You've probably gotten your feet wet with social media marketing by tweeting or creating a Facebook page. Good for you. But if you're like most marketers, you've generated a few sales loosely attributed to social media, but you want more, many more. Earning customers' attention on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn is a good start, but how to get a customer from your Facebook page or blog to the point-of-purchase is unclear. And the metrics you're told to use (like "engagement") don't help.
Could the answer to selling more with social media be found in starting conversations that are worth having? And could conversing in ways that generate questions—that your products or services give answers to—generate more customer inquiries? Yes and yes. In fact, knowing how to "do social media" is worthless without knowing how to design it to pay you.
No, the answers you seek won't be found in learning how to set up a Facebook page or run promotions within it. Nor will learning how to operate blog software, install plugins, set up widgets or create LinkedIn groups help you generate leads and sales. These skills are essential to have, but success requires a focus on designing social media marketing. Giving it purpose.
Following customers into social spaces without a means to capture sales rarely works alone. Listening and engaging with customers on Facebook, Twitter, blogs or on mobile devices—they're all necessary, but doing just these things won't help you sell more and more often. Successful marketers are going beyond capturing customers' attention in social spaces. Instead, they're designing social media marketing in ways that ultimately sells. They're differentiating, driving sales and keeping more customers by diagnosing and solving customer problems—not by cutting prices and offering coupons.
COMMENTARY: If you've been following my blog posts, you know that I don't subscribe to the widely accepted notion that social network sites like Facebook are a Holy Grail for generating revenues. In fact, in a blog post dated March 23, 2011, I stated that Facebook's ad-supported revenue model had reached a critical inflection point, and that social networks by their very nature are flawed marketing platforms. Friendster started selling ads as a "quick and dirty" way to generate revenues, then Facebook came along and adopted the same revenue model. In fact, nearly all social media channels generate most of their revenues from advertising.
When it comes to social media marketing, admittedly I am something of an outlaw. I realize that the above comments are a bit controversial, and that I might be the subject of criticism by social media marketing experts's for making such a claim, but social media marketer's need a swift kick the butt and return to reality.
Reasons Social Media Fails In Generating Sales
The lesson to be learned? Don't try to make social media into something that it isn't. Fix the real problem. Research clearly shows that social media does very little to increase revenues at the point-of-sale, creating sales leads or driving traffic to a brand's site. It's even worse for location-based social media sites like Facebook Places, foursquare and Gowalla. They are really having problems gaining adoption. Generating revenues from social media has been a consistent problem for quite a while across all media sites and types. Here a few of my reasons or theories why this is happening:
- Social media may NOT be a good media channel for selling things--plain and simple, but I could be wrong. Here are just a couple of really good reasons why I say this.
- In a blog post dated December 6, 2011, ad agency Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide conducted research and found that advertisers need to develop a greater insight into the ways social media impacts HOW and WHY people buy what they buy. The same post mentioned that only 42% of Americans 18-49 currently use social media as part of their shopping and buying process.
- In a blog post dated December 2, 2011, I reported that a new study by Webmarketing 123 found that online marketers overall prefer search engine marketing as their number one source for sales leads. In a recent Forrester Research study, search engines ranked the highest in awareness, consideration and purchase factors. Social media ranked fifth behind technology/electronic stores, television, consumer electronics information sites, and OEM sites in that order. Check out the charts. SEO is kicking social's butt. Larry and Sergey are laughing all the way to the bank.
- Social media marketers see NO REAL VALUE (see my January 1, 2011 blog post ) in social media anymore. Social media channels are "freemium" businesses, and this has encouraged wholesale "freeriding." When brands reach a tipping point in the number of fans, brand managers simply have no incentive to advertise. They believe the power of word-of-mouth and viral marketing will automatically kickin.
- Social media marketer's don't understand HOW to sell things on social media sites. The above article makes this point abundantly clear and you need to read my blog post of December 6, 2011.
- 2010 was the tipping point or adoption phase for social media, and 2011 was supposed to be the year social media would finally prove itself, but it has not turned out that way. Brand marketers have become even more suspicious of social media's ability to produce sales results.
- Social media marketer's are still learning how to use social media, experimenting, and trying to determine the right measurement metrics, but they are still spending very little on social media when compared to traditional media. Although 80% of the Fortune 500 have a siocial media presence, only 50% of small businesses use social media at all. Something like 43% of small businesses said they would never use social media again.
- Social media sites need to provide marketer's better measurement and targeting tools to increase engagement and clickthrough rates. Online media clickthrough rates are historically very small, but they are even worse on social media sites.
- Social network users pay no attention to ads on social networks.
- Social media marketer's have an infactuation with bigness. Facebook perpetuates this fallicy by boasting how many users they have.
Gaining fans or followers does not appear to be a problem with big name brands. Coca-Cola has 26 million Facebook fans. Disney and Starbucks both have 22 million fans. Red Bull has 17 million. If you are a well known national brand, chances are pretty good that if you create a fan page, that you will be able to harvest millions of Facebook or Twitter fans. However, increasing incremental revenues through social media is still a problem. Promotional offers and prizes appear to be popular, and they do generate revenues, but they rarely lead to return customers, brand loyalty and a consistent lift in sales. After all, if you are a brand, your CEO wants to know, "how much did we sell". I pity the brand manager or advertising agency that has to answer that question.
Some Ideas To Increase Social Selling
Somewhere in the above could be the answer to increasing revenues, but there is something innocuous going on here that is not as apparent--the inability of brands to hone their skills at social selling. By the way, this is different than social commerce or f-commerce.
Either I am right that social media is not a good platform for generating sales, or social selling is the problem. Or it could be both. Let's assume that I am wrong, and that social selling is the problem. Here are a few things that social media marketer's can do to increase social media sales.
- Get Your Sales Team Involved - Ask your sales people what works best in closing a sale. I sometimes I wonder if brand marketer's are doing this. Marketing people maybe great at marketing concepts and methodologies, conducting marketing research, creating marketing plans, but how many of them realloy know how to sell?
- Understand The Social Dynamics - In a blog post dated December 6, 2011, ad agency Leo Burnett and Arc Worldwide conducted rersearch and found that advertisers need to develop a greater insight into the ways social media impacts HOW and WHY people buy what they buy. It is important to understand where a brand falls on the risk/reward map not only provides a greater level of insight into shopper needs, it also sets the stage for determining which specific social-media channels will be most effectively received. Guess what: Facebook is better for engagement than selling.
- Get Inside Your Customer's Mind - The infamous Sidney Biddle Barrows, a.k.a. Mayflower Madam, in her best selling sales book, "Uncensored Sales Strategies and XXX-Rated Secrets" calls this the "mental movie". A mental movie is "basically all of the input that a customer gets from the second that you appear on their radar screen, following any transaction you have and even following that. Really what it is, is people have an expectation or a hope or both of what doing business with you is going to be like". That is an awesome concept. Thank you Sidney.
- Get A Real Person As Your Brand Spokesman - Another interesting concept that caught my eye about social media is that "fans don't engage with brands, they engage with people". I can't remember who said this, but it floored me when I read it. If you want to develop a much deeper level of engagement that can lead to a sales transaction, you need to make your social media experience more personal or human. Fans need to know that you are talking to THEM. They must feel that they are the focus point. The most successful salespeople know how to communicate and make their customers feel comfortable. They are able to attain the level of trust necessary to close the sale. In short, get a spokesperson, someone that can represent your brand. It's no secret that brands use professional athletes, celebrities even non-human characters (the Gekko) to communicate their brand message, represent and endorse their brands. The reason: It works.
- Adopt A Sensory Marketing Approach - In my April 11, 2011 blog post titled, "A Manifesto On Neuromarketing, Or How To Get Inside The Mind Of Today's Consumer, And Win Them Over", I specifically talk about using the five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste, as a way to win over customers. The loudest and funniest guy in the room gets the most laughs (think Jon Stewart and Chris Rock) , the prettiest girl in the room gets the most eyes (think Jessica Alba and Jessica Biel), those great aromas and fantastic tasting food will get you to come back to that restaurant again and again (think Five Guys Burgers, Starbucks and Las Vegas), that 3D movie and all those crazy special effects will get you into the theater, not once, but several times (think Star Wars, Avatar), the feel and beauty of real gold, pearls and diamonds is a turn-on (Think Rolex and Tiffany's). I say bombard your customers with imagery, sounds, video, great tastes and aromas, sights and textures. The more the better, but do it with class.
Social Media Won't Correct Bad Products, Poor Service, or Bad Reputations
In the end a brand has to have great products, great service and support and a reputation. Steve Jobs once said, "get rid of the crappy stuff", and I could not disagree with him more. The idea that you can sell things on social networks like you can in the real brick-and-mortar world is a fallicy. If it doesn't sell that well in the real world, it's not going to sell through a social network. A bad product or poor service will even get you the wrong kind of viral marketing results, turning more consumers against a brand.
Ad Agencies Say "NO" To Social Media
In a blog post dated December 25, 2011, comScore's new social media study found that social networking lags when it comes to attracting ad dollars, capturing 15% of spending on U.S. display advertising -- despite serving up more than a quarter of the all impressions. Social networking in the U.S. is synonymous with Facebook, which alone served up more impressions in the third quarter than the four major portals combined. It's obvious that social media marketers no longer see any value in social networks. There are a lot of eyeballs, but nobody is watching those ads. Now Zuck believes that by placing the ads within the news stream that this will correct the problem. We will just have to wait and see.
Social Networks Are Running Out of Eyeballs
Although social networks represent a lot of eyeballs or ad impressions (Facebook has 800+ million users, Twitter has 250 million users), things are coming to a head real fast. George Colony, chief executive of analyst firm Forrester Research, speaking at the LeWeb conference in mid-December 2011, has concluded:
"Social is running out of hours. Social is also running out of people."
What he means: People don't have any extra time for social networking, and it's a saturated market.
Forrester found that 86 percent of people in the U.S. have adopted social networking services. In Canada, it's 88 percent, and in Poland, 95 percent. Urban areas of China are at 97 percent.
And in terms of time spent, social networking consumes more time than going to church; communicating by phone, e-mail, and snail mail; and exercising. Colony said.
"It's just a little less than shopping and child care."
Today's status quo won't last, he predicted.
He's 100% right. I said the same thing back in March 23, 2011.
Courtesy of an article dated Mary 4, 2011 appearing in Target Marketing and "A Manifesto On Neuromarketing, Or How To Get Inside The Mind Of Today's Consumer, And Win Them Over"