Is Social Media a Viable Form of Direct Marketing?

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I was reading an article the other day in which this very question was being addressed. While I agreed with some things the article had to say, one sentence particularly bothered me: “People don’t join social networks to be confronted with marketing messages, they join to be social with a likeminded community.”

Well, obviously…  But people also don’t watch TV or open a magazine, or drive down the freeway so they can be confronted with marketing messages either. But they still are.

With forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, less promotional, less in-your-face “salesy” messages are the way to go, though. And this goes both for posts and news feed ads. People use social media to engage in content, and your marketing message should be another piece of valuable content for your audience.

Just because a message is less promotional, less in your face, doesn’t mean that it won’t be effective, though. According to Hubspot’s 2013 State of Inbound Marketing Report, 52% of all marketers surveyed sourced a lead from Facebook in 2013. Read their most-recent report here.

The key is to ensure your message is driving people to take a specific action. Even so, tracking leads can be difficult. (People may see your post/ad on Facebook and then organically go to your website later that day.) So here are some tips to make tracking easier:

  • Use Facebook’s Ad Manager to track the amount of clicks your ad has received.
  • Set up your site on Google Analytics
  • Include a link to your website in your posts
  • During the conversion stage, ask the customer how they heard about you. This may give you a better overall picture of the main channels your leads are coming from.
  • Include a special (easy to remember) code in your marketing message that gets entered during the conversion stage

While social media is not the right choice for certain direct marketing initiates, it certainly has its place at the table, and is an important tool in most marketing campaigns.