Social media yet again failed to prove that it directly influences ecommerce purchase activity, a new survey reveals.
The CMO Survey, a leading source of information about strategic marketing trends, found that only 15 percent of the 351 marketers who responded to a survey conducted earlier this year can show the quantitative impact of social media on sales. Forty-five percent of respondents were unable to demonstrate any impact at all while 40 percent had qualitative proof only.
As discouraging as these results sound, they should not deter you from using social media in 2015. Maximizing its value will be determined by how you use it.
As you look to the new year, here are three practices that can help get the most of what social media has to offer both quantitatively and qualitatively.
1. Think Shopping First and Social Second
It is a misnomer to think that just because you have a Facebook page, or Twitter feed customers will flock to your door. Socializing, not shopping, is the primary reason people participate in these networks.
To this point, Cyriac Roeding, CEO of ShopKick, a social commerce app, said, “Don’t mistake social as the core of the shopping experience. Social is a means to make shopping better, not vice-versa.”
Roeding is correct. The smartest way to monetize social media is to use it to enhance the shopping experience, not the other way around. Here are two ways to go about it.
- Incorporate social sharing. Putting shopping at the core starts with your website. Optimize your ecommerce site for social sharing by adding social network buttons on product pages to encourage customers to share products they like and purchases they have made. Such activity provides social proof that your products are worth consideration.
- Include customer reviews. People rely on the viewpoints of others when making purchase decisions, so include customer reviews on product pages.
2. Participate in Relevant Social Networks
Some observers suggest that you should have a presence on every social network. That sounds fine in principle, but it fails to take into account the limited time smaller businesses have to invest in social media.
Even if you have an employee who devotes his entire time to social media marketing, it still makes sense to focus on the channels most likely to produce results.
For example, if your customer base consists of females age 25 to 44, Pinterest is a likely choice since that group represents about 80 percent of its users. However, if you sell to businesses more than individuals, LinkedIn is likely the better option.
You should probably have a Facebook Page due to the large number of users — 1.2 billion — and due to Facebook’s ability to segment audiences in thousands of ways.
Don’t expect much in terms of sales, however. Instead, use Facebook as a means to connect with current customers on a one-to-one basis with a view toward building loyalty and personal relationships. Similarly, Twitter may be better utilized as a forum for customer service than sales.
That is not to suggest yours won’t be the exception. Experiment with different approaches to see what works best. Try using contests, sweepstakes, value-added content, product promotions, and advertising. Rely on metrics such as Facebook Insights and Google Analytics to determine whether your efforts pay off in terms of traffic and sales.
You will likely find that social media assists in the sales process rather than being directly responsible. But the only way to know is by testing.
Also, actively participate in whichever social networks you commit to. Infrequent posting or interaction with fans and followers provides little value.
3. Integrate Social with Other Marketing Strategies
Some businesses view social media as a silo divorced from other marketing activities. But it’s best to view social as a layer that integrates with other marketing activities rather than a separate and distinct channel. Here are tips to help.
- Social and email. Add social sharing options to your email marketing template, and share email messages to social networks. Some email marketing platforms such as Constant Contact, MailChimp and Vertical Response include that as an option.
- Encourage your social media connections to subscribe to your email list. Since social connections are already fans and followers, they may want to connect via email, as well. It’s yet another way to strengthen your relationship with consumers and move them toward marketing that is more promotional than relational.
- Social and search. If there is one reason to use Google+, it’s search. In spite of recent changes such as discontinuing Google Authorship, content distributed to Google+ likely factors into search signals. In addition, optimize all your content for search regardless of which network you use. That is especially true of long-form content such as blog posts.