One of the questions we are always asked when putting together social media PR strategies is whether social media activity can help generate leads and sales.
Research from Hitwise today illustrates in a very clear way exactly how social media PR can link into wider lead generation. The company has found that one Facebook fan is approximately equal to 20 additional hits to a retailer’s website over the course of a year:
“The figure of 1 fan = 20 extra visits to a website uses a unique methodology that combines Hitwise data with data from social media experts Techlightenment. We took the top 100 retailers ranked in the Hitwise Shopping and Classifieds category and benchmarked visits to those websites against the number of fans those brands had on their Facebook page. We then also looked at the propensity for people to search for those retail brands after a visit to Facebook using our Search Sequence tool,” announces Hitwise.
One size doesn’t fit all
Now, while this is an interesting stat, it is clearly a bit of a ‘finger in the air’ calculation and the figure will change drastically from industry to industry. Anyone putting together a social media PR strategy will need to look very carefully at how this actually applies to what they are trying to achieve.
For example, web hits might not even be an important metric for certain businesses. Setting goals and objectives for any social media activity upfront is therefore crucial.
Focusing on long-term successes
But the last sentence in the quote above is perhaps the most interesting one. The more engagement and relationship building that goes on (through social media PR, but elsewhere too), the more likely prospects and customers are to engage in a more direct way in future, whether through search, website visits or sales enquiries etc.
This is especially interesting in the B2B arena where sales cycles can often be a lot longer. A prospect might not be ready to buy, but by following them on Twitter or adding them to a Linkedin group, it is possible to keep the conversation going and increase their propensity to buy at a later date.
It is not a stretch to see how this same strategy can be used for customer retention. Providing current customers or clients with added value on social channels can help improve retention and increase those all-important word-of-mouth recommendations.
As social media PR enters a more mature phase, now is the time for businesses and agencies to be clever about the way they measure the impact of social media activities. This could be as simple as using unique URLs in tweets and Facebook posts to track traffic. Or it could more sophisticated CRM integration to track whether social media engagement leads to business deals and revenue.
Revenue generation is by no means the only benefit of a social media strategy but, approached in the right way, it is certainly possible.