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Social media apps are with us everywhere!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

Wales Web DesignWhilst 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, That’s why my free Social Media Dash­board includes a system to help you create shareable images without Pho­toshop — and why I offer video mar­keting ser­vices, too.

Of course, 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.

Be Funny

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. Click To Tweet

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.

Social Media Marketing — Solved!

So, if you’re looking for help with all that, you’ll find my free Social Media Mar­keting Dash­board useful. Along with the scheduling and image-cre­ation fea­tures men­tioned above, it also helps you to research popular hashtags to increase your brand’s exposure, and to find rel­evant art­icles to re-post from other sources.

Even better, if you really can’t find time to create social media posts reg­u­larly, the Dash­board integ­rates with my social content cre­ation and full social media mar­keting ser­vices.

Just sign up below for a 14-day free trial of the Pro version of the Dash­board (no credit card required). After that, the free version will keep most of the fea­tures, or you can upgrade to the Pro version or content-cre­ation ser­vices any time you like.

Take control of your social media mar­keting today!