Social-media marketing: Everybody's doing it. Well, not everybody, but close—93 percent of marketers, according to The Website Marketing Group. Considering the number of social networks and the amount of time people spend using them, it's no wonder so many businesses have added social media to their marketing plans. It's less an option than it is a necessity—if you want to stay relevant and connect with customers, you'd better be on social media.
But how much does it actually help you sell? A lot, if you believe the numbers. A report by GO-Gulf.com found that 78 percent of buyers have made a purchase based on a company's social media posts, with 74 percent of customers researching social networks before making a purchase. That same report, however, found that just 43 percent of marketers use social media specifically to improve sales, a relatively small amount given the number of marketers using social media overall. In other words, social media can be a valuable sales tool, but only if businesses use it the right way.
Most businesses understand that they need to be on at least one social network, but not every business knows what to do once they're there. Having a Twitter or Facebook account and assigning an intern to occasionally tweet and post status updates is barely enough to establish even a basic connection with customers, let alone increase sales. To succeed on social media, businesses need to commit significant resources.
"Social media's strengths work best in consumer companies' campaigns that are well planned and implemented," said Tom Marin, principal of MarketCues Inc., a marketing strategy firm based in Heathrow, Fla. "Unfortunately, many B2B companies lack the necessary time and resources to execute an annualized social media program, so they tend to come in and out of social media outlets on a sporadic basis," he continued. "This creates a large weakness for their social media program, per se, because smaller B2B companies are not willing or able to invest their time and marketing dollars into an effective social media program."