High levels of fan engagement on social media are great, but your brand can do even better.

Back in January 2018, Amy and Mike Mills of 17th Street Barbecue graciously invited us to host a session and brief Q&A panel at their annual Whole Hog Extravaganza. So our crew headed across the river and down into southern Illinois prepped to present and eager to eat deliciously smoked heritage hog that boasts no rival within a many-mile radius.

Whole Hog is one-of-a-kind in the world of barbecue. If you’re a seasoned or aspiring barbecue restaurateur, this unique seminar gives you the tools to build up your barbecue business. Over the course of two days, attendees not only ate like barbecue royalty, but learned from professional pitmasters and celebrated marketing and architectural specialists on what it takes to make it in the competitive barbecue industry.

Our particular session started right after lunch (thank goodness – our rumbling stomachs would not have lasted long). We donned our cozy new Whole Hog sweatshirts and presented on topics pertaining to the ever-nebulous entity that is social media.

Without getting bogged down into the specifics, the goal of our session was less about the function of social media itself, but rather how to organize, create and advertise content to connect with your audience and add depth to your digital presence.

The Q&A portion lasted almost as long as our presentation, with many inquiries rotating between organic and advertised posts. Occasionally Amy would chime in as well, offering advice for those struggling with tales of their social media woes. There was one statement in particular she made that has stuck with us ever since:

‘Likes’ don’t pay the bills.

It was a confident comment, one coming from personal experience. 17th Street Barbecue could conceivably get infinite fan engagement on a single post, but that’s not what keeps their brand and business up and running.

Now, we’re not discrediting fan engagement. It’s something we’ll always encourage as a means to develop a strong sense of brand loyalty. But fan engagement through likes, comments, shares and reviews aren’t enough on their own, especially if you’re looking to boost sales.

What your brand needs is a comprehensive strategy that drives retail sales through your highly engaged fan base.

There are several ways to drive retail sales, but we chose to focus on 3 that utilize the powerhouse nature of an engaged fan base.

Drive retail sales through your engaged fan base by:

1. Building up your database

An engaged fan base is one that actively tunes into your timeline. Solid fan engagement is a strong indicator* that they enjoy your product (*interjecting here with a friendly reminder that yes, it’s true, correlation does not prove causation) and will continue to interact with your content. But how can you get more out of these interactions to drive sales, other than just posting an online store link?

One word: contests.

Contests are a great way to let your fan base know you’re reading their comments and you want to thank them for their support with a gift that has value for them.

But let the contest work for you, too! Make the process of entering easily accessible; otherwise, it will be seen as an inconvenience. And with an easy email opt-in as your call-to-action, you build your database and give yourself direct access to your consumer’s inbox.

Social media, Facebook in particular, has always been vague on how users see your content. But other than spam filters or the promotions tab on Gmail, email typically doesn’t use cryptic algorithms that make it difficult for your content, like a newsletter, to be seen by your audience. Once it is seen, strong calls-to-action encourage viewers to visit their local retailers, use coupon codes and more.

Build up your database for the purpose of retargeting as well. For the Valentine’s Day contest on Country Bob’s social media platforms, we were able to reach 500 new opt-ins with a follow-up newsletter containing a promo code for a discount on online orders. And St. James Winery’s contest for free tickets to Sporting Kansas City’s season opener resulted in a newsletter open rate of 40%.

Learn how to create a contest marketing strategy to grow your brand

2. Encouraging product sampling

An actively engaged audience keeps up with your content on and offline. If potential consumers can physically get their hands on your product and try before they buy, they’re more likely to make a purchase. According to an independent research study on product sampling, in-store sampling results in a 10% sales increase per shopping cart than without sampling.

At an event with heightened energy, the reach is even greater than in-store. Live, engaging events activated at Busch Stadium like Ice Cream Sundays give Prairie Farms the ability to pass out 2,500 samples on average per Sunday home game.

With product sampling put in place, your brand will see an increase in repeat purchases and sales overall.

3. Connecting to a cause

When companies give back to their communities or participate in philanthropic endeavors, it has a positive impact on sales and growth. Engaged fans respond well to brands that associate with a cause and align themselves with strong ethical principles.

According to Nielsen data, 55% of global respondents from their corporate social responsibility survey “are willing to pay extra for products and services from companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact.”

When brands such as Country Bob’s, St. James Winery and Nabisco participated in the Chipping in for Children charity golf tournament in an effort to give back to the Children’s Miracle Network of hospitals, they received a 33% in-store lift on average.

‘Likes’ don’t pay the bills, but those three factors will contribute to your brand’s growth.

Reach out and we’ll help you set these methods in motion, ultimately getting your product off the shelf. Keep up with the latest and greatest from the Cliffedge crew on LinkedIn and Facebook.

Need help organizing your online content and brainstorming your brand voice? Get started with a free content calendar template.
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