If you’re reading this, you probably know the answer to the question, “Can social media support our company’s sales goals?” is a resounding yes.

Social is now a fixture in the customer journey and has a direct impact on purchasing decisions. Starting at the top of the funnel, consumers increasingly use social to discover new brands, products and services, which is good news for your awareness goals and prospective sales. The consumers in discovery mode that go on to hit the follow button really mean business.

According to the latest Sprout Social Index™, 90% of consumers will purchase from a brand they follow on social media. Your followers are also more likely to choose your brand over a competitor, visit your physical store and other actions that push sales in a positive direction.

Not only are consumer shopping preferences shifting to social, social platform developers are actively bringing sales and social marketing closer together with the steady emergence of new or improved social commerce solutions.

As your business looks to social media to increase online sales and turn a profit, apply these five simple tactics to your strategy.

1. Start selling directly on social media platforms

Social commerce is booming, thanks in part to the pandemic accelerating digital transformation. As physical spaces shut down, digital storefronts went up. In 2020, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest launched revamped social commerce tools, and Twitter, YouTube and TikTok announced that they too were exploring social commerce for their platforms.

As social platforms increase their investments in commerce solutions, businesses are following suit—86% of executives say social commerce is a growing part of their marketing-driven revenue plan.

Social commerce encapsulates the entire customer journey, allowing consumers to move from discovery to purchase in a single channel. And with a frictionless shopping experience and streamlined checkout process, consumers are more likely to make purchases in the moment.

Connecting your product catalogs to a social commerce solution also gives brands a chance to curate collections that align with larger campaigns.

Pottery Barn's Facebook Shop, featuring an image for their "new and now" collection

Sprout’s dedicated integrations with Shopify and Facebook Shops make it easy to accelerate your entry to social commerce. Once users upload their product catalogs into Sprout, they can add product links to social content or include them in responses to consumers who have reached out directly.

Sprout's built-in social commerce catalogue

2. Find your highest converting social content—and make more of it

Data and social best practices suggest that visual content helps marketers hit social goals more than text-based posts, but maybe your audience is different. The only way to know is to track your own social success, dig into the data and make more of what works.

For the sake of understanding how social media can increase sales, focus your analysis on owned content that includes information about your products or services, promotions and links to your website. Ideally those links will include UTM parameters so you can effectively track the behavior and path of people who have clicked the link via Google Analytics.

What data matters most? Here’s a quick breakdown of the KPIs you should be on the lookout for.

  • Organic: Engagement rate, click-through-rate, social traffic referrals, website page actions (e.g., form submissions, purchases)
  • Paid: Conversion rate, return on ad spend (RoAS), cost per conversion

Marketers who are diligent about tagging outbound content have the ability to conduct more granular analysis. For example, fashion retailer River Island has over 160 active tags they apply to content to track more qualitative insights like consumers’ preferences for UGC content versus official brand photography.

The coat you've been dreaming of 😍.@missy_elz.Shop Now > https://riverisland.cc/3mKF5BA.#LayersOfLove #ImWearingRI

Posted by River Island on Saturday, October 23, 2021

Using Sprout’s Tag Performance Report, they can analyze and compare performance, which helps them decide how to allocate budgets for different creative assets and ad campaigns.

A screenshot of the Tag Report in Sprout Social

Once you identify your audience’s preferred content formats, you can look for ways to transform them into shoppable posts. Thanks to emerging functionality across social platforms, everything from video to UGC can turn into a conversion opportunity.

3. Use conversational commerce to nurture buyers on social

One of the obvious benefits of social media is that it gives both consumers and businesses a convenient, accessible way to communicate with one another—78% of consumers agree that social is the fastest and most direct way to connect with a brand.

Conversational commerce combines messaging and shopping, enabling consumers to use chat or voice assistance to make purchases from a brand. Chris Messina, who coined the term, says it’s all about “delivering convenience, personalization and decision support while people are on the go, with only partial attention to spare.”

If you’ve ever received a promotional code or discount in your direct messages, booked a haircut appointment through Facebook Messenger, or asked a product question in WhatsApp, that’s conversational commerce at work. Across platforms, messaging allows digital marketers to deepen customer relationships by offering more personalized recommendations like a digital personal shopper.

It’s important to note that conversational commerce isn’t solely about net-new sales. Offering strong customer service is an equally important benefit, and pays its own dividends given that it’s the top quality consumers associate with best-in-class brands on social.

No matter where a customer falls in the sales funnel, social marketers need to have a strategy in place to manage inbound messages and provide efficient, effective support. MeUndies, an underwear and loungewear brand, has a robust social commerce strategy—so it’s no surprise that their customers most frequently seek support on social. Using Sprout Social’s Smart Inbox, MeUndies can tag, analyze and respond to customer inquiries via Messenger with ease. With Message tags let the customer experience team evaluate the types of inquiries they receive most frequently, and share that information with sales teams and leadership.

Their top-tier social customer service strategy drives sales and incredible customer loyalty— the proof is on social.

4. Use social listening to find which topics resonate with your audience

It pays to know your audience. When brands demonstrate that they understand their customers’’ wants and needs, 43% of consumers will buy from that brand over their competitor.

Social listening lets businesses tap into public conversations that expand their understanding of their customers, industry and competitors. It can give insight into the trends your audiences are engaging with, reveal sentiment around specific brand campaigns, and opportunities to differentiate your brand from the competition. Social listening holds the answers to your business’ burning questions and with knowledge comes power.

Combine your findings from social listening with your insights from content analytics and customer service channels to develop data-backed marketing messaging that converts.

Social listening can also surface leads and sales opportunities for your brand, you just have to be ready to jump in. Black Girl Sunscreen, for example, wasn’t mentioned in the original Tweet below. But with social listening, their team flagged the relevant prompt and responded accordingly.

Harnessing the power of social listening is much simpler if you have tools like Sprout Social that do the heavy lifting for you. Empower your sales team to master social listening with this step-by-step guide.

5. Check that you’re posting on social at the right time (for your audience)

Posting content at the right time often mean more impressions, engagement and conversions. Data will tell you, for example, that the worst time to post on Facebook is Saturday. But your audience is unique. Analyze your own social platforms and find what times work best for you, then build a publishing schedule from there.

If you have Sprout Social, the ViralPost® feature will calculate your own best times for you.

We spoke to Jonathan Jacobs, Vice President of Social Strategy at Accelerate360, to dig deeper into their success using ViralPost®. Here’s what we found:

  • Facebook: Optimal send content had 62% more impressions, had 135% more engagement
  • Twitter: 59% more impressions, 97% more engagement
  • Instagram: 44% more impressions, 65% more engagement

Publishing at the right time creates more exposure for your brand and, ultimately, more chances to entice a sale.

Prove your ROI by increasing sales through social

Focusing on just one of the ways we’ve outlined above may not move the needle for sales, but the sum of these efforts can make a massive difference.

Is your business ready to step into the social commerce space? Download this interview guide to develop a cross-functional social commerce strategy that will fuel long-term revenue.