To sell or not to sell, that is the question when it comes to social media.
Until recently, the concept of using social media to sell products and services was not seen as something that brands should pursue. It was based on the belief that social media was a place for engagement and relationship building, not selling.
But as more brands look to drive return on investment from their social media activities, the rules about social selling started to soften. Instead of just talking, brands were looking to generate sales.
Apparently, this marked the emergence of social selling. The rule of engagement had changed to embrace monetization.
But has this changed really happened, or have we simply put some of these social selling efforts into the spotlight?
In a KissMetrics blog post, Sherice Jacob talks about how brands are wasting their time chasing sales on social media.
“The problem lies in the way most marketers tackle social media,” she wrote. “They look at it as an extension of their brand – something that’s just as much of a sales vehicle as email or a product description page.
They feel like their mastery over it means they can shuffle the masses of likers and sharers over to their website. And when it doesn’t work out that way, they either keep pushing harder or resign their Facebook page to a ghost town, convinced that it’s useless as a sales tool.”
As much as brands would like to use social media as a sales channel, it may be that social media thrives when it’s not about sales at all. The strength of social media may not be commerce but the ability to set the stage for transactions down the road, or drive customer loyalty.
For some brands, this reality may be a disappointment because they want to see a direct correlation between their tactical efforts and sales growth. To use social media as a “soft sell” medium may not seem aggressive enough.
When you step back, however, it may be that social media is more effective when brands use it to drive awareness, connect with potential and existing customers, and not try too hard to get the sale.
This approaches requires discipline because brands are making major investments in social media (time, people, money) so there is pressure to see a direct return. Social media, however, may be a different corporate beast because it may not be a blatant sales channel for most brands.
It means using social media to achieve different objectives and goals that have nothing to do with driving transactions.
What do you think? Can brands leverage social media to sell? If so, what are the best approaches.