Digital marketers of today have gone in circles trying to answer the question of whether or not social media can actually drive real revenue. While social media is still rapidly changing and there are many new ways to attract prospects and convert customers, that certainly hasn’t always been the case. Early on in the days when social media was just emerging and companies were trying to figure out how to implement a “social strategy”, the focus was very much on branding and customer service. However, with the evolution of social channels over the years, there are many new opportunities to attract real revenue through social.

According to a recent Entrepreneur article, “Companies are spending anywhere between $100,000 to $300,000 (and sometimes even more) to build and maintain their social followings. Between ads, salaries of social media managers, and of course the requisite marketing tools and services to keep it all together, social is now a significant investment for most brands.”

So how can those brands be sure their significant investments are actually paying off? Here are 5 ways social media can drive real revenue for your company, according to a recent Oracle blog written by Steven Woods:

Extending Your Reach

As marketers we’ve defined “reach” as size of our database – the number of people we can actually touch with our messaging. As Google grew so did inbound marketing, and more emphasis was placed on creating content that could be easily found by your ideal audience.

Social media has once again changed that model. More people are finding content through social networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook – both organically as well as paid advertising through social platforms. Buyers were once defined by search terms. Today they’re defined by their social networks. Getting sharable content into those networks, while observing who interacts with it, lets you grow the reach of your marketing.

Targeting Influencers to Drive Conversions

Getting prospects to convert, to take that next step, has always been about establishing trust. In decades past, that network was limited. But social media has made the number of “light” relationships we can maintain explode.

Buyers are turning to influencers on social media to help guide them through the buying process and find what content is worthy of their attention. If a prospect is connected to large number of influencers in your space, they are more likely to buy. Social media gives marketers the unprecedented ability to identify and engage these influencers. And earning their trust results in that trust being passed down to prospects, leading to increased conversions.

Increasing the Velocity of Your Pipeline

For a given revenue cycle, doubling the velocity of your pipeline can have the same effect as doubling the size of your database. But to do so you need to make your content discoverable, contextual and easy to access.

Making it possible for prospects’ to see how their social graph is engaging with your content leads to greater trust. With the latest advances in landing page editors, grafting prospects social graph onto marketing assets is available to anyone who can drag and drop. Meanwhile, social sign-on tools make accessing your content easier while still collecting the customer data you need. Combining these methods speed up the movement of your buyers through the sales and marketing funnel.

Boosting the Value of Your Marketing

Wins are great. But getting the most revenue out of a deal is even better. Social media enables us to do that better than we ever could before.

How? It all goes back to trust. Think about the traditional customer testimonial. They are designed to give first-hand validation of your product or service. But if they don’t feature someone the buyer knows or trusts, the value is limited.

Social media helps us understand who each prospect knows. If we’re aware of this, we can personalize assets like video customer testimonials, and select one that the prospect actually knows. That kind of context helps establish trust, and makes it possible to drive up the value of the final deal.

Better Return Through Better Leads

ROI on social media marketing is one of the most debated topics today in B2B marketing. Yet, there’s definitely return from social media when done right.

One of the best ways to drive return on any marketing investment is to alert sales of leads’ hot-button issues, allowing them to start a conversation with the buyer. By collecting data through social sign-on, detailing the content prospects are viewing and sharing, and understanding whom they trust on the social web, you can identify the best leads. It’s return through relevance, and social media is making it easier.

Keep in mind social media has changed significantly over the past 5 years and will continue to evolve significantly in the future. As the technology progresses, the opportunities to drive revenue through social media will likely continue to progress as well.

Are there other ways your company is using social media to drive leads, conversions, and ultimately revenue? We’d love to hear how your company or brand is finding success.

Shawn Herring is Chief Marketing Officer of Torchlite Marketing.

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