The breakdown of social media for sales

By Lola Buendía | 10:15

shopping cart with a computerThe tourism sector has been strongly influenced by the explosion of online marketing and social media. For the last years, marketers have been trying to find the best way to generate tangible revenue from corporate social network pages and profiles. However, there are still some doubts about the potential of social media to generate sales and whether these online channels can ensure a return of investment or not.

 Some studies published lately can make us think that social media is no longer valid for sales. “The Purchase Path Of Online Buyers In 2012“, a Forrester report published last September, reveal that less than 1%  of online retail transactions by new customers came from social channels. Also, the École Hoteliere de Lausanne and the company RateTiger published last summer “The Distribution Challenge 2010-2012”, a research paper that affirmed that three and four stars hotels have lost interest in social media as a sales channel, but also as a marketing tool. Those hotels are now going back to basics, focusing on offline and traditional marketing instead of the digital online channels. 

Then, is social media no longer valuable for brands? Has the end of social media marketing arrived? The truth is that Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus or any other social network are not specifically sales channels, but they are a perfect place online for socializing, and that is why brands find there a good environment to attract new customers.

Regarding to this, the Forrester report previously mentioned affirms “forty-eight percent of consumers reported that social media posts are a great way to discover new products, brands, trends, or retailers“. Also, the latest HubSpot “State of Inbound Marketing” report showed that “companies that blog more have more consistent sales.

So, social networking sites may not be the perfect place to sell, but they are a perfect place to socialize and this socialization process can be translated in future sales.

In fact, some companies have done a great job in bringing customers using social media. That is the case of Palms Hotel in Las Vegas that launched a social marketing campaign to track the customer’s path from tweet to transaction using HootSuite (The Palms Case Study). They realized that, at the end of the campaign, they exceeded their room rate reservation goal by 47%, and their revenue goals by 67%, demonstrating that the social media campaign was actually translated into an increase of sales.

Social networks as Twitter or Facebook can be used to support a marketing campaign and to send traffic to a reservations landing page. The last study by Reuters shows that “four out of five Facebook users have never bought a product or service as a result of advertising or comments on the social network site”. However, its 1000 million base of users prove that Facebook is still the most popular and powerful network. Its potential as a communication tool cannot be ignored.  

Other social media are playing an important role in online marketing. Pinterest, for example, has a great potential for marketing products. We can see that in an infographic published some months ago by Shopify, an ecommerce website platform. After analyzing data from over 25,000 Shopify online stores, the results revealed that users coming from Pinterest to Shopify stores are 10% more likely to make a purchase compared to those who arrive from other social sites.

After all, social media is the only form of marketing that can touch consumers during their decision journey, from when they’re looking for information about brands and products through the moment of purchase. Because of that, even if some companies have been able to sell directly through some specific social networks, the truth is that social media has to be seen from the point of view of customer relationship, communication and public relations and not so much from a sales perspective.

Consequently, instead of being focused on sales, marketers should concentrate in attracting qualified traffic to the website, creating a branded experience in order to build trust with the audience, offering online communication channels and building a relationship with the customers.  All that, as a part of a solid communication and marketing plan should be translated into sales. 


Lola Buendía

Head of Social Media and Community at Hosteltur 

Twitter: @lbuendia 

Photo credit: alles-shlumpf


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