According to a report by Nielsen on social media Americans spend three times more time on social media than reading their e-mail.

7.6% of online time is spent reading e-mail and 23% on social. The juicy bit of the study is that more than 70% of social networks users shop online. That’s ~12% more than the average person.

These stats make a good case that if you and your brand is active on social networks, you can get rewarded – if you do it right.

Black Friday data

eCommerce sales during the last Black Friday topped $1 billion for the first time in history. Thanks to data from AddShopper’s network of over 7000 retailers we can take a closer look at what role social media played in the record breaking results.

On average, during Black Friday 2012, social traffic converted 77% higher than normal. Breaking down conversion rates and money spent by social source reveals some interesting insights

Real money behind numbers

  • For Facebook average order value was $74 with 76% of total social sales and 69% of total clicks
  • For Twitter average order value was $190 with 8% of total sales and 11% of total clicks
  • For Pinterest average order value was $170 with 5% of total sales and 5% of total clicks.
  • For Google+ average order value was $195 with 3% of total sales and 0.06% of total clicks.

Facebook had the most clicks, most number of sales made AND the lowest average order value. While Google+ on the other hand had the lowest % of clicks, lowest number of sales made, but still managed the biggest average order value.

Numbers in perspective

Next, let’s take a look at how those numbers compare with total sales. Turns out that from total sales made online Facebook accounted for only 4%, Twitter for 2%, Pinterest for measly 1%. The only outlier here was Google+ with close to 15%.

So as big as the initial numbers may seem, put into perspective it’s not looking good at all.

The Forrester report

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A new Forrester report titled “The Purchase Path of Online Buyers In 2012″ analyzed conversion paths on 77,000 orders to determine what sources returned the most revenue. The data showed that fewer than 1% of transactions could be traced back to social links.

According to Forrester the low numbers could be due to the relatively short measurement period (30 days)and the size of the companies the data is based upon (only large scale e-commerce sites).

Still that is 2 different large scale studies that seem to confirm that social media conversions suck. So, does it?

You can’t sell with social

Social media can give your company many benefits – it can increase awareness, introduce you to new people, help with customer service (real time customer service!), follow-up with angry customers etc.

One thing that social is bad at is direct sales – just look at the  2 studies from the previous point. Both found direct conversions to be under 5%. And that’s not good.

Wrong metric

The problem is with the metrics used – direct sales are a very bad metric to use for social. People don’t go to Facebook and Twitter to buy stuff, they simply don’t. They go there to chat with friends, discover new and interesting content, watch photos etc. They don’t go there to buy.

All that doesn’t mean that social can’t be used for sales, it can and there is much success to be had there. But you have to approach it differently. You can’t just go and blast your PR all over the place, no one will listen to you, and if no one listens then no one buys. Again, not good.

It’s even worse when you are just starting out, trying to get your product to the market. You have no brand recognition what so ever.

Build trust

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People buy from companies and brands that they recognize and trust. That have some kind of relationship with them. So don’t use social media to sell per-se. But to get, initially at least, attention. Promote good relevant content, run contests, create an identity in your industry first.

Once people recognize that you don’t just blast your company’s PR all over the place, but share stuff they like (give good advice, relevant info etc) and find useful, they will follow and like your activities.

Away from Facebook

Now that you have their attention, it’s time to drive them off of Facebook and into your website. In there you have total control over the environment and thus can work your conversions magic.

The easiest way to drive people from Facebook to your site is through your very own blog. You write a great blog post, and share it (and hopefully others do that as well) on social media.

It works because a blog post still carries the same DNA of your previous activities, meaning sharing relevant content. The difference is that now you are the creator of that content and they are consuming it in an environment that is controlled by you.

Some new people land on your site, read the post and see your lead magnet they can’t resist. Now you get their e-mail and keep nurturing the relationship by sending something of value on a regular basis. Over time they’ll develop trust in you and might even like you. Then they’ll be ready to buy from you.

It’s definitely a long term strategy, but one that will pay off handsomely in the end. Blasting “buy my crap” on social media will not lead to anything.

3 conversions to look for in social media

So direct sales numbers are not a good metric to look at when it comes to social media, but what is then?

1. Engagement

When you post stuff on Facebook, Twitter and the like – do people  reply , like , comment, share your stuff? The more of those you get, the more confident you can be that you’re doing the right thing, e.g. pushing out content that people care about and want to read.

If there is no engagement with your content then you have to take a critical look at what you’re doing and why it’s not working. Getting traction takes time, but don’t let that become an excuse. Lots of companies have developed a significant following in 1 year or less.

Why is it important?

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Engagement is especially important on Facebook, because of their EdgeRank algorithm that rewards “engagement” on your  posts. Meaning that posts that attract a lot of engagement in terms of actions such as Likes, shares, and comments will be rewarded with greater visibility in users News Feeds.

On another note you can get more of those on Facebook if you simply ask for it, according to new data.

According to the data:

  • Ask for Likes and you will get more Likes and comments
  • Ask for comments and you will get more comments and Likes
  • Ask for shares and you will get more shares, comments and Likes

2. Traffic

How much traffic are you getting from social media? Here’s how you can track that with Google Analytics:

  1. Go to Traffic Sources section, select Sources and All Traffic. From there you can identify who sends you the most traffic.
  2. Once you know your main social media traffic sources, go ahead and create Advanced Segments for those websites to individually analyse your visitors from those sources.
    1. Because different Twitter clients send traffic that is not always tagged as being from Twitter.com or t.co the following should be added into one Advanced Segment using the OR statement:
      • twitter.com
      • t.co
      • hootsuite
      • tweetdeck
      • bit.ly
    2. For Facebook do the same OR statements with:
      • facebook.com
      • m.facebook.com
  3. For others check under All Traffic and set-up different Advanced Segments as necessary for your traffic sources.

Below is an example of an Advanced Segment for Twitter:

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 3. Lead generation

How many new leads are you getting thanks to your social media efforts? One thing to remember is that leads from social media are different from your traditional leads.

Different as in you can’t go straight for the kill a.k.a sale – that will kill the sale with a social media buyer. Instead you must work on building trust through valuable and useful content and then slowly move into the sales part.

Social Media Examiner advises (Tip #4)  to use decision making content that is designed to answer questions that are commonly being asked when purchasing your product. That way when your leads are finally in the buying phase they already have the answers to their questions that normally come up.

Tips

1) Social message match

The primary message on your landing page should reflective on what you said in your social media channel. Seeing a familiar message adds to the feeling that you made a “good” click.

By having a mismatch between what you said on social and what awaits visitors on the landing page you risk visitors feeling lost and leaving. button.

2) Social proof

Use testimonials and social media widgets to establish your authority and show your success.

Widgets show how many people have liked, shared, tweeted your product/article etc. It can be used as social proof – if a lot of people have tweeted and liked it it obviously means its good. Be careful though on how you use them – it can work against you. For example in eCommerce some sites used them in their product pages and have a row 0 there, not good. Negative social proof. Seriously, who shares a product page anyway?

Testimonials show people that you made someone else happy trough your service, product, offering. Make sure they are authentic and use real photos of people whenever possible.

3) Social sharing

mashable share

Social media icons help users share your content and offer ways for people to like your content. Likes are valuable votes of confidence (building trust) and go a long way with users who may have come to your site for the first time. Make your content easy to share. Above are social sharing buttons that Mashable uses.

Sure, there are people arguing against having social sharing buttons on your content – but I haven’t seen any evidence to support that myself.

Brightedge conducted a detailed social share analysis of 4 million randomly sample tweets and discovered that sites that had adopted the “Tweet” button drove almost 7 times more link mentions(sharing) on average than sites that did not have the button.

In some cases a simple “Tweet” button can increase traffic by as much as 55%. For around 10 minutes of work to add a share button to your side you can potentially get twice the traffic.

Not bad, not bad at all.

But remember that too much of anything is rarely good. It’s the same with social sharing buttons, apparently too many social sharing buttons make your site less social.

4) Use promotional campaigns

Holiday shopping report from Yesmail Interactive shows that consumers want to see more deals on social media that brands have been offering. At the same time consumers will tune out companies that bombard them with deals and promotions all the time.

The trick is to find a balance between putting out good quality relevant content and mixing it up with deals and promotional campaigns. Another study by Pivot Conference found that a whopping 83% of customers on social network seek deals and promotions.

Short bursts of traffic

But as always, you have to careful with running campaigns and contest – they will drive heaps of traffic towards you, that’s true, but most of that traffic is coming because of a promotion and not always because they care about you as a company or even your product.

Still, for a short term burst of sales it works, next let’s take a look at two examples of companies and how they made it work for them.

Organic tea brand Steaz

Steaz ran a integrated campaign which included Twitter, Facebook, e-mail and pay-per-click ads on Google. Before the campaign started they where confident that they could generate 50,000 coupon downloads, 1,000 new fans/followers.

Actual results included 250 000 coupon downloads (with a 20+ percent redemption rate), 6000 blog and social network mentions, and more than 3000 new fans/followers. Steaz’s December sales were double its previous best month ever.

Dell

dell

Dell managed to generate more than $4 million additional revenue through the use of Dell Outlet Twitter account. They only used that particular account for advertising refurbished Dell computers and PCs and as the numbers suggest – they are successful with that.

Those past 2 examples where given to show that it is possible to drive new sales trough social media, but the thing to remember is that you probably can’t run campaigns forever (unless you’re a deal-only company). By only sharing deals, in essence you’re training your followers only to buy when there’s a deal. Might not be a sustainable strategy.

Conclusions

Social media is a tool that can be used with great success to drives sales and new leads, you just have to remember that as the name suggests – you have to be sociable. Create and share content that people actually want to read, watch, listen to – and share.

Having a few discounts codes and sweepstakes here and there won’t hurt either.

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