Using social media to drive website sales

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As part of our Winning on the Web campaign in association with .com we're giving you a chance to get answers to your questions about developing your small business' online presence. Today, we're tackling a reader's question about social media and sales.

Q: People say social media isn't really about the hard sell but more about conversation and engagement, but can I actually sell my products through social media?

You're right; social media is all about conversation and engagement. The hard sell turns users off and as more people dive into social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn the noise is becoming ever greater. That's why it's vital that you post interesting, useful or humorous updates and build a personality behind you and your brand.

That doesn't mean you can’t make money for your business directly from your social media presence. The starting points are to build a following and then use it to drive businesses to your website.

Monitor and measure

Many business owners make real sales by monitoring conversations relevant to their business and responding.

Track what people are saying on Twitter by following relevant keywords and phrases.  If, for instance, you're running a photography company look for people saying something like 'Looking for a photographer in…' or 'anyone know a good photographer in…'  This can lead to paid contracts.

Monitoring tweets is as simple as looking at Twitter search or setting up real-time content streams using social media tools such as HootSuite and Tweetdeck, both of which are free up to a certain level. If people are tweeting about a direct lead, they won't mind if you respond with a solution!

You should also monitor traffic from social media networks to your website. HootSuite and Bit.ly offer click through analytics for social posts while Google Analytics is your friend when it comes to monitoring which social media platforms brings the most traffic to your business' website.

There also tonnes of other free tools you can use to monitor social media activity. They include SumAll, Cyfe, SocialBro and SocialMention.

When you have the budget it is definitely worth investing in paid for social analytics services. These allow you to monitor social activity in much greater detail and set up a very targeted campaigns and conversations.

Get personal

Social media gives small business owners the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their size. Being small means more personality and potentially stronger connections with customers so use that to your advantage.

If you're a product business post updates offering to hand deliver the product in your local area. This adds the personal touch and is a great way to meet a customer face-to-face.

Directly engage with people talking about things relevant to your business and show that there's a real person behind your brand. That's something the big guys struggle to do so this is your chance to get one over on them!

Use that personality on social to drive potential customers to your website where you can convert that interest to sales.

Paid ads

There are lots of things you can do for free on social media to boost sales, but it's also worth investigating the paid options. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn all offer paid advertising options for businesses on a budget. It's worth investing small amounts in paid advertising through social media to check which types of campaigns work for you as there are lots of options.

On Twitter, for example, it's possible to target advertising messages to the followers of other Twitter accounts. This is a great way to reach people following your competitors. If people are engaging with rival companies, the chances are they will be interested in your products or services.

You don't necessarily need to spend much money as this example shows. The events company spent £20 on Twitter ads targeting the followers of specific accounts and generated 122 clicks through to a webinar, 10 event sign-ups, two retweets and six new followers. That's a tall order, but it shows how effective you can be; the key is to start small and experiment.

Facebook offers similar options including ads which promote a direct call to action such as visiting your ecommerce store or paid posts that encourage people to like and engage with your business' Facebook page.
LinkedIn is a good place for B2B advertising and targeting users by specific job roles.

Each of these platforms can be used to target specific metric and that means building your following and ensure you’re driving traffic back to your website to convert that interest into sales.

All the social media services allow you to target by specific cities and regions so it can be a good way to promote your business in a particular area.

Embrace the age of the coupon

Discount coupons are everywhere these days and they're a good way to generate sales. Discounting shouldn't be the main part of your sales and marketing strategy but it's worth doing at certain times of the year.

Use free services like Canva and Pablo to create engaging images offering special deals that you can share through social media. Facebook also allows users to create special posts promoting discounts.

You can target promotions around particular celebrations like Christmas and Easter or special days that encourage people to spend money with small companies such as Small Business Saturday.

Promote different discount codes on particular social media platforms so you can track which ones work best.

If you've got a question about boosting your business' online presence, post it here.

Join in the Winning on the Web campaign and share your tips for succeeding online with the #WinOTW hashtag. We will publish the best advice.

Related content:

Do you want to know more about building customer loyalty? Discover The Small Business Website Guide.

Dan Martin
Former editor
BusinessZone.co.uk
Brought to you by
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