The three essential strands of a social media strategy that drives sales

Social media has a stronger influence on buying decisions than previously thought, while consumers are no longer responding to traditional ads - so how can brands adapt?

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Consumers are increasingly turning to social media when deciding what to buy

Over three-quarters of all online adults use social networking sites in the U.S., and spend an average of 1.72 hours a day on social platforms, representing 28% of online activity.

Social media has transformed the way people communicate, consume news, engage with culture, and even develop their worldviews. Therefore it is no surprise that social media also has a major influence on the way people make purchasing decisions.

According to a study by McKinsey and Company, social media recommendations induced an average of 26% of purchases in 2014. This 'buzz' has a stronger influence than previously thought.

Consumers are increasingly turning to social media when deciding what to buy, whether it’s through seeing what products and brands friends are excited about, following the advice of bloggers, or reading reviews and recommendations.

Once a consumer finds a product that interests them, they can seamlessly make the purchase with just a few clicks. Gone are the days of seeing a product in a store and buying it. Now, people want to do extensive research online before they make a decision.

> See also: Businesses use social media for marketing, not interaction

In addition, shoppers are increasingly relying on social proof over seeing a product in person when deciding what to buy. As a result, companies have to incorporate smart social strategies into their marketing efforts in order to remain competitive. 

Here are three indispensable components of a social strategy that drives sales:

Access to reviews     

Product reviews are critically important to today’s shopper. Whether buying a new television, face cream, shoes or furniture, people want to read reviews. According to eMarketer, consumer reviews are 12 times more trusted than descriptions that come from manufacturers.

Feedback from customers who have bought a product, like you see on Amazon, is powerful, as are discussions on forums and independent reviews, such as on a niche site like the Wirecutter. Reviews reassure shoppers that they are making the best decision possible before making a purchase.  

61% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision and 63% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a site that has user reviews. By increasing confidence, online reviews drive sales. A Reevoo survey found that reviews produce an average 18% uplift in sales.  

As reviews become more relied upon and ubiquitous, their absence seems more suspicious. Consumers will wonder whether the retailer has something to hide, because reviews are viewed as a sign of credibility and transparency. One way to build up a stockpile of reviews is to provide incentives for leaving a review, such as loyalty points towards a purchase.   

Social referrals

A study from AdWeek revealed that 71% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on social media referrals. When a friend or trusted source recommends a product, it is more likely to peak a shopper’s interest than just seeing an ad because that recommendation feels relevant and trustworthy.

Companies have to find ways to encourage these types of referrals. In an ideal world, they happen organically because people really want to share their love of a product. Alternatively, companies can pay bloggers and influencers to talk about their product.

When a prominent fashion blogger wears a unique tee-shirt in an Instagram photo, or a food blogger publishes a recipe using a particular brand of baking products, their followers take note. It’s like a powerful combination of celebrity endorsement and friendly word-of-mouth that drives shoppers to buy.  

Social media accessibility

When social networks first start out, they focus on amassing as many users as possible, and later on how to monetise on those users. Advertising is certainly a part of this, but in the past year, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram have all unveiled new buttons that let users buy products in their feeds.

> See also: 28% of Brits wish social media was never invented, but 1 in 10 can't live without it 

These buy buttons promise to be more effective than advertising because they seem more 'authentic.' Rather than having unsolicited promotions in their social feeds, the buy buttons enable customers to easily act when they seem something they like. It’s gives control to the customers, while helping brands turn impulses into conversions.

 

It is now well documented that, not only do Millennials do not respond to ads, they actively dislike them. Only 1% of millennials surveyed say a compelling advertisement would make them trust a brand more, and they prize authenticity above all. And thanks to the wealth of information available on the Internet, they are savvier than ever before.

While these trends may pose a challenge to traditional advertising, they also open up opportunities for companies to connect with shoppers in new ways. People trust and value the opinions of other people, and marketers need to be proactive about harnessing this power.  

Sourced from Kishore Kumar, CEO, AllThingsMine