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Social selling: Three ways to create a new sales channel

24th Jun 2014
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“The biggest cliché people say is that social is like a party and you can’t sell things to people at a party. I hear that from a lot of people,” says Robin Bresnark, Buyapowa’s director of client success. Speaking of the myths of social commerce, he wastes no time in dispelling each one and explaining how every brand could be capitalising on this new sales channel. 

“Look at Tupperware,” he says. “Tupperware turn over billions of dollars every year – they do pretty well out of parties. I can think of loads of things that are sold at parties (some of them legal some of them not!) but of course you can sell to people there. In fact, parties are a brilliant place to sell to people as they’re usually populated by like-minded people who are all into the same things – it’s great, actually, when you stop and think about it. But it’s about selling people the right things in the right way.”

There is a certain way to go about it, however; social selling takes a little bit of gracefulness. You can’t just go round posting links to products and asking people to buy them. As Robin points out, you don’t want to be the guy at the restaurant trudging round the tables trying to sell roses – you want to be the waiter who can get customers a great deal on the wine they’re drinking.

Buyapowa recently published a report on social maturity, and as a result were able to work out what makes social shoppers tick. They came up with three tactics to successful social selling – tactics that go beyond branding and promotion to the actual point of sale.

1. Co-Creation
“Co creation is one of the three elements we’ve identified as really critical if you’re going to stop branding and actually start selling in social,” says Robin. “You allow your customers to have a say in the products and the offers that go live – then they’re much more likely to shop. If you ask me what I’d like, and then you put it on sale, you’ve pretty much got a pre-order there. We found that co-creation plays a really big part.

2. Dynamic pricing
"Dynamic pricing is about adding value as more people commit to buying something. So they could be bundling products together, then, as more and more people join in, you give them more so that incentivises them to go and tell their friends which means its inherently social. It could be dropping the price as more and more people participate. It could be opening up some exclusives or money-can’t-buy things, but it’s giving more as more things happen.

3. Gamification
“Then gamifaction takes that even a step further. So if I am the very best at that, if I’m bringing more people in than anyone else, if I can help you with your marketing and help you sell things to lots of people then you should reward me for that. So you might find the person who most successfully shared one of your deals and give them your product for free, or you might invite them to an event.

“When you weave those three things together, co-creation, dynamic pricing and gamification, you end up with a new form of ecommerce which is really fit for the modern age and for social. We tend to find that this works across the board for anyone that might want to do direct-to-consumer trading. Retail is of course the front and centre of that – they’re the ones that generally do a lot of selling to people.”

An ROI everyone can understand

Tweets don’t write themselves. Facebook posts don’t just appear. Pins won’t stick on their own. Social media management requires resources, and resources equals money. How do you justify that kind of outlay without a tangible ROI? Many brands don’t – they create an ROI. They justify their spending on social with metrics such audience size and levels of interaction.

Robin has a different outlook, though: “People are always talking about social ROI. But you know what? The very best way of measuring it is by direct sales through social, rather than anything too fluffy and ambiguous.

“People generally, in social marketing, measure themselves on metrics like engagement,” says Robin. “And if you take Facebook’s definition of engagement, which is a like or a share or a comment, or on Pinterest a pin or a favourite, it’s actually really easy to fake that level of, I guess you’d call it return. But I don’t think it is return. If you post something beautiful, people will share it, but it actually has zero value to your brand. If you say something really controversial, you’ll get a lot of comments but you might destroy your brand for doing it. So in what way are they actually good metrics?

“But these are the metrics that the industry is comfortable with because, fundamentally, they can control them. What they’re more scared of is getting down and dirty and actually getting measured on the money that’s coming in. But you know what, there’s a recession, other people are measured on that kind of thing. We all have to kind of tighten our belts a little bit and realise our jobs won’t last forever if we’re not helping our companies to grow. And I think increasingly people probably are comfortable with that. 

“According to the TPS Global Trend Report the average large company spends about $19 million every year on social media. That’s a huge, huge outlay. What we found is that the brands at stage three of social – the people who are actually starting to use it as a sales channel – they’re projected to turn over about $5 million a month by the end of this year. So that’s $60 million in and $19 million out. Brilliant: a categorical ROI.

“Now, if you’re not doing any of this stuff then you’re just outlaying the $19 million. What we’re finding increasingly is that the marketers and the social people have been in, perhaps, a bit of a bubble for the last couple of years, but increasingly the CFOs are marching down the corridors and having a quiet word with them: at some point you have to pay the bills.”

The word ‘investment’ in itself constitutes the need for a return, after all. Is your brand investing in social, or just spending on it? 

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