What are the best ways to sell with social media?

by Morgan Siem on May 26, 2011

in Social Media

This post is part of a series of posts: The Top 10 Social Media Questions that Marketers want answered.

What are the best ways to sell with social media?

This question is key. From the brand’s perspective, the number one reason it would make sense to put resources (time & money) toward social media efforts is if they are driving sales. Period. From the consumer’s standpoint, though, you’re unlikely to “like” or follow a brand that is always trying to sell you on something. So, there’s a fine line to walk when building relationships through social media with the intended goal to make a sale. Here are some tips & best practices.

Be straightforward

Your customers know that you’re in business to make a sale, so don’t be afraid to put that out there. Respect their intellect by being direct with them about that, rather than trying to hide the message somehow or “trick” them into making a purchase. Don’t attempt to mislead them or trap them. This will simply anger them. Here’s an example to clarify: Don’t tell customers that you’re offering a free webinar that will help them develop their skills, but then once they’re watching, the whole webinar is a sales pitch. It’s better to just tell them that what you’re inviting them to watch is a demo of your new tool or a walk-through of your services.

Have an interesting mix of content

Lightly sprinkle your sales messaging in with other content that you provide. Some of your content may be informational, some may be humorous, some may be conversational or customer-service oriented. Ask questions and seek feedback – this way you are building relationships with your customers while gaining valuable insights. Don’t let your “hard sell” messaging be more than 10-15% of your content.

Discount Codes

Many statistics show that for the majority of consumers, the primary reason that they “liked” a brand on Facebook was to get exclusive offers and discounts. This audience skews toward women. Use this tactic wisely because it can backfire. I recommend having offers available only for short windows of time. People are more responsive when they know the clock is ticking on the offer.

Social media is not just for awareness & loyalty

Social media is not just for awareness and loyalty. Social media can and does drive direct sales. If you sell software, a blog with informative content may very well be your number one tool converting people to download your product. If you are a non-profit, YouTube videos are a great way to reach a broad audience with content that is able to pull on people’s heartstrings enough to have them donate money or volunteer their time. If you are a bank, many of your new clients will come through referrals from their friends, so provide incentive and infrastructure to encourage your current clients to refer their friends on social networks. Be sure to measure these results.

Reward friends – leverage the network

One of the greatest values of social media for brands is that they can leverage the power of the networks. People who use social media are part of expansive online networks for friends, colleagues and other organizations. Offer incentive for your fans to get their friends to buy. Living Social is a great example of this – if you get 5 of your friends to buy the deal, then you get yours for free.

Have clear, visible CTAs

CTA stands for Call To Action. This is the “buy now” or “sign up today” button or link. Decide what it is that you want customers to do. Then make it dummy proof for them to figure out how to do just that. Let’s take blogging for example and say that you sell shoes. So, your blog content may include posts about the colors of the season, what inserts are most comfortable, which brands are most eco friendly and so on. These articles provide the great content that will drive customers to your blog. However, these articles don’t necessarily make it easy or obvious for readers to make a purchase. So, in a visible (above-the-fold) place on your blog, place a link, banner or button with your CTA. In this case it might say, “Shop for Shoes” or something like that.

The list of ways to use social media to sell is endless. I’d love comments and feedback with more questions or ways that you’ve found that either work or don’t work.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rick May 27, 2011 at 8:40 am

Love the list, and for me it’s really encouraging this morning to be able to grab onto a couple of points as “mine” for what I feel I need in my next steps. Thanks!

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Christine Seib August 1, 2011 at 7:55 am

Thanks, Morgan. There are many who just dive into social media with no real plan for where to start. Though where you start doesn’t have to be where you finish, you do have to understand what your goals are and what social media prospects want. Others ignore social because they find it too intimidating or can’t see the value. Hopefully more businesses will be able to start confidently with your list.

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