Do Social Media ‘Conversations’ Sell Anything?

By: Guest | October 11, 2010 | 

Guest post by Mark Schaefer, author of {grow}.

I was reading a blog post the other day and this comment captured my attention: “Content is NOT king. It is the conversation around that content that is king.”

I recently wrote about how many of these conversations we THINK are occurring on the social web that are not occurring at all. A blog comment is not a conversation. A tweet or a status update is not a conversation. Pushing a “like” button is not a conversation.

So if you accept that we rarely have real conversations around here, what ARE we doing and does it have any affect on sales? Yes, I said sales. Marketers do not exist to drive re-tweets or page views. We exist to sell more stuff to more people for more money.

It’s difficult to make a hardwired correlation between most social activity and sales. However this is a familiar marketing dilemma. It is also nearly impossible, or at least prohibitively expensive, to correlate the affect of a billboard on sales, or a PR campaign on sales, yet we do these things anyway in hopes of driving that mysterious goal of brand awareness.

The ultimate aim of marketing is to create some connection between your product and your customers that will incent them to buy. That’s where the power of social becomes magical. Sure, viral content might increase awareness, but more importantly, social interaction gives your customers a way to ENGAGE with you and your products … to suggest to you, and snip at you, and celebrate their love (or hate) of all things YOU.

Wow. That’s pretty powerful, isn’t it?

For decades, marketers have been “talking” to customers through ads, and now for the first time in human history, the people on the other side are talking back! No, it isn’t a conversation, but it IS engagement, and that is truly the Holy Grail for a marketer.

Mark Schaefer is a consultant, author, and college educator who blogs at {grow}.

  • BestRoofer

    I know for certain of several opportunities that we have gotten from social media and a few small contracts. We are working on one very large opportunity right now that came from social media.

    • markwschaefer

      @BestRoofer That’s tremendous. I’ve basically built my entire business from connections through the social web. I am a poster child for SM sales success! : ) Thanks for the comment!

  • GiniDietrich

    Mark, I’m getting ready to go on the road with my Social and Digital Media 2.0 keynote and, in it, I talk about how the traditional methods of talking to the masses with the hopes of reaching one are not entirely over, but now we have the added benefit of adding in engagement, one-on-one, with real people. And, on top of that, companies who blog 20 or more times per month, see a SEVENTY SEVEN percent increase in qualified leads. Because people are engaging with the people who work within the four walls of the companies they do business. You’re right – that’s stinking powerful!

    • @ginidietrich Interesting statistic. What’s the source?

      I hope you eventually get to come keynote here in Sweden! We have some great views in Stockholm, and even some decent wine (imported from France!).

    • GiniDietrich

      @jonbuscall It’s from Hubspot. And I’d love to come keynote in Sweden. If only for the wine (and you!).

  • jelenawoehr

    Maybe I’m just easily influenced, but I have made numerous purchases first recommended through social media–and I’ve met at least two good friends who were marketing a product to me through social media when we first conversed. I think I’ve talked friends into purchases on Twitter and Facebook, too–though not of products I represent, since I don’t represent any offline products!

    Nearly all fashion sample sale websites have a referral program with a fairly generous store credit if you refer a friend who completes a purchase. I know influential fashion bloggers who add to their wardrobes regularly using these credits, without heavily pushing their referral codes or using any tactics that could be considered spammy. People who get value from a blog like it when they can give back to the blogger through a referral link rather than just using a tip jar or viewing ads.

    • markwschaefer

      @jelenawoehr These are wonderful examples of how consumers engage with brands in a way that ultimately create business benefits. Fantastic comment. Thanks for adding to the dialogue on this subject Jelena!