Making The Most Of Social Media, Even When It’s Not Driving Sales
Are your social channels failing to drum up big sales? You're not alone. Columnist Jordan Elkind offers up some tips to help you maximize your return on social media.
Despite much of the hype around social media “Buy” buttons and shoppable links, social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest continue to drive only a small portion of online retail sales.
In fact, according to the Custora E-commerce Pulse Holidata Report (Disclosure: Custora is my employer), less than two percent of e-commerce sales this past holiday season were attributed to social media.
While many other marketing channels saw significant year-over-year growth, the percentage of orders from social media actually decreased from last year.
The bottom line is that when it comes to driving sales, marketers have yet to unlock the formula to produce real results from social. While the jury may still be out on whether social media will live up to its hype, the following are some best practices for marketers looking to optimize their return on social media.
Take Advantage Of Advanced Facebook Ads Functionality
Facebook’s advertising solution provides a number of features beyond the automated distribution of ads, and it’s in marketers’ best interest to learn and implement some of the more advanced functionalities Facebook has to offer.
Facebook’s Custom Audiences allows marketers to match their house lists against Facebook data to yield more targeted, relevant marketing messages to consumers.
Take your Custom Audience Ads to the next level using Facebook’s Audience Insights. This often-overlooked feature lets you drill down to specific segments and personas of your custom audience.
For example, if your ad creative features a new line of women’s yoga pants, you may want to target customers who have bought your athletic wear, then drill down to women who have listed yoga as an interest on Facebook. This feature allows marketers to effectively segment their customers to provide hyper-relevant content and move one step closer to achieving a one-to-one marketing reality.
Another useful Facebook Ads functionality enables marketers to A/B test their messaging and creative. As with all A/B testing, the results of Facebook A/B tests enable you to continue to iterate, improve and optimize your marketing.
For example, an e-commerce retailer might use a Facebook ad with a call to action to click through to its spring catalog. By testing a few different versions of copy, the marketing team can better understand which messaging resonates best with their customers.
Perhaps there are certain segments that prefer one version over the other. Through continued testing, you can continue to optimize the message for each segment of customers to provide powerfully relevant messages.
Enable Your Customers And Fans To Tell Your Story
Anecdotally, we’ve heard many e-commerce brands report significant social revenue coming from Pinterest. However, upon closer inspection, we’ve found that this revenue is generally being driven from fan-generated content, not branded pins.
For example, a customer pins a picture of himself sporting an outfit from a brand’s new line, and someone else feels inspired to buy that pair of pants immediately. It can be likened to digital word of mouth — consumers trust other consumers more than they trust brands.
The lesson here for marketers: Rather than spending time pinning (or posting or tweeting or snapping) yourself, put those resources toward making it as easy and fun as possible for your fans to do so. The impact of a tweet from your customers is much more likely to drive sales.
With this in mind, consider running a Pinterest or Instagram contest encouraging fans to post, or highlighting social mentions from fans on your website.
Don’t Forget About More “Traditional” Marketing Methods
Social is certainly one of the sexier online marketing channels today, but given the lack of results we’ve seen from it thus far, it’s important that CMOs don’t discount the value of more traditional marketing methods.
Email continues to be a major player in e-commerce sales. According to Custora’s E-commerce Pulse Holidata Report, email drove 20 percent of all online orders during the 2015 holiday season.
Email’s influence was even more pronounced over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when it took over as the primary channel driving online sales, accounting for more than 23 percent of orders.
Smart marketers should look to leverage social channels like Twitter for capturing email addresses — not just as channels for driving direct sales. Getting into people’s inboxes can be more valuable than driving a one-time social purchase, as it sets up a foundation for continued interaction with a customer.
According to a 2015 Global Web Index report, the average person has five social media accounts and spends around one hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day. So although social hasn’t yet lived up to its promise to drive e-commerce sales, it’s no surprise that it has become a staple of the modern marketer’s toolbox.
It’s clear that marketers can no longer write social media off as a fad, but they should try to make the most of their marketing dollars spent there by targeting the right people, optimizing their messages and enabling their fans to speak for themselves.