Are social media the best channels for making sales + serving your clients?

On a recent trip to Australia I saw some subtle differences in how marketing is executed there compared to here in North America, or more specifically, in Canada. It was very quickly obvious that many companies invested much more in social media and brand engagement.

Almost every billboard and transit ad didn’t just show a Facebook or Twitter logo indicating the advertiser had a presence on social media, they actually provided the URL (e.g. Not only that, many of them ran contesting to drive social media engagement. This made me wonder about two things:

  1. If you have an ecommerce website, wouldn’t adding an extra step to the sales process make it more likely that the advertiser would lose the prospective sale? I mean, isn’t it a distraction for the consumer to have to go through a Facebook page to get to the point-of-sale website when you could simply encourage them to go directly to the website?
  2. What happens when you have thousands of consumers using your Facebook page as though it’s a customer service website?

We at tSG have long urged the use of social media simply as a brand support, not as a client acquisition tool. The reasons for this:

  • People are not on social media to be sold anything. They’re there to connect with people and brands they like. That’s why it’s called social media.
  • Using social media to open a ‘service window’ (i.e. to handle sales enquiries and service complaints) creates the opportunity for a flood of communications. Unless you have the human resources to manage that inundation, you are only going to make yourself look bad because you won’t be able to cope.

Online media analysts, Forrester, released a report in October 2012 showing that an intermediate link through social media, when compared to a direct link to an ecommerce website, was not effective in aiding online sales. In fact, social media barely even played a role in the online sales process.

Also, establishing your social media pages as service windows takes a considerable investment in time, finances, and human resources. That investment can be quite large – larger than what most small and many medium to large businesses are able or willing to commit. It’s one thing to use social media to prove what you do to make a customer happy; it’s quite another to set a precedent that can become an overbearing and unattainable expectation.

So why are Australian businesses driving consumers to social media pages using traditional media?

According to Google, 52% of Australians have smartphones. Not unlike Canadians, Australians use them constantly: sitting on public transport, sitting in cafes, sitting in a pub, walking down the street. However, Australians are much more likely than Americans and Britons to use a smartphone for banking, searching for real estate and local businesses, make in-store pre-purchase comparisons, and post to social media. Out-of-home media sales increased 14% in Australia last year, probably because companies want to direct consumers to their social media page while they’re already Facebooking or tweeting, that is, while they’re using their smartphones.

Mobile advertising is becoming more and more important to the marketing strategy. Mobile advertising is making it possible to build brand engagement through social media but it also makes it possible to make a sale. Mobile advertising enables you to reach the consumer with appropriate messaging, that is, you can communicate to them while they are on their way to a competitor’s store or while they are trying to find yours. Mobile advertising enables you to gather data, run analysis, and optimise your advertising budget, just like other digital advertising.

Now, couple all that with contextual digital billboards that can be adjusted based on the weather or road conditions, and you have a powerful way of driving sales. A hot summer day? Drive consumers to follow your social media page. Once there, offer them an exclusive coupon to purchase your brand of beer at the nearest liquor store. Add in the power of a mobile app and all of sudden you’re holding all the aces. Your app can sense where the consumer is standing in Edmonton or Calgary or Red Deer and give them directions to the nearest store so they can redeem the coupon.

All that without breaking the bank or investing oodles of time and precious human resources in a social media page that will assist with less than 1% of online sales.

Read more about it in this article and in this one here.