The Social Sales Dilemma

It seems like celebrities just can’t catch a break. At least not on Facebook.

Sure, they may have lavish homes, fleets of luxury automobiles, high-paying endorsement deals, personal assistants, perks wherever they go, the ability to conjure money out of thin air due to their status, adoring fans, yachts, and one or two other minor comforts that most of us don’t, but when it comes to things like social media, they just can’t do a darn thing right!

The latest celebrity to be flagged for misuse of social media is tennis player Maria Sharapova. Her crime, “Giving (fans) the chance to directly buy products she endorses” on her Facebook page (Source: CNN). While this caution may seem laughable, it raises a serious question to be asked by small businesses and large corporations alike:

Is it ok to use social media as a sales tool?

Many believe that the answer is “absolutely not,” including Ilana Fox of British news outlet New Media Source. She recently wrote, “Facebook shops are a flash-in-the-pan trend that won’t increase revenues for retailers. They’re a social commerce quick-win that’s as effective as any other pared-down, (poor) version of an etail site.” And it seems she is not alone in her stance.

Sport Industry Group‘s Drew Barrand agreed in a recent interview with CNN, adding “It remains to be seen whether social media can be harnessed as a separate revenue source. It’s in its infancy so no-one has really worked out how to use it from a sponsorship point of view. In terms of gathering support and exposure, it’s clearly a very valuable tool. But how do you use that for commercial purposes?”

The truth is some companies have been utilizing their Facebook page to sell their products for months now, and I’m not just talking about pasting a link on the page wall.

Back in October of last year, Social Media Examiner reported that many companies were already making great use of the ability to showcase their online catalogues to Facebook “fans” using custom apps. They even pointed out two examples (1-800-Flowers and Delta) of online brands that were allowing for sales to be made inside of the Facebook browser (Delta’s is especially impressive,) allowing fans to shop and purchase without ever leaving the page. Since that time, Facebook has adopted new, agressive changes to make it easier for companies large and small to sell within their fan pages. This tells me that selling through social media is hardly “in its infancy” and is much more than a “flash-in-the-pan trend.” It is here to stay.

So what does this mean for the consumer?

As a social media marketer myself, I have seen overwhelmingly positive reactions. Most recently, I gave a simple reminder to our Facebook fans that we were approaching the end of a 20% off sale on all of our online and in-store products. I was met with responses like, “Thanks for the reminder,” and “Just placed my order.” Other fans chimed in with the names of the products that they were most excited to buy. None of them seemed perturbed in the least that we were leveraging our social media for sales.

This is, in part, because they know us. They like us (and I don’t just mean “like,” I mean like-like.) They talk to us, and we talk to them. They share the experiences they are having with our products, and the questions that they have about what we do. And we respond. Social media exists for the consumer and the company to interact with one another. That’s why people follow you on Twitter or “like” your page on Facebook. That’s why you pay someone to manage your social media strategies; because you want people to know you and love you.

And if you’ve done all of that right, your fan base will be thrilled when you announce your next sale.

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