Contrary to what some people may believe, social media and sales are not incompatible, though it is understandable why the myth persists. The effects of social media on sales figures can be hard to see because the effect is indirect. Additionally, a lot of the conversation is often more focused on using social media to build brand awareness than to increase sales. But in truth, there are a lot of studies that show that social media content can be used to drive sales both online and in the store. This post will highlight some of the research that shows the direct benefit social media can have on sales.
Recently, a study from Vision Critical tackled the problem by interviewing 6,000 people to measure their social media participation and their purchasing habits. The study showed that about “40% of social media users have purchased an item after sharing or “favoriting” it on these sites”. It also showed that social media drives online purchasing and in-store purchasing as well at about equal rates.
“One of the more surprising findings in this whole research for me,” the study’s co-author Alexandra Samuel, Vice-President of Social Media at Vision Critical, said in an interview, “was to see how significant that in-store purchasing is. This is one of those really not intuitive findings.”
According to the Vision Critical study, nearly 38 percent of users on Facebook who share an item on the network purchase the item later. The same is true for about 30 percent of of Pinterest users and 22 percent of the users of Twitter.
The researchers have stated that the data also shows why social media marketing should be sued as a part of a broader marketing campaign. In the interview with Forbes, Samuel said, “The smartest media companies are seeing social not as a competing medium, but as an ‘extending’ medium. They help their viewers engage with advertisers and are figuring out how they can help them make that journey from social to purchase.”
A study of 7,000 participants from Bizrate Insights had similar findings for social media as a whole; it confirms that people who are sharing on social media were more likely to be inspired by social media to buy the item. It also showed that people came to social media networks specifically to associate with brands and retailers they identify with. When asked why they used a particular social network, nearly 43 percent of Pinterest users and 24 percent of Facebook users say the use the network specifically to engage with brands.
Another key finding of the Bizrate Insights report relates to how social media. About 55 percent of Pinterest users have engaged with brands on the social network, compared to the 48 percent of Facebook users who report doing so. The data also showed how customers engage differs for Pinterest and Facebook users. Pinterest users are more likely to be “Creators”, which as was discussed in a previous post, means adding and sharing content that is related to the brand.Facebook users, on the other hand, are more often “Participators”. Facebook users interacting through promotional activities developed by retailers and brands, like contests.
Speaking specifically to how social media affects what people buy, the study found that “69 percent of online consumers who visit Pinterest have found an item they have purchased or will purchase, compared to only 40 percent of online consumers who visit Facebook”.
In the end, people who are quick to say that social media can’t improve sales are actually admitting that they are having trouble with the platform and have given up hope prematurely. It’s sometimes easier to blame new technology than try to figure out how to make it work for for a company. But ignoring customers on social media can be the equivalent of sending them to the competition. Whether or not individual businesses succeed on social media, the numbers indicates that there is real potential for business owners who are up to the challenge. Social media can truly increase sales. Hopefully this post has addressed the issue enough that people can stop asking if social media works and start focusing on how they can make it work for them.