Brands are far too timid on Facebook, Twitter and other social outlets of doing what people expect them to do: sell stuff.
Is social media just for people talking to people? That’s what some would have you think. Some will go as far to say brands should never use social to sell. But I am going to blatantly disagree. And the facts are there to support me.
According to a recent Comscore report, nearly one in four Twitter users (there are 15 million active accounts) follow businesses to find special deals, promotions, or sales. The story is much the same on Facebook: A study by Chadwick Martin Bailey and iModerate Research Technologies found that people are 67 percent more likely to purchase products from brands they follow on Twitter and 51 percent more likely to do so if they follow a brand on Facebook. In fact, 53 percent of retail transactions involving Facebook directly convert from Facebook to checkout per Efficient Frontier.
Don’t believe all the social-media gurus who say brands should just listen and respond to consumer complaints. Brands must include in their social strategies commerce and all it brings with it: opportunity, growth and revenue. So how do brands convert from conversation to commerce?
Ironically, it’s by going off the engagement playbook. Brands can use everything from active listening to crowd-sourcing to social customer service, brands to build communities around their products and generate a rapport with consumers that was never before possible. What’s crucial, and often overlooked, is the next step: selling.
Social media has transformed the way we communicate, but more than that, it’s transformed the way we shop. People used to do activities within discreet timeframes: looking for information, purchase, recommendation. The new reality is that the boundaries between these have grown hazy:
I’m online on Facebook, watching my News Feed as I IM, and in another tab, I’m googling for product info. I ask my friend what she thinks about a product that has captured my interest as I click on a search result that takes me to an Amazon page with user reviews. At the same time, I browse the product on the manufacturer’s site, where a “like” social plugin tells me how many people have shared the product. Then, in another tab, I go to a third site to comparison shop and see who’s cheapest, make my purchase and tweet about the great price I found. The brand has made a sale and I’ve become a brand advocate.
Hyper-connectivity wields awesome influence. We are concurrently and seamlessly surfing, searching, shopping and sharing. Each of these activities has a social action associated with it and all happen in an indistinguishable activity stream. In this environment, consumers are just as likely to buy on Facebook as from a traditional e-tailer or other space because they are interacting in all of these places at the same time. Social marketing and social commerce are intrinsically complementary. Don’t fall for those peddling the idea that brands need to “join the conversation” but not sell their products. Marketing fuels commerce, and commerce without marketing is an unsustainable proposition. Social serves as a catalyst, connecting consumers in new and innovative ways with sellers, services, vendors and brands.
In this era of unprecedented exceptional hype and extraordinary promise, active brands that build compelling solutions to consumer needs will be viewed as innovative and relevant to the lives of consumers. Social commerce is a technological reality, and an integral part of the future of business. It is the next frontier.
Beth McCabe is vp of social marketing and technology at Digitas. Follow her on Twitter @bethlet.