Back in 2006, when Facebook was just a site for college kids, Twitter had less than 100 users, and Instagram, Snapchat, Tik-Tok, and Pinterest were still just ideas, the manner by which brands reached their consumers was relatively simple and straightforward. Traditional marketing—like print, television, and radio—was the only way to extend reach. If you had the budget and the creative, you would get the attention. Students interested in marketing and advertising were taught that this was the way to generate awareness, brand loyalty, and sales. Within a few years, this information was antiquated. Now, just over a decade later, it is almost completely obsolete. The paradigm has shifted. To granularly target your demographic, a strategic digital and social media strategy is not an alternative approach—it’s the standard.
This shift in priority has affected various industries at different rates. Those in the media and CPG spaces, among others, adopted this change early. On the opposite side of the spectrum, traditionally “one-to-one” industries, like direct sales, have been much slower to adapt since the word-of-mouth marketing model is the basis of the sales funnel. However, while companies can still survive without a sound digital strategy to complement their traditional tactics, they likely won’t be able to thrive.
So why is digital so important?
It comes down to adoption. Social media and mobile access to the internet is now one of the most ubiquitous facets of modern society. Over 5.1 billion people—67 percent of the planet—have access to a mobile device. Among them, 4.3 billion have access to the internet and regularly browse for information. About half of the people on earth, or 3.4 billion people, are social media users—95 percent of them access their profile on a mobile device.
As a marketer and advertiser, numbers like this mean one thing: broad, targeted reach. On the social media side, building a large, curated following means having a captive pool of potential consumers you can speak to daily with zero ad budget. That conversation, if executed properly, leads to awareness and brand loyalty.
It also means targeted advertising. Each of the major platforms, specifically Facebook and Instagram, allow us to granularly target users based on their interests, location, age, and preferences. Often, that leads to more quality for the advertiser and germane offers for the user. On the site side, it means easy access to a potential customer via their mobile device, which should ensure an easy-to-navigate and pleasant site experience that can further the user’s understanding and interest in the brand.
This “funnel,” from social media follower, to site visitor, to customer can drastically impact a company’s reach and revenue. Our goal was to see who within the direct sales industry was executing a sound strategy to further their brand goals.
How we performed our analysis
Over a 30-day period between April 1 and May 1, 2019, we used various monitoring services to track key metrics of 51 direct sales brands online. We were looking at social media size, average engagement rate, 30-day unique site visitors and 30-day total pageviews. The DSN Digital 100 will be published monthly—to submit your company for consideration, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For social media insights, we used a mix of native site reporting, as well as third-party tools Sprout Social, Phlanx and SocialRank. For site insights, we used Alexa.com to estimate traffic and pageviews. While these services allow us to compare “apples to apples” by estimating KPIs, the actual data can only be seen by internal stakeholders and may vary slightly.
Social media size
The first category we analyzed was total social media size, which is a combination of Facebook likes, Twitter followers, Instagram followers and YouTube subscribers. The leaders in this category, with some exceptions, are largely excelling across Facebook and Instagram, where the key customer demographic is most engaged.
Social media engagement
This metric is much more important than simply size. A large page that lacks engagement has no value to the brand. And as we’ve seen with increasing frequency, especially as branded content sponsorships and influencer marketing gains prevalence, faking size by purchasing followers is becoming commonplace. On the flip side, a moderately-sized page with a high engagement rate can have a major impact on a brand’s reach, influence and revenue.
The brands leading in this category are activating their following through myriad content tactics. Some tell a compelling story. Some share product news and offerings. Some simply urge their distributors to engage as much as possible with the official company page. Whatever the strategy, the end result is an average engagement rate that is much higher than the standard benchmark, leading to increased reach, awareness and influence. This engagement properly directed could have a sizeable impact on lead generation and overall sales.
30-Day unique visitors
This metric gives us an idea of how many individual people are coming to a particular site within a 30-day period. Since our analysis largely examined the respective sites of each company, and didn’t look at distributer sites or subdomains, the totals give us an idea of overall public interest in the company at-large.
It’s worth noting that, with few exceptions, the brands excelling on social media are not listed in this category. This means that their engagement on social media, while valuable, is likely not being converted into traffic—this is a missed opportunity.
This metric gives us a look into the site’s “stickiness”—once someone lands on the homepage, are they leaving immediately or are they clicking around and exploring the brand further? It can be perceived as a scale of how engaging your site is.
When you look at the sites of each brand leading in pageviews, you’re largely met with engaging content and an intuitive layout. They are also all mobile-optimized, meaning that regardless of device, the user experience remains consistent.
Digital presents a massive opportunity for the direct sales space
It’s well known that direct sales is a traditionally a one to one industry and companies have not wanted to interfere with what their sales force is currently doing. However, there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to partner with their sales force by weaponizing the traffic from social media and using it as a secondary customer acquisition platform.