Reciprocity between users is a core principle of social media, users are constantly trading social capital in the form of likes, follows, retweets etc. thereby spreading content they see as valuable to them. But for brands, capitalizing on this earned social capital and converting it to sales is a delicate process that is constantly evolving.
Users are generally willing to consume branded content containing a tasteful amount of sales messaging. However overdoing it in this regard is seen as a violation of trust that can quickly result in an unfollow and swift end to the brand-user relationship.
Brands essentially must fulfill their unspoken quota of supplying valuable or entertaining content (ideally both) to their audience and in exchange are granted permission to promote their agenda, which most often will be sales. This is content marketing 101.
In the digital popularity contests that are most social platforms, brands are often regarded as the ugly ducklings, with users more hesitant to follow and engage with their content in comparison to other profiles. There is a constant underlying scepticism that generally permeates the brand to user social media relationship and it goes something like this “Okay (Brand X) you seem cool I guess, with your engaging value driven content and acceptable level of sales promotion, I will follow you. But I still suspect one day you will turn on me and send me spiralling down your dreaded sales funnel!”.
There are obviously exceptions to this rule, many high profile brands with loyal followings will attract and retain core audiences to a point, but reaching that less invested user and cultivating a sales relationship with them from scratch can be a complicated and often tedious long term proposition. For low profile brands and start-ups especially, this is an incredibly daunting scenario.
Producing high quality, remarkable digital content is frequently at the mercy of time and budget constraints. For the aforementioned small brands these challenges can be extremely difficult to overcome and result in a poor social media presence that does not add value to user timelines or the bottom line of the brand. Lack of creativity is the most common culprit here, without the resources to create compelling content, brands too often resort to a steady stream of boring sales pitches with no incentive for user engagement or discussion.
For brands struggling to consistently produce high quality production heavy content, things like contests & giveaways can serve as cost effective vehicles for audience growth and provide value to followers but transparency with these is key. Winners need to be prominently showcased to ensure users know their spent social capital is not a waste.
Brands most often stumble in the sales process when they fail to understand and respect the rules of promotion in the digital space. Users carry all the power in this relationship and delivering them consistent value in return for their attention is essential.
Your social sales strategy must at all times respect this paradigm and repeatedly demonstrate an awareness of it. It is then and only then that users will begin trust the brand in question and consider giving consent to enter its sales funnel through email sign-up or other form. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? Well sorry to say, this was the easy part.
Completing the process with a sales conversion is a whole new challenge, which in almost all cases demands the delicate transition of guiding the user gently to your website or external e-commerce solution through a well designed user experience, but that is a topic for another day.
Be sure to check out Ashu Avasthi of LinkedIn at this year’s Digital Media Summit as he gets in depth with how social media has fundamentally changed the selling process and gives useful tips and best practices that will help convert your social media audience into paying customers!