If you’re reading this, you probably know the answer to the question, “can brands increase sales through social media?” 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 rely on 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 2023 Sprout Social Index™, 68% of consumers’ primary reasons for following a brand on social media is to stay informed about new products and services. The second most common reason is to have access to exclusive deals and promotions.

A bar chart breaking down consumers’ primary reasons for following a brand on social. The top reasons include: to stay informed about new products or services (68%), to have access to exclusive deals or promotions (46%), the content they post is enjoyable and entertaining (45%), to engage with the community or customers (28%), and because their values or mission aligns with mine (21%).

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, these six tactics will help you bridge the gap between “post” and “check out”.

1. Start selling directly on social media platforms

The pandemic-era surge in social media usage wasn’t just a passing trend. More than half (53%) of consumers say their social media usage has been higher over the last two years than the previous two years.

Social has become a place to discover new trends and interests. In a lot of ways, it’s the new shopping mall—and platforms have gotten the memo.

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.

There are a variety of network-supported commerce tools that marketers can use to reap revenue from social. Popular social commerce platforms include:

  • Facebook Shop
  • Instagram Shopping
  • Pinterest Product Pins
  • TikTok Shop

As social platforms increase their investments in commerce solutions, businesses are following suit—63% of business leaders say they’ve already adopted social commerce features available in their social media management platform of choice.

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

Sprout’s dedicated integrations with Shopify, Facebook and Instagram Shops will accelerate your entry to social commerce. Once you upload your product catalogs into Sprout, your team can create new direct sales opportunities. Adding product links to social content or including them in responses to consumers who have reached out directly is an easy win.

A screenshot of Sprout Social's social commerce catalogue feature, displaying items available for sale in a brand's Facebook Shop.

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

Data and social best practices suggest that easily digestible, visual content—like static images, for example—help marketers hit social goals more than text-based posts. But maybe your audience is different. The only way to know is to dig into the data and make more of what works.

Sprout Social Q2 2023 Pulse Survey infographic reflecting brands' content focus in 2023 compared to 2022. Five to 15 second videos is listed as the top focus.

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.

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

A screenshot of Sprout Social's Cross Channel Tag Report, which helps users track the performance of cross-channel campaign content.

Once you identify your audience’s preferred content formats, 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—and that value cannot be understated. Research from The 2023 Sprout Social Index™ shows that the majority of consumers (76%) place equal value on brands that prioritize customer support and brands that respond quickly to customer needs.

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 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. If squaring this advice with your team’s current bandwidth feels like a tough pill to swallow, don’t worry. Providing top quality customer service doesn’t mean 24/7 agent availability.

Brands like Corelle use customer service chatbots to triage DMs on platforms like Facebook and X (formerly known as Twitter). If you’re hesitant about delegating customer requests to a robot, don’t worry. Chatbot quality and best practices have made major strides over the past few years. Now, they offer both agents and customers more control over their support experiences.

A screenshot of Corelle's Facebook Messenger chat bot. In the screenshot, the user sent an initial "Get started" prompt. The bot responds with, "Hi there! Thank you for reaching out, you are messaging with our chatbot. If you ever want to restart, please type "menu". What can we help you with today? Please select one of the options below so you can be directed to the correct team:"

If you look at Corelle’s Facebook Messenger chatbot, you’ll see that the option to request human help is always available. However, if a customer is crunched for time and can solve their issue through self-service tools, they’re empowered to do so.

This relieves your teams from the burden of addressing frequently asked questions individually, so they have more energy to devote to complex customer challenges.

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

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. Hy-vee, for example, wasn’t mentioned in the original post below. But with social listening, their team flagged the relevant prompt and responded accordingly.

A screenshot of an X (formerly known as Twitter) post from Hy-Vee, responding to one of their fans craving a Hy-Vee blueberry message. They replied,

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 listening guide.

5. Leverage employee advocacy

Increasing sales through social media isn’t exclusive to business-to-consumer brands. B2B brands across industries are driving revenue through employee advocacy.

Employee advocacy is when an individual promotes their employer’s brand throughout their individual social media networks to benefit both parties. The individual is able to establish themselves as a thought leader in their respective industry, and the business receives increased brand awareness while maintaining control over their messaging.

A graphic of the most important business outcomes of an employee advocacy program. The reasons listed include increase brand awareness, increase # of qualified job candidates, control over brand messaging, drive more qualified leads, establish thought leadership and networking opportunities. The data is from the 2022 Sprout Social Index™.

This awareness does more than just build brand’s social media reputation. It drives measurable ROI. For example, Edgio saw $126,000 in earned media value in just three months after adopting Employee Advocacy by Sprout Social. In an uncertain economic environment, that type of brand awareness can push you past your competition in the eyes of your target audience.

Employee Advocacy by Sprout Social makes it easy for employees to find your lead-generating content that aligns with their focus and audience, so they can quickly post approved messages to their social network. On top of that, Advocacy’s deep integration with Sprout means you can compose and publish posts for Advocacy and your brand’s social media channels, all in one place.

A screenshot of the general report available in Employee Advocacy by Sprout Social.

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

Posting content at the right time often means more impressions, engagement and conversions. Data will tell you, for example, that the worst time to post on Facebook is Sunday. But your audience is unique. Analyze your 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 the best times for you.

A screenshot of an X post from @JonEJacobs, who writes, "I think most of us who use @SproutSocial are always wondering whether or not Optimal Post Times are actually...well...optimal. Well, data doesn't lie. h/t tagging function in Sprout." Along side the copy is chart comparing the amount of impressions posts sent at optimal send times receive versus posts sent at non-optimal send times. Posts sent at optimal send times receive more impressions on average.

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.