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Social Media, Coca-Cola and Me

April 18, 2013

Coca-ColaI consider social media as a marketing communications channel, and not one that necessarily has a direct impact on sales, so I’m a bit skeptical of any claims made by SMEs (social media experts!) that social media can directly influence sales.

As a prime example, in news last month Coca-Cola hasn’t seen any direct correlation between what it terms “online chatter” and short-term sales (see “Buzzkill: Coca-Cola Finds No Sales Lift from Online Chatter” in AdAge). As at the time of writing , Coca-Cola has clocked up over 63 million likes on Facebook, so it’s in a pretty strong position to comment.

While I advise my clients that social media is an important component of the company’s marketing strategy (and a very cost-effective one for start-ups), I would never suggest that your sales strategy can entirely depend on it.

As a customer engagement and customer service channel, applications like Facebook and Twitter can be used really effectively. In terms of service, as a customer if I want a more rapid response from a company than traditional phone or email contact methods, I will generally tweet my question or complaint. It’s effective because the interaction is played out in front of the wider social group, not secretly between you and the company in question.

What’s interesting is my own experience with Facebook and LinkedIn advertising. Offered free advertising vouchers for both sites, I’ve now tested both out with mixed results.

For Facebook, I set up a test ad for the page of one of my clients and, in the space of a week, we had quadrupled ‘Likes’ for the page.

However, that did not translate into an upward trend in sales. In fact, I doubt there was any correlation at all between new sales generated and the Facebook page likes.

What it did achieve was a massive surge in audience, via a channel that seems to be pretty engaged, which might have some longer term outcomes – provided we can keep the engagement going. And that bigger audience does give us the opportunity, through Facebook’s ‘Reach’ function in the Pages Admin area, to get detailed information on the demographics of our audience – which we can use to plan future marketing campaigns.

For LinkedIn, I tried an ad for this business – Explore Communications – with pretty dire results. Similarly to Facebook, you can target your ad to a particular demographic profile and you are very limited to how much information you can display, but I found that there has been virtually zero response – the two spikes of clickthroughs have been when I first submitted the ad, then revised and re-submitted the content, which I put down to the LinkedIn administrators reviewing the ad before approving it!

Sure – my experience is completely at the other end of the spectrum to Coca-Cola’s, but it’s something worth thinking about for start-up organisations looking to the virtually ‘free’ channels that social media offer for marketing your products and services. At this stage in social media’s evolution, it’s very easy for a potential customer to like your page or follow your tweets. It’s another thing again for them to buy.

By the way, I haven’t like Coca-Cola’s Facebook page. I can’t stand the stuff.

(Pictured above: “Coca-Cola, I”, By Newtown grafitti, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.)

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