more content than what is available in an ad, and is a good option for promoting an event or special sale.
Completely separate from the entire advertising systems offered by social networks is an often-overlooked avenue of driving sales to your business. It is important not to just advertise, but to create a presence for your business. Your business needs to have a profile or page where users feel as if they are socially interacting with a real live person. Keep in mind the dictionary definition of social networking, which reads “the use of dedicated websites and applications to communicate informally with other users, or to find people with similar interests to oneself”.
You do not want your social network profile about your business to sound like they are reading the “About Us” section of your website. It should be very informal, and your goal is to connect with the emotions, thoughts, feelings, and interests of those who interact with your page. Take an interest in the lives of your followers. Ask for the opinions of those connected to you about products and promotions. Give sneak peaks of future sales and “follower-only” benefits or discounts.
On occasion, it is good to show a personal side by posting non-business related posts about holidays, major news events, or other aspects of life. Having them see your business name on a news feed is important even if your post has nothing to do with selling or promoting any of your products. Build your following first, and then the sales will come naturally.
Whether you choose to use paid advertising or put in the effort to create your own social following, the time to take action and create a social presence is now. The time when social media promotion was the way of the future has passed. Social media networking is the method of driving sales today, and it’s time to get started.