Social Media as a Sales Tool … Yes, It’s Possible!

March 31, 2011 by  
Filed under All, Media Coverage

As a partner in a business that manages social media accounts for companies across the country, I hear this phrase almost every single day from potential clients: “Yes, we like your approach, but it MUST produce a return on our investment.” And that’s understandable. As we all emerge from the recession, our dollars must be spent wisely and be tracked to sales. So we have fine-tuned our company’s approach to this ever-changing medium and would like to report that Yes, Virginia, you can make money via social media.

In its beginnings, social media was touted as a brand awareness tool and a “soft” way to reach your audience and it remains a valuable tool for that. With the right approach, however, you can take Facebook, Twitter, blogs and more beyond PR and marketing and into the realm of sales. Dell proved this when they announced that their Twitter accounts brought in some $6.5  million in sales. And so have we. In fact, we tracked more than $14,000 in direct bookings in January from Twitter and Facebook for a hotel group client. It can be done, folks, but how?

Here’s what you need to have in place to make social media profitable for your business:

1) A way to purchase your product or service online.

Sure, people can call to buy your product or come to your store, but social media is not going to be very successful at driving these types of sales. It means people have to go get their phone (assuming they’re not surfing the web on their smartphone) or remember to visit your store. Any extra work required by the user greatly diminishes the chances they’ll complete the transaction. We have learned people online are lazy. You want them to be able to click directly from the social media outlet to your site where the transaction occurs.

2) A way to track their path from social media through your website.

You need to have trackable URLs set up (we use Google’s URL Builder tool) and a good Analytics system, like the free Google Analytics, that will allow you to see how many people come from Facebook or Twitter to your website and how much they spend, what pages they visit, how long they stay, etc.

3) A consistent, conversational approach to social media.

This can be one of the toughest parts to master, and it requires being on social media every day, multiple times a day and understanding the right mix of conversation, information, entertainment and sales. You simply cannot come across as too sales driven on social media or you’ll lose your audience. Instead, focus 80% of your content on helpful, funny, engaging posts, while working in information about your products, services, packages, etc. in a very conversational manner. This requires studying which posts, at what times and on what days, result in the most interaction, views and sales and replicating that over time.

We’ve mastered the art of making money on social media for our clients, and with dedication and the right information, you can too.

Lyn Mettler is the founder and co-owner of Step Ahead, Inc., a company specializing in social media management, Internet marketing and public relations with offices in both Indianapolis and Charleston, S.C. She has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur magazine, and for her advice on using social media successfully for business.

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