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Followers Become Customers

The Power of Compelling Social Marketing 

Contributing Writer  

When it comes to retail stores, Target is one of the most well-known and successful. In the fourth quarter of 2018, the company made $22.98 billion (a 5.3 percent increase when 5.1 percent was expected). Their digital sales even grew by 31 percent. But with a name that a large majority already knows, some may be left wondering why they even bother with social media.  

What difference does it make that companies like Target have 849,000 followers on Pinterest, 1.9 million followers on Twitter and 3.8 million followers on Instagram? And should mom and pop shops take notice of bigger names cementing their place in social media? The answers: 1) a lot of difference 2) yes.  

According to Sprout Social, the likelihood that a consumer will purchase a product from someone they follow on social media is 57.5 percent. Only 3.8 percent say they’d be less likely to purchase from these companies, and 37.8 percent say there’d be no difference. And if a followee’s experience with a company’s social media account is positive, that purchase rate shoots up to 71 percent.  

But mom and pop shops may already be struggling to stay in business while competing against the bigwigs across the street. So why should money or time be put into social media marketing when those funds could be used in other ways?  


Reach the audience who doesn’t know your company 

Let’s say your company sells artsy products. You may attend the occasional festival and pay booth rent of anywhere between $200 to $500 for a table or tent space. Depending on how much foot traffic your company gets at this numbered spot, the earnings could maybe help to break even and get some additional marketing. Or, maybe there will be a profit. However, with online retailers like Amazon Handmade waiving their monthly posting rates and Etsy only charging $0.20 per post (in addition to transaction and processing fees), a digital marketplace provides another sales avenue.  

But just posting on these sites won’t do a smaller company much good if no one knows there is an Amazon Handmade account or Etsy account or even a Shopify or CafePress account. What major retailers and social media accounts with large follower accounts have figured out is social media channels are one of the most useful ways for both dedicated followers and casual browsers to see the products that retailers have available for sale.  


Understanding the demographics of social media channels 

Both small and larger retailers should make a point of learning who their audience is. Using spa products as an example, let’s say that the primary purchasing audience is women between the ages of 35 and 54. Choose the social media channel where your consumers are more likely to see it. 

Twitter demographics: Twitter has 336 million monthly active users, according to HootSuite. Slightly more women in the United States (24 percent) use Twitter than men (23 percent), judging from a Pew Research study. If this number seems low, that’s because it is. More than 80 percent of active Twitter users are outside of the United States. So the best way to promote your products on Twitter is to make sure you have an international sales delivery option for interested buyers. If your retail products are only available in the United States, 40 percent of Twitter’s audience is between the ages of 18 and 29, 27 percent are between the ages of 30 and 49 and only 15 percent are 50 to 64. So this may not be the avenue for the middle-aged buying audience.   

Instagram demographics: Instagram has reached 1 billion users, and unlike Twitter, their numbers are high in the United States (120 million). And the 18 to 34 worldwide crowd loves it most, with 270 million active users. The second highest group is 35 to 44 worldwide with 131 million active users.  

Facebook demographics: There is no escaping the major social media influence of Facebook, with 2.2 billion monthly active users. There are more women users (74 percent) than men users (62 percent). And 78 to 81 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 49 have a Facebook account. The active users lower to 65 percent between the ages of 50 and 64. Oddly enough, Facebook is less popular in the United States but it’s still beating Twitter. Twitter has 72 million American users; Facebook has 239 million users. But with Facebook’s 80/20 rule when it comes to Facebook ads, your image better be pretty powerful to need this little amount of text. If it’s text-heavy, your ad may not run at all.  


Don’t ignore the least popular audience on social media  

Using the example above with spa products and the largest buying audience being between 35 and 54, Instagram may be the social media marketing avenue that makes more sense from first glance. 

However, millennials are also more likely to purchase items online that are $50 or more, especially with the help of payback programs such as Klarna. And for women between the ages of 18 and 29, Pinterest (56 percent) is more popular than Instagram and Twitter. Facebook is the only social media channel beating the picture-friendly site, at 86 percent.  

Additionally, ignoring one demographic on other social media channels for another demographic may end up being counterproductive. Millennials need to buy birthday gifts, Mother’s Day gifts and anniversary gifts just like any other purchasing audience.  

For smaller retailers who want to delve into the social media marketing world, finding the largest following audience first is reasonable. But as with companies like Target, it certainly doesn’t hurt to try to reach as many potential customers as possible. There was a time when Facebook was only for Harvard students and now it has opened to users worldwide. Just as social media founders are learning that opening their audience to larger groups may improve their business, so can retailers.