SMEs should use social media to boost sales – and here’s how

Almost every large company has a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, but too many smaller and medium-sized businesses are still fighting shy of social media – according to Megan Collins, head of marketing at Paragon.

“The customer has dictated new buying rules that sales teams have had to act quickly to come to terms with and adapt to, as they are no longer in the driving seat of securing their monthly commission,” she said. “But where change has occurred, this has also meant social media has created a plethora of new opportunities for smaller businesses to utilise and reach the potential customers more quickly than before.”

Social media is a staple for any modern marketing campaign, but it’s also now being used as a new tool by sales teams. Collins pointed out that social media channels themselves have started to realise this – Facebook and Twitter now have “buy” buttons, while Pinterest and Instagram are following closely and moving into ecommerce.

“That said, potential customers are not just going to suddenly buy your services through a social media website,” explained Collins. “Many small businesses are still not capitalising on the opportunities given through social media yet. But with the right application and approach its effectiveness and use as a selling tool is becoming incredibly valuable.

“Social platforms need to be a place to give your business a voice and personality. It becomes an effective method to distribute content and demonstrate expertise in your industry to rival bigger competitors. There needs to be something for the customer to benefit from for free without the constant ‘buy buy buy’.”

Using social media for sales turns it into a sales conversion tool, rather than simply being a place in which to engage with customers. Small and medium-sized businesses need to have sales and marketing working closely together to fully appreciate and benefit from the use of social media, she argued. 

Collins went on to say that consumers do more research now before buying, so that social media becomes the perfect location for small businesses to present content to help potential customers make a decision without a hard sell.

SMEs need to track the journey from social media user to customer, even though this takes time and investment in a good CRM system. “Of course the type of social media is dependent on the type of business and customers,” said Collins. “For B2B, LinkedIn is normally the obvious choice, but Twitter and Pinterest are also becoming useful tools to measure this ROI. For B2C, then Facebook is the first port of call. But companies are achieving success using Instagram and YouTube.”

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Smaller companies need to consider social advertising. A sum of £100 invested in a Twitter “card” will record the impressions of the advert, the number of clicks and the demographics of those clickers. “These potential customers are known as ‘social leads’. If you then end up with a dozen ‘social leads’, leading to a certain amount of revenues, it then becomes easy to establish a direct return on investment from the original Twitter card cost,” she said.

SMEs should also consider investing in software that tracks engagement through social channels, enabling them to cross-reference this data with their booking data.

“LinkedIn Cards work in a similar way to capture information when promoting products,” commented Collins. “Having calls to actions on promotions means you can record the data with analytics when someone clicks through to the specific page you have designed. Once the campaign is over your sales team can take over and utilise the data stored on the CRM system to follow up on enquiries from the card. The information stored will identify what has been clicked on and dwell time to show how interested. Sales teams can start with most interested – longest dwell time or most returns – as these will be further in the buying cycle.”

Larger companies, she pointed out, will have the manpower to analyse and target all relevant enquiries, but this is impossible for small businesses. So having a good CRM system will help track a customer’s journey and can help SMEs to ensure that they contact the best leads when they are ready to buy.

According to the guide “Getting started with social selling” by LinkedIn and Oracle, it is now 75p cheaper to generate leads through social media than any other channel. It is becoming a great avenue for small businesses with limited resources to reach the right audience.

“A good sales person is motivated to sell,” said Collins. “So providing them with the right training on how to use their skills correctly to understand how the different social platforms works, social media will create benefits for any business.”

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