How to Utilise Business Social Media to Generate Sales

"Social Media is akin to Dr. Who’s Tardis, it’s difficult to comprehend how

big it is till you open the door and stick you head in.”

Social Media is user-generated content on the internet. It is created with free or inexpensive technology, is easy to update, and can reach a niche audience or millions. It can be mere words in a blog, but also user-generated videos, photos and audio. It can be interactive and unfiltered comments from visitors.  And as user-generated content, it does away with controls associated with traditional media – and most of all, it removes the need for big media & big expenditure.

What constitutes social media?

It can be via online magazines, Internet forums, weblogs, social blogs, microblogging, wikis, social networks, podcasts, phototographs or pictures & video. These social media platforms are branded names such as: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Flikr to name a few. These are the most popular programs, but there are many, many more!

Consumers are overwhelmed with messages on brands, products & companies.  After decades of companies ‘pushing’ their message via traditional media platforms such as TV, radio & print, consumers have become skeptical about these messages.  Today’s savvy consumer has a thirst to know more about a product prior to making the commitment to purchase and there are now multiple channels talking about them.  And if the consumer is listening to these channels, so should you be.

Business that recognise the importance of social media communications and customer engagement, are one step ahead of their competitors.  Why?  Because customers are openly stating that they would be much more inclined to purchase from social media savvy business than those that aren’t.  So while the ROI may not be all black and white for businesses, one thing is clear – the time has now come for adopting social media as a key marketing and communications platform.

Social  media  activity  isn’t  something  that  stands  alone,  to be  effective  it  needs to integrate as part of the general marketing mix. Any planned campaigns, promotions and activities can be plugged in to social media platforms to leverage reach, exposure, return on investment and results

In the good ol days, you would advertise, a consumer would purchase and hopefully you didn’t hear from them until their next purchase, or heaven-for-bid they had a problem or complaint that you needed to deal with.  With the advent of social media, companies are now communicating with and engaging consumers at the product research stage so as to guide the knowledge hungry consumer to their product or service.   Companies that are not on board the social media juggernaut are not going to get a look-in, why, because consumers don’t know they exist if they aren’t on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and Blogs.

One of the top 3 reasons stated in a recent survey for consumers to buy was hearing others talking about the product and/or company.  According to Neilson’s Global Online Survey, more than two thirds of today’s consumers say they trust opinions stated online.  Second in trustworthiness only to recommendations from people they know in real life.

It’s always been a fact of life that bad news travels faster than good and that is more so no due to the internet.   Therefore if you want to reduce the severity of negative talk about your brand, you need to embrace social media and see it as an opportunity to communicate with consumers and manage your online reputation.  By monitoring online conversations you have the ability to respond promptly and be seen as valuing your customers and willing to listen and resolve issues.  This will go a long way to creating trust and loyalty in your company or brand.   The questions to ask yourself are:  Who is talking – customer or non-customer?  What are they talking about – company, brand?  Where are they talking – Facebook, Twitter, your Blog, or theirs?  What is the timing of the buzz – before or after purchase?   What is the sentiment of the buzz – positive, negative or neutral?  The next step is to follow your competitors and discover what the social media community is saying about them.  What this will give you is the big picture which is a good place to start when considering how social media can work for your business.

“We no longer control our brand – it is being shaped by our customers in social media with or without us, so we must engage with them to protect and enhance the brand

Here is a great example of how to use social media to create sales.  It’s all about creating buzz!  Eighteen months before Ford re-entered the US subcompact-car market with its Fiesta model, it began a broad marketing campaign called the Fiesta Movement. A major element involved giving 100 social-media influencers a European model of the car, having them complete “missions,” and asking them to document their experiences on various social channels. Videos related to the Fiesta campaign generated 6.5 million views on YouTube, and Ford received 50,000 requests for information about the vehicle, primarily from non-Ford drivers. When it finally became available to the public, in late 2010, some 10,000 cars sold in the first six days.  [McKinseyQuarterly]

It's hard to accurately measure sales from social media. But it can still give you a wealth of insight about your customers. You can get demographic data and clues about their interests. But more importantly, you can start to uncover their underlying emotional triggers.

Imagine that you understood the markets needs prior to developing a new product. What would it be worth to you to develop exactly what consumers wanted when there was a need or demand for it? How much would you save in time, research and earlier versions that didn’t quite hit the mark? So rather than looking at social media as a vehicle to drive sales, look at it as a program to increase business profitability and the wealth of your business.

Businesses that understand social media and do it well have the potential to reach large numbers of individuals for a minimal cost. They will also create deeper connections with their customers by being able to pick their brains and gather invaluable feedback & new ideas.

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