Supercharge Sales with Social. Seriously.

Everyone knows that social media can be a key to growing your business, but many small business owners think of social as solely as a tool for brand awareness and consumer outreach/connection. While those are both important pieces of the social puzzle, it’s necessary to understand how the various sites can be used to supercharge your sales.

In July 2009, MediaPost.com reported that during the heart of the recession, businesses that were socially active saw their revenues increase:

“The new research from social media platform Wetpaint and digital consulting firm Altimeter Group found that companies with the highest levels of social media activity on average increased revenues by 18% in the last 12 months, while the least active saw sales drop 6% over that period.”

Clearly, social matters. The key is to figure out how you can use the tools out there to turn “Social” into “Social Media Based Conversions.”

Content

Everyone knows word of mouth matters: take a look at any of these stats from powerreviews.com—word of mouth is clearly powerful, and what social can do is dramatically broaden your potential audience.

In this post, from CEM’s very own Renee, we learn a great deal about influence. Specifically, Renee talks about the importance of using your social networks to promote good content. Good content gets shared. Good content creates positive word of mouth. Positive word of mouth creates sales.

Check out this tweet from outdoor clothing & gear outfitter REI.

They’ve tweeted about a current sale, included tags for the brands on sale, and included a link to their site to encourage purchases, but what’s most important is that their tweet has been shared and favorited. Each person that shares it gets that REI sale mention to their networks. While this is simple, it’s incredibly important: good content is a necessity to supercharging your sales.

People

Another important part of being able to use social media to grow your sales is having the right staff to make it happen.

In this shot of the Facebook page for online goods retailer Fab.com, you can see a simple, yet notable, example of the person that runs their social media going above and beyond.

Not only is the business interacting with the user by discussing a purchase already made, but it is offering to alert the user when more of a particular product is available. Knowing that the user is likely to buy, this is a great way to create a social media-based conversion.

The vital part of this equation is making sure you have the right staff in place to help this sort of thing happen. In a great post from TheNextWeb.com, the author notes that it’s important not only to digitally empower your staff, but also to have the right people to be able to accomplish your goals. It goes hand-in-hand with making sure that a customer can interact with your company; you have to make sure they interact with the right people.

In the same way that positive word of mouth is a key to profit growth, making sure customers interact with the right staff through the right means can really supercharge your sales and bring social media-based conversions.

Method

While as a business owner you can use social media in many different ways to interact with customers to try and grow sales, there’s no substitute for letting (and encouraging) them to share their own purchases on their own networks. There’s nothing better than allowing users to make their purchase social.

Turning the point of sale into a social moment is becoming easier and easier.  Many businesses take the opportunity to include Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest (among others) links in or around your online shopping cart. This allows a customer to easily share their new purchase with their chosen social networks.

Using another example from a previously mentioned site, Fab.com not only gives the user an opportunity to share their purchase socially to their networks, but on a feature called “Feed” they deliver notifications to users on the site itself which products are being purchased and “Faved” by users on the site at that moment.

You can see a user purchased a nutritional cleanse product, and another Faved a t-shirt. What’s more is that users are given the option to add comments on products and their purchases.

Another way that businesses are able to create social media conversions is by using a location-based check in feature on various websites or apps for smartphones. Three of the most popular are FourSquare, Facebook Places (accessed through the Facebook app) and SCVNGR. The beauty of apps like these is that they allow a visit to any sort of business location to become a social experience. A customer can share their visit, a product purchased, a comment or review, all with their various social networks.

In the spring of 2011, Neiman Marcus used SCVNGR to launch a Nationwide challenge to its users. This is significant, as unlike FourSquare, SCVNGR encourages product purchases by issuing challenges and awarding points.

They add a competition and gaming element to not only consumerism, but the social world as well. Talk about supercharging your sales with social—the challenges largely revolve around pictures of, or use of, certain products at the store. This interacts with users, allows them to socially advertise your products for you, and it gets the customer in the frame of mind for purchasing your products.

The Future

While this is an important aspect of creating conversions from social media, it’s still something that’s missing from a lot of businesses. The technology exists, but it’s hard to integrate.

In this guest-post on Mashable.com, Zachary Cohen (who runs a boutique digital strategy firm in NYC) notes that while location-based technology has exploded, there are missed opportunities in there.

While Cohen cites a statistic that only 4% of Internet using adults in the US have used a location-based check-in app, the reality is that in 2012, Foursquare alone now boasts 20 million user IDs. A paltry sum when compared to overall population obviously, but that’s significant growth from 2011 when they had only 7 million user IDs.

The point of all this is that more and more people are using check-in services, and are being more social with their purchases, but there’s still room for improvement. The businesses I’ve mentioned above are just a small collection of the many retailers, restaurants, lawyers, doctors, and many more businesses who utilize social media in a great way to create conversions.

Cohen’s main point is that the future for social conversions lies in data-driven services that integrate with POS (point-of-sale) systems. He’s right. But what he’s talking about is largely an automation of the current manual process of monitoring social media networks for mentions, reviews, and interacting with customers.

By understanding what the technology will allow in the future, and realizing how your customers use social media, you can get ahead of the game by adhering to some simple rules about having the right people, using the right methods, and working hard to stay ahead of the curve. And if you do it right, you’ll definitely supercharge your sales with social.

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Jason is a 30-something that lives in Denver, CO. He has very red hair, loves the outdoors, and all things homebrew. He has a social media addiction, and can be found at about.me/jason.jewett.

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