As a small business owner, there are many ways to promote your product or brand. One of these ways is free and can have a huge reach: social media. Unfortunately, a lot of the entrepreneurs I have spoken to recently feel that the effect isn’t worth the effort. We also see that in our consultancy, by the way. It doesn’t matter if we review a photographer’s website or the site of an IT agency, most seem to invest little time in social media efforts or campaigns.
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It’s hard to determine the ROI of a social media campaign. The tools that help in that determination are paid, most of the time. A small business owner that isn’t convinced about any ROI at all, won’t make that investment. Of course ROI is heavily depending on a number of factors. How do you convince the customer to buy in a tweet, for instance? Nigel’s comment on a previous post of mine about social media got me thinking:
I also like social media but how do you target the “ready to buy” segment instead of people “Browsing”.
Nigel Abery, oaklaurel.com.au
You don’t buy a hammer to drive a nail in a piece of wood, but to build a bench. Growing an audience using social media, like I mentioned in this previous post, is a means to an end. The ultimate goal of all your social media efforts is of course to sell stuff and make money. It can even be the first step in a multistep process: get more newsletter subscriptions via Twitter to sell your eBook, for instance.
Now how will you be able to trigger that social audience to purchase your products or services? I did some digging on the interwebs. There is a lot to be found on the subject, but no user manual that works for everybody. Unfortunately, but not unexpected. It’s not an exact science, of course. But I’ve come up with some insights nevertheless :)
The obvious social media sales
Larger companies with a huge social media audience tweet or post their way to money. Now we have this new product, buy it. This will make your life easier, buy it. If you already have this product of us, you’ll want this product. Buy it.
It’s a direct trigger, that works due to the large audience. If you tell 1,000’s of people to buy something, you’ll get sales. That seems obvious. It will trigger at least someone for sure.
In most cases, social media efforts lead to long term wins, like someone that remembers that you are selling Lego t-shirts and finds you back on his Facebook timeline.
Obviously large brands with a huge following can become social entities of their own; small business almost never can. Just the other day I was talking to a local business owner about social media (Twitter). I asked him, if his personal profile had more visitors than his business profile. It did. In most small business cases, social media isn’t a business, but always the person behind it.
Where should you start, right? I think the social media efforts should be designed around your website, to be honest. If you consider social media a serious opportunity, you should make it work with your website, not next to it. If you come up with a nice idea to promote a product on social media, Twitter is limiting your message by 140 characters. Your optimized landing page on your website doesn’t have these limitations. If the landing page is for that Twitter campaign only, you could even measure the effect of the Twitter campaign without tagging your Twitter campaign in Google Analytics (or knowing what tagging an URL is in general).
Come to think of it, social media is a lead to a sale, not the sales effort itself in most small business cases. I have no scientific numbers to prove it, but it seems to make sense. Sure, you can set up a shop app on your Facebook page, but that would be the same as a great website. You are lowering barriers as visitors can become customers without leaving the social network site.
Besides Facebook, other social media are also catching up with this trend of immediate selling. Pinterest introduced buyable pins: when you spot a Pin with a blue price, that means you can buy it. Twitter added the possibility to add a “Buy now” button in 2015 as well, and even Instagram made their platform easy to sell from via ads.
The question remains how small business owners can use social media for immediate or future profits.
Leading them to the sale
Social media is buzz for companies and people. Social media is people talking one to many. Social media is narrowing your business communication down to a niche. People just like to browse for things they might like. Unbounce did an article on cart abandonment a year ago, stating that “56% of shoppers aren’t ready to purchase but want to save their selection for later”, in their cart. I think it is safe to say that this behavior has not changed. So what we should use social media for in this case, is to introduce that product to the customer.
Sales appear less ad hoc when it’s a new product to the customer. When there’s some kind of buzz around your product, people might start to want your product unconsciously. It will become more and more top-of-mind, and an eventual sale will be deliberate. Even though it might seem ad hoc to the buyer at that point. This might be a long-term effect of your social media efforts.
At Yoast, our main focus is SEO / UX, analytics, and WordPress. Most tweets of our team are about those subjects. Creating a niche like that will give you the social following that is already interested in (one of) your products. It did for us.
It is nice to just tweet about beautiful cars when you are selling bread, but those tweets won’t make you money. Tweeting about that new paleo bread you are selling online starting today could get you (immediate) sales, though.
Start early in the process of a new product or offer; “We are releasing a brand new plugin early next week!” or “Only on sale next week, get yours!” and create scarcity; “We’ll start with a test audience of 250 people.” All the basics of sales go for social media as well. You can easily create series, repeat your offer. I tend to use Hootsuite for that. I dislike the GUI of the browser version, but like the functionality. Buffer is another great tool you could try.
Create the need or wish for your product or services. And guide the potential buyer via your preferred social media outlets to your website to close the deal.
To sum things up
Direct selling via social media is becoming more important, and could be an opportunity for small businesses. After reading a number of articles about it, my conclusions are that:
- I am looking forward to reading about new products on Twitter and hitting ‘Buy’.
- With more and more social media making the buy button available, I’m curious what the effects will be on social media as a proper sales channel.
- My gut feeling tells me too little small businesses are aware of shop apps for Facebook, like the Shopify app. Dig into that, especially when you have a local following on Facebook.
Current social media sales efforts should trigger a niche specific sale on your optimized landing page. We also wrote a post about these Landing Pages: be sure to check it and align that landing page with your social media efforts!
Read more: Social Media Strategy: where to begin »