It shouldn’t come as a surprise that businesses that invest time, resources and, in some cases, money in social media want to see a measurable ROI. In theory, social selling seems like an easy concept to master. After all, you just need to promote your products or services on a social network and then sit back as the sales flow in, right? Wrong.

While it’s essential for today’s businesses to engage in digital sales activities, it’s useless without first understanding how to use social media channels to generate leads. The very first step in this process is crafting an effective social media strategy.

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36% of people trust brands more when they have a social presence, according to statistics collected by cloud-based marketing and public relations software company Vocus. If you want to turn these social media-oriented people into customers, you’ll need to create a social strategy that leads them through your sales funnel. And the strategy doesn’t end when you make a sale.

In today’s digital world, you need to delight current customers just as much as you do potential customers, not only to keep them coming back, but also to turn them into brand advocates. After all, 81% of customers seek out the advice of friends and family members on social media sites before they make a purchase. A solid social strategy can help you become a recommended business.

Here are a few tips for developing a social strategy that’s right for your brand, your target audience, and eventually, your sales.

Be Proactive

A purely reactive strategy will leave you at the whims of your customers and their social media habits. Your customers will choose where conversations about your brand take place, and you’ll be left to monitor keywords and perform sentiment analysis. Instead, switch it up and add proactive elements to your social strategy.

Use your own content to start and lead conversations, and influence what your customers are saying about your brand. By controlling conversations you’ll be better positioned to impact consumers and persuade them to purchase your products. It will certainly take more effort than a more passive social media strategy, but it will be worth it when you’re improving the impressions social media users get from your business.

Be Sales-Minded (But Don’t Overdo It!)

You should be selling when and where appropriate. In the majority of cases, your social strategy should follow the 80/20 rule: 80% of what you post on social media should be about something other than your business (and interesting to your audience), whereas 20% of what you post should be purely about your brand.

What portion of that 20% is devoted to sales activities is up to you – try different styles of posts, different content, different products or services. To determine the best strategy for you (in terms of your brand and your social media followers), take a look at past analytics and see what has successfully led to sales in the past. You can even use A/B testing to try out new tactics and review the results.

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Monitor

Social media monitoring is useful in sales activities, just as it is in marketing or promotional activities. You’ll want to keep an eye on all things related to your brand (including competitors), so that you can jump in where needed, react to comments or questions, and get a feel for how customers are feeling. Monitor your streams and timelines to keep tabs on your important contacts, and track (and participate in) conversations relevant to your brand. This will help keep you in contact with leads and potential customers, and keep your products at the top of their minds.

Choose the Right Channels

Think about what social media networks your business is currently active on. Now ask yourself, do these channels really make sense for the brand? If your target customers aren’t likely to be on the platform you’re using, that’s time and energy wasted. Compare Instagram and Facebook – the first is great for visuals, and for a younger crowd, while the second is great for reaching a huge range of ages, and for sharing a variety of content. What fits your needs and your audience?

The sales campaigns you run on social media should be tailored to each network and the audience that frequents it. The networks you engage and sell on should line up with your company’s goals, industry, and audience. The ROI on your campaigns will be much greater if you have properly targeted your strategy to the best channels. For instance, 68% of Twitter followers are likely to make a purchase while 51% of Facebook fans are likely to buy. Decide what networks give your brand the best chance for success.

In order to succeed with social selling, you’ll need a stellar social media strategy; they go hand-in-hand. Using social media platforms without a cohesive strategy simply isn’t going to pay off with the conversions and sales you’re looking for. Social media can’t replace the more traditional sales process, but it can be a great accessory that helps drive additional revenue for your business, with a well thought-out strategy behind it.

Now that you know what it takes to put together a social strategy for your business, it’s prime time to take the next step through the process! This Social Media Fast Track makes it easy for digital marketers to understand the foundations of social media marketing and the implications of each of its discipline and platform. Following and completing this track will give you the quickest and most direct route to understanding the benefits each area in social media marketing can provide and what will drive business results. While you can take the classes in any order you wish, we recommend you watch them in sequence to get the most from your learning experience.