What is social media marketing’s role in sales? This is the real question company leaders want answered. Last week I wrote an article, “Why Are We Doing Social Marketing Anyway” which touched on the subject of social marketing’s relationship to sales. Judged by the amount of discussion and misinformation generated, especially on the LinkedIn CMO Network Group, it is necessary to take on questions of social marketing and relevance to sales directly.
First, let me state that it is pretty much impossible to measure direct results of social marketing on sales. That is because most of the channels used for socializing a brand are not owned by the brand. If I post something on my Facebook page, or tweet something on my Twitter page, and it states something like “love my new ‘brand-name’,” that post can be monitored, but not pixelated or cookied to capture further actions. Yes, there are quantitative marketing mix models that attempt to isolate marketing channels to assess product sales lift, but most of the accurate models are cost prohibitive to use.
If you really want to understand the relationship of social marketing and sales, you must be more of a psychologist than a marketer. Human behavior … that is what needs to be evaluated. How does the audience react to brand posts and socialization? There is a direct correlation to continuous active following and future sales.
So let me give you an example. A while back, I did some social marketing for a well-known women’s magazine. The sales department “packaged in” a Facebook post from a deodorant company that simply said “keep dryer …” The audience went ballistic. They were appalled at blatant advertisement and selling on a social channel. Direct selling on social channels often produces the exact opposite of the marketers’ objectives. It turns off people.
But smart marketers know how to subtly sell on social channels. Think of it this way … use social to sell a customer experience. A customer experience that delivers value to the target audience. And when you consistently deliver value over time, you do not win a sale; you win a loyal customer that often becomes your advocate as well.
In the past, I have defined that social marketing should NOT be measured in sales or conversion. It is measured in awareness, consideration, loyalty and advocacy. Awareness and consideration as pre-sale attributes. But the post sales attributes of loyalty and advocacy are much more important for long-term sustainable business. And this is the true power of social marketing.
So here are some takeaways on social marketing relevance to sales:
1) You cannot measure direct sales effectively.
2) In most cases, consumers are turned off by blatant advertisement postings on social channels. (Yes, there are some exceptions and brands can run promotions and coupons in limitation.)
3) Social marketing yields strong results of pre-sales awareness and consideration and post-sales loyalty and advocacy. These four attributes tee up sales. Social has a strong value in sales, but not necessarily direct sales.
True – social is not a great vehicle to deliver immediate sales. But well executed social marketing delivers long-term sustainable sales. Social marketing yields brand preference. Brand preference produces repeatable sales and word of mouth marketing and referrals. Thus social marketing manufactures consumer conviction and sales.
It is difficult to correlate social activities to sales figures. But if you see empirical data that demonstrates brand increase in awareness, consideration, loyalty, and advocacy, does it not make sense that an increase sales will be the residual affect?
Far too often companies are driven by quarter-to-quarter results to the detriment of long-term sustainability and growth. Social marketing is definitely a long-term commitment and rarely produces immediate results. But does every company want committed customers and brand champions? Wanting and executing do not go hand in hand. Are you committed to long lasting success or just worried about the next quarter? The answer to this question largely defines expected social marketing success to drive long lasting sales.
Make It Happen,