Updated: Aug 18, 2019
Here’s the challenge I see almost every Social Media Marketer in an organization or agency has: How to use Social Media to drive business results.
Sure you can talk about Impressions, Reach, Likes, and Shares all day long, but those metrics don’t translate into revenue or other business results executives and business owners actually care about.
In this post I’m going to walk through the disconnect that most are missing between Social Media and business results, why your Social Media efforts aren’t working, and a step by step strategy to get it start working for you.
A Company’s Challenge with Social Media
I remember going to a private event on behalf of the last company I worked with. To be honest I was too tired the night to remember what the event was about. However, one thing I do remember was the presentation of a particular head of Group Sales for a major corporation, and her words around the idea of putting your customers first.
It resonated with me.
After her presentation I walked over and introduced myself and we had a brief conversation. She had shared with me that the top executives wanted her to figure out a strategy where they can leverage Social Media to drive business results for the company.
I found it weird that they would ask the head of sales to do that even though they had a fully staffed marketing department…but okay.
She was at a loss really as to how to do that, and I could understand why. It’s the same challenge that most have.
Once I got home I went on their Social Media page and within seconds I saw what the problem was why their Social Media efforts weren’t translating to sales.
The problem was that their content focused a lot on brand awareness, or was sales-specific content. There was no process as to how to connect the brand awareness efforts back to sales.
Hence there was a huge disconnect.
Understanding the Buying Process in Connecting Marketing and Sales
As mentioned the problem the company had was that their content was either sales focused or brand awareness focused. However, that’s like two extremes at opposing ends. It’s like being on one side of a valley, and wanting to get to the next side, but having no bridge to get there.
That’s where understanding how the Buying Process of a potential customer comes in.
The Buying Process describes the step by step process (using the A.I.D.A. model) a customer goes through from not knowing about your brand and what you offer to becoming a paying customer.
I give an overview of it in this brief video.
As the video mentions A.I.D.A. stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action (in this case the action is sales).
In this specific scenario the challenge as you can see is that there is content for the first part (the Awareness), the last part (the Action), but no content for the Interest and/or Desire (the bridge).
Social Media falls within the first two parts of the A.I.D.A. model (Awareness and Interest). Most know how to do this, but where most fall short is connecting it to the second two parts (Desire and Action).
You have to take them through the entire Buying Process, and a part of that process for the most part happens outside of Social Media.
Why Your Social Media Often Fails to Deliver Business Results
Apart from not understanding the Buying Process, there are four common things I notice both from my own experience, working with other brands, and observation as to why Social Media typically doesn’t translate to business results.
1. Creating Content that Isn’t Targeted
This is creating content that is not in-line with your target demography, which for the most part is why you aren’t getting the level of engagement you want from your content, even though your follower number seems big.
Usually this is because you lack a deep understanding of your target audience, or you’re trying to appeal to too many or too wide of a target audience using the same content
2. Creating Content that isn’t relevant
I have one thing to say about this…motivational quotes. Just because you’re on Social Media it doesn’t mean you should post motivational quotes if it's not aligned with your brand, it’s not a requirement.
Furthermore, if you’re doing it just so you can boost engagement then you’re actually losing long-term. Now if it is relevant to your brand and the audience then fine, but if it isn’t figure out what your audience actually cares about and give them that.
Your content should help your audience become better in some way than before they met your brand, otherwise it’s fluff
3. Creating content that focuses completely on selling
I think most brands struggle with this one, and it is the one that every brand does. For the most part I believe it’s because most don’t know better so I can empathize. In some cases, it’s because higher ups are pushing for sales content to be created rather than content that is engaging, which I also empathize with.
The challenge is as mentioned Social Media for the most part isn’t a sales platform, so when your content is mostly focused on selling, you can quickly turn off your audience and potential customers, and they may choose to give their attention somewhere else.
4. Creating content that does not contribute to business goals
It’s easy to get caught up with posting on Social Media for the sake of posting without any consideration as to how each specific post ultimately contributes to achieving the company's goals.
There may be a bit of contradiction where posting only sales content that drives business goals can be bad, at the same time not posting content that drives business results is also bad.
The key is to find a balance between both, and understanding the thoughts and feelings of your audience to create content that gets their attention, doesn’t turn them away, but subtly triggers them to move through the Buying Process to drive results for the company.
A Step by Step Process of Using Social Media to Drives Results
So you’ve gone through why there’s a disconnect between Marketing and Sales, have a bit more understanding of the Buying Process, and have identified a few reasons why your Social Media efforts may not be paying off.
Now let’s go through how to create a strategy that connects it all.
1. Know what your business goals are
The first step of any marketing strategy is knowing what your business goals are. What does the company or the business ultimately want to achieve?
Is it increased revenue, increasing its customer base or market share, is it increasing customer retention. Identify this goal and ensure it is the compass in guiding every single thing you do, even down to what type of content you post.
2. Understand who your target audience is
Although it seems pretty obvious that you should know who your target demography is before you market to them, I have found most skip this step and start creating content for Social Media.
This has been the major reason why there’s such a disconnect between you and your audience, and also why your engagement doesn’t match your follower count. A good engagement number I have found on average is around 5% of your total followers.
Take the time to research who your intended audience is, and go a bit beyond simply Age, Gender, and Location.
Another point is you want to choose one target audience and create a profile with a deep understanding of that one audience type. This would be considered your primary audience.
Not to say that you can’t have more than one (secondary and tertiary audience), but keep the focus on just one audience type.
Reason for this is it makes your content more targeted which then increases not just your engagement, but the likelihood this primary audience will take a desirable action such as buy from you.
NB. Even though you may create your audience profile based on your assumptions of who you want to target, you will need to reassess that audience once you start publishing content and collecting data as you won’t know for sure who your true audience is starting out.
Sometimes who you think is your audience and customer actually isn’t.
3. Create relevant content that entertains, educates, or solves a problem
Don’t just create content for the sake of creating content. It’s better to not use Social Media at all than to do this.
Create content that is specific to your primary target audience, based on what their wants, needs, aspirations, and challenges are. This will also ensure an increase in engagement and stimulating desired action (such as visiting your website).
Ensure to mirror your content to match the physical appearance of your target audience, meaning if your target audience are women between 25-35 who are dark-skinned, create content that represents women between 25-35 who are dark-skinned.
I know it seems a bit on the nose, but I have found that doing this allows your audience to relate and engagement with your content better as it speaks more to who they are.
We ran a campaign where we found that 60% of our audience were women, and they engaged 70% versus men who engaged 30%. We also found that the audience was very family focused. So what we did was create content of women with images depicting family and family moments, which caused a 30% increase in engagement.
4. Pay attention to what content drives engagement
This is where Likes, Shares, Comments come in handy.
You want to know what type of content is resonating with your audience by paying attention to these metrics. These will act as an indicator of how well you know your audience, and how well you are establishing rapport and trust with them.
However, these metrics should not be used as a measurement of success or failure.
The problem happens when Social Media Marketers use these metrics to determine the success or failure of their Social Media efforts and they shouldn’t. Social Media only succeeds if it is contributing to the company’s business goals, not if the company has a lot of followers.
5. Gather and analyze data collected from Social Media
Point 5 is an extension of Point 4.
Rather than simply observing what type of content works and what doesn’t, you want to start deep diving and mining the data you would have been collecting from Social Media.
Use this data to see if your assumptions of who your target audience is was correct, and to narrow said audience as much as possible. To gain a better understanding of your audience.
All Social Media platforms offer tracking and insights that will allow you to do this.
If you are driving traffic to your website you also want to connect Google Analytics from the moment your site launches, or right now if you haven’t already.
Google Analytics will give you a deeper understanding of your audience through understanding their interests, what they are in the market to buy, what their preferences are, what their shopping and browsing habits online are like.
Here is some data from my other website 5 Years 2 Mastery (I use it since it has been around longer than this one).
It will also let you know which Social Media channel is driving the most traffic to your website, so you will know which channels to invest more time and resources into.
Also, it will show you what type of content your audience enjoys consuming the most, and which pages are getting the most traffic.
So from the data shown above here are few conclusions I come to that will also allow me to justify my marketing spend (this is especially useful for Marketers to justify to management their need to increase funding).
Most of my visitors are movie lovers, which means I should incorporate more video into my content
They are in-market for employment opportunities, so possibly creating a product offering around that
Facebook drives 71% of my website traffic, which means I should focus primarily on creating a Facebook strategy to drive further growth and results (which I've started to do)
Majority of traffic visits the home page more than any other section of the site, therefore this tells me I should maximize my home page to generate email subscribers (since that is my primary goal with this site)
Finally, it shows me the most read content is around improving their lives, which tells me create more content around that
6. Create Social Media ads to target narrowed audience
Once you’ve collected the data and analyzed it to get a better understanding of your audience, create Social Media ads targeting people who are like your narrowed target audience.
Facebook allows yo to do this with their 'Lookalike Audience' ad feature, or LinkedIn which allows you to target based on job title and even specific companies.
This is where you now start to leverage Social Media to drive business results beyond Likes and Shares.
As with the content posted on your Social Media profiles, you want to create ads that mirror who your target audience is.
These ads should also not be sales-focused pushing your products or services, they should be focused on being helpful or useful to your audience in some way, or offering them a giveaway or something they would consider of value.
What you want to do with these ads is to drive traffic back to a specific landing page or a specific section of your website. Do not drive them to your home page. The point is to lead them into your sales funnel to nurture them into paying customers.
Once you lead them back to a specific page, ensure that you collect emails by offering something of value TO THEM in return. Maybe an extended document speaking on how to solve a problem they have, or a discount for a product or service you offer that they can claim.
Here's an example of an ad created for a research report I did for my target audience that I knew they will find valuable to them.
Majority of my target audience are women, Jamaican, Marketers, in their 30's and of 'Black' ethnicity. Therefore, I mirrored the ad to represent who I'm targeting.
Also, because the research was done specifically with and for Jamaicans, it makes sense to mirror who the report is for.
Doesn't mean this is the only ad created, but this one represents majority of the audience.
This ad then leads to a landing page (not my home page) where they can fill in their info to get the report.
This lead to an over 1300% increase in email subscribers (one of my business goals), 200% increase in open and click-through rates, and a 650% increase in Social Media following on my LinkedIn page (in-line with my goal of building brand authority) in a two-week period.
These results were due to the fact the content was targeted, relevant, and data-driven.
7. Create a lead nurturing process
At any given time only 3% of your leads will buy from you right then and there. Therefore, you need a system that handles the other 97% that aren’t ready to buy as yet.
Create some way of nurturing them, meaning don’t sell to them directly, but address certain wants or needs they may have through content, or engaging with them further outside of Social Media to develop the relationship and trust with your brand further.
A few ways you could do that is through an email lead nurturing sequence, a private ‘invite only’ event, or a series of videos that talks more about the solution to their problem and how your product/service is a fit for them. You could also have an in-store special event if you’re a retail business.
Therefore, going back to the above example I gave with the report as a way to gather leads.
Once they sign up and download the report, they enter my lead nurturing funnel where one day later they get an automated follow-up email asking them if they would like more info on how to solve a specific problem I know they have (based on my research).
Notice not once did I mention a sales presentation in this section, that’s because it’s not time for that yet, you’re still in the nurturing stage.
At the top left in red is the first email they are sent with the research report download link.Below that in green is the follow up email they receive. To the right is the content for the follow up email.
I have since increased the "reds" to represent more ways to identify lead/subscriber sources. This way I can know which marketing tactic generates majority leads/subscribers.
8. Close the deal
Finally, here is when your sales team comes in. This is where you make your direct pitch to your potential customer once you have built up enough trust and good-will with them, that they would be more than happy to hear your sales pitch.
If you’re in the B2B space most likely this will take the form of a sales presentation meeting.
If you’re in the B2C space send them an email with a coupon for a discount or limited time price to your offer.
These are just a few ideas but you know your sales process best so come up with your own that fits your process.
My Final Thoughts
As you can see Social Media if done right takes a lot of work and time. Not many are willing to go through the process of figuring out and putting together a system that drives business results from Social Media.
It’s easier to become complacent and focus on vanity metrics that has no real value to the company.
However, if you’re able to take the time and are patient to go through the process of understanding your audience, creating content for them (not to sell), drive them to more valuable content on your website, and nurture them through the process before trying to sell to them, it will significantly put you ahead of your competitors for the simple fact they won’t be willing to do it.
That’s the real truth.
Are your Social Media efforts driving business results or is there room for improvement? Let me know your thoughts below
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