Periodically, LinkedIn will send me digital and content marketing leads from LinkedIn users who have said they need help with a project. One of the most common requests these users make is: I need help driving sales to my website.
Generating sales online is a process. You need several pieces in place before you can create sales.
Before you can sell products, you need a platform
Let’s say you want to open a retail store and sell clothing.
First, you need a supplier for your clothing.
Once you have that, then you need a store.
Then you need to hire salespeople to convert visitors into buyers.
Finally, you need foot traffic. You need people to visit your store, looking to buy.
In order to sell clothing, you need all of the above pieces in place. You need a store. You need a supply of clothes. You need people to visit your store, and finally, you need salespeople who are skilled enough to convince them to buy your clothing, and to facilitate the purchase for them.
If you’re missing one of these pieces, you can’t expect to have sales.
So before you turn to social media to be the silver bullet to give you sales, you need to figure out why you aren’t generating sales now. What areas are you missing now, that you need to get sales? Because that will be the areas that you will be depending on social media to help you with.
You can’t sell products until you have a platform.
What do I mean by ‘platform’ in this case? In terms of online, your platform is the audience for your content. How many email subscribers do you have? How many followers on social media sites? How many readers of your blog?
That’s your platform. If your website gets 150 visitors a month, you can’t expect social media to suddenly drive website sales for you. You have to first build a platform with social media sites, tools and content.
Once you’ve built a platform, then you can sell to the people on that platform.
Social media is a great way to build a platform. So don’t think of social media as a way to generate sales. Think of social media, of the content you create, as a way to build a following, an audience.
Once you have a platform in place, then you can convert some of the people on that platform into customers. The more people on your platform, the greater a chance for converting more sales.
What’s the best way to build a social media platform?
When you start building your social media platform, you want to consider what sites and tools you will use to build a following. I always advise companies to focus first on their blog, simply because it will be a channel your business will have control over. The great tradeoff in using social media sites like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram to build a following is that you lose control over your content and your ability to create new content. Yes, you will have access to a potentially large audience of people, but that access can be controlled by those sites.
When you create and publish content on your blog, you have far more control. Since building a platform on social media is a long play, you want to first invest in the tools that you have direct control over. Such as you blog, or an email newsletter, or maybe a podcast.
This isn’t to say that you can’t use social media sites to help build your platform. You absolutely can, and in most cases you should. But use social media sites as the spokes to drive traffic back to your hub (blog, email newsletter, podcast), which you control. Remember the example of how Harry uses social media sites to drive email newsletter signups. He’s pushing people from social media, back to his hub (email newsletter) which he controls.
The Two-Step Plan for Social Media Success
Step one: Build your platform.
Step two: Convert the following.
First, build your platform. We’ve already talked about how to do this.
Second, once you have a platform, then you want to convert the following you have built into sales.
Let’s go back to the beginning of this post when I mentioned what if your website gets 150 visitors a month. What if, you decided to build a social media platform. The heart of that platform was a blog, that in six month’s time. was generating 1,000 visits a month, and referring 150 visits a month to your website.
So in just six month’s time, you have effectively doubled the traffic to your website. You did this by creating a social media platform, including a blog, which is now driving 150 visits a month to your website.
But what happens after those 150 visitors come to your website?
Ideally, you want those visitors to convert. A conversion could be downloading a white paper, it could be completing a purchase, it could be signing up for your newsletter.
Let’s go back to the earlier example of a retail store that sells clothing. One of the we needed for that retail store to be successful was foot traffic. We need people visiting the store, looking to buy.
If we could effectively double foot traffic to the store in six month’s time, is that a good thing?
It depends. If the foot traffic doubles, but the sales (conversions) don’t increase, then we have a problem.
So you want to build the platform, then convert the following. You want to focus on creating content and a customer experience that drives people to your platform, but once they are on your platform, you need to convert them.
If you do both correctly, then your social media platform can generate conversions, including sales.