Direct Selling Through Social Media Marketing¹

Direct Selling Through Social Media Marketing

Many small business owners do not feel their social media marketing efforts produce tangible results. In most cases, those feelings are on target: According to surveys by the customer satisfaction and market research company ForeSee Results, only 5% of visitors to retail websites make that visit due to social media interactions.

What is likely to influence retail website visits?

  • Brand familiarity: 38%
  • Email promotions: 19%
  • Search engine results: 8%
  • TV, newspaper, radio, magazines: 8%
  • Word of mouth: 8%
  • Web advertising: 7%
  • Social network interactions: 5%
  • Blogs and/or forums: 3%
  • Shopping comparison sites: 2%
  • Product review sites: 2%

Keep in mind that research conducted by ForeSee Results is based on findings from the top 40 Internet retail websites by sales volume. Results for your business or industry may of course vary.

As you can see, in most cases traditional marketing drives more customer behavior than social media marketing.

Unless, of course, you take steps to make sure your social media marketing efforts drive direct sales. Building long-term customer relationships is important, and social media marketing can definitely help, but why not accomplish both goals?

Here are some ways to use social media marketing to directly impact sales:

  • Offer special coupons or discounts. Provide special offers to Facebook or Twitter followers; not only will they be glad they follow your company, they may share those offers with others, expanding your social media fan base in the process. Just make sure those offers are for a limited time.
  • Create product or service videos. Videos posted to YouTube are a great - and inexpensive - way to highlight your products, provide how-to information, and spread the word about your brand. Videos don't have to be formal or professionally produced. In some cases, the more "amateur" your video appears, the more credibility you gain.
  • Other special services to followers. Customers who interact with your business on social media tend to be loyal, satisfied customers. Reward them: Create a customer appreciation event that can only be accessed by followers. Make the event worthwhile, and you not only cement the relationship with current customers, you create incentives for potential customers to follow your company on social media.
  • Run contests or other events. Say you want to give away a product. To be eligible, customers must visit your website and enter the contest. Spread the news through Twitter or Facebook. People are much more likely to share the information with their friends through social media than through other means, since sharing is incredibly easy. In the meantime, you drive traffic directly to your website.
  • Expand search results. More and more people search for products, services, review, and other information on Twitter or Facebook. Potential customers searching for products and services like yours may not only perform a "traditional" web search, so if you don't have a social media presence, those customers may not find you.

How do you know if your social media marketing efforts are paying off? The simplest way is to create promotions that are tied directly to the social media you use. For example, if you run a special and publicize that event on Twitter, you can tie increased sales directly to your Twitter campaign. The same is true with coupons; create a coupon specific to the social media you use, and track the results.

Don't forget about traditional marketing, however. Keep social media marketing in perspective, and use other direct-response marketing strategies as well. As with any type of marketing, experiment, evaluate your results, and try new things to win new customers.

Over time you can refine your social media marketing campaigns to better drive direct sales - and build longer-term relationships with your customers.