Why Your Social Followers are NOT Sales

You’ve done everything right so far. Your brand is on point, you’ve managed to snag all the right social handles, your messaging is clean and consistent, and through some fancy social footwork you have amassed 20,000 social followers.


Time to launch your (insert Kickstarter, ecommerce, pre-order, etc here) campaign and rake in the dough. Easy right? Turn it on, blast some tweets, count the dollars, retire on a beach.


Social followers are not equal to sales for a whole bunch of reasons, but I’ll focus on three for now.

1. Engagement Rates are Terrible

Consider your 20,000 social followers — let’s assume that your main focus has been on Twitter and Instagram. The average engagement rate for big brands comes in at about 0.7% on Twitter. Instagram does significantly better at 4.21%.

For the sake of easy math, we will split your tribe down the middle — 10,000 Twitter followers and 10,000 Instagram followers (let’s ignore for now that a bunch of them are probably the same people).

That says that on average every time you tweet 70 people (10,000*0.007) will interact with you in some way. That typically means “like”, “retweet”, or click a link or photo.

On Instagram you might get lucky and have ~420 people interact. The vast majority of these people will just double tap and give you a like. Likes are free, and they don’t pay the bills. Instagram has done a pretty good job of forcing you to buy their ads but not allowing links in posts, so good luck driving a bunch of traffic to your page.

Even if 50% (not gonna happen) of your twitter interactions and 25% (yep, also not gonna happen) of your instagram interactions visit the link you want them to — your sales page — that’s only 140 people.

To give some context here, I currently have about 7,500 Twitter followers, most of whom are from the tech/innovation industry in Canada. I recently wrote a piece on Canada’s tech sector — directly appealing to my follower base.

My tweet promoting that article saw 8,200 impressions, and 127 engagements. That includes 44 “likes” and 23 “retweets”. It earned an engagement rate of about 2% on both impressions and followers. Not bad, overall.

Google tells me it got 153 clicks (Twitter says 22, I’ll assume it isn’t tracking clicks on retweets).

All in all, that’s pretty good. I managed to drive 153 people to that page I wanted them to visit! Even if I was able to convert at an average pace, I would still have earned less than 5 sales. Conversion rates, you say? Yes, that’s the next issue.

2. Conversion Rates are Even Worse

Now consider your close rate. How many people visit your page each day, vs. how many people buy. There’s lots of stats on this, but consensus seems to be something like 2%-3%.

On the FAR outside edge of optimistic, you are looking at closing 4 or 5 sales given industry averages on your 150 page visits. Obviously this is going to vary wildly from market to market — selling Porsches on Twitter is significantly harder than selling Netflix subscriptions — but it’s a decent starting point.

Converting on social followers is hard. Don’t underestimate that.

3. Your Followers Aren’t Qualified Leads

Let’s be honest with ourselves, we probably scratched, scammed, and spammed our way to those 20,000 followers. We don’t know where they live, we don’t know what they like, and who the heck is @Bob’sQualityDogTrimming anyway? Do you think he’s going to buy your graphic soft cotton T?

Good sales teams work for a reason. They understand how many potential leads they need to generate an acceptable number of “qualified leads”, and how many qualified leads they need to close a sale. Then they hustle until they make the sale, because that’s how they get paid.

Your social media campaign just can’t hustle like people can.

What’s Your Point?

I’m a huge supporter of social media as a selling channel, but it’s not as easy as it seems.

Don’t underestimate the challenge of driving traffic to a page, and getting that traffic to do what you want it to do. There are people who specialize in social selling, and they utilize technology to optimize engagement and conversion — these people and technologies are your friends.

Lots of companies launch social campaigns to promote Kickstarters, new products, special promo’s, and assorted other sales mechanisms then wonder why it failed. Considering what it takes to convert someone from a social impression to a sale, it’s not hard to see why these failures occur.

What are you experiences with social media as a selling platform? Have any tips and tricks for others? Let’s discuss below.

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