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Are You Wasting Time Chasing Down Customers on Social Media?

Well, the results are in. Social is doing a pathetic job of turning readers into customers. After all the hype has settled…after all the stock clamoring has died down, the truth is staring us in the face:

People don’t want to be customers on social media.

But you’re a KISSmetrics reader – so you knew this would happen, right?

customer acquisition growth

Organic search and email both trump Facebook and Twitter for customer acquisition

Year over year, since both of the top two major social networks burst onto the scene, they’ve achieved major visibility…and not much else. But that doesn’t mean social marketing is done for – not by a long shot.

The Problem: The “Buy Now” Mentality

The problem lies in the way most marketers tackle social media. They look at it as an extension of their brand – something that’s just as much of a sales vehicle as email or a product description page. They feel like their mastery over it means they can shuffle the masses of likers and sharers over to their website.

And when it doesn’t work out that way, they either keep pushing harder or resign their Facebook page to a ghost town, convinced that it’s useless as a sales tool.

And they’d be right – when done with the “old fashioned” top-down broadcast-era sales strategy, it falls like a lead balloon.


Fry’s Electronics on Facebook is an example of a typical sales-broadcast channel

The Solution: The “Outreach” Mentality

Ideally, you’ll want to create a bridge between conversation and lead, and from lead to customer. One way to do that on social media is to reach out and let customers know what you’re working on. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your work, business, or the people that make your company great. Starbucks is one of the top 100 brands on Facebook, and it’s easy to see why. They put the spotlight on their newest store in Austin, Texas by capturing some of the eclectic charm of the city and integrating it into their décor:


Wake up and smell the 600+ shares and nearly 20,000 likes on this post!

Being descriptive with your product, telling a story through images and creating a little hometown pride in the process is nothing but good for business. Even if you have a digital product, capturing a video “unboxing” (someone using the item for the first time) will go a long way toward cementing customer expectations while giving prospects a better idea of what they’re getting.

It also helps that you’re targeting the right demographic on the right platform. A new survey showing which social media brands people are most attached to, can shed some light on the subject. In this case, attachment isn’t so much viewed in terms of likes or shares (as many social media metrics are), but rather how much these groups feel like the brands match their ideology and are most “like them”.

brand attraction

Age differences and social media brand loyalty reveal quite a bit on where we’re hanging out

Who could’ve predicted that Twitter wouldn’t break the Top 5 with any of the age groups, or that Reddit would be popular with the 45+ age group? One of the main reasons Twitter didn’t score as well? Many people are unfamiliar with how to really get the most out of it – much less use it on a regular basis. Even more interesting, Vine was often ranked higher than Twitter.

The Result: Stronger, More Relevant Connections

So does this mean social commerce is a failure? It is if you approach it in an old-fashioned shouting match between you and your biggest competitors, or you offer nothing but sales announcements. People have more choices than ever online, and more ways to not only be informed but also comparison shop, get recommendations, and judge quality independently of what a brand tells them.

In addition, if companies are counting a social media conversion as someone who clicks through their Facebook page and buys, then they’ll be sorely disappointed. We humans are far more variable creatures with no set patterns. That means we might check out the website, see something we like, log on tomorrow, see that a friend likes that same brand, get their opinion, click a retargeted ad, shop around for the best price, and so on. Measuring social media customer acquisition isn’t a straight street – it’s more like a winding path with several stops along the way.

The Bottom Line When it Comes to Getting Customers on Social Media

People don’t go on social media sites to shop – look for ways to create that all-important first step with your prospects: invite conversation, engage in discussion, share triumphs and spotlight fans. Encourage participation with free samples, contests, coupons and social media-only exclusives. Consistently getting people to take one small step forward as they continue to connect with your brand and each other will eventually build the kind of marketing momentum that can’t be stopped!

What Are Your Thoughts?

Do you think there’s no such thing as “social commerce”? Have you bought something as a result of an ad you saw on social media? Can companies count on you as a loyal customer? Share your thoughts below in the comments!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob helps business owners improve website design and increase conversion rates through compelling copywriting, user-friendly design and smart analytics analysis. Learn more at and download your free web copy tune-up and conversion checklist today!

  1. I agree.

    Best roi marketing methods is not social media. Organic search is much more effective. Here is another good article on what marketing works and what does not.

  2. Excellent article. I agree, treating social as a simple sales broadcast channel isn’t going to do much. It does serve to initiate sales process when done well, but expecting direct sales from social isn’t as realistic as using proven channels like email.

    It’s important to use tools to track sales attribution to social, e.g, tracking if the final conversion in the booking engine started with the customer clicking on social content.

    • Sherice Jacob Mar 10, 2014 at 11:12 am

      I think it’s a challenge to find real tools that track social media conversions. As I mentioned in the article — people don’t usually shop in a set pattern. Unless there was some sort of universal social cookie that could immediately trace and track a purchase across the web to a specific ad, it would be pretty hard to quantify what constitutes a “social media purchase”.

  3. Thanks for the article! Agreed as well, social media isn’t a channel for the “buy now” mentality. Social media should be cultivating breath and depth of customers into relationships, and should be treated as such, not solely as product-based revenue.

    “Brand Advocates” seem to be the buzz words for customer churn in social media, but brand advocates also believe in the brand, trust in the brand, and are built by longevity. Therefore, customer acquisition from social media should be about the relationship value, not product value.

    • Sherice Jacob Mar 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

      Yeah, I’m not sure “brand advocates” is a good description either. Too many companies think that “Relationship marketing” is a waste of time so they invest more resources in the hard sell. I think they’re learning…but it’s a slow and frustrating process to watch them stumble along the way!

      • We say social media is not a platform for direct sales or the buy it now? But we forget social media has turned into whatever the users want to use it for. And coming soon the new social media network where all users will have a very good incentive to buy right from their social media platform since the average facebook user is on 6 hrs a day according to FB why not get paid for it :)

  4. Very interesting article.
    One question: What is included in “Organic Search”? Because for definition in organic search it’s not included sponsored results, but sincerely I think that you included them.

  5. Joe Bentzel, Platformula Group Mar 10, 2014 at 9:55 am

    Smart write-up. Very relevant. Thanks.

    Regarding ‘social commerce’—here’s the real deal. The concept of layering over a consumer social network with an attempt to sell something is not ‘social’ commerce per se. Real social commerce is inherently a ‘many to many’ function—-e.g. a marketplace with buyers and sellers interacting for the purpose of conducting business.

    eBay is social commerce. SpiceWorks is a B2B social marketplace for IT. There are others. The key is that ‘social’ effects must be baked in to the core value prop of the commerce experience itself. In my consulting practice, I use the term ‘crowd catalyst’ to describe a real social commerce venture vs a social media overlay model.

    • Exactly! I call them “Brandbassadors” — people for whom the brand speaks about their lifestyle, choices, passions, etc. They clearly carry and communicate the brand everywhere they go, and brands that actively engage and build relationships on social media are the ones who cultivate this mentality. There aren’t many, but those that do it right have a strong following.

  6. Tiaan van Zyl Mar 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Great article – social media marketing is in its name. Being social with your customers like giving them behind the scenes access to recent activities or products. We should stop thinking about difference marketing platforms in the same way. They all differ, so the thought and drive behind them should also differ. Even though the basics of marketing will always stay the same.

  7. So true! I see so many brands doing it wrong… Marketers really need to think about where their content is showing up when they post to Facebook. People browse their newsfeed to find out about interesting things their friends are doing… Engage them in conversation. Don’t push sales messaging in front of people when they aren’t ready to buy because it will be ignored.

  8. Here’s the problem – execs and non-marketing business units don’t trust marketing in a lot of cases precisely because the activities are hard or impossible to connect to actual business results. If likes/shares/reach/whatever doesn’t at some point result in sales then C level execs will discount the activities that lead to them.

    This doesn’t mean there’s not value, but to the degree that it’s hard to quantify that value it’s also hard to garner support for SMM. 1000 people clicking Like is worth less than 10 people buying your product unless those Likes somehow become revenue.

  9. Dennis & Kim Downey Mar 10, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    Great article. Social media is not the place for simple buy now broadcasting. It is best used to build relationships and keep yourself top of mind as an expert.

  10. Larry Cornett Mar 10, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    I agree. I’ve always considered social media to be a “relationship channel.” It is your chance to be “human” and just engage with people, not try to sell them. You can talk about your great products on social media all day long, and it means nothing compared to one of your happy customers talking about you with their friends. When a company tells me how great they are, it falls on deaf ears. If a friend I trust tells me to try something out, I listen.

  11. Fully agree. It can be extremely time consuming if you let it suck you in, and even with specialized advertising filtering results, ie new customers are usually very poor. Perhaps not non-existent but when compared to time invested, any serious entrepreneur has to question if social media is a waste of time.

  12. Its a really great article thanks for share it.

  13. Another great post thank you for sharing i shall be book marking your site for future !!!

  14. Stuart G. Hall Mar 11, 2014 at 5:47 am

    From working on social media ROI issues at Sony (all the way from the launch of Google TV to the global hit film ‘Skyfall’) I found Oliver Blanchard’s approach to establishing ROI useful – by looking for overlay patterns between transactional and social media data – to help persuade senior mangers of your case. Try jumping to slide 37 to start – and the following slides on how to prove meaningful ROI relationships between the data:

  15. I think it depends what you’re trying to sell. Consumer products would be more likely that services (eg design services or products).I’ve sold a lot of my framed prints by tweeting pics with relevant hashtags.Probably only works with niche products though.
    Horses for courses.

  16. Excellent! the article says it all about how to be interactive in Social media rather than reproducing the usual marketing gimmicks to this world. Even for large, medium and small businesses, it is extremely important to know the intensity of changes made by such interactive marketing. For that sentimental analysis will come in handy. Recently I came across a social media analytics tool named SecondSight Analytics. Its good! Actually, it gives a very simple, clear and to the point report of the responses of the customers to the brand. Interestingly, they give the top influencers and the keywords for a particular date range too. A glimse to the website will be time worth spent.

  17. Rupal Sathavara Mar 13, 2014 at 5:00 am

    I have to be clear that my Facebook profile is great. There are no shortage of people who would come out and tell us that we’re “doing it wrong.” It has nothing to do with brand. It has nothing to do with what’s actually important to the company. It has everything to do with what Social Media has deemed important.

  18. Ian Pickering Mar 13, 2014 at 6:30 am

    Great profile of the realities of SM. I have really felt this way for a while; this is not a direct marketing tool.

    SM is supposed to be a human network – that is the fundamental premise. SM is nothing more than an opportunity to show the human side of a business.

    Great post!!

  19. Hi great post thank you for this i am a newbie so all information i can get is brilliant, thank you for sharing!!!!!

  20. On more than one occasion I have purchased a product that was recommend by someone on Twitter. However, I have never clicked on a Facebook ad as an “interested buyer” in the product being advertised.

    I recently listened to a webinar with a very successful online marketer who shared an interesting piece of information about the email vs. Facebook discussion. He stated that more than 98% of the people who signed up for his webinar came from his list. Less than 2% came from his Facebook fanpage where he mentioned the webinar a couple different times.

  21. I think it’s fairly obvious now that social media isn’t an exercise in spamming people until they purchase something. It’s more a means of interaction, communication, and producing great content – you’re representing your company online. There’s no time to be messing around doing anachronistic SEO practices.

  22. Nice article. I didn’t see any mention of the fact that social media can be used effectively to raise the ranking of your web site higher in the search engine results. This can be far more effective and cheaper than bribes paid to Google. SEM is a drug. It is nice shake off that dependancy.

    Raising your product to the top of the search results is somewhat analogous to the effect of raising it up higher in the the mind of your customer audience. Both happen as a result of repeated positive engagement of the audience with your brand. Widening and deepening the relationship effectively throws the net out wider with an eventual funnel toward a purchase decision.

    Making sure that all of those expereinces are positive and that they reinforce the brand with connections to the means to purchase is important. A savvy social networking strategy will apply the latest knowledge and behavioral principles to do this.

  23. Social media is not the place for simple buy now good 1

  24. imelda wendy ojiro Mar 17, 2014 at 9:03 am

    Very nice article,organizations need to understand that social media is a tool not a contributes in making the purchasing decision but needs to be done right and the customers will buy only when they are ready and only from the brand they identify with and feel emotionally attached to.Brands should therefore work toward building relationships on social media.

  25. I totally agree with you on these points. I tried running Facebook ads for to get likes but most people who like the page don’t like buying stuff unless you give them a little nudge. I got some tricks from the post that am going to use to market to my groups.Thanks a lot.

  26. According me I’ve never rated social media for getting new clients. It’s only really good for meeting other industry pros and networking with them…and having a good laugh as well.If you want clients, get up the rankings, approach people in person, do a good job and get referrals.

  27. According to me Mock-ups of the e-commerce proposal show how Twitter users could make a purchase from seeing a tweet with a picture of a product.

  28. Katie Hodgkinson Mar 23, 2014 at 6:11 pm

    So Marketing Channel, not Sales Channel?

    I agree with comments in the article that Social Media is still a great medium for customer engagement, relationship, increasing awareness of products and services, increasing brand loyalty … I’m not sure it was ever a channel for direct sales.

    Further, I don’t believe users of Social Media want to be “sold to.”

  29. Audrey Melnik May 10, 2014 at 11:59 am

    Totally agree. Social is about building relationships and demonstrating thought leadership. 80% of what you share should be about others, not yourself.

  30. I completely agree. I personally have stopped using much of social media simply because it is becoming less and less social. The last thing I want to see is someone trying to spam their brand all over the place, including the ads that randomly show up.

  31. Yes, true. Agreed. Thanks for sharing this. Many times a page automatically gets liked by a person, he or she might not thought of liking it. This becomes weird at times. Social media is a means of creating and maximizing the relationships with the users and can be used as a source of keeping the users updated about your products or services.

  32. I came here via social media – What does that say? :)

  33. Disagree 100%. Customers are social; they spend time on social media networks chatting about businesses, products etc. Why would a business or organisation not spend time learning about their customers / website or store visitors? The whole direction and logic of this piece lacks common sense.


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