Social media is a vital marketing tool for small businesses because entry fees are low, and the potential reach is high. Many articles focus on how social media helps small businesses grow by increasing brand awareness.
That’s all very well, but how can social media drive sales?
Well, social ads are an obvious answer — but thankfully, not the only answer.
Popular Social Media Sales Strategies
In fact, a recent review of key social media marketing stats noted seven popular ways that companies use social media to drive sales:
- 48% of firms said being responsive encourages customers to buy
- 46% find that offering promotions helps to drive sales
- 42% drive sales by providing educational content (aka “content marketing”)
- 35% use exclusive content to encourage purchases
- 28% reported using interesting visuals increased sales
- 27% said it helped to provide “behind the scenes” content
- 26% find being funny can improve sales
All of these tactics also improve customer engagement with your brand and long-term loyalty. Even better, they’re all things that small businesses can do with a little effort.
Respond To Customers Quickly
Social media is a peer-to-peer tool that lets you speak with your customers one-on-one. Customers want suppliers that are responsive to their needs. So if you can quickly address any concerns that your target audience has about your service or products, that encourages them to buy from you.
Use Social Media Promotions Effectively
Paid ads on any platform — online or offline — need to be done well to be profitable. One of the keys to that is targeting the right market with the right offer. Social ads offer far more accurate targeting tools than traditional broadcast marketing — and options to edit campaigns in response to real-time performance stats. So they tend to be far more cost-effective than offline advertising.
That said, focusing entirely on promotional content is one of the easiest ways to fail at social media. If you only ever post blatant pitches for your products and services, you’ll quickly lose your audience. So try to share other stuff that your audience may find useful, too — including articles from other relevant (non-competing) sources.
Offer Educational Content
Customers often want to feel informed about your industry before they buy. By providing that information, you demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as an “authority”. Building your online reputation through this kind of “content marketing” can dramatically boost the appeal of your brand.
If you make this content truly useful, you’ll also be delivering value up-front. That builds trust, which is one of the most essential elements of every sale. More than that, though, this “content marketing” also employs a basic rule of social psychology.
The Reciprocity Principle says that people tend to pay back what they receive from others. Put simply, most folks return favours, even if they didn’t ask for them.
So if you provide real value to your audience for free, they’ll be more likely to buy from you. Educational content can be a great way of doing this without actually giving away free samples of what you sell.
Offer Exclusive Content
Over a third of the firms in the survey reported that providing exclusive content through social channels had increased sales. Such exclusive or gated content often provides valuable information in return for joining an email marketing list. Though now far more regulated, email marketing is still highly profitable when done properly.
Exclusive content does far more than just build mailing lists, though. It delivers real value up-front, often as a short PDF booklet or video. That helps to build authority and trust. It also encourages respondents to feel special, welcome, and “part of the club”.
Share Interesting Visuals
Whilst in-depth articles on your site can be great for SEO, they are rarely what people look for on social media. Getting the click-through to your site is all very well, but how can you build authority on social channels? By creating engaging images, graphics and videos, that’s how.
Images and videos prompt far more interactions and shares than simple text updates. Combining interesting visuals with educational or entertaining content can be even more powerful. So infographics often go viral, attracting even more shares that all help to build authority, trust — and sales!
Offer a Glimpse “Behind the Scenes”
Letting customers learn about the way you work builds trust — which builds sales. Videos and photos are obvious candidates for this. If your products and services, or the locations you visit, are especially visually interesting, Instagram was pretty much made for you.
Note that I didn’t say “photogenic”, though. Whilst modern society focuses heavily on presentation, images don’t have to be pretty to be interesting. That’s particularly true of “Behind the Scenes” and “Work in Progress” content. Unless you’re working in their home, most folks find a spotless workspace a little suspicious. Besides, the appeal with this kind of content is that they get to see things that are normally hidden… within reason! just remember to always check the background before you take the shot.
Over a quarter of the firms surveyed reported that humour sells. This shouldn’t be surprising, as people tend to buy from people they like. A shared sense humour helps to create those bonds.
At the same time, inappropriate humour can easily alienate people. So the key, again, is effective targeting. To actually be funny, need to really know your audience. Being “edgy”, “controversial” or obscure can easily do more harm than good. So weigh up the pros and cons before you post, or save that acid wit for a less public audience.
Bonus: Avoid These Social Media Pitfalls
So if social media can help businesses grow, why do some still ignore it?
Well, as noted above, some give up when they find using it as a pure promotions channel doesn’t work. Others rush offers out without crafting them to appeal to a specific, targeted audience. Given the wealth of information available to modern marketers, those broadcast, hard-sell approaches rarely work as well as they did twenty years ago. It can be tough to move with the times, but the only other option is to become history.
The Common Enemy
More often, though, there’s a simpler answer — time. We’re all short of it, and it’s the one thing you can never get back once it’s spent.
In smaller businesses, that’s even more true — unless you have plenty of staff to get the paid work done, finding time for marketing can be a challenge. That’s how the “boom and bust” cycle works, though. If we get too busy to keep our marketing ticking over, it’s easy to hit a slump straight afterwards. Being consistent makes all the difference.
Effective marketing is time consuming, but essential. Anyone who uses social media knows how distracting and time consuming that can be, too. So combining them can be a real time-sink — unless you do it efficiently.
By far the most efficient approach to social media marketing is to schedule batches of social media posts for automatic publication. Whether you write them all at a set time each week or simply when you feel inspired, you can then set them to publish — and re-publish — over several days. That keeps your brand visible, and regularly delivering valuable content to your target audience.