No. How is that for a short answer?
An original question posted on LInkedin recently asked whether or not social media was performing well as a sales tool, and if not, were businesses people pouring too much time and effort into it?
One post answering the LInkedin question suggested an analogy of social media as a cocktail party. The analogy further suggested that is was a conversation starter. It is a little more formal than a cocktail party but the post was on target. We know that social media helps start and perpetuate conversations whether positive or negative. In and of itself, that is one of the main reasons the media exist – they are social in nature. Not only do we want to read, we want to be heard.
As used by businesses, various social media are marketing tools, and a good ones if used properly. Marketing helps get more and more people interested and engaged in the desired context. They encourage a continued conversation. They can and should also be used to prompt action. Farm Bureau marketing took this picture of me (on the far right) and two friends at an Old Dominion University football game. I just presented you with a good example of engaging social media. I am still talking about it. They are not going to sell me any insurance with its use. They have, however, created somewhat of a fan because of the engagement. If I was thinking about a new carrier, they would have a good chance of a conversion and I would go to their website to find an agent.
What action should social media prompt if it isn’t an immediate sale? It is pretty plain to a certainty that users of social media do not like to be sold anything using the media directly. So what good is it? Social media should be used to encourage people to visit a buying medium and the evidence can be tracked. Websites are used either directly as with an e-commerce site, or indirectly as encouragement to take the next contact step in the sales cycle – email, phone call, or request form. Again, tracking may be used to show results.
What is the difference then between social media and websites that should cause the different approach to which I referred? The difference is the context of the communication coupled with expectations of the readers. Various social media platforms act as a catalyst for contact and allows a conversation as well as the beginning of research. In this context, websites can then be used more as sales tools than marketing tools, though they can be used for both. Websites are expected by most businesses to facilitate the actual sale.
In other words, social media decorates the room, puts food on the table and calls guests to dinner. Websites, in turn, hand out the silverware and allow both the guest and the host to eat. As long as the recipe is good and the food well prepared, diners will be well satisfied. Happy customers and profitable businesses become the desert that brings people back to the restaurant.
Therefore, except for non-business or a few other exceptions, website content should be crafted with a different purpose than typical social media content, with the overall brand being consistent throughout. As I was taught years ago in sales schools, someone has to ask for the business and close it successfully. Websites can act as a 24/7/365 sales tool for that purpose. In fact – like it or not – if a company has a website, it does act as a 24/7/365 sales tool. The question is this: is it crafted well enough to meet expectations. All business websites should contain beneficial reasons to participate, sometimes formed into a specific value proposition, followed by calls to action – simple requests directed to the reader to act in the desired manner with a call, email, or filled out form.