Is Social Media The Golden Child It’s Claimed To Be, Or Do Websites Still Lead The Way In Terms Of Sales?

Wherever you turn these days you’re confronted with images and sound-bites from the likes of Facebook and Twitter telling us that you need them to achieve real business success. It seems the world too believes this, and is well and truly convinced that the social media is the great nirvana for reaching customers. However, the latest survey to come out of the U.S.A might just turn that ever-so-cosy assumption on its head. The results of this study surprisingly would suggest that businesses do not see the correlation that marketing agencies tend to draw between social media marketing and sale’s generation. On the contrary the survey suggests that website leads are where the money’s at, and that social media marketing might actually turn out to be a bit of a flash in the pan. So, how much credence should we give this study? Is social media marketing a waste of time, and is there any concrete evidence to suggest that websites generate more sales leads than social media?

According to the survey conducted in partnership between marketing technology company, Demandbase, and online business network, Focus, social media marketing is certainly not all it’s cracked up to be. A company’s corporate website was found to be the second top source of new sales leads online; the top source being personal referrals. In statistical terms businesses stated that corporate website are over seven times more effective than social media marketing at generating sales right now. The company website generated 23 percent of sales leads, email 14 percent, online advertising 7 percent, and the poor old social media generated a lowly 3 percent.

Those figures may surprise people. They’re certainly not what most people would expect to see, that’s for sure. So, why is social media marketing underperforming? Well, according to Chris Golec, the CEO of Demandbase, it’s not necessarily a failing on the part of the social media, more just a testament to the strength of websites and their ability to turn leads into sales:

“Social media may be heralded as the silver bullet to bring B2B marketing up to snuff but, despite its increasing influence, it’s important to keep in mind that no business sale is made without the buyer going to the corporate website first. Regardless of its origin — social media or e-mail, banners or search — traffic driven from online-marketing initiatives always intersects at the website. And, while businesses are investing heavily in their sites, the study shows that they are then ignoring the very audience they worked so hard to attract.”

Golec’s reference to ‘ignoring the audience’ was directed at another of the survey’s findings. Whilst 52 percent of the respondents were prepared to cut websites a little slack and forgive them their shortcomings, 90 percent still felt that websites were limited and generally ignored the audience they tried to attract. At least with the social media there was a certain degree of interaction between the company and the consumer: this generally wasn’t the case between the website and the user.

Although the report may have been critical of social media marketing, it’s fair to say that websites didn’t completely escape untarnished. The survey found that many websites still vastly underperform in terms of lead generation: moreover, many of the companies questioned hadn’t got a clue about the behaviour of their customers when on the site, and what were the leading motivations that eventually led to sales. Approximately 87 percent of respondents said that corporate websites need to improve tracking and reporting of unregistered site users. Additionally, almost half of executives that responded said that they don’t know where (i.e. web page or section) their users are most likely to abandon the website.

So, what conclusions can you draw from the study. Well, it’s difficult to say really. Certain websites may well generate more sales than social media marketing, but there’s also plenty of evidence to suggest the contrary. It depends who you ask and when, I guess. If you spoke to the younger generation they’d tell you the complete opposite. What the study does ignore is the relative youth of the social media. It’s still in its infancy, and unless something goes drastically wrong, it will continue to grow and flourish. Websites have less of an excuse. They’ve been round the block a few times and should know by now how to get it right. If they still don’t understand their customers and their behaviour, then it might not be long before the boot’s on the other foot.

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