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Once a Funnel, Now a Fish: The Correlation between Social Media Spends and Sales Lifts

In a recent article, AdAge reported that digital spending for several large consumer packaged goods is up 20-35% for brands from the past year, beyond the global average budget of 24%. It’s easy to assume that this would immediately translate into robust sales and greater brand advocacy; however, brands may not see a straight line correlation between social media spends and sales lifts, leading to frustration for investors and brand managers.
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So what causes the misstep between digital spends and tangible sales?
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Misunderstanding #1: Social Media is Free Advertising

Many traditional marketers still operate under the idea that digital marketing operates as a frugal spend via “free engagements” of Shares, Likes, and Comments – leaving the majority of social media posts lacking in boosted support. And while it’s true that a presence on the channels comes without a price tag, algorithm changes, consumer behavior, and Facebook’s stance on all branded messages changes digital spending. In a study on aggregate Chrysler sites, we saw organic content on Facebook leading to a 76% lift in likelihood to visit a brand website; however, we also saw paid support leading to an additional 28% lift. Our conclusion? What was once purely organic social media marketing shifted to robust spends, but it is now clear that social media success requires a balance of both strong content and smart buys.
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At Ignite Social Media, we call this approach Organish™.
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Misunderstanding #2: Once a Funnel, Now a Fish?

Brands often assume that social media is the last touch-point for consumers before purchase via a sales funnel. While it’s doubtful the sales funnel was always truly straight-forward, we now understand that the consumer journey is a little more fishy:
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Image Source: Kelly Mooney
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With so many variables, it is hard to track direct correlations. Adding in difficulty of measuring these results, many marketers jump too quickly to label digital spending as “not working” versus acknowledging the real problem – that a bubble of twists & turns is harder to track than a straight line.
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Instead of looking for that hard line, marketers should look at social media spends as a way to engage & create discovery rather than hard sales. Frustrations will ease as they realize that not every brand is capable of creating the sales path on every social media channel. Individual brands must discover the channel that works both organically & boosted and focus on developing solid content that matches KPIs.
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Misunderstanding #3: Twitter has no place in organic buying cycle

While Facebook appears to shy away from organic branded content and photo-heavy Instagram and Snapchat remain relatively ad-free, Twitter maintains the perfect platform for an agile combination of organic and sponsored content.
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Twitter reports that an impressive 49% of female shoppers say Twitter content influenced purchase decisions. Twitter users rely on their stream for awareness and consideration, turning to friends and influencers for advice and recommendations.
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Twitter users engage for every stage of purchase (as convoluted as those are now!):
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  • 160% more likely to stay up-to-date on brand news and promotions
  • 120% more likely to search for deals and sales
  • 240% more likely to converse with a brand

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With Twitter, we activate a purchase hot spot or “hook the fish” when purchasing conversation occurs on Twitter.  The hook can be sponsored posts to increase awareness, fantastic customer service, clever right time marketing, or engaging post-purchase conversation that drives brand loyalty. This conversation keeps Twitter relevant to consumer purchase and the twisting correlation between digital spends and sales lift.
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Misunderstanding #4: Underestimating the Influence of an Influencer

While Community Managers spend work hours creating organic content to hook the consumer, advertisers implementing influencers into their 2014 marketing programs earned a 685% lift on media value to paid media (on average $6.85 in media value for every $1 spent on paid media). By creating original content on multiple channels, influencers populate and syndicate original branded content at every consumer touch point.
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For a Carusele program with Walgreens, we used influencers to support a new product launch, establishing awareness through live event coverage and syndicated content. By placing content everywhere consumers might be naturally consuming information, we were able to reach new audiences and prospective customers. As a result, e-commerce sales for the product soared over 123% while brick and mortar sales rose 25% in NYC alone.
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Since we can’t predict the path of the consumer – there are too many factors now – we must think agnostic and create a simpler path to purchase. With influencers, we are able to create the perfect Agnochannel, putting awareness, reviews, and shopping on all points of the fish.
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While it may be more difficult to draw a straight line between digital efforts and sales lift, it’s clear that social media plays a strong role in the path to purchase. And while there may be traditional aspects to social media marketing — putting the right content at the right time to the right person — the correlation between that content and sales is anything but predictable.

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