Social Media Doesn’t Drive Sales
Hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but the reality – and the research – shows that while social media can be a great marketing tool for small businesses, having more followers doesn’t necessarily equate to more sales.
Need proof? According to a report from Custora, even though holiday sales for 2015 were up 12%, less than 2% of those sales could be attributed to social media channels. So while it may be tempting to put all your marketing energy into social media; especially given how much less expensive social media is to execute on versus other marketing and advertising channels, your time commitment to it may not be yielding the results you’d hoped.
This isn’t to say that social media isn’t without its merits. Social media can be a tremendous way to build brand loyalty and engage in conversations with your customers. The key is to have a mindset on social media where your company chooses to interact with customers, as opposed to simply posting ‘look at us’ announcements. Ask questions, answer and like followers’ comments, invite users to share recipes and/or ideas that incorporate your product so that they feel part of the team. Done well, social media can convert occasional users into loyal followers or, better yet, into brand advocates.
Social media can also be ‘turned on’ quickly to respond to a timely event – making your brand part of the story. A perfect example of this was Oreo’s ‘Dunk In The Dark’ tweet from the 2013 Super Bowl that went out after half the lights in the football stadium suddenly went out. While it can be hard for smaller companies to react so quickly, with the help of social media your brand can become part of the story today as opposed to traditional media that requires months of advance planning.
However, if your marketing goals include a revenue figure, you can’t rely on social media alone. Social media works best when it’s done in tandem to other marketing efforts to grow and build your business. For example, you could take a page from Lay’s potato chips’ flavor contest and invite your social media followers to chime in about the new product flavor you’re planning to release. You could then combine this with a targeted advertising campaign to engage even more users. After the new product is out, invite followers to purchase the final product and share their feedback with you.
The beauty of social media is that it really does level the playing field for businesses of all sizes. No longer is it necessary to have millions of dollars at your disposal to gain an audience. You can act and react on social media in a manner that makes your business seem bigger than it is and in a way that supports your overall marketing goals. Just be sure that when developing those goals, you take into the account that social media, when used by itself, will not likely yield the financial results you’re hoping for.
Jennifer Lewis is the founder of Small Food Business, a website focused on providing resources and information to food entrepreneurs. The site includes hundreds of articles specific to the food industry, a podcast series which includes interviews with industry experts, white papers, and a community forum amongst other things. In addition to being a professionally trained pastry chef and having worked in the food industry from more than 20 years, Jennifer also holds an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.