Using social media to promote sales for brick and mortar companies is a question I'm asked about a lot lately. The rapidly growing popularity of Twitter and the huge number of potential clients it offers to companies has created a demand to find ways to convert them to sales. However, few marketers are doing this with any success.
Selling cars is a good example because it highlights many types of sellers and the different approaches that can be used in the marketing process.
Manufacturers, distributors, and individuals are all using Twitter, but each comes from a different perspective, or should, when trying to make a sale. There are some basics all should share, but their potential clients usually come from different groups.
Driving Sales on Twitter
An individual trying to sell a car will reach out to his or friends online telling them what they want to sell. These friends may then pass along the information in the form of a retweet to their followers or even offline to someone they know who is interested in buying that type of item.
True, manufacturers and dealers can use the same method to some degree, but they won't share the same level of trust -- and really should be looking at the bigger picture and employ methods that go beyond a single transaction.
There are tools available that can post messages when certain keywords are used in any tweet but those canned responses are fast becoming the spam of Twitter. They may get you limited sales, but they also do damage to your brand.
"Twitter can be a valuable resource and tool in both marketing and sales, but it just doesn't happen overnight, said Liana Evans, CEO of LiBeck and author of "Social Media Marketing: Strategies for Engaging in Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media." "The key is engagement, you can't just set it and forget, you need to let people know you are real."
Dell is a good example. Their initial foray in to marketing on Twitter was to use canned responses.
Hey, it got them sales. But they soon noticed there were also a lot of tweets saying how annoying this was; not a good thing to have associated with your company. They could have been losing more potential clients than they gained.
So what was their remedy? Personal engagement.
When they assigned a human to use the tools and reach out personally to Twitter users interested in buying a new computer or asking questions about problems they had a huge increase in sales. Dell now does more than $3 million a month in sales on Twitter.
Tips For Promoting Sales on Twitter
Now that works for a global company that does direct sales, but what about the car industry and many others like it where the manufacturer does not do direct sales and where dealers are location based? What methods can be used for these businesses?
Ford is a great example of smart car manufacturer using social media. In fact they have pulled their Super Bowl TV ads to spend the money on social media.
"Car companies have long tapped high-profile celebrities to spread word of mouth about new cars by test driving them around town. Now they are turning to a similarly powerful but cheaper source: young social-media influencers who have strong online followings." the Wall Street Journal reported.
This method works well for branding and for the manufacturers, but how does a location-based dealership use Twitter to promote sales?
Well first they should be monitoring the social media to protect their reputation -- it's way too easy for a tweet about bad service to get passed around to friends living in the same area and lose the dealer business. But the same can be said about good service and prompt responses by companies when a tweet is made.
"When people find something valuable there's a ripple effect, it gets passed on from one person's network of followers to the next, much like dropping a stone into a pond, the reach keeps going out and out and the rings of reach get wider and wider," Evans noted.
Evans went on to suggest dealerships should use Twitter to promote events at their lots. If a local sports figure or other celeb is going to be on the lot, let people know by tweeting about it. The ripple effect will take care of the rest and soon a large number of people will be there walking through the cars on the lot.
Real-Time Car Search
"At least theoretically, a single tweet can reach thousands of potential car buyers trolling Twitter. And like everything else on Twitter, the action is taking place in real time. In rare instances, a consumer may even have to decide whether to take a dealer up on a sales or service deal within minutes. Some customers may decide they don't need the aggravation of rapid-fire social media engagement, but the tech-savvy under-30 crowd may actually relish it, a number of experts on social media say," Fox News reported.
Automated programs can be used to effect if they aren't done in a spam fashion. Twitter itself allows you to search by location so building a regional group of followers who are interested in the latest car deals is very possible.
Asking buyers if they have a Twitter account and getting a picture of them taking ownership of their car and then using it in a Twitpic that is sent to their account may soon have others coming.
This new medium needs a certain amount of creativity and a certain amount of knowledge of how it works. The effort, however, can be very profitable.
- Do: be engaging, respond as a person, make people aware of sales and special events, monitor mentions of you brand.
- Don't: come off as a spammer, be rude to people, bad mouth the competition.
The potential for Twitter hasn't been reached. Even still, it's a valuable tool in the marketing arsenal.