Social Media - Why it's not just about sales

Less than one per cent of sales are driven directly by social media, according to a new report.

Research firm Forrester looked at 77,000 transactions made during the first half of April, and found that direct visits, organic search, and paid search account for the biggest chunks of sales amongst first-time buyers.

Small businesses should never rely on social media to the exclusion of all other tactics. But by looking solely at sales, Forrester’s report misses some of the most important and beneficial aspects of social.

Social doesn't claim to drive immediate sales

In very few cases does social media activity to drive sales immediately. In this case the Forrester report is absolutely right: when was the last time you saw a tweet or a Facebook post that caused you to make a purchase straight away?

But this misses the point of social. Few business owners expect their social media activity to yield income straight away. This is simply not the way social works. Social media is not like a point of sale display, or a billboard on the side of the road. Instead, it is a conversation. It offers business owners the opportunity to develop strong and lasting relationships with potential customers – relationships that will, over time, prove much more valuable than a single sale.

Sales aren't the only metric

The corollary of this is that you should not measure your social media success simply with reference to sales volumes. There is a range of other metrics that could provide a more accurate picture of the efficacy of your activity.

A well thought out social media strategy can help you increase your reach cheaply and efficiently. You should therefore make sure that you measure figures like follower numbers, and follower influence. Interaction is another key metric, as it gives an indication of the quality of your communications and of the degree of trust your followers hold in you.

Social works best in conjuction

You cannot rely on social media to solve all of your marketing requirements. Much has been made of a major drinks company’s decision to plough its entire marketing budget into social – but this is only really practical for businesses that already have a strong brand. For most small businesses, a marketing strategy that relies solely on social is no marketing strategy at all.

Social works best when it is used in conjunction with a comprehensive range of other marketing activities, both in print and online. You might, for example, consider using pay-per-click or print advertising, running ‘real-world’ events, and promotions. Social will then support these activities, and vice versa. The Forrester report makes the important point that firms should not ignore other potential tactics, including organic search and email marketing.

It is important that all of your marketing communications sit properly together, in order that you give the impression of a ‘united front’. Consider drawing up brand guidelines setting out key things like tone of voice, to ensure that your marketing activities appear consistent and comprehensive.

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