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  • Writer's pictureJosh Simons

Why is Social Media Marketing so hard? 3 Tips to Sell More Effectively

A hand holding a phone up to a white brick wall with the image of a post like notification painted on it.

While the question is rhetorical to some extent, it is true that using social media to drive sales can be a difficult process at best. At it's worst, it feels like trying to serve soup with a slotted spoon: you get some in the bowl, but the mess you make in the process hardly feels worth it.

It would be easy to complain about how challenging it is to use organic social posts to drive traffic to your store, which is only half the battle, mind you. Once someone makes it to your store, you still have to convert on the sale. That's not what I'm here to do, but it is nice to vent sometimes, isn't it?

What I do think is helpful is to break down where folks often go wrong with social media management, and offer tips for how to better navigate those murky waters.

Building Trust Online

One of the challenges with using organic social media content as a driver of business is that when you're selling a product, the tone of your message often feels inauthentic. People use social media to connect with friends and loved ones, to join conversations about topics they're passionate about, and to stay informed with things like news and current events. While existing fans of your work might want to follow you and interact with your posts because you fall into one of those categories, it's not easy to capture new eyes with posts that are designed to sell - because the average person who sees that post doesn't want to be sold to on social media. They don't know you from Adam, and have no reason to trust you or want what you're selling.

This is one of the reasons why influencer marketing has become a staple in the social media marketing landscape. As a business, you can borrow an established creator's platform and the trust they've built with their audience to bolster your image online. The creator has a relationship with their audience that makes them more inclined to want to check out a brand or a product if the creator vouches for them. This can only go so far though. If your marketing strategy is just to borrow other people's credibility, eventually that will fizzle out as you saturate the market and then you're back at square one. Influencer marketing should only be one small piece of the puzzle.

There is another option though. That is to establish your own credibility and trust as you go. If paired with an influencer marketing campaign, you can even roll some of those audiences into your own, building a stronger foundation for your social media marketing efforts.

The way to do this is by engaging with social media in a way that people will gravitate towards. This has been done well many times over the years, with examples like Duolingo's early TikTok days and Wendy's Twitter account dishing out sick burns a few years back. This goes against many of the principles that social media marketers tend to rely on, but it can be effective when done well. By generating posts that become conversation pieces, you can create a consistent presence that folks will want to follow and interact with because your posts prompt a strong reaction. The safest angle to do this is with humor, but comedy is hard, and often subjective. Mountain Dew does a good job of creating outrageous, often absurd social media content that generates conversations without too much risk. They recently repurposed their Super Bowl ad for that effect, which performed well, at least from an outsider's perspective.

So this leads to my first tip: Establish Trust and Build Connections by Giving People What They Want on Social Media (ie. something to talk about).

This means you have to consistently include posts that aren't intended to sell things in your social media calendar.

Meeting the Customer's Needs

A common piece of sales wisdom is that if you can demonstrate to a prospective customer how their needs will be met by your product, you'll have a much easier time selling them on it. If, for instance, a prospective customer never writes anything down by hand, you would have a hard time selling them a pen. It doesn't matter if it's the nicest pen in the world if they have no use for it.

One of the key parts of my job as a Community Manager, that I found most valuable when writing marketing copy, was that I was the person on the team who gathered and organized feedback about our products. I heard from customers who used our products exactly how their needs were met, and I heard from customers who didn't like our products what their unmet needs were (often in the form of a complaint or a personal insult). This helped me understand how to talk about our products to set clear expectations for what they could and couldn't do, and led to many happy customers in the long run.

Setting expectations for how your product will meet a customer's needs and messaging around that is an easy way to make sure that the folks that do click through from your social posts will already have a strong sense of what you're selling. Market research can be difficult, but it's very much worth the time and energy spent on it.

At Demiplane, I spent significant time doing research on the Vampire: The Masquerade audience, what trends there were in that space, and what the most common memes and themes fans of the game shared, which meant that when we launched our Vampire: The Masquerade character tools, we were able to use those insights in our messaging, which paid off in that it was one of the three biggest product launches we had during my time there.

The other thing I did at Demiplane which I found very helpful in understanding what our audience wanted, was to create a focus group of power users. The group was composed of the people we built our product for and who would use it most frequently, to ensure that we heard how we met the mark and what areas were still missing something.

When you're armed with information about what your audience wants, what your audience is using your product for, and what they view their biggest needs to be, it's easier to understand how your product will fill that gap (or to make a product that fills it). That brings us to my second tip: Understand Your Target Audience's Needs and Sell Them the Solution.

Using the Algorithm

The social media algorithms all promote accounts who use the platform to its fullest capacity. Commenting on other's posts boosts your visibility. Using features like Stories boosts your visibility. When you engage with the platform in the ways the algorithm wants, the algorithm will send more people to engage with you.

In spite of this, I think there's a very common tendency among brand social media managers to log in, post, and then vanish, occasionally responding to comments and messages. This could be hurting your post performance. Best practices that I've seen say that before posting on algorithm-heavy platforms like Instagram or TikTok, you need to like and comment on other posts for about 10 minutes before and/or after making your post for maximum visibility. I'll be the first to admit that I don't do a good job of that, because when you've got a post going out your focus is on getting it out and making sure everything is right.

Even if you can't commit to a full 10 minutes when a post goes out, taking a few minutes to interact with other posts and reply to the first few comments on your post can help boost your visibility significantly. This requires a certain level of familiarity with each platform, and ideally an extra set of hands, because scrolling five different social platforms at the same time isn't easy, but it's a tactic that's proven to work.

The added value of interacting with other posts from a brand account is that you can step into conversations where your product is the solution to a need being expressed. And by chiming in where someone might not be familiar with you, you can win over a new customer easily just be telling them that you exist.

This is one of the main benefits of having a dedicated social media manager who doesn't have so many other responsibilities that they can't dedicate time to interacting on socials each day and increasing your brand presence around other conversations happening in the space, rather than trying to drive the conversation entirely based on your organic posts. This brings me to my final tip: Invest the Time and Resources to Make the Algorithm Work for You.

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