Organic Social Media, the Marketing Tool That Sells Nothing to Anybody

It's hard enough persuading a stranger to buy something online. Asking them to like you is too much.

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By Ryan Urban

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Urgent: If you use your website to sell a product, idea or service, those little social media icons (in the top right corner, next to your products, or in your shopping cart) are most likely hurting your business. Remove them immediately. Seriously, like now.

Contrary to popular belief, making your website more social, particularly relying on organic social media efforts, will not increase your sales. Instead, it will a) turn off Gen Y, boomer and senior shoppers; b) make your brand look unliked; and c) encourage people to leave your site. Here's why:

Social media icons are distracting.

After analyzing hundreds of thousands online shoppers, our research team found approximately 91.6 percent of people who visit an ecommerce site leave without ever adding an item to their shopping cart. Cheapskates! Of those who do put an item in the cart, 68.4 percent do not purchase it. Blame A.D.D.

You have a very small window of opportunity to get someone to buy. Make the shopper focus on one thing only -- hitting that "buy" button. Not social media. Once they purchase an item, feel free to ask if they want to follow your company on social channels. But only after.

Related: I Removed Every Inessential Thing From My Website. Here's What Happened (to My Life).

If you're in love with shopping cart gadgets, consider replacing social media icons with powerful purchase-inducing cues:

  • Remaining quantity of the item.
  • When the sale is ending.
  • How fast the item will be delivered.

Social media is a turn off to new customers.

The worst thing you can do is ask a new site visitor to "like" or follow you on social media. How can they validate your brand if they've never even met you?

Think of a first visit to your site like a first date. You want to create an environment for repeat dates. Eventually, hot dates. Or think of it this way -- do you accept Facebook requests from strangers? Then why would you like a strange brand? This is particularly off-putting to older shoppers (who could potentially buy a lot). Don't aggravate them.

Negative social proof is a sales killer.

Brands that put social sharing icons next to products are playing with fire, particularly if their products aren't getting a lot of social engagement. No one wants to buy the $300 pair of sneakers that only three people have liked on Facebook or Tweeted. They want kicks that have 1.5 k likes. This is the same if you start a new social channel. No one wants to buy from the brand who has 100 likes on Facebook.

Twitter is the weakest shopping tool.

Here is another little secret. Your newest visitor is not going to tweet your product page. Why? Because he or she just isn't. They don't do it. It's not a thing.

Bounce Exchange found $1B of transactions on retail sites that prove it. Beyond just tweeting from your website, Twitter does not drive people to a website to buy. Until Twitter refines its ad products, use it to engage in conversations with loyal customers and share news, but not as an inbound channel.

Related: Impulse Shopping Will Soon Be Even Easier Thanks to Twitter's 'Buy' Button

Social media isn't all bad.

Brands that leverage paid social media to drive traffic to their site generally get good results, particularly on Facebook for B2C and LinkedIn for B2B. Why? The right audience plus the right message equals a pot of gold, especially if you're retargeting.

Now that you just fired half of your social media team, what do you do with those found resources? Focus on two key things: using strong channels to drive traffic to your site and allocating site real estate to maximize conversions.

Use email, paid search, paid Facebook ads and even direct mail to drive the right visitors to your site. Make sure you continuously test and treat first-time visitors differently than loyal shoppers.

Revamp your home page and product pages so you don't have those pesky icons. Focus on featuring what you want users to do. Highlight the best seller, the latest deal or the newest inventory.

Related: 5 Worst Offenders That Drive Visitors Away From Your Website

Ryan Urban

CEO of Bounce Exchange

Ryan Urban is the CEO of Bounce Exchange, which provides user acquisition and conversion optimization software for e-tailers and other online businesses. Prior to Bounce Exchange, Urban led user acquisition for Bonobos.

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