Last year Social Media Examiner asked more than 5,000 marketers about social media and how they use it to help them grow businesses. When asked about its benefits, 89% of marketers said it was effective at increasing brand exposure, 75% said it increased website traffic, and 68% said it helped them develop more loyal fans.

Just 66% said it was effective at generating leads, and 51% said it improved sales.

That’s a huge discrepancy between the ability to increase brand exposure and drive sales – but why?

Surely if social media is succeeding in boosting brand awareness and driving traffic, sales should follow, right?

Unfortunately, marketing wins rarely happen this easily. To drive leads and sales you need to be getting your brand in front of the right people and consequently, driving qualified traffic to your site.

We’ll talk you through a few hacks that can increase the impact of social on your bottom line in a moment, but first let’s set the scene by talking about the process a customer goes through before they convert.

Pre-internet, customers generally shopped by visiting a store and interacting with a salesperson – particularly if their knowledge on what they were buying was limited. This meant that sellers were typically involved in and had some control over the buyer journey.

Today’s buyer is much more independent, and they rarely, if ever, reach out directly to a company for advice.

Here are a few statistics that help put into perspective how autonomous today’s buyers are:

  • 81% of shoppers conduct online research before buying.
  • Half of shoppers spend at least 75% of their total shopping time conducting online research.
  • By 2020, 80% of the buying process is expected to occur without any human-to-human interaction.

Knowing that buyers are not going to approach us, what can we do to ensure our marketing is nurturing the type of people that are most likely to buy from our business so that when they are ready to buy, they come to us, and not one of our competitors?

Social media intelligence agency Social Strategi works with a company called Mom’s the Word – a fashion brand for expectant mothers that believes “clothes shouldn’t have an expiration date” (in other words, their clothes are designed to be worn beyond pregnancy).

Mom’s the Word approached Social Strategi with the goal of doubling their online revenue via social. Needless to say, this meant devising and implementing a social media marketing strategy that focused on driving relevant traffic to the website.

To do this they:

  1. Profiled the brand’s existing audience using social data, audience affinities, and tribe analysis.
  2. Looked at and leveraged the brand’s competitors’ audience data.
  3. Decided what types of data would be most effective at improving marketing performance and reducing costs.
  4. Used a unique combination of dashboard data, audience insights and intelligent targeting to provide maximum ROI on all paid acquisition channels.

As a result, Mom’s the Word tripled their website traffic:

And in less than 4 months, doubled their gross sales:

Let’s take a look in more detail at the process Social Strategi followed, and how you can apply their tactics to your own marketing.

1.   Gather customer insights

Look at your customers and ask yourself – who’s happy and who isn’t?

Reach out to these customers and ask them why they do or don’t like you. You can do this over social media or email, but you can also learn a lot about your customers by analyzing how they behave on your website.

What products do customers keep coming back for?

How often are customers failing to complete their purchase, and why?

Is the checkout process too long-winded? Are there distractions on the checkout page that are driving people away from the site (voucher code boxes are often guilty of this)? Are you surprising customers with excessive delivery fees at the last moment?

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and run through the checkout process yourself, then ask some impartial friends or family members to do the same. What, if anything, tripped you (and them) up?

Follow this with some A/B tests and as above, ask your customers why they’re not completing purchases. Implement exit pop-ups and abandoned checkout emails that inquire as to why customers didn’t check out, and encourage them to come back.

Finally, use this information to optimize your site for conversions so that when you’re driving traffic from social media to your site, you’ve maximized the chances it will convert.

2.   Pay close attention to your fans on social media

Make use of all the information your social platforms share with you about the people that like your page or follow you.

Facebook in particular now offers some awesome data to business users, as part of the Facebook for Business suite. You can get this information in the Audience Insights section.

To leverage this information, begin by searching for your page name here:

You can then view information including the demographics of your audience, their activity on the site, their purchasing behavior, and other pages that they “like.”

Bear in mind that the number of likes your page has affects how much information you can access. If you’ve only got a few hundred followers (or fewer), the data available to you is likely to be very limited.

Another way to use Audience Insights is to search for your industry or phrases related to it.

You’ll then be able to view that same data for all Facebook users that have expressed an interest in your industry (bear in mind that you can filter the results by gender, age, and location).

This information should prove invaluable for informing all your marketing channels, including, of course, social media. What you can also do here, however, is create lookalike audiences that look and feel like your own audience, and target them on Facebook.

To do this, use the Insights tool as described above to create an audience you want to market to.

You then need to name your audience:

And finally, click “Create Ad” (top right of the page) to begin creating an ad campaign.

3.   Pay attention to consumer insights

What topic is your audience talking about, what are their pain points, and what language are they using? Use these insights to talk to your customers in the language they use.

Don’t assume, however, that just because you work in the industry, you understand the issues facing your target audience – even if you, yourself, fit the demographics of your audience. No two experiences are the same so it’s important you do your own research.

You can use social media for this.

Just above we talked about how you can use Facebook Insights to find out what pages people related to your industry like. I’d encourage you to visit these pages and see what’s being posted, what people are responding to, and what they’re saying (of course, you should be paying close attention to interactions on your own social profiles, too).

Beyond this, forums and other online communities (Quora and Reddit are the big ones) are invaluable sources of information.

Sign up or subscribe to relevant forums and communities and visit them regularly. Better yet, become an active participant in them. The more you go where your target audience goes, the easier it will be for you to talk to them in their language about their interests, and the better the results you should be able to get from your social media marketing.

4.   Look at your competitors’ insights

Facebook Insights lets you learn more about the people who like your page, as well as the people who have expressed an interest in your industry. You can also get this same information for your competitors’ pages.

To access this, just search for a competitor in the interests box (it’s the same box you used to search for your industry). You can then create ads that target people who have liked a competitor’s page.

Bonus tip: you can target multiple competitors (or interests) at the same time.

Beyond this, there is lots of value to be gained from looking at your competitors’ social media efforts and how their audiences are responding.

What are they posting? What’s working and not working for them? Pay close attention to what they’re doing and tweak your strategy accordingly.

5.   Look at your own dashboard

Often, marketers can get so caught up in what other people are doing that they neglect to pay much attention to their own data. Don’t be like them. Look at your own analytics – they’re telling you stories you’ve likely ignored.

Where are your customers coming from? Which channels are sending the most traffic? Your ideal channel might be Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, or something else – I can’t tell you this, but your website analytics can.

Of course, to figure out which channel is going to send you the most traffic, you have to test each one in equal measure.

Mom’s the Word did this. They began by running campaigns on lots of different platforms, and after a while they noticed spikes in traffic coming from specific channels. They then dropped the channels that weren’t generating an ROI, and focused more heavily on those that were.

That said, bear in mind that traffic is really only a vanity metric. You shouldn’t let it dictate business or marketing decisions, at least not in isolation. Instead, pay attention to which channels are driving traffic that converts. That’s where you want to focus your efforts.

What tactics do you use to maximize the revenue you generate through social? Comments are below, if you have a moment to share your secrets: